The best cameras for time-lapse photography achieve an impressive feat: turning photographs into seamless video footage. Time-lapse photography involves capturing multiple photos in the same frame over a specific period. These photographs are then stitched together to form a video. This technique is invaluable for cinematographers.
In the hunt for the best time-lapse photography cameras, there are two, maybe three factors to consider. The first is the need for an intervalometer (a timer that allows your camera to take periodic shots for your time-lapse). Nowadays, you can find a function called an “interval shooting timer” on most high-tech DSLR cameras, meaning less equipment to lug around for you.
Second, it is best that your camera be able to shoot RAW images. With RAW images, however, comes higher memory consumption. Therefore, for time-lapse photography, where a high volume of images is to be expected, I strongly recommend large-capacity memory cards.
Another thing to consider, depending on where you’ll be shooting and your access to power, would either be battery backups or a camera that can charge via USB. You may want to factor the latter into your criteria if you’re not a fan of traveling with backup batteries. As with every camera, think carefully of ISO ranges and shutter speed.
1. Nikon D850
I’m a Nikon girl, and the Nikon D850 is one of their finest cameras for time-lapse photography yet. Shooting 7 fps (or 9 fps using the optional MB-D18 battery pack with EN-EL 18b/a Lithium-ion Battery) continuously at 45.7MP, this pick may seem like overkill for a basic time-lapse camera. I beg to differ. If you’re shooting a cityscape time-lapse at night or are in need of a powerful resolution machine for a gorgeous nature time-lapse, this is an excellent camera to try.
The Nikon D850 performs under low-light conditions with an ISO range of 65-26,500, which is further expandable to ISO 102,400. More importantly, though, it comes with a built-in shooting interval timer that will take the burden of carrying an external intervalometer on you. And speaking of weight, the camera body only weighs 32.3 oz. That’s outstanding, considering all it can do for you.
Besides creating sharp, vibrant images, this camera has unrivaled battery life. Nikon states that it can create up to 1,840 shots or 70 minutes of HD video footage with the power of one full charge. So you can rest easy, knowing that your shots will get covered. If you don’t have the highest capacity memory card, you’re in luck. This Nikon camera also has Wi-Fi capabilities. You can send the images straight to your smartphone or tablet to free up space using the SnapBridge app.
Finally, I love the tilting LCD. It seems like a small thing, but it is a helpful feature when you need to see what’s going on without fumbling about with your tripod and ruining a shot. With all these features, this camera does put a hole in your pocket, but I think it’s worth it.
To find out even more about this impressive camera, head on over to our complete Nikon D850 review.
2. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Canon makes high-functioning cameras that sometimes sell at a lower price point than Nikon, and the 5D Mark IV is their most recent delivery. This 30.4MP camera is a beauty to work with. It also performs well in low light with an ISO range of 100-32,000, expandable to 50-102,400. This camera shoots RAW-quality photographs, 4K video, and has Wi-Fi connectivity that can make life easier if you want to send photos to your smartphone on the go.
The battery life varies greatly depending on the shooting environment and whether or not the battery grip is attached. Overall though, Canon estimates that a full charge can get you between 280-1,800 shots depending on the circumstances. Fortunately, the camera has a nifty power-saving feature and will turn off after a set period of non-operation. You can set anything from one to 30 minutes.
The Canon Mark IV body also has a tilting LCD with a smudge-proof display, and it only weighs 31.39 oz. Finally, it costs several hundred dollars less than the Nikon D850, so if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, this would be it.
Read our Canon EOS 5D Mark IV review to get all the specs and see this camera in use.
3. Fujifilm X-T3
Fujifilm’s mirrorless cameras have a reputation for their powerful X Trans CMOS sensor. The X-T3 produces stunning images with its 26.1MP and 4K video. Although its ISO range is not as wide as that of many cameras on this list, it does go up to 12,800 (and 80 to 51,200 when extended).
A real high point for this camera is its dual SD card slot, which can be a lifesaver when you’re shooting tons of RAW images for a time-lapse. The Fujifilm X-T3 can shoot a maximum of 11 fps, which is impressive for a smaller mirrorless camera.
Still, it doesn’t have the strongest battery. The battery life will take you up to just 390 frames for still shots and 75 minutes for 4K video. However, this camera is easy to carry around at 19 oz.
Want more details? Our Fujifilm X-T3 review goes in-depth and really gets into the nitty-gritty of this camera.
4. Sony a6400
If you’re looking for a lighter mirrorless option that fits in your purse or pocket but still produces brilliant images, this option is the way to go. The Sony a6400 shoots high resolution at 24.2MP and if you ever need video, you can be sure of 4K quality. This camera’s LCD also tilts, but to an impressive 180 degrees, which makes it a fantastic vlogging camera and a truly versatile device.
Because it’s a smaller option, the battery life is not as impressive as our previous options. With a full charge, you can capture between 360-410 shots depending on whether you’re using the viewfinder or the LCD. It does well enough in low light, with an ISO range of 100-32,000, but is nowhere near as good as the Canon or Nikon.
Another useful feature on the a6400 is the real-time tracking autofocus, which makes it useful for capturing moving objects. For Sony fans seeking a fuss-free camera, you can’t do better than this.
Read our complete review of the Sony a6400 to find out even more.
5. Brinno EMPOWER TLC2000 (Budget Winner)
Even the best cameras for time-lapse photography can struggle on construction sites because of the unfriendly terrain. Plus, no one wants gravel landing on their expensive camera. That’s where Brinno cameras come in.
These small, relatively inexpensive cameras are designed for time-lapse videos, and our pick comes with weather-resistant housing to protect it from the elements. The Brinno EMPOWER TLC2000 runs on AA batteries, which means you aren’t left in the lurch if you don’t have nearby power access. It also has an interchangeable lens and LCD screen to help you keep an eye on your subject.
As expected with a budget product, there are a few drawbacks. This camera doesn’t save RAW files; rather it compiles all the photos from a session into one AVI video, but its HDR and FHD sensors ensure high-quality images even in low light.
You will also need to connect your SD card to a computer to read the files. Therefore, the Brinno EMPOWER is best for time-lapses only, and should not replace an actual camera.
What Are the Best Cameras for Time-Lapse Photography?
It’s really up to you. Most DSLR cameras now have built-in shooting interval timers, but you can always aim higher. Choose a camera with a powerful resolution, preferably one that shoots RAW. We also recommend one with a lasting battery life, and something that isn’t a chore to lug about, depending on how long your project will last.
If you’re only interested in a quick camera to do time-lapses alone, then definitely look into Brinno cameras. They’ll even stitch the video together for you!