Time Lapse Intervalometer for SLRs with 555 timer IC

Picture of Time Lapse Intervalometer for SLRs with 555 timer IC
This instructable started with my previous camera hack making a remote shutter release. I found a 555 timer tutorial and realized how great it would be to automate my pictures and do some time lapse photography. I'm not too great with making electronics from scratch, so my friend Michelle helped out a lot with the planning of the schematic.

I found a great guide to time lapse photography that covers all the details before and after this Instructable. They mention the use of an "intervalometer" (a new word to me) which can cost $60 to $150 dollars. That's way too expensive for the casual photographer I think. So I made my own!
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Step 1: Planning, Schematic, Materials

Picture of Planning, Schematic, Materials
Below is a schematic that I made with free schematic software from ExpressPCB. You can also download the .sch file if you want to edit it. Remember, that won't get you a PCB to burn, only a schematic to mess around with.
Here's what this circuit will do. When you turn it on, the camera will get a false signal and take a picture. Then the big capacitor will slowly fill with charge while the green LED is on. How slowly is chosen by the variable resistor. When the cap discharges, the 555 outputs a signal to the transistor which connects the shutter control to ground. The red LED lights up and the camera takes a picture

There are also buttons to use the box as a remote shutter release when the circuit is off.

As you can see you need some stuff. Here's a list:

Resistors: 100k, 470k, 33k, and one 1M variable
Capacitors: 220µF, 0.1µF
LED's: Green, Red
Transistors: NPN-type switching
555 IC timer chip
IC holder socket (to switch out a bad chip)
Protoboard and then later a Radioshack IC PC Board
9V battery
On/Off switch
Momentary buttons,
Battery clip
For Pentax DSLRs, Canon Rebel's, and maybe some others:
Cell phone headset with 3/32" 3 conductor plug (make sure it works, but go cheap)
Extra wires
Project box
Soldering and wire stripping tools and such

555IC: $1.69
IC PC Board: $2.49
Handsfree headset kit: ~$5
Other bits and bobs: ~$10
So it all can be had for under $20 and some effort.
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ivmilicevic4 months ago

I've made this intervalometer, but problem is that my camera has to focus first, then fire the shutter. Therefore, I need two outputs; one for focus and second for shutter. Does anyone know how to make this with 555 timer(s)?

frapedia1 year ago
very nice circuit.
For those who would like to play with LM555 IC as a timer take a look at
pcooper23 years ago
Corrected circuit diagram. Note polarity of 220µF capacitor. Current limiting resistors for each LED changed from 470K to 470Ω, 1/4W. Wiper of potentiometer connected to end terminal so that it works as a variable resistor.
jsc6 years ago
I've been looking at your circuit diagram, trying to use it as a starting point to understand the operation of the 555. I've also looked at the "standard" 555 astable circuit, and I have a few questions.

I noticed you didn't follow the "standard" astable 555 timer circuit ( Is this because of the allowable values for R1, R2, and C? If not, wouldn't it be simpler to go with the standard circuit with a very large capacitor value and a properly selected R2?

By the way, wouldn't it also be easier to guarantee an activation pulse of >20ms as suggested by tyler below simply by changing the values of the second (reset) pair of RC?

I'm still reading up on this stuff, so please let me know if I'm wrong.
jsc jsc6 years ago
Two more questions: isn't 470k a rather extreme value for the LED current limiting resistors? 470 Ohms would seem a more appropriate value.
pcooper2 jsc3 years ago
Assuming 20 mA current through the LED with a 9V supply and 1V drop across the diode, the current limiting resistor should be 400Ω. Either 430Ω or 470Ω, ±5%, 1/4W would be good choices.
Agreed on the 470 ohm.
eagleapex (author)  Swishercutter4 years ago
Yeah, I don't know too much about this. Do you have a better layout to share?
jsc eagleapex4 years ago
Yes, in fact, I do. Thanks for your Instructable, by the way; seeing it in Make Magazine way back when got me interested in electronics.

Here is my take on your circuit. It uses the 555 the way God intended, in the standard astable configuration. The "on" time is determined strictly by the values of C2 and R1, using the formulas given in the link in my first comment (in this case 0.15s) so there is little chance of missed shots. The wait time is determined by the values of R1, R2, C2, and the variable resistor R3, so the max value can be modified by using different resistor values.

