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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!

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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!

Disclaimer

DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! OR ANYWHERE!

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!
=Matt=