3D printing is a very interesting activity. Part of the appeal of 3D printing is slowly watching everything come together to form the final part. Luckily there are accessories that you can use to capture and record this process.
Time-lapse cameras are one of them.
Time-lapse photography is a technique where the camera takes many photos or still images over some time and splices them together to form a video. In 3D printing, you can use this to document the printing process and create fun short videos showing it.
The best part about time-lapse cameras is that they can be used for other things than time-lapse videos. You can use them to stream a live feed of your printer so you can monitor the print in real-time.
So, in this article, we’ll be talking about some of the best time-lapse cameras available on the market.
What to Look For When Buying A Time-Lapse Camera
Before we get to the reviews, let’s talk about some important things to look out for when getting a time-lapse camera. Don’t worry, these aren’t some complicated camera terms like ISO or shutter speed.
These are just some factors to use as a yardstick to judge each camera and decide which one is best for you. Let’s take a look at some of these factors.
Storage simply refers to the amount of space on-board the camera that it can use for storing the videos. If the time-lapse camera you need is going to be connected to a PC or another device, you might not need onboard storage.
But to be on the safe side and have an additional backup in case the PC or the connection fails, it’s best to get a camera with onboard storage.
Connectivity refers to the way the camera connects and transmits the media it captures to the outside world. Standard cameras usually have options like USB, Wi-fi or Bluetooth for connecting to PCs.
If you want to monitor your prints remotely, it’s better to get a camera with wireless capabilities. Even better, you can buy some cheap hardware and set up a USB proxy like Octoprint.
USB proxies like this increase the functionality of both the camera and the printer.
Software support is often overlooked when buying a camera for 3D printers. Some cameras on the market have software support in their firmware for creating time-lapse videos.
It’s best to go with these types of cameras to save time and money that would be otherwise spent on third-party software.
The Quality of the camera determines how good the images or the time-lapse videos taken will turn out. The quality of the camera is often measured in MP for images and the number of pixels for video.
There is a whole lot of other things that go into image quality than these two, but they usually offer a good yardstick for making decisions.
How the camera is powered is another factor to consider. Having a camera with a backup power supply can be useful in case of disruptions. These cost more, but if you feel it’s needed it’s a good investment.
Cost is usually the paramount factor in every buyer’s mind. When buying a camera like in everything, you have to make sure you get the best value for money.
This means weighing the features you need against the price you have to pay for them to achieve a middle ground.
The video below shows how to create the best timelapses, then the rest of the article goes into the best timelapse cameras.
Best Time-Lapse Cameras For 3D Printing
Raspberry Pi Camera Module V2-8 Megapixel 1080p
Price: $25 | Onboard Storage: N/A | Connectivity: Pi ribbon cable | Power: Battery N/A| Image Quality: 8MP | Video resolution: 1080p/30fps
The Raspberry Pi Camera (Amazon) is a wonderful low-cost method for creating time-lapse videos. It is capable of taking 1080p videos at 30 fps with its Sony sensor.
It comes in a tidy little package weighing just over 3 grams and measuring 25mm x 23mm x 9mm.
The camera itself is an accessory that needs to be connected to a Raspberry Pi board to function. This Pi board can provide additional functionality like USB and Wi-fi connectivity for the camera.
Creating time-lapse videos with the Pi camera is easy. Usually, the Raspberry Pi board uses software called Octoprint to interface with the 3D printer and the computer. This software contains a plug-in called Octolapse.
This plugin creates time-lapse videos directly from the feed of the Pi camera.
One user commented how it works quite well as a 3D printer camera with an Octopi Server on a Raspberry Pi 3 B+.
Many people use it successfully for a timelapse of their 3D printers, but some have issues with picture quality when it comes to lighting.
There are some instances of bad video quality if there areissues like excessive pincushion distortion and bad lens focus. Pincushion distortion is a lens effect that causes images to get pinched in the middle.
It isn’t going to give you the highest quality timelapses, but many users mention how it gets the job done for them, all at a very affordable price.
The autofocus doesn’t work very well in some cases, so you’d have to implement some good lighting and angles to get the best results.
The pincushion distortion can be corrected with the software but it may lead to loss of video quality. To put the lens in focus, you might also need to adjust it with a tweezer or a special tool. A better-focused lens often results in sharper images.
