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Insights & Thoughts

Nikon Df vs Canon 6D: Creating a ‘Drivelapse’ Timelapse Sequence

By Matthew Saville on August 28th 2014


Full Moon At Midnight In The American Southwest

Last year when the Nikon Df first came out, I was really excited to see what it could do in low light.  To be specific: breath-taking, near-darkness low light that only a full moon in the wilderness can offer.

In my official Nikon Df review, I raved about how it was an incredible photojournalism camera, with professionally acceptable results as high as ISO 6400 and even 12800, depending on your own personal standards and the intended use of the images.  (For example, in a dimly lit church, a candid B&W shot can put up with a lot more “grain” than an official family formal portrait.)

With my high ISO capabilities soaring to these new heights, I also wondered if I would be able to indulge in one of my latest hobbies- the “Drivelapse”…at midnight, that is.  I had previously collaborated with some friends to create a couple drivelapse sequences (which you can view here), using the “old” Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 24mm f/1.4 L.  Considering that the Df was at least 1-2 stops of an improvement, especially when you’re only creating 1080p timelapse video footage, I was very excited.

Unfortunately, the excitement only lasted about sixty seconds.  Watch this video to find out why!


The Objective

As you could tell by the final results we created using the Canon 6D, the drivelapse concept is pretty fruitful if you can get it right.  The problem is, a drivelapse or anything else “hyper” as they call it, may or may not involve clicking photos at very fast intervals.  Most intervalometers only go down to 1 sec intervals, and even the intervalometer we used that had “0” seconds as an option, well, it still wanted to actually click at 1 sec. intervals anyway it seemed.

In other words, we need to be able to continuously click at 2-3 FPS for 1000+ images in a row.  Yes, that’s a whole lotta RAW data, and “mileage” on your camera’s shutter. But hey, the results produced can match a video created using a 4K RAW camera such as a ~$30,000 RED.

We’ve done this before, but only with Canon cameras.  And in the back of my head, I knew about Nikon’s “Max Frame Release” setting, I just didn’t even think about it until we were blipping down the road and the timelapse kept stopping all of a sudden.  D’oh!  Game over…

Dear Nikon, –or– Dear Intervalometer Makers,

There are two ways we could possibly overcome this issue:

1.) “Unleash” Nikon DSLRs from the stupid 100-frame continuous shooting limit

I’ve never understood why Nikon offered the option to limit the maximum number of frames when shooting in continuous, and why they picked the relatively arbitrary number of 100 frames.  Are they afraid you might accidentally press your camera’s shutter while it’s in your camera bag, and waste shutter life / fill your memory cards?  And who needs to differentiate between being able to shoot 100 frames, and say, only 78?  (Yes, the increments are 1 frame from 0-100!)  Here’s what I think Nikon should do for this feature, for ALL future cameras:  Offer 1-frame increments up to say, 20-30 frames, and then after that, go in 10-frame increments to 100 frames, and then after that have a “–” mode that allows for unlimited shutter release.  Or at the very least, just offer that “unleashed” mode.

2.) Create an intervalometer with less than 1 sec. intervals, and infinite total frames

Right now, most intervalometers either offer you the ability to “lock down” the shutter for back-to-back continuous shooting, OR for intervals starting at 1 sec for up to 999 frames.  Some intervalometers offer “—” as a frame count, so that the timelapse will go on forever, (or until your memory is full) ..however to my knowledge there are no intervalometers out there that allow intervals in fractions of a second.  This would be highly welcome, even if it’s just 0.1 sec and 0.5 sec. That’s really all I need!

I’m sure there are a few other work-arounds for this, and if you have any suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment below!

For now, however, we’ll stick with the Canon 6D as our #1 recommendation for timelapses that involve high frame rates / fast intervals, at night at high ISO’s.

Don’t worry, I’m not selling my Nikons, but this sure does tempt me to pick up a used Canon 6D and a couple Rokinon lenses, just to have in my bag!



Sorry, I had to disclaim that, obviously, because as any sane human being should know, it isn’t safe to be on a road at night with zero lights.  We know this, and we proceeded with EXTREME caution.  This demonstration was not meant to be a tutorial or instruction of any kind, only a demonstration of a concept, and the obstacles faced by different cameras.

Oh, and it’ painfully cold in the dead of winter in the middle of the night!

Take care, and happy clicking!

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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar

    good article

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  2. Michael Moe

    i love this night-hyperlapse! ;)

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  3. Herm Tjioe

    The amount of light introduced is quite astonishing, I am pleasantly surprised with this demo. I now have a reference point when making my first evening time lapse. Thanks for this showreel, Matthew.

