Choosing the best Digital single-lens reflex camera for Long-Term construction timelapse.

You don’t need Nikon D850

Nearly every day we have discussions with professional photographers about choosing the most convenient camera for long-term construction timelapse.

One of the greatest benefit of our construction timelapse device, Timebox camera, is that you, the executive of shooting, can adjust the quality of photographs by choosing your own camera and lens for it.

Everybody definitely want the high quality photos, so does this fact lead to the buying the Canon 5D Mark IV with L-series glass, or a Nikon D850 with a Sigma Art Series lens?

No, for some reasonable facts.

Read this article to learn what to consider when choosing the best camera and lens to make your long-term construction timelapse project incredible.

1. The best quality cameras come with the highest prices.

Locking up and expensive, top-flight camera in a timelapse box for a one-two year timelapse is an unprofitable business decision.

In case (the most one) if you are taking photos every 15 minutes, eight hours a day, five days a week over two years, you will have triggered the camera less than 17,000 times.

That is completely rare usage or, speaking in business terms, not enough coefficient of return on investment, for a high quality DLSR camera that may be outdated by the time you finish the project.

Nevertheless, this is guided by your budget, or what your client is able to pay you. If the client is glad to pay $4000 more for a better camera and lens, then alright, no problems!

However, in our experience, clients are often trying to keep expenses down, and the choice of camera and lens is a good place to save money which you will need later.

2. 99.9% of the features you pay for are not usable and not needed in timelapse shooting.

As it is visible to the world, a camera comes along with the changes the industry landscape.

If are a professional photographer for some time, may be you remember the fuss around the new-made Canon 5D Mark II, the Sony a7R and a7S, and the more recent Nikon D850.

These are the kinds of cameras that made the most loyal clients of other brands sell their entire kits and buy the new high-technology cameras.

However, for the most time, each new camera is better only by updates of usual functions: an extra frame per second continuous shooting, a few more auto-focus points, a little better weatherproofing.

The fact is that for the most part, these characteristics make almost no benefit for long-term timelapse.

As far as shoot requirements rise up, long-term timelapse seems uninteresting at that field – there is no requirement for fast auto-focus, an extra couple of frames per second continuous shooting, or slow motion movie checking.

When you won’t actually be using those features, you don’t want to pay more money to have them.

Of course, there may be some exceptions to this principle.

The most notable situation, if your client would like to have an 8K video, then you will have to use a camera with a high enough resolution to make it happen.

Dynamic Range is important for Construction Timelapse.

Some photographers sometimes can insist on the usefulness of higher dynamic range to help decrease flicker in the finished timelapse video.

In our opinion, these people are just did not have much experience and still did not understand how important this is.

The changes and differences in lighting conditions during the long-term timelapse project are extreme and a real thing, that can help so much before you need to resort to other measures like frame-blending, is a higher dynamic range.

By the way, in most cases, a more expensive camera doesn’t guarantee a better dynamic range; the US$1200 Nikon D7200, for example, has a full stop greater dynamic range than the US$3500 Canon 5D Mark IV.

Complete Guide to the Best Camera Setting for Construction Timelapse Shooting

3. Entry-level DLSR cameras CAN produce really high quality photographs.

There is no need having the best quality camera to capture great images.

As DigitalRev TV perfectly illustrated in their “Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera” Series, it is not your expensive camera making you a photographer.

We can accustom to shooting large raw photos with our expensive full-frame and L-series cameras, so sometimes we forget that a standard JPEG photo on an entry-level DSLR camera can still be a breathtaking shot.

All the entry-level DSLRs are now at least 24MP in terms of resolution. This fact gives you more than enough pixels to use in order to generate 4K video.
Also, it helps to not to forget that what is standard these days in the entry-level DLSR cameras, is often what was almost impossible in the flagship cameras only a few years ago.

Photography technology develops extremely quickly and, more often than not, does not take a lot of time to get passed down the chain to more simple cameras.

Just look at how much of what was groundbreaking with the Sony a7R III and the Sony a9 was passed then down to the much cheaper Sony a7 III, which was lauched less than twelve months later.

4. Post.-production is much more important in a long-term timelapse.

One of the best construction timelapses that we ever saw was conformed from web cameras that were originally set up without any mention in usage on construction time-lapse in mind.

This timelapse movie was engaging and interesting to watch because the creative post-production made it vibrant and fascinating.

Definitely it would have looked even better if it had been shot at a higher resolution with a better sensor.

However, after watching innumerable construction time-lapses, we can assure you a well-edited and engaging timelapse with low resolution completely conquers hearts every time. What is not happening to a badly edited, high-resolution timelapse.

Among Timebox camera users, some of the best projects have been shot on Canon Rebels and entry-level Nikons, the miracle is all in the quality editing!

5. Usually the client doesn’t have overvalued expectations.

This is not what we want to hear, but if we are honest, 95% of the time the client will not notice the difference between a timelapse produced using photos from an entry-level DLSR camera and one using photos taken by a high-end camera.

It’s good for photographers that we self-critique and work hard to demonstrate work of the highest quality standard, but sometimes we are unnecessarily aware of differences in quality that common people would not even notice.

Once, at competition of photography, I watched judges disagree over the quality of a photograph because part of the subject was slightly out of focus.

In this case, the word “slightly” means that strict judges almost had their noses pressed to the photo to understand it.

Even if a client may (what a luck!) notice the difference between a construction timelapse shot on an awful webcam and one shot with a DSLR camera, there are not many chances that they are going to notice the difference between one shot on a crop-sensor and one shot on a full-frame.

Aaaand, what about camera?

The world is unpredictable and there are times – like when you need 8K content, or your client has money to blow – when it is appropriate to use a more expensive camera kit.

However, when we are asked what cameras good photographer should use with the Timebox camera, we advise to use the entry-level, crop-sensor Canon and Nikon DSLRs.

With these cameras you get full DSLR functionality, lens flexibility and high quality photos and price tag that is reasonable for equipment that will be locked-up in a timelapse box for months or years.

Also, they have been used on countless number of long-term timelapse projects around the world, so we know they are true workhorses and will be your lovely colleagues.