Photographing the Milky Way

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Big City, Small Camera – Crop Sensor Produces Stunning Timelapse

By Jules Ebe on May 11th 2013

In Javin Lau’s recent timelapse project, he captures the immensity of a city that can overwhelm while at the same time make you feel completely alone in the midst of a crowd.

“I remember when I first arrived in Hong Kong almost a decade ago, I felt like I had walked into an actual movie set. It was a place that I had only seen on TV as a kid, with its strange red taxi’s, odd stop lights and driving on the other side of the road…But in a city where you can access the material world in a matter of seconds, it also has the ability to isolate you from the 8 million people around you as well.” ~ Javin Lau

The music and scenes are seamlessly blended and the way the emotions are conveyed allow you to feel the rush and the tranquility of this complex city. The contradictions only add to the experience. Hope you enjoy as much as I did.

Hong Kong is Home

Size Matters – Crop Sensors

I love how Lau filmed this grand city, communicating just how small we are in comparison with a crop sensor camera body. Though it is highly undisputed that you will get more bang for your buck with a full frame sensor, this timelapse video is a great example of using what you have available. Just because you are shooting on a consumer/enthusiast grade body, does not mean you cannot produce stunning results. So don’t let your equipment stifle your creativity – get out there and shoot!

It’s all about how you work it.

For more information about full frame vs crop sensors, click here.

sans superman

asian vertigo


Equipment Used

Canon 7D, Canon T2I
Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6, Samyang 8mm f/3.5, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, Canon 50mm f/1.4

For more from Javin Lau, please check out his vimeo page here.

Until Next Time . . .

Stay Inspired ~ Jules

CREDITS : Video and photographs by Javin Lau have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.


is a Southern California based Conceptual Artist and Photographer. Her work has been featured in several print publications and selections can be seen in local gallery exhibitions. Connect with her on Facebook and Google+.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Allen Arrick

    “This timelapse video is a great example of using what you have available.” The photographer is using $4,000+ worth of camera equipment. Hardly inadequate!

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    • Javin

      1. Crop sensor gear is commonly cheaper than full-frame gear.
      2. Many of the scenes were shot predominantly on my T2I, which I bought used for $450 USD. My Sigma 30mm was $400 USD when I had bought it.

      Thats $850 USD for quite a number of those scenes. That is relatively cheap.

      You have a point, it’s just not a good one.

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  2. Javin

    It took 2 weeks to shoot a majority of the footage, with some of it gathered from a previous trip. The editing process took well over 100 hours. It was painful because it required quite a bit of stabilization. Just ingesting the photos onto hard drives took hours.

    As for crop sensor, there is a legitimate concern where many people believe crop frame can’t shoot as well as full frame for reasons of dynamic range, colour control, distortion, etc., and that comment is geared towards people who are still in the beginning of developing their craft while likely having gear-purchasing syndrome; thinking that the next shiniest toy will give them the edge they need for better photos.

    In reference to making people feel tiny due to the use of a crop sensor, wide angle lenses have distortion due to sensor sizes and they way they’re manufactured for cost and quality. My friend’s Nikon 14-24 on a 5d3 shows very low or minimal distortion until you get to the fringes of an image that is shot at 14mm. However on my Sigma 8-16 shot on a 7D/T2i, with an effective focal length of 12.8mm at 35mm conversion, has significant distortion across the entire image due to the design of the lens and how it interacts with smaller sensors. I assure you, I have shot with this lens at it’s 16mm focal length, and there is still significant distortion throughout the image, something I appreciate because it makes my subjects either a) cartoon-like or; b) smaller.

    Hope this helps.

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  3. apollo

    What makes Crop sensor so bad for landscapes? You just need wider lens, that’s all…Just useless whining how “bad” crop sensor is…

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  4. NursultanTulyakbay

    Crop sensor camera?! That maverick! The next thing you know he will shoot portraits and landscapes with it. When will this guy play by the rules?!

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  5. canonrulez

    has anyone figured out why jules is making a big deal about using a crop sensor? i don’t understand.

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  6. arkhunter

    Another vote for don’t know what it matters that it’s a crop sensor and time laps. If anything it’s a help in post for smaller file sizes (usually). It would have been even better if it was a mirrorless APS-C sensor camera. I find it somewhat insulting that one might think you can’t do pro work with a crop body. Also, “…communicating just how small we are in comparison with a crop sensor camera body.” makes it sound like you are comparing “us” with a crop sensor camera body.

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  7. Jackson Tucker

    Not sure this author understands time-lapse and video and sensor size. Regardless of what resolution the photos where taken with, online video today is confined to 1080×1920… which is about 2 megapixels. With video doesn’t matter if your shooting modern day crop sensor or full frame, only a small faction of those pixels are used in video. My kit includes 4 crop sensors and 3 full frames canon cameras, I mix footage from all of them and I dare you to tell the difference. From what she says in the post, its apparent that she comes from a photography background not video and also views crop sensors as non-professional, enthusaist grade cameras.

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  8. EyeVindicate

    Sorry, maybe I have missed something here, but why should a crop frame sensor ever effect time-lapse photography? Of course you can get a better focal length with a full frame and capture a wider scene, but most of the time-lapse photography out there is done with a crop sensor and still looks amazing. Thank you for showcasing this absolutely stunning time-lapse. I’m just a little confused about the crop vs. full frame sensor point. Maybe if you went into a little more detail about why full frame sensors make a difference with time-lapse photography?

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    • Zach Ashcraft

      I too am confused about the point. The focal length coverage isn’t even a benefit as crop sensors have specific wide lenses for them such as the canon 10-22 or tokina 11-16.

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  9. Peter Ou

    Great work by Javin Lau! Takes a LOT of time to do timelapse videos and then weaving them together to video.

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    • Lee Sadler

      Yeah absolutely. And I completely appreciate all of the different camera angles. This is amazing; I wonder how long it took him to do something like this. I’m thinking of doing this in my home town of Arvada, population 10,000

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