Don’t timelapse with DSLR cameras

First thing you need to learn DSLR cameras have moving parts and these parts have a certain lifespan but most are roughly around 100.000 clicks, but sometimes you can be lucky and be able to take photos without any issue forever. You can check this website https://www.olegkikin.com/shutterlife/ to find out the average lifespan of your camera and its really depends on your use for its wear and tear. And making timelapse video is the fastest way of killing your camera in the shortest life. As if you are planning to make a video of 3 minutes that is only made out of timelapse footages you have already need 4500 frames for a 25p PAL video as the calculations are:

1sec = 25 frames
10sec = 250 frames
1min = 1500 frames
2min = 3000 frames
3min = 4500 frames

So to make at least a 3minute video you need 4500 photos taken which meent at least 4500 shutter actuations, but in reality you would often even make more than that, as sometime exposure was not correct, after you shot it want to reshot it for different framing or even take several hundred shots before and after so you have enough playing room.

And getting clicks close to 100.000 you only need to make about 20-30 of these full 3minute timelapse videos. And also depending of which shutter speeds you are using as I found 0.5sec was enough time for most timelapses as it enable to have people walking past become a blur yet also give enough movement in the clouds to be interesting, yet for me to make a 10 second video of 250 shots it would only take about standing there for 2 minutes to get the shot that I want and move to the next location. But with the camera taking a photo every half a second give the camera not that much of a break or pauze each time between a shot compared to taking a normal photo can take several seconds or minutes between the each shot.

And back when I was in Hong Kong I was making these daily timelapses scouting around a certain part of Hong Kong and with the 0,5 shutter was able to get enough shots to make a timelapse video daily and pretty much made 9 videos and the shutter of my 550D gotten stuck, luckily after restarting and shaking it several times to get it unstuck and stopped making timelapse videos with that DSLR camera switched to the Panasonic G6 fairly fast. As next to making timelapse video I was also an event photography and was taking atleast 400-600 photo per night as a hired photographer which also was killing the camera but way way less faster rate then timelapse, as the timelapse videos were personal fun project and not a paid one.

So what happens when you reach the end of the shutterlife
Most of the time the shutter either gets stuck or breaks into pieces. Getting stuck and caught on the other blades already means it starting to get close to the end. But when it breaks it can cause damage to the sensor and scratch it and be quite and expensive repair. However replacing the shutter itself is also pricey as depending on the camera most cost around 300bucks. Depending on which camera you are using it sometime be worth to replace the shutter like on an expensive Canon 5D mrkII or III , but on an inexpensive rebel camera like 550D you could be better off buying one with less shutter 2nd hand.

Solution
So the work around is either you need to hack your Canon DSLR for a silent shutter feature from Magic lantern, but if you are using a Nikon, Pentax or Sony DSLR then you don’t have such a luck. Nowadays there are new technology in Mirrorless cameras, as they have Electronic shutters which there is no physical moving shutter at all. This feature makes it possible to prolong the life of a camera by many years, however the negative of using an Electronic shutter is that it does not work with flash photography and will have a Rolling shutter instead of a global shutter, but it does not really affect anything if you shoot Timelapse and it still can be shot in RAW.

Personally I upgraded quite fast to the Panasonic G6, which got an electronic shutter function and build into the camera is also a timelapse feature. And the timelapse video above was shot with the G6.  So its was quite the advantage over many DSLR as didn’t need to hack them and can be making timelapse videos without killing the camera in a short period of time. And pretty much the best way is to either upgrade to a mirrorless camera however not all of them have these features and only ones I know and are the best in it are the Panasonic cameras G6, G7, GH3 and GH4. But nowadays you can find the Panasonic G6 2nd hand for quite an affordable price and be a much better dedicated timelapse camera instead of your main DSLR.

Category: Videography
About The Author
- Awarded Cinematographer , Photographer and Graphic Designer.

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