Comparison between timelapse shot with stills on 5DmkII/7D compared to recording video

timelapse bridge test

Earlier this week I took my 5DmkII and my 7D to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and did timelpase the old fashioned video way on the 5DmkII by just recording for 12 minutes at both ISO 1600 and 3200 and on the 7D I took a series of stills using the intervalometer with 2 second exposures one after each other. The differences are clearly obvious! Shooting stills to create timelapse is incredibly easy, putting them together into video is also incredibly easy (check out my tutorial on it) so there is nothing stopping you going out and doing it. Oh, yes, you do need the intervalometer. You can buy the official Canon one which I use from my Amazon store here. Go to DSLR accessories and then page 2. If that is too much I have found a very cheap alternative on ebay for $35 including worldwide shipping! I have no idea of the quality, but I have ordered one and to be honest at $35 you can’t really go wrong!

Timelapse test. Stills vs Video on the Canon 7D/ 5DmkII from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

First shot is on 7D in stills interval mode using intevalometer.

Second shot is 5DmkII at 1600 ASA

Third shot is 5DmkII at 3200 ASA


  1. I use the “cheap alternative” for over a year with my Canon 40D and it works just as expected (For Example: I haven’t used the one from Canon but i’m not aware that anything is missing on the TC80-N3.
    Or maybe just one thing, does the one from Canon has a power switch? The LCD of the TC80 is just always on if there are batteries in it. The LCD doesn’t seem to draw much power, so after a month it is still working without problems. But since there is no battery status shown on the LCD i mostly switch batteries before doing a new timelapse, just to be safe.

    Really nice shot of the Golden Gate. Which i had more time to do something similar during my visit in San Francisco this year.

    1. The manual of the cheapo version states battery life of 3 years and I think they are fully aware of the fact that the LCD does not turn of, so changing batteries all the time sounds like an afwul waste. Mine has been running for over half a year now without any problems.

  2. Thanks for the comparison, very interesting. Have you tried shooting RAW files for time-lapse. Work flow with After Effects sounds like a pain but I’ve heard the results can be worth it.

    I’ve got the cheap ebay alternative. It’s OK but as far as I can tell, only allows up to 99 exposures which equates to only 4 secs of time-lapse.

    Am saving for the legit Canon one…

  3. That cheapo one looks like the one I have for Pentax (it also fits the lower-end Canons). It works just fine, and beats paying £100 or so for the “real” one.

    Here’s a timelapse I made a while back using it and my Pentax K10D:

    The editing’s nothing special – the scenes are just in the order I shot them so it feels like it’s jumping back and forth in time a bit – but it demonstrates the principle well enough 🙂

  4. makes a great intervalometer
    it’s programmable for a shot every second to one shot every day.
    So if you want to do some really long timelapse of a flower opening
    or leaves changing color this is a great one.

    I have had one for almost two years now and it works great!

  5. On the Canon 7D did you use exposure simulator to get the correct exposure?
    I have found that the exp simulator icon starts flashing when you get to a certain exposure and you can’t adjust it anymore.

    I had hoped to be able to use “exp sim” at iso 6400 to get the right exposure and then shoot at iso 100 with the previously obtained speed in seconds now in minutes

    eg iso 6400 f4 at 5 sec

    equals iso 100 f4 at 5 minutes

  6. the difference is amazing. the stills timelapse doesn’t even look real!
    what program do you use to build out the stills to the correct frame rates and such? fairly simple task? thanks for all the hard work you put out to keep us informed!

    sidenote: i think you’re notes are reversed. looks like the ISO1600 shot is first, then the ISO3200 shot

  7. Phil,
    I got that $35 one about 2 weeks ago and I love it! I haven’t used the Canon one, but it does everything that i need. Hope you enjoy it!

  8. What ASA of the 7D?

    Post says, “Shooting stills to create timelapse is incredibly, …”
    Incredibly what?

    What speed did you increase the 5D video to? Why not speed up the video to approximate the speed (x real time) of the 7D stills?

    The 7D looks a little over exposed (water very bright), but the length of trails from moving boats & planes is not objectionable.
    Do you do test stills & then the histogram to determine exposure?

    1. typo. Incredibly. easy. ISO 800. I took enough stills on the 7D timelapse to fill 45 seconds. I could only roll video on the 5d for 12 minutes. I also got very bored and very cold so the last one wasnt 12 minutes long.

      1. I stand corrected, actually still photo time lapse converted to video can beat video any day depending on the medium, since you can convert you photo time lapse into uncompressed HD with tools like VirtualDub!!

