So you’ve decided to take the leap and install a time lapse system on your construction site. The question is, what is the right choice of camera?
Not all digital cameras are created equal when it comes to time lapse photography. Some are better than others, depending on the builder’s or photographer's specific needs.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing a digital camera for construction time lapse photography:
Length of Time
How long do you need to shoot for? In construction, time lapses are a powerful way to show the process of building from start to finish. If you're shooting for months or years, you'll need to consider how often batteries and memory cards need to be changed. A solar charging accessory is a better option than frequently changing batteries for anything in the months or years range.
What frame rate do you need? The higher the frame rate, the smoother your final video will be. The most common frame rate for time lapse playback is 30 fps. If your time lapse will have a lot of motion, such as people or vehicles moving around, you'll want to use a higher frame rate. Deciding the interval between shots will determine whether the time lapse looks like a video. Too long a gap between images will make the final product look like a collection of stills. Taking too many frames will require more memory than is necessary.
Some digital cameras have better compression than others. This is important to consider if you're shooting over long periods of time because you'll need to store more images. A camera with good compression will take up less space on your memory card and hard drive.
Daytime or Nighttime
How much light will there be? If you're shooting in low light conditions, you'll need a camera with good low light performance otherwise the nighttime portion of the video will be very grainy and might not match well with the daytime video.
HD or 4K
What resolution do you need? The higher the resolution, the more detail your final video will have. 1080 is the minimum for HD. For most applications, 4K is preferred and is the perfect balance between image detail and file size. 4K also has the resolution to allow you to zoom into the frame to create a variety of close-ups.
Size and Weight
What size and weight are important to you? You'll probably want a lighter camera if you're shooting shorter sequences on a tripod. We do recommend cutting in B-roll—shorter, detailed sequences within an overall time lapse—to break up the viewing experience. These can be accomplished using a tripod for shorter time periods to catch specific details.
Our Time Lapse Calculator is a comprehensive, easy-to-use wizard that will help you determine the power and memory requirements of your project.
Balancing all of the above factors, and considering that most of our customers’ construction time lapse applications tend to be:
- long-term deployments of months or years
- shot during daylight and lowlight hours
- cost is a major factor
- reliability - losing a month of shots due to a malfunction is not acceptable
- needs to be easy to use and maintain
We looked at a range of options from Brinno at the low end, GoPro HERO5 and SonyRXO II in the middle, and various DSLRs at the high end price range. Our testing and experience landed us in the middle for the following reasons:
Low-end - Digital
Pros - Inexpensive
Cons - Potential compromise in image quality and reliability
High-end - specifically DSLRs
Pros - Impeccable image quality.
Cons - Price, these cameras are likely overkill for long term time lapse in that they are loaded with features that will never be used.
In the middle and balancing between image quality, price and reliability, we have narrowed the field to two preferred cameras:
Pros: With its compact size, great optics, and proven durability the GoPro HERO5 checks all the boxes when it comes to time lapse photography for construction sites.
Cons: Mediocre Low-Light Performance. While GoPros have been getting better in this regard with each new model, their low-light performance still isn’t very good.
Sony RX0 II
Pros - The Sony RXO II has a compact size and is very rugged. It also has a superior Zeiss lens that makes the Sony the higher-end choice but still much less than a DSLR. The Sony does have very good low light performance if that is a consideration.
Cons - More expensive than the GoPro HERO5.
CamDo construction time lapse cameras are perfect for capturing your long or short-term projects as they are not only compatible with GoPro HERO5 and Sony RX0 II but can also withstand any weather conditions and have continuous, long-term power options. With our construction camera, you can automatically upload images via WiFi or cellular data and remotely monitor and create time lapse video through our CloudX dashboard.
So, what’s the best camera for construction time lapse? Ultimately, it depends on your needs and preferences. But, keeping these factors in mind should help make the process easier. If you have any questions about choosing a digital camera for construction time lapse, don’t hesitate to reach out; contact our team of experts today!