Time-lapse With Any Camera, Using Arduino




Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you want to capture situations where filming would be entirely impractical, or even impossible. For those moments time-lapse photography is a god-send, until you realize that your camera did not ship with that feature and there seems to be no way around it.

Fret not instructaloid, salvation is here, in the form of a small Arduino sketch which will make your incapable camera capable again! Grab a seat, make some popcorn, and watch the video for how to get it done!

For this instructable you'll need:

1 Arduino (UNO or other board)
1 Micro servo, any brand will work
1 Thin aluminium strip
3 Jumper wires
1 Camera + tripod

For the extended project described towards the end of the video you'll also need:

1 Prototyping board, I used the Perma-Proto Half-sized Breadboard PCB by Adafruit
1 Arduino Pro Mini (instead of the bigger Arduino previously)
2 Kingbright SC56/11HWA 7 segment character displays
2 74HC595N shift registers
1 Toggle switch
1 Pushbutton
1 Rotary encoder
1 10kOhm potentiometer
2 Knobs
1 Enclosure
, whatever will fit all the stuff

So get started on your next time-lapse project already, don't let lack of features stop you. What doesn't exist we build or hack together!

For a closer look at the schematics for this project, find the PDF here: http://switchandlever.com/plans/timedFinger_schematics.pdf

The link for the Arduino sketches used in this instructable can be downloaded at the following link: http://www.switchandlever.com/plans/timedFinger.zip

Stay tuned for more videos from Switch & Lever, and check out the rest of the material here on Instructables and YouTube for previous uploads!

Thanks for watching!

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44 Discussions


2 years ago

Did it (version 1) and works perfectly. Many thanks from good old Germany.


4 years ago on Introduction

I've hacked into a camera and triggered the switches (focus, then shoot) with a couple 555 timers. Smaller and cheaper than your arduino version, but harder.

6 replies

It's definitely an option, but it will no doubt void your warranty. I personally wouldn't do it as I would prefer there not to be cables running out of my camera when I'm using it normally. If you have a dedicated camera for this, then go for it!

And the first step is to disassemble the poor thing and trace the circuit out, and write out the circuit so you can figure it out.

It worked for me. It was a drone application and I needed to keep the weight down. But it was a job getting into the camera, figuring out the schematic of the switches, wiring into them, and making a transistor driver circuit. Then getting it all back together! Seems like it would be so easy to put this capability into a camera and leave out some of the doodads you never use.

Hello, jimvandamme!
I'm interested in your solutions since I have a dedicated low-cost camera for this.
Would You share some directions and advises, please?
Thanks in advance!
Best regards
Nikolay Nikiforov

Well, like I wrote, it's harder. You have to tear into the camera and figure out how the switches work, so that requires electronics knowledge. Draw a schematic, then figure out how to replace the switches with electronic equivalents. Since they're usually just button switches with one side ground or to the + power, you can use a transistor to pull the floating side of the switch down. Drive it with a 555 or whatever trigger you need, then trigger the second 555 off the output of that, giving it some time to focus, and trigger the shot.

There are probably cameras that have programming ports that don't require hacking into. I have an older HP 4 MP camera that has a "sharing" plug on the bottom, but I haven't found a pinout for it. Supposedly it outputs video, too.

It's been 8-10 years since I did this; it was for a small drone before drones were all the rage.

Thank You VERY MUCH!!! I appreciate You take your time to answer!!!
It is really useful to me, especially the part with the programming ports - I didn't know that !!! No matter if I succeed or not - it's good to know that there is someone willing to help!!! Thanks again and good luck with your initiatives!!


Great solution.
I failed to do the exact same idea 3 years ago, just becouse I didn't know about Arduino. Now, I'm learning it and this tutorial is a great inspiration.


I have an error with the code. Encoder does not name a type. What does this mean?


4 years ago on Introduction

Nice build. But, should you happen to have a Canon powershot there's a great mod so you can program not only time-lapse but motion sensing, lightning capture, even program games. Unlock the full potential of your Canon with CHDK. Install on the SD card and doesn't harm the original programming of the camera. Here's the link : http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK. Very cool build though. Keep em coming.

2 replies

Sorry I missed the earlier posts. Don't have all day to read everything. Thanks for the thanks though. What I would really like is an Ardino script to block all the politically based commercials. :). Take it slow.Doug
PS, quality editing. Very easy to follow.


4 years ago on Introduction

muy bien hecho! well done! sehr gut gemacht! maladjetz! tres bien!


4 years ago on Introduction

This is one of the most pleasant videos I have ever watched. It's slow enough to follow, covers many types of problems you may encounter, the picture in picture is great, and it's fast enough to not get bored... great job!!

I personally think this is an elegant solution. It has a certain reliability to it and it uses the most complex technology (the camera) to do just the parts that it should be doing (taking pictures). It also illustrates how you can use the arduino to interact with the physical world... this is so cool.

Plus, great servo explanation. I wasn't sure how they work in terms of rotating back all the way to start and how to make the mechanics work efficiently. I think I might make the 1.0 version.

2 replies

Thank you, I do put in great effort to make sure my videos are not just instructional to watch, but also easy and to some degree entertaining.

I would love to see your approach if you end up making it, do keep us updated!


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

I meant to say "most pleasant how-to video". Obviously there are some pretty pleasant videos on reddit.


4 years ago on Introduction

you know There are mechanical intervalometers you can fit in any camera that do exactly what you did, in a smaller package. Check this one out: http://tempusall.bymac.org

1 reply

Indeed, but the complete cost for this project was less than $50, whereas the TempusAll is $149, that's easy math to me.


4 years ago on Introduction

Great project and just in time. I had gathered some parts to do similar. I was planning to use a push / pull solenoid to actuate the shutter. Any comments on that approach?

What are the options for post-production software? In other words, how do you assemble the individual jpgs into a video?

Again, great job. Superb production value on the video!