Camalapse: Make your own panning time-lapse iPhone movies

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Camalapse: Make your own panning time-lapse iPhone movies

So, you've always wanted to be able to take one of those cool time-lapse iPhone movies that slowly pans from one direction to another? Now you can do it easily and inexpensively with the Camalapse, a US$25 accessory that works with a Glif ($20) or other iPhone tripod mount to give your iPhone a spin as it's taking a movie.

Design

Basically, the inventors had a simple idea. Take something like a one-hour mechanical windup kitchen timer, put a tripod mount on top of it, and voilà! You can use your favorite time-lapse photography app while the iPhone (or other lightweight camera) slowly pans around up to a full 360°.

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Not now

The kitchen timer Camalapse takes exactly one hour to make a 360° spin, or it can be set to do 90° in fifteen minutes ... you get the drift. And since the device is essentially a timer, it ticks as it is slowly rotating and some early versions apparently "ding!" when the device has finished the rotation. I think that's a brilliant idea, and I find it discouraging that the bell has been removed.

There's also a threaded socket on the bottom of the Camalapse so you can stick it on a tripod or other mount. The device weighs only about 2 ounces, and is about 2 inches high and about 2.5 inches in diameter.

Functionality

It works as designed, with no frills and no batteries required. As such, it runs at a fixed rate -- basically 360° per hour or 6° per minute. If you want a faster or slower pan rate, you're out of luck. But for most people, I think they'll like the ability to set this device up with a Glif and iPhone on top of it and let it rip.

Of course, you'll need an app to actually take the photos. I did a search in the App Store using "time lapse" as a keyword, and found that the aptly-named TimeLapse ($1.99) has some of the better ratings in this genre. The app rings upon completing a time lapse session, therefore making that internal bell in the Camalapse unnecessary. It's quite easy to use and well-implemented.

After installing the app and setting it to take 15 minutes -- 90° -- of images, I let 'er rip and here's the result. Notice the smooth panning, even if the video subject isn't the most exciting:

Conclusion

If you need a way to slowly pan your iPhone or another small camera to take time lapse movies, then the Camalapse is the accessory for you. It's simple in concept and does a fine job without adding unnecessary fluff. That being said, I wish it did a bit more.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Marked for 15, 30, 45 and 60-minute rotations
  • Needs no batteries
  • Very lightweight and compact
  • Perfect for creating stunning panning time lapse movies

Cons

  • Only pans from right to left (counterclockwise)
  • Rotation speed is not variable

Who is it for?

  • The iPhoneographer who wants to start shooting panning time lapse movies

Many thanks to our friends at Photojojo for lending a Camalapse for testing

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