Time Lapse Photography - the Lazy Way!




I've made a cheap and easy to build time lapse camera, using an old mobile phone, some java software, general firmware hackery and an old phone carrycase.
Most of the other timelapse camera mods I've seen on here and Make are based on wiring up a timer to switch the camera on, take a picture, then turn it off.
Thats good, but I cant solder for toffee, so I looked to a software solution...

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Step 1: What You Will Need


Old Java (MIDP 2.0) compatible phone
Some sort of datacable for the phone
Phone carrycase


J2ME Development kit
FAR manager (optional - depends on state of phone)

Step 2: Write the Software

This is the hard part, believe it or not, there isnt any java based software that does this for phones. There are a couple of python based ones that will work on a Nokia phone, but not my nokia phone :/

I've attached the java files here, I'm NOT attaching the compiled versions though. If you're clever enough to compile/package these then you're clever enough to fix things if they dont work :p

Basically, it presents a menu where you can set the name of the image-set and the timelapse duration. It then spawns a timer that takes photo's and saves them on the memory card.

These are written with the SonyEricson W800 in mind. They should work with any midp2.0 compatible phone though

Step 3: (Optional) Hack Phone Firmware to Be Less Annoying

All apps that access the phone camera and memory must have permission to do so, otherwise they ask for it. Everytime.

Yes, that gets annoying so..

To fix this you have to "sign" the application, which costs money. Not interested! A cunning workaround is to hack the phones firmware to not prompt. Thats done with the FAR manager software and associated plugins

For the W800, the patches are here. They can ruin your phone if you dont pay attention. I'm not supplying instructions here, I dont want hundreds of "Lol I bricked my phone fix it plzzzz kthxbye" comments

My phone now no longer asks me for permission to run the software

Step 4: Use It!

Start the software up, on my phone its in the file manager, then "Games" (because of the rubbish transfer software)
Set the duration (I've chosen 60 seconds here)
Set the name (new, because I'm too lazy to type them)

Hit the "more->go" button and put the camera in the case. Wear it!

Step 5: A Test!

heres the first test, a standard time lapse clock gif :)

I did wear this on my bag whilst wandering to the shop, sure enough I'd left the lens cap shut. I'm planning some sort of strap to attach it to my bag strap and point forward. The pictures are about 30kb each and the camera has a 512mb memory card, so thats about 17000 pictures before it fills up. At 15 second durations thats about 70 hours worth of clips.

So I might just leave this on all day and see what happens :)

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    17 Discussions


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I hope i can help everybody with the midlet signing problem. DON'T bother with
    FAR. Now what i am about to tell you may mess up your phone but is TOTALLY fixable permanent damage is impossible unless you smash your phone in anger. You can download http://www.megaupload.com/?d=QQAVI3GY then register at http://forums.se-nse.net or search Google for the correct patch for your phone to remove java restrictions. This sounds hard but it's not feel free to pm me any questions i will answer what i can.

    my dog Joe Gaffey from http://joegaffey.com/blog/?cat=34 has created a timelapse midlet and uploaded a BETA version it works on my w580i but use at your own risk may contain bugs. Be sure to leave him some love. I know i did.

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I replaced my w580i's crippled AT&T firmware with the original SE version (download the firmware images from some weird file sharing site hosted in eastern europe, flash it with XS++ or whatever it's called), no unofficial cracks/patches required, except to work around how SE's own update tool refuses to work (apparently by design) with any carrier-branded phone. This lets unsigned java apps access most features like file access, camera, bluetooth, and unlocks the RSS reader, email client, shortcut button and anything else the phone manufacturer added that AT&T doesn't directly profit from every time I use ;)


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Thx fridgehead for this! But if you happen to have a SonyEricsson K800 like me, i recon you go here a free java timelapse application for that very old but still fantasmic phone!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    If you have a Canon PowerShot or Elf series camera you should look in to the CHDK software. It is FREEWARE and can be used on a number of Canon Cameras. It has some alsome features and requires no soldering.


    11 years ago on Step 2

    I believe this is a promising instructable, but, unfortunately I am having serious difficulty even getting to the .class stage with these source files. I've looked through the documentation and your libraries all exist but eclipse still tells me different and it particularly doesn't like the sections that ask for the MMA. I would appreciate if you could compile this, even on a no support basis. I'm using copies of the jdk and the wtk which has -just- come from sun's website.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Why can't you give us a compiled version in .jar form, again? I really want to do this...


    12 years ago on Introduction

    So anybody want to help me out with this? I am kind of lost on how to compile it. I just need the basic idea. I understand FAR and all that just not JAVA, yet.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Hi I tried running the app and when I click Go it says "Folder exception" and then says running. I left the time frame and folder options as the default 60 and new, when I got this message. Do I have to specify the full path name of the folder? and if so how do I do that, what's the format? Thanks, I've been working on removing java permission errors for the past couple days because I really want to run this interesting app.

    3 replies

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    what phone are you running it on? Its set to save to e:\msemc\media files\other so if that doesnt exist, change it in the source code Also if you enter the a folder name that exists it will fail with that error hey, its messy but i dont care!


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    i'm using the sony ericsson w810i so its almost the same as the one you're using and I made sure that the folder didn't already exist but I'm still getting the error. I'll try taking a look at the code. Thanks for the reply.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    I cant remember the details exactly, but I think the w810i is quiet a bit different when it comes to java etc.. the e:/msems/media files/other folder should show up in the "file manager" as the "other" folder, and e:\ refers to the memory stick You could probably change it to a location on c:\ though the memory there is limited


    12 years ago on Introduction

    First of all this is great I have been looking for something like this for a while. Now when I try to compile the .java files i keep getting errors and am unable to do so, please could you give me some info on what software you used. Thanks

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    yup, you need:

    son ericsson java dev kit

    the software needs to be signed (which costs money) otherwise it prompts everytime it takes a picture.
    The way round that is to havk the phone so that it ignores java permissions.
    Information for that is here

    You can seriously damage your phone doing this


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice! It's a cryin' shame that the cameras with an operating system were such a short-lived market experiment. I have an HP C500, which is a wretched camera but makes a nice game-boy! I'd love an SDK for a modern camera, but it looks like I might have to get a cellular transceiver in the package too, eh? I suppose I can live with that... ;)

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    I'm not sure theres a big enough market for those sort of cameras, though thats a shame because theyre very handy! Problem I'm having now is that I cant control Focus and exposure on the phone from java :/ Spent 4 hours wearing the camera yesterday, half the outdoor shots are overexposed and half are fine, cameras eh!