Testing low light perfomance with D800 and 5D3.

I got the Nikon D800 and the Canon 5D Mark III in for review. To play around with the low light performance I thought I would have fun do to a time lapse with the D800, and shoot the garage scenes with the Canon 5D Mark III.

I set the D800 on a tripod in the backseat of our mini van and use shock cords to tie it down.

I used an ISO 100, 3.2 f-stop and .4 second shutter speed and I focused way out in front of the car.

Going in to the menu system on the Nikon I went to the ‘Shooting Menu’ -> ‘Interval Timer Shooting’.

I then picked one second between shots for my interval. The manual shows 1 minute, but I put a 0 there.

I then went to ‘start’ on and pressed the OK button.

Before I started driving I wanted to see if the buffer in the camera could handle it on RAW, but after 10 exposures the camera slowed to a halt and couldn’t handle the over 70meg files I was sending its way. So I used the smallest jpg size and since that was still bigger in resolution to the 1080p video I was still in good shape.

Many ways to do this but one of my favorite is to use After Effects to process the images. Since I couldn’t shoot RAW I decided to skip the step of bring them in to Lightroom first.

After Effects Procedure

  • Open After Effects, and double click on the upper left pane on Project Tab.
  • Find the time lapse folder and select the first image the JPEG sequence should be checked already, click Open
  • Right click on the new sequence -> Interpret Footage -> Main check for 24fps
  • Change from 8bpc to 32bpc
  • Drag sequence on the new composition icon below it (3rd from left)
  • Composition -> Composition Settings -> Preset select the “HDTV 1080 24”
  • Zoom out from 50 to Fit
  • Twirl down composition settings and change scale from 100% to 37% (or 52.5%)
  • Change your position as you see fit
  • Composition -> Add to Render Queue
  • Click on the h.264 CHANGE to AVI and then uncheck audio
  • Click on the file name to the right and pick the folder and rename it
  • Click the render button (far right side)

Thank Alan Morris for not only the inspiration to do this video but his help in getting the right settings.

Nikon D800 Time Lapse Tutorial

Thanks to Denkitribe with his song “Gain” for allowing me to use it here.

Royalty free music by PremiumBeat.com

Products Used In This Video

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5D Mark3
5D Mark III

Canon 5D Mark III – opening scene in garage.

Nikon D800


Nikon D800 – Time lapse during night drive


  • Best editing yet! You had me wondering just how far the store was to pick up some milk.

  • Very nice Dave. I though I’ve seen that time lapse concept before. Thanks Alan!

    Both videos looked sharp.
    Just out of curiosity did you stay up that night editing to see what you got?

  • Looks cool!
    Looks so much better than my video which I just did on a whim…

    Need to put a story into every video instead of just going into my car and thinking “timelapse?” 😀

  • this is great. I already watched night drive before this one. I think you did a great job with it. so what are your early thoughts on the 5d m3 and d800?

  • Very good post and the Time Lapse is gorgeous! Can you tell me the next steps of your rendering. I suppose that you save it .avi compression and after that (editing in Premiere Pro) you saved H.264 which type? quality JPEG?

    Andrei Ionut APOPEI

  • JUst a tip. You don’t need to go into interpret footage for a stills sequence in AE. You accomplished the same thing when you went into your comp settings and selected your 1080 output.

    As a quick route, you can also drag and drop your render comp into the render que rather than going up into the menu.

    Also, a 32bit AE sequence is overkill; generally, 16bit color depth is acceptable, and will keep your output file size smaller.

    Also, wonder why the need to create a huge AVI file when, for exampe, a .wmv file is usuallu uitable? I avoid AVI whenever possible for file size considerations.

  • Hi Dave, great tutorial again. Are you going to do more comparisons with the 5D3 and D800? I’d love to see more, like side by side shots, different ISOs, videos, images, etc… Thanks again. -G

  • @Gus-T Yes I plan to do tons of comparision with them, I have been doing a lot of side by side shooting but I have yet to looks at it yet.

    @Joe thanks for the tips, great stuff!

  • Would be nice to have such thing as Magic Lantern on Nikon DSLRs as the Shuttercount will increase rapidly using the cam often for Timelapses.
    Nice to have silentshot on ML 😉

  • Amazing video and tutorial Dave!

    Was the lighting in your garage all ambient, or did you have some accent lights? It looks spectacular.

  • Thanks Dave for the tutorial really enjoyed it

    I have the 5D2 but only use premieres essential 10 so had trouble with scaling in.
    By coincidence I bought the canon s100 for the gps function. Interestingly though I have used the S100 for time laps and instead of scaling in later , I change in camera the still image aspect ratio to 16:9 giving you 9m 4000X 2248

    It’s quite a few steps less that’s for sure

  • Hi, Dave. Love your site. I am new to photography and DSLR video but I have been interested in learning for a while now. Your site is helping me a great deal and is an inspiration. I have saved up and was finally able to purchase my first camera, a canon 60D. I have already installed magic lantern as well.

    Would you recommend the same camera settings for my camera? What would you recommend I set my aperture and shutter speed at for a night drive time lapse? Do you think a 50mm 1.8 lens would also suffice to recreate a video like this? Granted I know it won’t look as good.

    Sorry for all of the questions.
    Thanks for your time and keep up the great work!

  • Hi Dave,
    I love your site. Got 1 question about this drivelapse. Since there is so many different light temperatures while driving how did u whitebalance?

  • What do u mean 0.4 second shutter speed? In my canon mark II i have range from 1/30 to 1/4000.

    1/30 = 0.033

  • Very nice video Dave!!
    Stumbled upon your site after the A77 review. Frequent visitor after that:)

  • Great tutes Dave!
    Do you think that doing the shots in jpg and compiling them in AE is better than using the built in time lapse function on the D800?

  • I laughed when I saw the building. First thought was, “That looks like Best Buy.”

  • @Andrew – Your canon ranges from 30 seconds to 1/4000th of a second, not 1/30th. when the camera says 30” – that is 30 seconds… if it says 4”, it’s 4 seconds, when it says 4 it’s a 4th, and 40 is a 40th….

  • This is all wrong, the whole point of the D800 Timelapse tutorial should be to show how using the camera’s onboard Timelapse features eliminates the need to use an external editor like after effects.

  • I totally agree, with the “time lapse” feature of the D800 you don’t need any of the post processing shown here…

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