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Old Apr 14, 2009, 6:26 PM   #1
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My company is building a new building about 1000 feet from our current location. We'd love to produce a time-lapse movie of the building going up, but want a mostly hands-off solution.

I've considered webcams connected to a computer running specialized software, but the resolution is too low, so I think the best solution will be to use a regular digital camera that can do time-lapse.

Here is what I envision:

Mounted on the roof of our current building will be a digital camera inside a weatherproof box, with a permanent power source running to it. Installed in this camera will be either a very large memory card (so I only have to unload it once a month or so) or have a USB cable connected that runs down inside our current building to a computer that automates retrieval of the images on the camera at regular intervals.

So, my requirements are a camera that can:
Stay powered on forever as long as it is plugged into wall power.
Take a picture every hour in perpetuity.
Allow me to unload the memory stick (ideally remotely) w/out upsetting current camera settings/setup.
Use an optical zoom (at least 3x) to improve the image quality at this distance.

Is there a better approach?


-- Kimball

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Old Apr 14, 2009, 8:01 PM   #2
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Some of the Canon digicams have time lapse capability. If you go to this page:

http://vimeo.com/2590011you can see one time lapse movie made with the Canon SX10, a superzoom with a 28mm to 560mm zoom range.
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Old Apr 15, 2009, 10:59 PM   #3
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Well here are some thoughts that you can consider. For the highest image quality a dSLR would be the best choice. For long term control you would want to use an external device called an intervalometer. This is a small device that you set as an self-timer, interval timer, long-exposure timer, and exposure-count setting feature. The timer can be set anywhere from 1 sec. to 99 hrs., 59 min., 59 sec. A dial enables you to easily enter the numeric settings. They cost about $100 and are available for all popular dSLRs on the market, and are made by the manufractuer or from a third party.



I would then decide on the camera based on the image quality, and the availability of an external power supply for the camera body (dSLRs usually have an enternal port to accept an external power supply), along with how much you want to spend. You could go either used, new but discontinued, or new. You can go with anything from 6MP to 14MP, ranging from say $100 for a used dSLR to say $1000+. A kit lens would be able to handle the job pretty easily, as they are zoom from 18mm to 55mm. From your position on the roof, I would estimate the field of view that you would want to cover in degrees. I would go to google maps, or google earth, locate your site, and determine the field of view that you would want to cover with a protractor, and then use the link to a calcualtor below:


An 18-55 zoom lens provides continous coverage from about 60 degrees to 25 degrees. If this is not sufficient then a wide angle lens covers out to about 100 degrees. If this is again not sufficient, there is a ultra wide angle fish eye that covers 180 to 100 degrees. The wide angle lenses would add to the cost. Also, depending on your new building, you may want to consider height if its multi story so that you would cover both the width and heigth of the building site.

You can get power supplies that would power the camera body, and you would probably need to change batteries periodically in the intervalometer. You would also need a tripod to keep everything aimed properly. I would think that you would also need to clean the lens of acumulated dust regularly. You may also want to consider a sealed camera body and lens.

I am familiar with the Pentax line (but any make (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, etc.) would work, since intervalometer are available for just about all makes), and if you wanted to go say top of the line. Here is a quick run down of the estimated costs. Pentax has the K20D 14MP, which features a weather sealed body and a lot of capability. With the kit lens (18-55) included it would run about $790. Pentax's kit lens is rated very high in terms of image quality.


You would need to get the external 8.3v dc power supply from Pentax (AC Adaptor Kit), along with a tripod, and the intervalometer.


Since the intervalometer takes 2 AAA batteries you could get an external AAA power supply and rig something up to get around battery replacement. Something like a 16GB card and you are ready to go. Pentax also offers on the K20D a USB remote camera control, however the longest USB cable length based on the USB standard is 5 meters or about 16'5". You would probably be cable length limited so that may not work very well (but an option).

Using 14MP and JPG file format you can store about 272 images at the best resolution/quality. With a 16GB SDHC card or 1088 images which would cover about 45 days (day and night - 24 hours round the clock coverage). I would think that you may want to check weekly to ensure that things do not go wrong and to swap out the images, so as to make sure that a loss would only cover a week's worth of time.

KEH.com is a good source of used camera gear. I would call them and see what they recommend for your application in terms of what they currently have in inventory.


One additional item. Depending upon the camera make, removing the memory card may cause the camera to turn off, this is the case for Pentax. So if you swap memory cards - and you should, your going to have to remember to turn the camera body back on.

Here are some links that will help....


Also, as in just about everything, Canon has a very large user base, thus there is always a large amount of information on just about every topic using Canon cameras.

Here is another link with some interesting insights into long term time lapsed photography.


One additional item to consider is that on dSLRs there is a mechanical shutter and mirror that is usually rated for around 100,000 images. So since you are not personally taking each image (thus would not know just when a failure would occour), figure around 50,000 images before something may go wrong. Point and Shoot cameras do not have mechanical shutters, and thus be less prone to this type of failure, however you would need to look for P&S that would support the timer (dither internally or externally, along with a long term power source.

Just some thoughts - Hope it helps!

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Old Apr 21, 2009, 11:56 PM   #4
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Hi Kimball, Just another set of thoughts. My wife wanted the Rec Room and Family Room cleared out for painting, but her PC setup in the kitchen. So I borrowed by son's ethernet over power line connection - which gave me the following idea.

1. Up on the roof set up what ever camera that has remote control software available for it (more on that later). Plug the camera into its AC adapter and plug into your roof electrical connection.

2. Get an old PC or a laptop or nettop (or whatever) to put in the enclosure up on the roof - connect it to the camera via the USB port and cable, and run the remote control software on it (set it up so that if the laptop reboots, it starts the remote control software automatically). Plug the laptop's AC power adapter into your roof's electrical connection. Depending on the software you might be able to set the image interval or if not you will still need the intervalometer.


3. Get a Powerline Ethernet Adapter (you need a pair) and plug the laptop's ethernet connection into it and plug the unit into your rooftop electrical connection.


4. Plug the other half of the pair of Powerline Ethernet Adapter units into a wall socket inside your building (make sure that there is not a transformer between you and the roof top electrical socket, since the data will not pass through the transformer - see your building's electrician). Then connect an Ethernet cable into the unit and plug it into a hub, switch or another PC.

5. Remote desktop (if your using Windows - see your IT person on how to do this if you do not know) to the rooftop PC connected to the camera. You should have the remote control software running on the PC on the roof, remoted to a window on your desktop. Now you can see what is going on and you should be able to download over the Ethernet, the images collected by the rooftop PC down to your office or where ever.

You might want to put a battery backup unit up on the roof just in case....


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