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What Is An Intervalometer And Do I Need One?

What Is An Intervalometer And Do I Need One?Odds are you have seen some of the more recent grand offerings from masters of time lapse photography, such as Randy Halverson and Terje Sorgjerd. DPS also has a post on how to shoot these types of videos using a camera and something known as an intervalometer. But what is this device and what does it do for other photography techniques.

An intervalometer is a device that plugs into a camera and controls how often, how long and how many shots are taken. Models vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but they all serve the same purpose. Think of it as the old remote blub plunger on steroids.

The Canon model TC-80N3 pictured at right is indicative of many models available today. Some of its key features include:

  • Locking shutter release for ultra long exposures shot manually (while reducing camera shake from holding the shutter release on the camera).
  • Initial self timer for first shot, selectable up to a 100 hours in advance.
  • Interval between shots, selectable to a max of 100 hours between shots.
  • Exposure length. Each shot can be controlled by the camera shutter speed setting, or set to bulb (if one second or more) and controlled by the intervalometer with times up to 100 hours available.
  • Number of shots to be taken, selectable up to 99 frames.

The intervalometer can be used for more than just shooting time lapse films. Other uses include:

  • Shooting images for a stacked composition, such as star trails photos.
  • Hands free long shutter speeds for blurred action.
  • Delayed shots for setting up a remote camera timed to fire at a given moment.
  • Creative self portraits, functioning much like the iPhone Photobooth app, but with the ability to keep shooting one image every second for 1.5 minutes.

For the creative types, you can even build your own intervalometer from a scientific calculator and a bit of ingenuity. Instructions can be found on Instructables.com.

What creative uses have you found for using an intervalometer Share your ideas in the comments section below.

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Peter West Carey
Peter West Carey

leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics – A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

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