- Great price
- Easy to setup
- Has excellent software support
- Can be used for remote monitoring
- Offers more functionality for the 3D printer
- Suffers from excessive pin cushion distortion
- Requires extra hardware in the form of a pi board
- Picture quality gotten can be blurry if the lens isn’t focused properly
Although the Pi camera is cheap and easy to use, it requires extra hardware which might be a bit technical to set up. Also, it doesn’t come with built-in memory for storing the videos captured, it is reliant on the on-board memory in the Pi and the computer.
Apart from the lens issues, it works as advertised, a low budget option for creating time-lapse videos with no frills. Looking over the issues, you’d be pressed to find this sort of camera quality for this price.
Get yourself the Raspberry Pi Camera – Module V2-8 Megapixel from Amazon today.
Logitech C920S HD
Price: From $90 | Onboard Storage: N/A | Connectivity:USB A cable | Power: Battery N/A| Image Quality: 15MP | Video resolution: 1080p/30fps
The Logitech C920S HD is a high-quality webcam geared towards business professionals looking for teleconferencing options. However, you can still use it to create time-lapse videos.
It’s high definition 1080p/30fps video recording and its wide-angle of view makes it perfect for recording and creating time-lapse videos for your print.
The camera measures 25.4mm x 30.48mm x 93mm and weighs around 165 grams. It comes with a plastic stand and a tripod mounting screw for use with different stands.
Unlike the Pi camera, it comes with autofocus and light correction for shooting videos in all conditions.
Setting up the Logitech C920S is very easy, it comes with a USB 2.0 cable that uses plug and play setup. The camera comes with the Logitech capture software. This software is very useful for modifying and correcting the camera settings to get the best videos.
However, users have reported software bugs that make it revert to default settings every restart.
For mounting it, you can either use the plastic clip to attach it to a flat vertical surface or use the included tripod screw with a tripod. The Logitech software doesn’t have a native time-lapse mode, so you’ll have to use a video editing software like Adobe pro.
The video quality gotten from this camera is top-notch according to users. As long as the surrounding area is well lit, this camera will produce great time-lapse videos that can easily be published.
- High video quality
- Wide-angle of view
- Easy plug and play setup
- Included mounting clip for easy mounting
- Limited connectivity (wired)
- A bit expensive
- Buggy software
The Logitech is a great camera, but it has to be said, it’s a bit of a one-trick pony. It does what it’s meant to do (record HD videos) well. Apart from that, it does not have any extra features like onboard storage, wireless connectivity, or remote monitoring.
Also, due to the pandemic, demand for this camera has skyrocketed so the price might be a bit higher than expected.
Get the Logitech HD Pro C920 1080p Webcam from Amazon today.
Microsoft Lifecam HD-3000
Price: From $40 | On-board Storage: N/A | Connectivity:USB A cable | Power: Battery N/A| Image Quality: 4MP | Video resolution: 720p/30fps
The Lifecam HD Camera (Amazon) is a budget webcam from Microsoft. At its fairly competitive price, it’s suited for those looking for a time-lapse camera on a budget. It produces HD 720p video with its 4MP sensor.
These videos are good, but they don’t match up as high as videos from a camera like the Logitech C920S.
The Lifecam HD weighs in at 90 grams, measuring 39mm x 44mm x 108mm. It has a plastic build and comes with a universal attachment base for mounting. It also comes with autofocus, color corrections, and a noise-canceling mic.
The Lifecam HD has a USB 2.0 cord for a simple and fast plug and plays setup. It comes with the Microsoft LifeCam software for controlling it and modifying the settings.
This software has been known to have issues with some versions of windows but the issue seems to have been fixed in an update.
The camera comes with a universal attachment base for mounting. This base has no tripod attachment screw for alternative mounting. To capture time-lapse videos on this, you’ll have to use third-party software.
According to users, you can get pretty decent time-lapse videos from the camera. As long as the lighting conditions are all right, expect good performance for the money from this camera.
- It is cheap
- Decent quality HD video
- Good software support from Microsoft
- Limited FOV
- No tripod mounting screw
- Lack of connectivity options
The Lifecam does what is expected of it as a budget camera. Expect clear videos, but at pedestrian quality. Bottom line, if you are on a budget and do not require anything special, this camera is for you.
