This is a guide to the best time lapse cameras for creative or practical purposes.
Whether you need to film a building being constructed, a plant growing, or grab something creative for your Instagram Story, we’re here to help.
Time lapse cameras allow you to capture sequences of images over extended periods.
These sequences are then sped up during playback to produce a video that shows the passage of time in just a few minutes or seconds.
Most of the best action cameras and mirrorless cameras have a time lapse video function, which does a great job.
However, if you want to film for longer, a dedicated time lapse photography camera is a better option.
Now let’s look at the top models of the year.
Table of Contents
What is the Best Time Lapse Camera in 2023?
GoPro Hero 12 | Best action camera for timelapse and social media
- 5.33K video
- Time-lapse modes
- Vertical video shooting
- Hypermooth 6
- Short battery life
This GoPro my best overall pick for a timelapse camera with multiple uses and is also ideal for creating time-lapse photography content for social media.
It’s a feature-packed camera which is, at the same time, very simple to use.
With it, you can shoot super slo-mo 4K footage at 120 fps and 2.7K at 240 fps. You can also shoot 27-megapixel RAW photos.
The GoPro hero 12 has new HDR video capabilities, creating several exposures in a single frame, leading to vibrant colours and consistent exposures.
Whether you’re shooting time-lapse photos or video, the GoPro Hero 12 Black allows you to shoot vertical video without rotating the camera. That’s a game-changer for social media content.
Any footage you shoot comes in 10-bit colour, and the device contains pro-GP logs, which help you unlock more dynamic range and colours during post-production.
In addition, you get GoPro’s outstanding image stabilisation, Hypersmooth 6, plus Horizon Lock, which keeps your horizon level even when the camera rotates a full 360 degrees – the best features out of any of the GoPro models.
It comes with the Enduro battery rather than the standard GoPro battery, which is great news for anyone wanting to shoot their times lapses in extreme temperatures.
This battery also gives you excellent run times. You can shoot 5.3K for 70 minutes at 60 fps or 1080p for 155 minutes at 30fps.
The time-lapse options remain unchanged from its predecessor, the GoPro Hero 11 Black.
That means you get a traditional time-lapse photography setting, which uses an intervalometer to take photos at intervals ranging from 0.5 seconds to 1 hour.
Plus, you get GoPro’s excellent Night Lapse Photo, which uses the same range of intervals. Night Lapse also lets you adjust the shutter speed manually and leave it open for between 2 and 30 seconds.
It includes Time Lapse Video and Night Lapse Video, and there are also some special creative time-lapse settings for light painting, vehicle lights, and star trails.
Finally, there’s GoPro’s TimeWarp Video, which allows you to create sped-up 5.3K videos.
Shooting timelapse video on a GoPro is simple and convenient and the Hero 12 is your best option to do it.
Nikon Z6 II | Best mirrorless camera for night time lapse video
- Good in low light
- Built-in intervalometer
- Excellent image quality
- Great value for money
- Sharp images even at high ISOs
- Shoots 4K
- Battery life not the best
- Touch-screen doesn’t flip forward
- Startup time could be quicker
The Nikon Z6 II is a mirrorless camera with a 24.5-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor.
That sensor gives you exceptional, high-resolution image quality and great low-light performance, so it’s the perfect machine for making time lapses at night.
It has a built-in intervalometer, which simplifies the process of taking those time lapses.
Its autofocus system is extremely accurate and reliable, and it has in-body 5-axis sensor-shift vibration reduction, regardless of which lens is being used.
Its video capabilities are top-notch, and the Z6 II allows you to shoot 4K at 30 fps with no crop and Full-HD at 120 fps.
It records in 10-bit colour, and the colour logs include styles that give you flat-looking footage perfect for post-processing and HDR-ready footage.
There’s a tilt-screen, so you’ll have no problem shooting from tight angles, and the body is weather-sealed, so you can shoot in most conditions.
You also get a dual card slot, which means you can back up your time lapses as you shoot or have extra storage space so that you don’t run out of memory.
Brinno TLC130 | Best budget timelapse camera
- Easy to use
- Outstanding battery life
- Fixed lens
- No 4K
These are quite old time-lapse cameras, but they are still widely used and highly recommended for their time-lapse-making capabilities.