The entire lower half can be ignored, it is a driver for the red/green bicolor LED from Radio Shack to indicate power on (red) and timer pulse (green). Other arrangements would have to be made if using a different LED, or a pair of LEDs. (Note that the diodes in the LED driver are zener diodes, intended to be used "backwards".) I used a standard audio mini jack so you can just use an mini audio cable instead of having to hack up a cell phone head set.

I eventually got so far as to design and etch a small single sided board to implement this circuit using SMD parts. It all works great. I have the board available in Eagle format if anyone wants it.
hexinverter jsc4 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
jsc hexinverter4 years ago
Hi, hexinverter. I'm not sure I understand your objection. The pulse width is always the same and determined by one of the resistors, and the interval between pulses is variable using the potentiometer. That is, the pot determines the space timing, while the mark timing (the pulse) is always the same at ~.15s. The trigger pulse timing can be changed by changing a single resistor. The interval can be set to any reasonable range by selecting an appropriate value for the pot, although I've read that 555s don't like to run super slowly.

I agree a relay would be preferable, but transistors are cheap and low power.
hexinverter jsc4 years ago
Lol, just realized someone else has made a better 'ible already, so I probably won't be doing it after all :)

The issue isn't needing to buy a new costly transistor (hehe...) , it's more like - who wants to rip it apart and replace one when it does get pooched?

Relays can be found everywhere to salvage. Particularly old computer modem cards - they each have 2 on them, from what I've seen.

Hmm, well if the schematic works for you I guess, carry on!
eagleapex (author)  jsc4 years ago
That's awesome. Personally I would insist on the head set 3/32 jack because that plug fits in Pentax and Canon DSLRs. Maybe leave space for a standard jack to be soldered on or wires. Could we add momentary buttons that allow the focus and shutter functions to be triggered with out the 555? I find that helpful when setting up a time lapse.
SMD is cool too. I'd prefer simple separate LEds for on/off too.
What do you think?
jsc eagleapex4 years ago
I think I used a 1/8" audio jack with a cable and a 1/8" to 3/32" plug adapter on one end, because that is what I had on hand at the time. It would be a simple part switch to substitute a 3/32 board mount jack for use with the proper cable. One could also just solder wires right onto the pads.

Individual red/green LEDs could be used, just drive one with a PNP transistor and the other with an NPN, with current limiting resistors. Or more easily, you could just replace LED1 with a pair of LEDs back to back (that is all the red/green Radio Shack bicolor LED is, in one package).

Probably the simplest way to add in manual focus and trigger buttons would be to place them across the connections on the audio jack itself. Then you would use the main power switch to shut off the circuit and use the buttons as a manual trigger.

I never addressed the hardest part of any project like this, which is the casing. Having all the elements be board mounted makes for easy assembly, but makes finding or assembling a suitable case much harder. If I were going to case it, I would probably use panel mount switches, LEDs, and jack.

This makes a great "first project" for anyone getting into electronics. I learned how to read circuit diagrams, read data sheets, schematic capture, board layout, home etching, how to order parts online, and through hole and SMD soldering. If I were to do it today, I would do something with a microcontroller.
hexinverter4 years ago
Hey guys. I was wondering if there would be any interest in buying PCBs for this?

This makes a good first project for electronic diy'ers and also teaches you about 555 timers and saves money for a photographer.

I built one of these myself with a similar design (not the same though) that is MUCH improved over this one and without errors in it. I could start an instructable with the instructions/parts list, schematic and a link to buy the board from me.

I ask because I designed a board for my intervalometer, and figured people new to electronics might prefer that over perf board.

I'd make the PCBs myself and would sell them for $5 or so each (depending on how long it takes me to drill them)

If there's enough interest I can whip up a batch of 6 or 7 of them and get working on an instructable :)


I'm interested in the PCB for an intervalometer and an Ible or instructions. Have you started doing this yet? Let me know. LL
Well sir, you are the first one to show any interest in this unfortunately. Perhaps if more people respond I will make some!