Get the Microsoft Lifecam HD-3000 Camera from Amazon.
Price: From $250 | Onboard Storage:Expandable SD card slot | Connectivity:Wi-fi, Bluetooth, USB C | Power: 1220 mAH lithium battery| Image Quality: 12MP | Video resolution: 4K/60fps
The GoPro Hero 7 is a premium camera for those looking for the best video quality regardless of the price. At a $250 price tag, this camera does not disappoint. It shoots stunning 4K videos at 60fps with a wide-angle view.
It also employs its patented HyperSmooth video stabilization to produce smooth videos.
The GoPro Hero 7 comes in a compact package measuring 45mm x 62mm x 42mm, and weighing 118 grams. It has a very rugged waterproof and shockproof build and also comes with an LCD touch screen for easy operation.
Setting up the GoPro Hero 7 can be done with the aid of the LCD touch screen. With this touchscreen, you can link your camera to the GoPro app on your mobile device. With the app, you have control over a wide range of settings and functions.
The GoPro Hero 7 doesn’t come with any mounting options out of the box, but for $30 you can get this kit for your mounting needs.
On the firmware side, the GoPro hero 7 comes equipped with its native time-lapse mode called the TimeWarp. With this feature, you can produce and publish stunning time-lapse videos from a wide variety of conditions.
But, some users have complained about the battery life when recording at high resolutions.
The GoPro 7 also comes with several connectivity options like Wi-fi, USB C, and Bluetooth. With these features, you can create and live stream videos on the go. You can even control and monitor the camera remotely with the GoPro app.
- High quality 4K video recording
- Multiple connectivity options for live streaming
- Expandable storage options
- Great image stabilization
- High price tag
- Poor battery life
The GoPro 7 is an expensive camera when compared to most on this list. But when you take into account its features, its quality shines through. If you are creative looking to record and publish high-quality videos then this is for you.
Get tthe GoPro Hero7 Camera from Amazon for some high quality timelapses.
Logitech BRIO Ultra HD Webcam
Price: From $200 | Onboard Storage: N/A | Connectivity:Wi-fi, Bluetooth, USB C | Power: Battery N/A| Image Quality: 12MP | Video resolution: 4K/60fps
The Logitech BRIO is one of the most advanced webcams on the market. This camera lives up to its $200 price tag by delivering crisp shots. It is capable of recording 4K UHD quality videos at 60fps.
The Logitech BRIO measures 27mm x 102mm x 26.5mm and weighs 85g. It comes with glass and plastic build housing a glass lens with a 90-degree FOV. It also comes with a plastic privacy shade and a plastic base for mounting.
The Logitech BRIO comes with a wired detachable USB C to USB A connection for plug and plays setup. Like all Logitech cameras, you need the Logitech capture software to control and modify the camera’s settings.
The plastic mount available with the camera has a tripod compatible screw. You can either attach it to a vertical frame, use the stand or use the tripod.
The camera also comes with excellent software features like autofocus, color correction, and anti-glare for taking great shots.
The Logitech software does not have native time-lapse options, so you have to use third-party video software to create time-lapse videos. That being said, this camera creates high-quality HDR 4k videos.
The Logitech BRIO is limited in the connectivity options it offers. It only has a USB C to USB 3.0 connection making it less ideal for live streaming and remote monitoring. It also does not come with any storage options onboard.
- Excellent 4K video quality
- Wide-angle of view
- Easy to setup
- It works with Windows Hello
- Limited connectivity options
- No native time-lapse software
- It is fairly expensive
The Logitech BRIO produces excellent images and video, but it does not justify the premium price tag. If you’re looking for great video quality, you’ll be better off with a slightly more expensive camera like the GoPro Hero7. The GoPro 7 has additional features for the high price tag.
Go for the Logitech BRIO Camera from Amazon today.
Hopefully this article has narrowed down some great options for you to use to create awesome 3D printing timelapses!
For people struggling with various 3D printing issues, you might want have wanted more guidance towards getting ideal 3D printing results. I created a full course that's available to purchase called Filament Printing 101: Beginner's Guide to Filament Printing that takes you through some of the best 3D printing practices early on, so you can avoid those beginner mistakes.