The Brinno TLC130 is a dedicated time-lapse camera purposely built for the medium. This means it’s perfect for beginners. It also means, in this case, that it’s cheap, as it’s a single-use device.
It’s water-resistant, small and light, and can easily fit in your pocket, so it’s great for those who want to take time lapses while hiking or travelling.
See the sample time lapse shot on the Brinno TLC130 in the video below:
The Brinno TLC130 has exceptional battery life, too. Depending on what you’re shooting, it’ll last for hours, or even days, before needing to be recharged.
It has a bright LCD screen, which you can use to check compositions and adjust settings, and a built-in HDR mode, which enhances your images when the lighting is difficult and gives you even exposures.
A Brinno app lets you transfer your time lapses wirelessly to your phone using Bluetooth or WiFi.
DJI OSMO Action 4 | Another Action Camera for Time lapse Photography
- Easy to use
- Manual control
- Rugged design
- Two touchscreens
- Fixed lens
- You’ll need spare batteries for longer time lapses
The DJI OSMO Action 4 is a highly-regarded alternative GoPro alternative for making time lapses.
It’s robust, waterproof, lightweight and durable. It’s ideal for creating time lapses in challenging or action-packed environments.
It has touchscreens both on the front and back, which are a great help when it comes to checking or changing your settings and setting up your time-lapse compositions.
Check out the video below to see how to get the best time lapse footage from a DJI OSMO Action 4.
It records 4K video and shoots 10-megapixel RAW files.
And it has in-body ‘RockSteady’ image stabilisation to keep everything nice and smooth.
It’s extremely easy to set up a time-lapse. You can choose your resolution, then your interval and the duration of your video.
You can also control your shutter speed and ISO settings manually.
Brinno EMPOWER TLC2020 | Best construction timelapse camera
- Incredible battery life
- Waterproof housing
- High-resolution footage
- A little bulky
The Brinno EMPOWER TLC2020 is another camera that is designed specifically for time lapses.
It has an exceptionally long battery life, which can help you record for up to 99 days with intervals of up to five minutes.
It comes in waterproof housing, making it solid for documenting outdoor construction work. You can set it up and pretty much forget about it.
Check the video below to see how one builder uses his Brinno as a construction time lapse camera on building sites.
The camera shoots 1080p and gives you full manual control over the settings, allowing you creative freedom when capturing your time lapses.
Like the Brinno TLC130, it has a bright touchscreen, which is a great help when setting up compositions, and built-in WiFi, which allows you both to manage your time lapses from a distance through the app and also transfer your footage quickly to your phone.
Brinno BCC2000 | Best camera for time lapse photos of plants
- Unmatched battery life
- Weather-resistant housing
- Customizable intervals
- Versatile clamp
- 4k video
- Interchangeable lens system
- Quite bulky
- Mount could be sturdier
With its one-year battery life and ability to film at 1080p resolution, this camera is ideal for monitoring plant growth.
It comes with a spacious weather-resistant case, with room for sixteen extra batteries, to ensure that your plant time-lapse can be filmed safely and for the right amount of time.
It features customizable intervals, allowing you to tailor your time-lapse to the project’s specifics.
Watch the video below to see why this Brinno works so well outdoors, particularly for shooting time-lapse photos of plants growing.
The Brinno BCC2000 has a rust-resistant industrial clamp that can adjust to any surface thanks to its extension poles.
Its ball joint rotates 360 degrees and tilts 90 degrees, so you’ll be well-covered for pretty much any shooting angle.
It’s ideal for nature time lapses, creative projects, construction, educational purposes and more.
Sony ZV-1 II | Best timelapse camera for social media
- Compact design, ideal for on-the-go time-lapses
- Excellent autofocus, keeps subjects sharp
- High-quality video output for crisp time-lapses
- Flip-out screen for easy angle adjustments
- Automated time lapse modes
- Shorter battery life, external power recommended
- Limited zoom range, may restrict framing options
- Not the best in low light
This is a compact and lightweight mirrorless camera that’s ideal for time-lapse photographers who want to be on the move or post to social media.
It has a flip-out 3-inch touchscreen that you can use to easily compose your time lapses or see yourself if you want to be part of them. It is also touch-enabled, which means you can use it to set your focal point and start filming or shooting easily.
