photoSentinel Project Planner

This is a short list of things to consider when planning your long term time-lapse project. If a topic of interest isn’t covered here, then please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.

Photo Frequency

For some quick tips and tricks on shooting long term time-lapse, watch this video.

Avoid determining your regime by how long you want your video to go for at the end. Because of the nature of long term time-lapse you will end up with lots of photos you won’t use (rainy days, periods of inactivity, etc.), so it’s better to overshoot than undershoot.

As a general rule, most projects capture photos at intervals between 10 and 30 minutes, during work hours and on work days. This gives you plenty of photos for culling during editing, while not so many as to be unmanageable.

Photo Format

If you want to shoot JPEG photos only, then the Mini and the Pro systems will work well. If, however, you are set on shooting raw then the Mach II is your go-to system. The Mach II allows for large in-camera card storage and can take a 500GB hard drive (optional add-on), so while you upload the JPEGs over the cellular network you can be saving raw locally to be collected later.

 

Camera Type

The Mini system comes pre-fitted with the Fujifilm XA-3 camera.

The most common DSLR setup for the Pro and Mach II systems is a crop sensor Nikon or Canon DSLR with a Sigma or Tokina wide angle lens. This entry-level setup provides a good balance between cost and quality – it’s relatively cheap and will still give you greater than 4K quality images so you’ll have plenty to play with in post-production.

We can provide Nikon and Canon cameras, with Sigma and Tokina lenses as part of a package with photoSentinel equipment; contact us for prices. We’re also able to provide full frame Nikon and Canon cameras by request; contact us to check compatibility and prices.

For a longer discussion on this topic, see our article What camera should you use for long term time-lapse? Or, why you don’t need a Canon 5D Mark III.

Field of View

Use this handy webapp to calculate the horizontal field of view needed on your project.

For an overlay of the Mini’s field of view (70°), select:

  • Sensor size: Nikon APS-C
  • Focal length: 16mm

For an overlay of a cropped sensor DSLR with 10mm lens (90°), to be used with a Pro or Mach II, select:

  • Sensor size: Nikon APS-C
  • Focal length: 10mm

Search your location, then position your camera and subject on the map and check if your choice of system will capture the whole subject site.

photoSentinel Model

photoSentinel Mini
The brains of the Pro partnered with the power of the Fujifilm X-A3 camera. An all-in-one, plug-and-play solution for those who want to shoot and upload jpeg images at 10 minute or longer intervals. Maximum angle of view is 70°, so the Mini is not suitable for projects that require a wider field of view.

photoSentinel Pro
The original photoSentinel, designed for use with the photographer’s choice of DSLR camera and lens, and for shooting and uploading jpeg images at 10 minute or longer intervals. A camera with an APS-C sensor and 10mm lens allows for a 90° field of view, making it suitable for wider sites.

photoSentinel Mach II
The system of choice for photographers wishing to shoot raw and/or frequencies faster than 15 minutes. Swappable 500GB SSD hard drive provides large storage for saving raw files (to be manually collected later) and photos can captured and uploaded as fast as every minute (beware data costs if uploading large numbers of photos). Compatible with a range of DSLR cameras. A camera with an APS-C sensor and 10mm lens allows for a 90° field of view, making it suitable for wider sites.

Site Access and Maintenance

While photoSentinel equipment is designed to be autonomous, you should always plan and budget for things to go wrong. We recommend budgeting for a site visit every three months. Hopefully you won’t ever have to visit, but you never know when equipment might fail or a spider might build a web over the front of the window.

Wherever possible, photoSentinel equipment should be installed in an easy-to-access location, in order to keep access costs down if maintenance is required.

Power

All photoSentinel systems have a large internal lithium ion battery charged by either solar or AC input. Even if you have access to AC power, solar may be a more reliable input as workers often unplug leads to run their own tools.

In most locations, the provided solar panel will provide more than enough power to equipment running on a normal shooting regime. If you are in a location that has limited sunlight (e.g. far north of the planet or in the shade of multiple office buildings), contact us to talk about alternative power options.

 

Cellular Data

As a guide, most projects use 3-5GB of cellular data per month.

To more precisely calculate the amount of 3G/4G data you will require, simply multiply the number of photos you plan to take in a month by the size of the jpeg files being uploaded.

For example, if you’re shooting medium size jpegs (3MB) at 24 photos per day (every 20 minutes for eight hours), then your minimum data usage will be 2.2 GB per month. After building in some contingency, we would recommend a data plan of 3GB per month on this project.

Mounting Options

All photoSentinel equipment comes with pole mounting brackets that can also be used to mount the equipment to a wall. The Pro and Mach II can also be screwed into a flat surface.

Got More Questions?

We haven’t covered everything here and you may have more questions about how to plan for a long term time-lapse. So, contact us with your query and we’ll help you plan your project.