As it stands, I don't have the time right now unless there's some profit in it for me unfortunately. I am struggling enough to do some part time work while I'm in school! :(

Thanks for the response though. Maybe more will tune in!
eagleapex (author)  hexinverter4 years ago
That sounds pretty sweet. Once we get a good design, we could sell them through sparkfun maybe.
crosendahl6 years ago
I just built one based on this design. A few changes though:
- The schematic shows the potentiometer wired at the two ends of the resistor. One of the leads needs to go to the center tap instead (otherwise it's just a 1M resistor).
- I took swishercutter's advice about increasing the value of the 33k resistor to make the pulse longer. Thank you, this solved my non-trigger problem.
- I added a 22uf capacitor in parallel with the 220uf cap and a switch to choose between them. This gives me a selectable range of about 3 to 30 seconds with the 22uf and 30 seconds to 4:30 minutes with the 220uf cap.
- The LEDs I used have resistors built in, so I didn't use the 470k resistors.
- I mounted it in a Altoids tin, it looks cool that way.

Picture on flickr: intervalometer
Glad to see I could be of help. I like that mod with the caps, you could also change out the 100k resistor for a 10k resistor giving you a range of 2.2 s up to 222 s. Although, your way gives you the ability to fine tune. I think the 470k resistors should be 470 ohm even though you didn't use them.
eagleapex (author)  crosendahl6 years ago
Nice, I'll work this in to Ver. 2
jesusali7 years ago
Good work and good documentation. Just to be "that guy" I'll point out that the software that comes with a Canon DSLR has an interval function built in. You have to be tethered to a PC to use it, but you can get precise intervals. That said, it is obviously useful to be more mobile and to not have to tie up a computer for as long as it takes to shoot your project. Great work!
If I remember correctly though, there was some limit in the software. I want to say it would only let you take 30 pictures. And as you said, being tether to a PC really limits its use.
No limit on my t1i canon utility. I took over 2500 in a row, stored directly to my laptop.
eagleapex (author)  jesusali7 years ago
I've always wondered why they don't include these goodies in the camera's firmware. I'm sure it would take some programmer like 5 seconds to add this feature natively. Oh well. More work for the tinkerers!
The Ricoh R4, R5 and R6 have an interval shooting function down to a 5 second interval and saves as a series of jpegs up to the camera's highest resolution. The only trouble with Ricohs are that they are not robust cameras at all - be careful taking them outside they literally suck in dust and moisture. I vaguely recall the Nikon 5400 having a time lapse function but annoyingly it by processing it and saved it as a quicktime movie (yuck). But, that does still leave the question why isn't the feature more common on digital cameras.
Yes Ricoh isnt a very good company, I use to work for them...
Disgruntled employee?
no no no, I worked in parts, but I do know Rocoh parts are cheep..Copys though...They rule
My canon digital ixus (digital ixus 950 IS, a.k.a. the Canon PowerShot SD850 IS) has that feature and saves the output as a video file rather than a wodge of stills, which has pros and cons I guess. It's not an SLR camera of course, but will do 1 or 2 second intervals at 640x480 res which is fine by me.
lol, they don't add it dilibratly. Think about it, by not inclusing it they have created a mini market. Soon to come crashing down due to this -_
I've got a Nikon D70, which doesn't have a connector for triggering the shutter, and I certainly don't want to cut it open. Therefore I built a circuit to trigger a Nikon remote control (or actually a £1.50 ebay look-alike). I don't even have to have a lead connected to the camera.
I would love to see the D70 circuit. I'm trying to automate a D70S,a D40X and a D50, but the seem to react intermittenlty.
ropie5 years ago
Awesome project.. in the process of building one now for my sony...  Any update as to when version 2 will be published?
this looks good for my project ,I will try to twaek a shorter time than 30 seconds thanks
victoras_h5 years ago
Awesome build, I already started gathering the required parts, but I have one question: what exactly do the little black and red push-buttons do?
They look like switches to fire the focus/shutter signals manually, so you can also use it as a standard remote control.
Does anyone know of a free software for combining the images into a movie format or a GIF image file?
Wait, I found the animated GIF creator in GIMP.
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