The autofocus is, as you’d expect from Sony, world-class. It’s fast and precise and has excellent smart-tracking abilities, making it particularly good to use to make time-lapse with moving subjects.
It has a built-in intervalometer, which helps you manually set up your time lapses. For those who would like things automated, it also comes with specialized time-lapse shooting modes, pre-configured settings, and various creative effects.
You can record 4K footage at up to 30 fps and take 20-megapixel RAW images.
As it’s meant for social media, it has several features that are directed towards content creation.
One is its audio setup, with a micro-directional mic and dedicated windscreen; the other is that you can stream directly from the camera to your computer (and therefore to YouTube or other platforms) via USB-C.
Canon EOS R50 | Best time lapse camera for 3D printing
- Compact, easy to position for time-lapses
- High-resolution APS-C sensor for detailed shots
- 4K video capability for high-quality time-lapses
- Articulating touchscreen for flexible framing
- Limited battery life, may need external power
- Less robust build, handle with care
This camera is sort of like an affordable, mirrorless version of the popular Canon M50, which is also highly recommended for making time lapses.
It has a full-frame, 24-megapixel sensor, plus the DIGIC X processor, which means it’s a pretty powerful camera, providing high-resolution output and excellent low-light performance.
It’s a great option for anyone doing 3D printing, mainly because of the high quality of its sensor.
Having a sensor of this quality is essential for capturing the fine details, colours and textures that will bring your 3D prints to life.
The camera boasts Canon’s famously great Dual Pixel autofocus system, and it records 4K video at up to 30 fps and Full-HD up to 120 fps.
Its video files can also be during or after filming to a vertical composition, which is very handy for anyone wanting to view these on their phone or share them on social media.
There’s a vari-angle touchscreen to give you maximum shooting flexibility and a built-in intervalometer for you to set up your time lapses – and you can have complete manual control over this.
One useful feature is the camera’s Timelapse Movie Mode, a user-friendly way to create timelapses with automated settings and exposure smoothing.
Insta360 X3 360° Camera | Best time lapse camera for multiple angles
- Extremely powerful device
- Easy to set up time lapses
- Light, durable, weather-resistant
- 5.7K video
- 360-degree time lapses
- A little expensive
Insta360’s current flagship action 360-degree camera is powerful but still rather small, so you can easily carry it around or clip it to your body, car or motorbike.
It’s durable, weather-resistant and waterproof up to 33ft.
Its dual half-inch 48-megapixel sensors can record 360-degree footage at a huge 5.7K and take still photos at a massive 72-megapixel resolution.
You don’t have to shoot with both sensors and lenses either. You can also use a single lens to shoot wide-angle footage and photos.
One of its most interesting features is its Invisible Selfie Stick. As each lens incorporates 210 degrees of view, there’s an overlap, creating a sweet spot where the camera, held away from the body, can’t be seen.
If you pair that with the device’s AI-drive ‘Me’ mode, you’ll look like you’re being filmed or photographed by a drone from any angle.
It also features a 360-degree horizon lock, straightening your images, and Insta360’s market-leading FlowState image stabilization.
There’s also AI Auto Framing, Auto Tracking (to keep any subject in the centre of the frame), and an AI Storyteller feature that allows you to weave your footage together using creative templates.
But what about time-lapse? Well, this camera can do it and do it very well, at an insanely high resolution and with a 360-degree perspective that allows you to get creative with your time-lapse.
One of the best things about this camera is that you shoot first and figure out the framing later. And, as you have 360 degrees of visual to play with, there are really no limits on what your time lapses can look like.
Time lapses are also very easy to set up. You can either choose the intervals between shots, or you can tell the device how long you want your time-lapse to be, and it will figure out the intervals itself.
GoPro Hero 11 Black | Great Budget action camera for timelapse
- 27 megapixel camera
- 3K video quality
- Many time-lapse photography and video settings
- 360-degree horizon lock
- Low light performance is not the best
This is the best budget alternative for time-lapse shooting to the newer DJI OSMO and GoPro Hero 12 Black cameras in the guide above.
It’s an action camera, so it’s ideal for either shooting somebody else’s action or yours from first-person or close POV.