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  4. David Lara

    Results were pretty sweet. Even though i’m not a time-lapser. Great to see how other use and push their gear. The end result was pretty amazing, would have never thought it was captured in full darkness.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Thanks, David! Yeah, whenever you hear people whining on the internet about how this or that camera isn’t capable of shooting in absurdly silly situations, you can ask them if they’re doing stuff like this. Usually, most people on the internet just love to complain, they don’t actually get out there and DO stuff like this. But pushing the envelope to the absolute extreme is where I feel most comfortable! I love knowing just how far I can push a camera, and then finding something actually useful to do with that envelope’s edge. Otherwise we’re just sitting around pixel-peeping, right? ;-)


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    wow splendid article learnt a lot and despite the cut shoot drive-lapse it was amaizing

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  6. Hannes Nitzsche

    Amazing results! I own a 6D but never did any time lapses with it as I currently don’t want to spend so much money on a good intervalometer. Magic Lantern is an option but with the Beta version for the 6D I’m just a bit cautious right now… I put ML on my old 400D and do most time lapses with that camera, but low light performance is rubbish – I don’t dare to raise the ISO above 400 – oh no!! But the time lapse you shot looks bloody fantastic! Very inspiring! I suppose the reflection of the moonlight in the snow helped light up the scene quite a bit.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Hannes, I’m not sure exactly which sensor is in the 400D, is it the usual 18 MP sensor that Canon has been using since the 7D? If so, then yes, you should be able to get great results up to 1600 or 3200, as long as it is extremely cold out and you expose your images VERY well. A brightly exposed IS0 3200 image from the 400D will be 2-3 stops better than one that is under-exposed by just 1-2 stops and then brightened in post-production.

      So sure, feel free to save up for a 6D, but don’t let that hold you back! Especially with an external intervalometer or anything that allows you to shoot for longer than 30 seconds. You can get amazing results from any camera as long as you stick with a low ISO and just use whatever shutter speed you must to get the job done!

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    • Sean Goebel

      It’s worth noting that remotes can be purchased for <$20 off Amazon. They're exact clones of the Canon remotes for 1/6 the price.

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    • Hannes Nitzsche

      Matthew, unfortunately the 400D is quite an old model (way before the 7D came out) with a 10.1MP DIGIC II sensor only(the 7D has a DIGIC 4 sensor). Before ML, the 400D had a maximum ISO value of 1600, which ML increased to 3000 (I know, it’s an odd number!). I usually stick with an ISO of 100 as the noise can become unbearable(unless the images are processed to B/W) above 400. On that camera I never actually tried ETTR with high ISO and then darkening the image but will certainly give it a try. I use this technique quite often on my 6D with amazing results, but then again the 6D’s dynamic range is on a completely different level as the 400D.

      Sean, thanks for the suggestion! I am looking at a model from aputure on ebay at the moment . It does look like the exact copy of a canon remote. Think I’ll give it a shot! Cheers!

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  7. Rui Pinto

    Very funny video and most important, very educational. Do you know if 70D has the same capabilities? Would love to try it.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Yes you can probably pull off something very similar with a 70D, as long as you have a fast lens and keep your IS0 1-2 stops below what the 6D was running at. The only reason we needed ISO 12800 or 25600 on this camera was because we NEEDED to hit 1/2 sec. shutter speeds or so. The minute you do timelapse / hyperlapse at longer shutter speeds, you can kick the 70D down to ISO 1600 or 3200 and the results will be AMAZING! Check out the Sigma 18-35 review that I published here on SLR Lounge, and you’ll see results from the Canon 60D that are awesome as well…

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    • Matthew Saville

      Keep in mind though, Rui, that a large aspect of low light image quality has to do with temperature, at least at longer shutter speeds. Simply put, if you’re doing a 30 sec. exposure at below freezing, and another one at room temperature, you’ll see a HUGE difference in the overall noise. And it only gets worse at 60+ second exposures, so watch out!


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    • Rui Pinto

      Thanks a lot Matthew! ;)

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  8. Gareth Roughley

    Great read and video thanks. What is 25 degrees in Celsius? I had heard the 6D was great at high ISO but never thought it would be that good. What did you white balance too in the middle of the night?

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    • Doc Pixel

      -4 C – and high ISO on the 6D is really really good. Not as good as that great 24mp Sony sensor. However, I haven’t had normal situations like candle light or simple table/bedside lamp lighting that hasn’t pleasantly amazed me, even at f4 or 5.6 rather than wide open on a good prime or IS zoom lens.

      Now let the author tell ya… sorry for jumping in :)

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    • Matthew Saville

      Dic Pixel, I’d argue that at higher ISO’s, while the D610 / Sony A7 have great general noise performance, the Canon 6D’s sensor delivers awesome overall performance including better dynamic range! Shocking to think, I know, but do some research and let me know if this is true. I’m pretty sure that it’s a known fact that Sony sensors lose significant amounts of DR at higher ISO’s, they’re only vastly superior at their base ISO’s… Either way, I’m extremely happy with the 6D’s results at ISO 3200-12800!

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