Time Lapse Enclosure for Smart Phones




How to build a weatherproof enclosure for taking time lapse photos using a smart phone.

This enclosure is not 100% waterproof but can reasonably survive rain while protecting your smartphone.  This enclosure was used over a 5 day period including two days of rain and easily kept the camera dry.

Using this enclosure, you can take time lapse videos like this.

Step 1: Parts You Will Need

1.  Two pieces of plexiglass, each slightly larger than the smartphone
2.  A few scraps of 1" thick wood or plywood
3.  A smartphone with a time lapse application and built in camera
4.  Small tripod
5.  Charger cord for the smartphone
6.  Miscellaneous screws

Step 2: Build the Main Box

Cut the wood and plexiglass to a length that is a few inches longer than the smartphone to allow for the phone and the charge connector to fit inside the box.

Using a router, cut a slot on the inside top and inside bottom that is approximately the thickness of the smartphone.  The phone will slide into the box in these slots.

Some smartphone cameras are very close to the edge of the phone.  You may need to chisel out a bit of the slot to prevent obstructing the camera's view.

Use plexiglass for the front and back so the camera has a good view and so you can see the smartphone's screen to aim the camera.

Step 3:

Measure the height of the smartphone and cut the plexiglass to a height that is 1" higher.  This will allow you to overlap the plexiglas by 1/2" to the top and bottom pieces of wood.

Attach the front and back plexiglass to top and bottom wood pieces using the screws.  Be sure to size the opening using the smartphone so that it slides smoothly into the routed slots.

To ensure the enclosure is waterproof, use some silicon between the wood and the plexiglass.

Step 4: Assemble One Side

Cut one of the 1" scraps into a side for the box.  Cut a slot in the wood to allow the charger cord to pass through the side of the box.

Attach the side with screws and use silicon if the box must be waterproof.

Step 5: Attach the Tripod

A small tripod is useful to aid in mounting and aiming.  You can add one by drilling a hole that is slightly smaller than the mounting screw on the tripod, then carefully threading the mounting screw into the hole.  Press firmly and twist the tripod slowly to tap the hole to fit the screw.

Don't put unnecessary strain on the mounting point when aiming the camera.

Step 6: Fit the Removable Side to the Box

Fit the other side so that it is removable.  This allows you to connect the charger, start the time lapse app, slide the camera into the box and enclose it at the beginning of the time lapse sequence.  

Cut a small block of wood so that it snugly fits the distance between the inside of the top and the inside of the bottom of the box.  Attach the small wood block to the side piece with a screw.

If it is loose, use a piece of duct tape to shim the small wood piece so it does not fall off.  You can also use a larger piece of duct tape to hold the side in place.  

Alternatively, you can use a screw at the top and bottom of the side and a bead of silicon where the sides touch the main box to make it more waterproof.  Tighten the screws down once the smart phone is inside the box to ensure the silicon seals properly against the sides.

Step 7:

Protect the charger from moisture and dirt by placing it in a plastic bag and sealing firmly with duct tape.



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    13 Discussions


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Much simpler, and just as functional. I made an even simpler version which basically was nothing more than a ziplock baggie that was taped to a block of wood. If you can prop up the phone/camera, all you really need is a waterproof bag, as long as you make sure it's stretched tight across the lens. I found that some brands aren't clear enough, though.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah -that works perfectly fine for most camera's but mine has a moving zoom-lens that would freak out if a plastic bag was stretched taught over it.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    You are absolutely right, and that was the only problem I had with the plastic bag solution using my Casio Exilim. My fix was to use double-sided tape to attach the plastic bag to the front-most lens segment, so the zoom lens can move in and out unhindered, and the bag moves along with it. It's not an ideal solution since I have to re-tape the bag to the lens every time, but doing that is still a lot less work than constructing a permanent waterproof housing. Then again, taping your camera onto a ziploc is a less classy, so to each his own. *shrug*


    8 years ago on Introduction

    really good idea, but i would have made some adaptations

    1) add another rectangular section to use as a lens hood, eliminating lens flare.
    2) made it so the rain drops on the outer part didn't interfere as much.
    3) used a battery to recharge the phone, instead of the generator.

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Agreed. I don't know a whole lot about photography, so wasn't able to predict the lens flare. A hood would have helped with that plus the raindrops, although I do like the fact that you can see it was raining!

    A supplemental battery would have been a good idea, but I knew I was going to be near the generator and could plug the charge in. The phone itself will run several hours before quitting, even without supplemental power.

    Also, on days when I knew it was not going to rain, I left the end cap off and slid the phone out slightly so it had a clear view and was not looking through the plexiglass. That backfired slightly on the windy day when the phone was blown back and forth in the routed slots. That's why it appears to rock during one of the days.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    yeah, the best thing to do would be to use some strong glass, ad clean that intensely, and certain filters might have been useful, but it's more difficult with that on a phone. my dad's cousin does this sort of thing, only about 50 times more advanced, using a D-SLR, A laptop, an industrial timer, a solar panel and a battery,
    this allows him to create a day by day time-lapse of long building projects, these images are emailed to his clients every day, using a 3g adapter, and then they can be used in court cases if there is any delay, these devices can be fitted on rooftops with minimal installation, are protective housing which makes them look not to unlike a speed camera, and it's all quite advanced so cost thousands


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Koalas are the mascot for the school. There is a set of Koala phones the kids can use to talk to each other and the Koala logo is in mosaic at the entrance as well.


    nice project - what app did you use on your iphone -- thinking i will do this ( when i get my old 2g back from my brotherinlaw when he gets a new phone ( soon i hope) ) -- would be nice to have this capture and upload to a website

    also the first few days did you eliminate the nighttime sequence of pictures or did you let the phone take pics all night long

    thanks for the info

    1 reply

    I used an app called iTimelapse. It does not upload to a web site, but does just about everything else. That would be a pretty cool feature, actually.

    The first day, the portable generator that was powering the iPhone, among other things, ran out of gas and the phone took pictures until the battery died. For the rest of the build, the camera worked all day.

    Each morning, I would set the camera up and start the time lapse and each evening I would stop the camera and take it home with me. iTimelapse allows you to specify times to start and stop and how many total pictures to take, among other things but I didn't want to leave the phone on a construction site all night!