A timelapse remote (also known as an intervalometer, timelapse timer, timelapse trigger or timelapse intervalometer) is an external device that you attach to your camera to trigger the capturing of photos at a consistent interval. Some timelapse remotes have more functions than others. Some are wireless, some are wired, some are both. All of them should work consistently, reliably and accurately. Just because it's a cheap timelapse remote doesn't mean it's a good one. Read on to find out if you should be spending more money to get better results.
Hit play on this video if you'd prefer to watch me talk about these timelapse remotes and see in finer detail what they look like.
The three timelapse remotes I'm reviewing today are the Neewer LCD Timer Shutter, the Hahnel Captur Timer remote and the Canon TC-80N3 timer remote controller. By clicking these links you support the channel and the blog, how good!
Cheap timelapse remote – The Neewer LCD Timer Shutter
The Neewer LCD Timer Shutter – our cheap timelapse remote of the day – runs you a bit over $20, not bad! That being said, I'm usually not a fan of cheap gear. It breaks easily, it's unreliable and it can ruin your shot. Let's have a closer look at this Neewer timelapse remote (or the equivalent I have in my possession at least, they're all the same anyway).
Positives of the Neewer LCD Timer Shutter:
- The price. It is so cheap you'd be crazy not to get it.
- Adaptability. It comes with two plugs for different models of cameras. This is great. (when purchasing make sure you select the right model for your camera!)
- Battery model. It uses a pair of standard AAA batteries. You can find these anywhere and probably have some lying around right now. They're easy to source should yours run out and it's easy to find a rechargeable pair.
Negatives of the Neewer LCD Timer Shutter:
- Reliability. I've had quite a few of these when I started out and they tend to break or reset for no good reason. The last thing you want is your money shot to be ruined by a silly little remote.
- Build quality. The connection point of the wire and the actual remote tends to get ruined first. The cables will become exposed and might even shock you. It's like they took inspiration from Apple's charging cords. Often the buttons get stuck too.
- Accuracy. When triggering at a 1 second interval, I have found these remotes to be incredibly inaccurate. Often triggering at 1.1 or 1.2 seconds, sometimes even missing shots entirely.
Conclusion: Get the Neewer LCD Timer Shutter remote as a backup to your backup remote if you really want it but don't use it on a pro shoot as it might stuff up and ruin your shot.
Affordable timelapse remote – The Hahnel Captur Timer remote
The Hahnel Captur Timer remote will cost you around $100 depending on where you buy it. Considering it is both a wireless and wired remote that is modular and expandable that's not a bad deal! It can run two timelapse sequences at the same time and the wireless should reach up to 100 meters.
Positives of the Hahnel Captur Timer:
- Price point. For what you get out of it, this price is really good.
- Functionality. Wireless triggering, multiple timelapse sequences at once etc. Good stuff.
- Batteries. This device runs on (and comes with!) AA batteries. Again, easy to find and affordable.
- Adaptability. It comes with two connection cables (at least the Canon model does) to swap depending on your camera model.
- Wireless or non wired. The fact that you can choose whether to run wired or wireless is great. The cables plug into the receiver unit and connect to the camera or plug in to the remote and then straight into the camera. Good stuff.
- Modularity. Get more receiver units and trigger more cameras at the same time. This can be useful to combine cameras when shooting extreme wide angle panoramas for example.
Negatives of the Hahnel Captur Timer:
- A lot of parts mean a lot of potential points of failure. I'm not saying this is a low quality product, all I'm saying is there are more things that can go wrong with it. Same for the next point.
- It's a lot of parts. Instead of taking one remote with you with a built in cable, you have to bring your cable, the receiver, the trigger and possibly a set of backup batteries with you. At some point in time you will forget one of these!
Conclusion: Get the Hahnel Captur Timer remote if you want the added benefit of a wireless trigger or if you want to trigger multiple sequences at the same time.
Expensive timelapse remote – The Canon TC-80N3 intervalometer/remote
The Canon TC-80N3 timelapse remote is Canon's own intervalometer. Not only does it trigger your timelapse sequences, it also serves as a bulb timer remote or as a delay timer remote (the two other remotes do this too by the way). Depending on where you live it is an outrageously expensive remote or a moderately priced remote with less functions than its counterparts from other brands.
Positives of the Canon TC-80N3:
- It is a single piece of gear. Hard to forget to bring, the cable is hard wired to the remote and there's nothing you can forget.
- It is weather sealed. Just like other top of the line Canon gear this timelapse remote will work rain or shine! I've used it all over the world in all conditions from humid jungles in Vanuatu to dry deserts in Dubai and Australia, this thing will keep clicking.
- It won't pop out of your camera. The way it is built requires you to pull the grey bit before it unlocks from your camera port. There will be no accidental releases with this remote.
- It just works. It's an expensive bit of Canon equipment. That means it will work, and it will work well, always. No matter how you feel about the brand, there is no denying that there usability and reliability is next to none. If I had to choose one remote for the rest of my life it would be this one.
Negatives of the Canon TC-80N3:
- It is expensive. It is definitely not a cheap timelapse remote. Well at least not in Australia. With a retail price of $294 it's just a bit much, isn't it?
- The battery. The battery of the TC-80N3 timelapse remote is a CR2032 model. It's one of those expensive flat ones and not every store sells them. Annoying.
- It is a single connection. There's no alternate cable you can plug in to trigger another type of camera. That being said you can buy a Canon RA-E3 remote control adapter to change the plug on the end to a 2.5mm ‘jack' plug but at that point you're probably better off getting one of the other remotes. That being said, if you have a TC-80N3 and you want to use it for another camera the Canon RA-E3 remote control adapter is the adapter to get.
- No OFF button. It bothers me that this remote is ‘always on'. The lack of an off button kind of stresses me out. I know the device is using battery when it's just sitting there in my bag, doing nothing. I wish I could turn it on when I needed and increase the total life span of the battery by a factor ten, probably. (that being said, the battery lasts forever but I still change it every six months-ish as a precaution)
Conclusion: The Canon TC-80N3 is a high quality, reliable and sturdy remote that's been all over the world with me. The only thing wrong with it is the price (in Australia). If you're looking for a fool proof remote to trigger your camera that will always work, the Tc-80N3 is the one.
So, let's get to this final conclusion, shall we. Do you need to spend more money to get better results? No, absolutely not. It is entirely possible to shoot great timelapse footage using very cheap gear. If you are looking for extra functionality then you might consider buying equipment that offers just that. However, if you are a professional photographer charging professional/high rates for timelapse productions then it is simply irresponsible to arrive on a shoot with a $20 timelapse remote.
Professionals need reliability and consistency, neither of which are offered by the cheap model. Your reputation and the client's project rely on your gear working 100% of the time for all those crucial moments you are there to capture. And when, in that rare instance, the gear you have with you fails, you will have a reliable backup device with you that you can switch to in a heartbeat.
There is a reason I spend a lot of money on the gear I own and there is a reason I charge a lot of money for my services. You are paying for consistency, reliability and quality.
By the way, the reason I prefer shooting with remotes is because it is much faster to stop/start a timelapse sequence to check your exposure and settings than when it's running through the camera's menu system. I go into more detail in my Holy Grail timelapse tutorial here:
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