GoPro Time Lapse Endurance

I love time lapse videos.  They can show progress and life in a way that we couldn’t normally comprehend at our human pace.  I have started a few time lapse shots only to have them go sour part of the way through.  Changing lighting conditions are one culprit, but so are dead batteries.  When they only give you 3 little bars to show battery life, it can be hard to tell how much time is available.  I decided to do some time trials with various batteries and capture rates.

All tests performed with a GoPro Hero 3 White, WiFi off

Storage Space

A simple one to test is storage space, or so I thought.  Everything was pretty straight forward until I paid attention to the file sizes.  It turns out the image size varies quite a bit depending on lighting conditions and capture speed.  At 1 second and below, the file size cut way down.  Similarly low lighting conditions will produce smaller files.  Even with a 10 second delay.

  • 0.5 – 1 second delay: 250kb – 750kb
  • 2+ second delay: 1.3mb – 2mb

This mean that mileage may vary by quite a bit.  1 second delay in low light vs bright conditions can be a factor of 3 difference.  This is all a little academic.  Memory is cheap, and often more available than battery life.  The worst case would be a 2 second capture delay in full lighting.  That could theoretically be 3.6gb/hr.  A few of the actual numbers I got are below.  Most were taken in fairly low lighting.

  • 1 second delay, 2 gb/hr
  • 5 second delay, 1 gb/hr
  • 10 second delay, 0.5 gb/hr

In theory 5 seconds could go from 1 to 1.5gb/hr.  Again, probably not going to break the SD card bank.  Take my above file size numbers, multiply by your acquisition rate and figure out how much space you will need.

Internal Battery Endurance

This is what I originally set out to do before I got really side tracked with file size.  I had a hypothesis that the higher acquisition rates would yield shorter battery life.  The idea being that the GoPro would consume less power in the delay cycle vs when capturing.  100% wrong!

It turns out there is no measurable battery life difference.  I tried 1s, 5s and 10s delay.  They all turned out the same on a given battery.  I compared a stock GoPro battery and a Wasabi power battery both with a 5s capture delay.  They came out really close.  That is surprising considering the stated mAh rating is higher on the Wasabi.

  • Wasabi Power Battery (1200mAh): 3hr 45min
  • GoPro Stock Battery (1050mAh): 4 hours


4 hours isn’t bad, but when you consider there will be setup time, that drops.  An extra battery source is whats needed.  GoPro sells a backpack, but I wanted something cheaper to rig.  How about one of these portable batteries used to charge a phone?

External Battery Endurance

I have an Anker portable battery (3200mAh) and an EasyAcc (10,000 mAh).  Often the stated ratings are not correct.  See Wasabi example above.  Still, they ought to last longer.

  • Anker battery: 8 hours
  • EasyAcc Power Bank: 29+ hours

The power bank was crazy.  I eventually gave up and just stopped it.  There are 4 indicator lights on it, and one was still lit up when I called it quits.  I have no idea exactly how long it would run, but obviously well over a day.  I can’t imagine I will want to do time lapse for that long.

DSC_0182Using a portable pack, you will not be able to seal up the GoPro.  Time lapses done in a rough environment will require an official backpac with new case.  Still, I can think of a lot of places where having all day time lapse without water resistance would be useful.

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