As you might imagine, we have almost daily conversations with photographers about what camera to use with photoSentinel Pro. The great advantage of our system is that you, the photographer, can control the quality of the photos by using your favourite camera and lens. Of course, everyone wants the best quality photos, so does that mean you should use your Canon 5D Mark III or Nikon D800?
No. For a number of reasons.
Firstly, it would be an expensive business decision to lock up such a valuable camera in a box for a two year time-lapse. If you’re taking photos every 15 minutes, eight hours a day, five days a week, you will have triggered the camera less than 17000 times, hardly enough usage for a high quality camera that may be obsolete by the time you take it out of the box.
Secondly, you don’t need the best quality camera to capture great photos. It’s an age-old truism that an expensive camera does not make a photographer. (The most entertaining example of this is the “Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera” Series by DigitalRev TV.) We can get so used to shooting large raw photos with a 5DMkiii and an L-series lens that we forget a standard JPEG shot on an entry level DSLR still has a resolution much higher than HD.
Importance of post-production
Thirdly, post-production is more important than camera quality. One of the better construction time-lapses I’ve recently seen was compiled from webcams setup without construction time-lapse in mind. It’s engaging because the post-production has made it dynamic and interesting. Would it look better if it had been shot in high res? Of course. But after watching countless construction time-lapses, I can assure you a well edited and engaging low-res time-lapse beats the pants off a badly edited, high-res time-lapse every-time. Among photoSentinel users, some of the best videos have been shot on Canon T3i (600D) and Nikon D3100 – it’s all in the editing.
The client’s expectations
Fourthly, the client won’t notice. As photographers, it’s good that we self-critique and work hard to present work of the highest standard, but so often we’re aware of differences in quality that non-photographers wouldn’t even notice. At a photography competition last year I watched judges disagree over the quality of a photo because part of the subject was slightly out of focus. And when I say slightly, I mean they almost had their noses pressed to the photo to analyse it. While a client may (hopefully!) notice the difference between a construction time-lapse shot on a terrible webcam and one shot with a DSLR, they’re not going to notice the difference between 2/3 and full-frame sensors.
So, what camera?
For these reasons, when we’re asked what cameras we advise for use with the photoSentinel Pro system, we recommend Canon T2i/3i/4i (550D/600D/650D) and Nikon D3100/3200. With these cameras you get full DSLR functionality, lens flexibility and high quality photos, yet at a price that is reasonable for equipment that will be locked-up in a box for two years.
Lastly, for some more concrete proof that you really can shoot great time-lapse with entry-level DSLRs, check out this time-lapse recently created by Finnish photographer Riku Karjalainen, using a Canon T3i (600D).