Time-lapse videos of buildings being constructed or flowers blooming are incredible. Making them, though, requires a ton of recording time and editing software. The Afidus ATL-200 Time Lapse Camera is designed to make shooting time-lapse videos easier—and it does! But it could be better.
What’s a Time-Lapse Camera?
If you want to create time-lapse videos, all you really need is a DSLR and some video-editing software. However, you have to do a bunch of math and editing, be sure to mount your camera somewhere safe, and watch for rain if you’re shooting outdoors.
After you get it set up, the Afidus ATL-200 ($400 at this writing) solves a lot of these problems for you. The AA battery-powered camera is weather-resistant (IP65) and designed specifically for time-lapse videos.
You choose the frames per second you want, how often the camera should take pictures, and the type of recording you want, all within the Time-Lapse app (for iOS and Android). It uses a microSD card for storage, so you can use one with as much space as you need. I loaded a 128 GB card and haven’t come anywhere close to filling it up.
You have a lot of options, too! You can choose to shoot a picture every second, every minute, every 24 hours, when motion is detected, and more! At first, I was overwhelmed by the number of options and complete lack of instructions. To learn how to use the camera, I just tried different options and reviewed the results, which wasn’t pleasant.
However, since I started testing it, Afidus updated its website with a User Guide and suggestions about which settings to use based on how long you intend to record. These instructions are thorough, easy to understand, and very helpful. I just wish I’d had access to them from day one—they would have saved me some trial and error.
Competent Time-Lapse Video with Minimal Effort
Afidus bills the ATL-200 as a mostly set-it-and-forget-it camera. Once again, it’s weather-resistant (IP65 rated) and battery-powered. Once you set it up, you just start recording, and the camera does the rest. You can check to make sure the camera’s recording by looking for the green LED on top—it blinks every six seconds or so.
If you’re recording a long video (say, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at an interval of one minute), Afidus suggests you check on the camera at least monthly. You should check it more often if it’s outside during inclement weather. My testing generally tracked with that guidance, although, given the cost of the camera (again, $400 at this writing), I don’t think I’d leave it just anywhere for a month!
In two weeks, I recorded a flower growing by taking a picture every 10 minutes. Simultaneously, I recorded a build of LEGO Hogwarts for several hours, with picture intervals every two seconds. That process entailed stopping the camera, moving it to a new location, changing the settings as needed, and starting a new recording. I started the process with fresh batteries and replaced them once about a week and a half later.
If you have to move the camera like I did to switch between projects, the app has a great built-in alignment feature. To use it, just take a picture of your time-lapse subject. The next time you start the video, you can superimpose the picture on your current subject and align them.
This came in handy for me because (as I quickly discovered) it’s easy to bump the camera without noticing and ruin your framing.
I found a lot to like about the Afidus Time Lapse camera. My lofty goal was to have a camera I could change a few settings on, set in place, and start recording. It does all that, but it has a few problems. First, there’s no way around the fact that the sensor in this camera isn’t as nice as one you’d get in a smartphone, let alone a DSLR.
Sure, it records in 1080P, but no matter how I changed the exposure, white balance, or anything else, the video never looked quite as nice as what I can get with my OnePlus phone. For time-lapse video, though, it’s good enough.
What bothered me the most was the total lack of a built-in display. To connect to the camera, you have to turn it on and wait for it to spin up its own Wi-Fi network. You connect to that, and then launch the app. Only then can you get to the settings and recording options, or see a live view from the camera.
Also, as soon as you start recording, the camera kills its Wi-Fi connection. This makes sense because it needs to save battery life. As long as you’re recording, though, there’s no way you can check the view from the camera.
This is obvious in the LEGO Hogwarts video below. At various points, I knocked the camera slightly askew, and this pulled the studio lights into the frame. At another point, the camera decided the focus should be the bags of LEGO bricks and not the set itself, which was utterly wrong.
The out-of-focus LEGO mini-figs don’t look good at all. I didn’t discover these problems until it was far too late, of course. If the camera allowed you to check on the video without stopping the entire process, it would have prevented these mistakes.
A Few Other Drawbacks
There were some other things I found annoying but workable about the ATL-200. While the camera cuts down the number of files, and, therefore, the amount of time it takes to edit a video, you still have to do some work. Instead of thousands of pictures you drop into a timeline, you have to edit together a series of video files. You might also want to add music or titles.
The number of files you have depends on how long you record. Whenever a file reaches 512 MB, the camera automatically cuts the video and starts a new one (I ended up with six files from a three-hour recording session). So, you do have to merge these in editing software, but it’s still a lot easier to deal with than thousands of pictures.
You might think you would be able to get your videos off the camera via the app, but that’s not true. When you use the app to save the video to your tablet or phone, it goes to an odd location. I finally found them under document/primary on my Android phone.
It’s also impossible to transfer your files straight to the cloud—you have to connect to the camera over its Wi-Fi network. It’s a lot of steps for what should be an easy process.
Theoretically, the easier way to transfer your footage would be to take out the microSD card. However, to get to the card, you have to remove the batteries because it’s tucked into a side wall against the lip of the battery door. It was too tight for my fingers, so I had to use tweezers to get it in and out. Once I did retrieve the card, though, I was able to transfer the data just fine.
Thankfully, the camera does have a microUSB port on its side. If you connect the ATL-200 to your PC or Mac and turn it on, it shows up as a mass-storage drive.
And thank goodness, because I don’t want to mess with the microSD card now that it’s back in place!
Is It Worth the Investment?
Considering all the issues I mentioned above, you might be wondering if the ATL-200 is worth $400, and that’s a difficult question to answer. You can certainly create time-lapse videos with cheaper cameras, like a $30 Wyze, for example.
For the sake of comparison, I tried to create a time-lapse video of a LEGO build with a Wyze Cam. The shortest picture interval I could choose was every three seconds as opposed to the ATL-200’s every one second. I’ve found the magic number for large LEGO build time-lapse videos is two seconds. Unfortunately, the Wyze Cam time-lapse video missed too many steps and details, so the result wasn’t as good.
That’s the magic of Afidus’s camera in a nutshell. You can dial in exactly the settings you need for almost any scenario. You can even leave it out in the rain and come back a week later. As long as nothing happens to mess up the camera, you’ll get a good video.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find another camera that offers those features, so it comes down to how badly you need those options. If you regularly create time-lapse videos for a YouTube channel or to follow your 3D print attempts, this camera is for you.
However, if the idea of creating a time-lapse video is a novelty, you might want to try a Wyze Cam first. If you like it and want to improve your time-lapse videos, then, perhaps, it will be time to bite the bullet.
After using the camera for a while and dealing with its annoyances, I’m still glad I tried it. I even want to own one because it makes putting together LEGO sets lots of fun!
Everyone else can skip this camera, though—it’s expensive and niche.
Here’s What We Like
- Makes editing time-lapse images together very easy
- Giant array of options for every scenario
- Weather-resistant (IP65)
And What We Don't
- No display to check the video
- Terrible microSD placement