  9. Thanks for the blog post. I (we) appreciate all the effort you put into the content of your site. That’s what keeps me coming back. ok, enough of the praise, what was the ASA for the 7D stills set to?

  10. Amazing the difference in contrast and range. 7D is still a bit noisy for me. I would have love to see what the 5D would do with RAW and DXO to process the images. Lord knows how long a timelapse sequence would take to process though. It would make rendering look quick!

  11. Not a fair comparison using a still camera to do stills and the other still camera doing video.
    Even tho the 5D is mush better still and video camera than the 7D, the 7D still sequence looks better in the time-laps.
    At least you have found what the 7D is good for, but you can get an even less expensive still camera to time-lapse.
    The 5D is still king for the price. You get a better or at least as good image as adding a Letus to a video camera for less money.

    1. why is that a fair comparison? The whole point is to show how using essentially the same camera (i limited my time up there so I shot one on 7d and one on 5d) in different modes creates hugely different results.

      You seem very harsh on the 7D, it is a very good camera with superb video.

      1. Well, If you wanted to show how to get better time-lapse than with a video camera (5D) then you accomplished it.
        To be a fair comparison you would need to have both cameras set to the same still mode or both set for video.
        Did I misunderstood you and both cameras were set to still?
        I have seen 5D & 7D footage on a 720p 42″ Panasonic side by side and the 7D is not even acceptable to me. (for my professional work). It is a great combination for a wedding video/photographer since most of the 7D work would be CUs but if need wide shots I rather use a bare video camera.
        You use a lot of CUs in your work and perhaps it works for you too.
        I personally love what comes out of the 5D, but for now I am sticking to my Letus.
        I am sure the boys are working on a video camera with big sensor. When that happens then we’ll see.
        The best thing about our disagreement is that manufactures are taking notes. 🙂

        1. I chose the 7d to take stills as I wanted to use the better low light camera to do the video shooting. If I had two 5ds with me or 2 7ds then it would have been ideal but i didn’t. Using the 7D for the stills and the 5d for the video was best compromise.

  12. The timelapse of the Golden Gate bridge looks amazing! Did you have to deflicker the footage – it looks completely seamless. If so do you know of any software for a Mac that will deflicker a timelapse sequence? GBDeflicker looks like a great plugin – but it only works on Windows. Thanks!

    1. I was looking at that too, seemed promising, but it looks like the camera still has to be tethered to a computer (which in turn communicates with the iPhone), or am I mistaken?

  13. Hi,
    Just noticed something, in the time lapse comparison the first shot of the bridge it had the 7d text/label on it but I remember this shot exposure and light from san Fransisco people which is suppose to be shot on a 5d, where am I getting mixed up?

  14. I wish to know if there is a way to take out 1920×1080 from 7D before compression through the HDMI signal, so I can record it in my NanoFlash at 160Mbs 422. Do you know if that is possible? or an firmware update its coming with that???

  15. Hi,

    the question here is, which one u prefer?

    Personally, form the still one I prefer the car lights, but i feel it somehow too ‘noisy’.

    I’m thinking to buy a Panasonic GH1 and can only expect even more noise..:(

    Please, give me your opinion, thx

    Saludos from madrid

    waiting for one of your shorts made in Lisbon or Marrakesh (incredible light and places)

  16. hi philip am taha , am a filmmaker from egypt lives in Qatar and i wanna thank you for making me use the dslrs and making me buy the 7d & 5D m2 …. so i wanna ask you about the flicker light when shooting at night with 60p slow motion with 7D and i cant make the shutter less than 60 so i have the flicker all the time
    iso 1600 + sh 60 + 1.8
    what can i do more

  17. Hi
    I am about to do first time lapse (photography) sequences of some function rooms with a Canon 7D. The room action will comprise build up and build downs to show different uses: dining, conference,civil ceremony, etc. So staff putting up tables, chairs and laying tables etc. Reckon activity will take place over 8 hours times 3 days.There will be plenty of dead periods when we can stop camera (or just cut out the inactivity in final cut) and we are covering 3 rooms simultaneously so 3 cameras.
    Two questions: what would you set the image settings to? raw or jpeg and what size: A4 or A3?

    Secondly have been advised to set interval rate to about 1 frame every 7 seconds.Client looking to end up with a minute or so of each room. Do you think interval is too high? Should I go for 1 frame every 10 seconds? Any advice much appreciated!

    1. Shoot jpeg for sure. No need for raw. I always shoot full quality jpeg. As for interval, there are a few apps that will help you calculate your interval or you could use a good old calculator ;).

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