The Hero 11 Black is extremely durable, robust, and waterproof to 33 feet.
It comes with the Enduro Max battery as standard. This battery has double the life of an original GoPro battery and has no performance loss in extreme temperatures.
It shoots 5.3K video and 27-megapixel RAW photos.
It also has a 360-degree horizon lock, which fixes your crooked footage, and GoPro’s Hypersmooth 5.0, which is an image stabilization feature that gives you extremely smooth footage, however much your camera is moving around.
For shooting time lapses, there are many options.
A traditional time-lapse setting takes photos using the camera’s intervalometer at intervals ranging from 0.5 seconds to 1 hour.
There’s also Night Lapse Photo, which gives you the same range of intervals but also allows you to adjust the shutter speed manually and have it open for between 2 seconds and 30 seconds.
You also get Time Lapse Video, Night Lapse Video, and some special settings for light painting, vehicle lights, and star trails.
Finally, a special feature called TimeWarp Video allows you to create accelerated 5.3K videos.
What features should a camera for filming timelapses have?
Filming timelapses requires a camera with specific features to ensure the best results.
Here are some essential features to look for in a camera suitable for timelapse photography:
- Manual Mode: The ability to manually adjust settings like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO is crucial. This ensures consistent exposure throughout the timelapse.
- Intervalometer: This built-in or external device triggers the camera to take photos at set intervals. Some cameras have a built-in intervalometer, while others require an external one.
- RAW Image Capability: Shooting in RAW format allows for greater flexibility in post-processing, especially when it comes to adjusting exposure, white balance, and other parameters.
- Long Battery Life: Timelapses can take hours to shoot, so a camera with long battery life or the ability to use an external power source is beneficial.
- Large Storage Capacity: Since time-lapses involve capturing many photos, having a large memory card or the ability to offload images to an external device is essential.
- Sturdy Build & Weather Sealing: If you’re shooting outdoors, it’s beneficial to have a camera that can withstand various weather conditions, from rain to dust.
- Good Low-Light Performance: For dawn, dusk, or night sky time-lapses, a camera that performs well in low light with minimal noise is crucial.
- Flat Picture Profile: A flat or log profile captures a more dynamic range and allows for better colour grading in post-production.
- Resolution: A higher resolution camera provides more detail and allows for cropping or zooming in post-production without losing quality.
- Tilting or Articulating Screen: This can be helpful when setting up your camera at challenging angles.
- External Connectivity: Features like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth can be helpful for remote monitoring or controlling the camera from a distance.
- Stable Mounting: While this is more about the tripod than the camera, ensure that your camera has a reliable mounting system to prevent any movement during the timelapse.
- Bulb Mode: For very long exposures, especially in low light conditions, bulb mode allows the shutter to stay open for extended periods.
- Silent Shutter or Electronic Shutter: This can help reduce wear and tear on the camera’s mechanical shutter during extensive timelapse sessions.
- In-Camera Timelapse Video Creation: Some cameras can compile the timelapse images into a video in-camera, which can be convenient for quick previews.
Frequently Asked Questions about Time Lapse Cameras
What is the best time-lapse camera for beginners?
In my view, that’s the Brinno TLC130.
It’s a camera that’s specifically designed for a single purpose: making time lapses.
So, it’s very easy to use and the perfect device for getting the hang of it.
It’s also very cheap, so beginners can learn without breaking the bank.
How long is a 30-second time-lapse video?
A 30-second time-lapse video condenses a longer period into a shorter one.
When you create a time-lapse, you set intervals between each frame.
For example, if your interval is 5 seconds, it means each second of your time-lapse equals 5 seconds of real-time.
A 30-second time-lapse video, although it lasts 30 seconds, shows the equivalent of 150 seconds, or two and a half minutes.
What is the difference between timelapse and motion lapse?
The basic difference is that a time-lapse uses a static camera and shows the passing of time, and a motion-lapse uses a moving camera to emphasize movement through time.
Think of a time-lapse as showing a single landscape view over which you can see the sun’s movement and weather.
Think of a motion lapse as showing you a day-long motorbike ride through that landscape in just a few minutes.
Can I turn a regular video into a timelapse?
You can, with time lapse video editing software such as DaVinci Resolve, iMovie, or Final Cut Pro.