Time Lapse Photography using Smartphone (Part 1 - Android App reviews)

At the time of writing, December 2011, there are only a handful of applications on the Android Market for taking Time Lapse photography. I have tried all of them but have found that non of them are perfect, all have their own share of problems or limitations. Those with better looking UI isn't necessaily the best app in terms of features/usability.

This table below is a list all the features of the free app tested

Application NameDailyRoads VoyagerLapse It Native
Time-Lapse Lite
Timelapse!Tina Time-lapseTime Lapse CreatorTime Lapse Droid
Application version1.
In app advertisements  XX XX
Record with LCD offX   X X
Configure LCD brightnessXX     
Background recordingX      
Charger detection (auto on/off)X      
Create time-lapse video XXX X 
Configure video frame rate XXX X 
Configure video quality   X   
Play its time-lapse video XX    
Auto/infinity focus modeX   XXX
LED flash      X
Configure photo/video resolutionXpaid verpaid verXXXX
Photo/Video special effect X X  X
Camera white balance X XXXX
Configure interval between shotsXXXXXXX
Inital shot delay X X   
Build-in photo viewerXX   X 
Build-in file browserX XX X 
Enable/Disable shutter soundXX     
Camera zoom X   X 
Configure file/project name XX X X
GeotagX   X  
Schedule shots X     
Online SharingX (limited)XX    
Configure storage locationX   X  
Configure File/Storage limitsXX  XXX
Useful viewfinder display     X 

The most critical problems/limitations that restrict their use are

  1. Unable to take photos with LCD screen off. Considering that the current smartphone uses more than 50% of its power for the LCD alone, the inability to turn off the screen means that the app wastes precious battery life unnecessarily. Reducing the number of photos you can take without plugging your phone to a wall outlet, something impossible if you are taking your shots outdoor or far away from any power supply. (Time lapse app that runs on Iphone have the same problem too... Even the default camera application on Android 4.0 Ice Cream sandwich have the same problem when taking time lapse movies. No one was able to take time lapse video using the default Android 4.0 Ice Cream sandwich application for more than 3 hours. See the discussion here.)
  2. For those applications that can take photos with LCD screen off, e.g. Tina Time Lapse. It may stops recording and needs to be manually restarted when the phone rings.
  3. Inability to create time-lapse video using the app directly. Some of the apps can creating the Time-lapse video by pressing a button after all the photos are taken but most requires you to install an application and uses your computer to create the time-lapse video. This means that the user will need to be more knowledgable and do a bit more work than he/she likes.
  4. Inability to play the time-lapse video directly on the phone, unless a 3rd party video player is used. This is because most app creates the video in a format which is not supported by Android OS itself. I don't think this problem can be easily resolved unless the app developer also integrate the required video player into the app which is not feasible for most developers due to the large amount of effort required.

Recommended apps

Out of the all the free apps tested, I would only recommend that you use those app that allows you to take photos with LCD off, namely DailyRoads Voyager, Tina Time-lapse, Time Lapse creator and Time Lapse Droid. This is because even with a fully charged battery, you can only take several hours or several hundred photos before you run out of power (more on this in the next article).

However, for those novice users who aren't keen on using his computer to stitch the photos together to make their own time-lapse video, there isn't much choice and currently only Time Lapse creator would fit the bill.

Overall winner = Time Lapse creator