Introducing Live View for Sony Alpha with the VIEW Intervalometer

Liveview Demo - see the realtime image from the camera, VIEW, and phone all at once! (the scene is a canvas print setup in the office)

Sony support in the world of intervalometers has always been a little hard to find.  To help solve this, I've been putting a lot of research lately into improved support for Sony with the VIEW Intervalometer.  This started with solving some key reliability issues earlier this year, which are now part of the libgphoto2 camera support library.

Since then, time-lapse with Sony has been quite reliable.  There were just three things missing to bring it to the level of Canon and Nikon:

  1. Live view for remote setup
  2. Save to the camera instead of having to download every image
  3. Focus control/ramping

Well, I'm excited to announce I've now got live view working with newer Sony Alpha cameras, completing item #1 above!  Item #2 is an annoying limitation of USB control for Sony, where they require all images be downloaded instead of saved to the cameras card.  This works fine with the VIEW, since it has a full-size SD card slot where the images are stored, it just requires longer intervals to keep up with transferring the large files.  This can be overcome via Wifi control, which is planned to be added soon.  For #3, it looks unless Sony improves the firmware, there's no hope at this time.

Anyway, back to the good news -- live view is working!  This is nice because you can stream live view over the app and more conveniently setup motion keyframes or just setup the shot from somewhere else altogether via app.view.tl over the internet.

I had previously believed live view wasn't possible over USB with Sony since there didn't seem to be any hidden commands in the protocol for this and Sony's software doesn't support it.  Sony's USB protocol is quite limited and in my opinion, terribly designed.  For example, to change ISO, you can only tell it to go up or down, then read what it is.  To find the range of options, you need to move it up until it doesn't change anymore, then run it all the way down, one step at a time, until it again stops changing.  Compare this with Nikon, where you can request the list of valid ISOs, choose one, then set it to be anything.  No stepping blindly through a list.  Canon is slightly more cumbersome -- the lists of everything are sent all at once when it first connects, then again if they change.  They can't just be requested at anytime, but it still works just fine.

Then, someone mentioned that live view does indeed work (https://github.com/gphoto/libgphoto2/issues/123), so I researched it further, downloading a program claiming to support it and monitored the USB line.  It worked!

And it's actually a very simple and nice design; there are no special commands for it -- instead, an image is requested from a specific address, one space higher than captured images.  The live view image is always current at that address and it can be requested at anytime using the PTP protocol standard commands (not vendor-specific commands like for live view with Nikon and Canon).

Captured images (RAW or JPEG) are retrieved from the 0xffffc001 address, and the live view JPEG image is found at 0xffffc002.  The only challenge here was that the object_info command for the live view image didn't return anything useful (like size), so I had to do a little work to get the JPEG out of the data downloaded (reused some code from the libgphoto2 live view section for Nikon), and now don't event use object info -- just the standard get_object then parse the data.  Here's the pull request adding this to libgphoto2: https://github.com/gphoto/libgphoto2/pull/128

Now, as of firmware version v1.5.0, live view is supported on most newer Sony Alpha cameras, including the A6300, A6500, A7II, A7RII and A7SII. 

Thanks for your support of the VIEW Intervalometer -- I hope to continue to push the limits and further what we can do in time-lapse, and your support and feedback make this possible.

Elijah


 

The VIEW is a breakthrough intervalometer for cinematographers and photographers that allows for automatic bulb ramping, live time lapse preview -- watched either on the VIEW or a smartphone -- and touch-free gesture controls.

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Posted on January 13, 2017 .

Big firmware update!

Version 20150304 is here, along with some exciting new features...

Keyframe Editor

The new keyframe editor presents a new graphical interactive way to edit time/value keyframes for precise bulb ramping setup and more, specifically motion & focus, as seen below.

 

NMX Stepper Controller Integration

While the Timelapse+ already works well with many motion control systems, including the MX2, MX3, eMotimo TB3 and others, the new Dynamic Perception NMX integration takes it much further with total control of everything all through the Timelapse+ as the central controller.  Built on top of the new keyframe editor, up to 10 time/position keyframes can be added for each of the 3 axis.  The timing can thereby be coordinated with keyframe bramping (or auto bramping, even working with a variable interval) as well as focus ramping, as seen next...

 

Focus Ramping

This is a really exciting feature, especially when combined with motion.  And this time Nikon users aren't left out either -- it's fully working with my test D5100, and hopefully that means others, too -- we'll have to see.  Focus Stacking should also work with Nikon now as well.

 

Ready to get started?

Start out downloading the latest firmware here: firmware.timelapseplus.com   Among other improvements, a lot of time has been spent on perfecting the timing and reliability of bulb ramping with a PC-sync cable, and the auto config program in the Timelapse+ will calculate the best timing parameters for each camera (and remember them per camera, so you don't need to re-run the program every time).  Here's a video for help getting started with this:

Beyond what's mentioned here, there's also some exciting new features for bulb ramping that allow coordinating manual ISO changes for cameras without USB support, which will be covered in additional videos and documentation in the coming weeks.   Thanks for your patience as I now focus on getting the documentation back up to date for this new release.

Thanks!

Elijah

P.S., Join me in Moab, Utah for a hands-on workshop with Ron Risman.  I will be there along with Ryan from Dynamic Perception. (it just sold out but you can get on the waiting list just in case) http://www.timelapseworkshops.com

Posted on March 9, 2015 .

Partial Solar Eclipse!

Eclipse at maximum coverage - check out those sunspots!

A cresent sun setting

A quick time-lapse of the crescent sun setting! I wanted to start it earlier but the sky was so clear it was hard not to just have everything black but the sun.

Posted on October 23, 2014 .

Firmware 20141010 released!

Finally!  This firmware update has been in the works for a long time, and includes big improvements again for auto bulb ramping with the Timelapse+.  It's been tested extensively and includes many bug fixes as well. 

New auto bulb ramping algorithm for more accurate tracking

The new algorithm is based on PID control and results and much better tracking of the exposure through the day-to-night transition while still ignoring momentary changes.  Last year the auto bramp algorithm was updated to have the Timelapse+ control the rate of change rather than the exposure value directly.  This made for much smoother results and made possible the the "night target" set point as well.  However, it was prone to get a bit dark during the transition from day to night.  This new algorithm keeps the rate of change method of control, but does a much better job of tracking with the change of light and is more tunable.  More details, tuning instructions, source code, and a simulation chart can be found here: http://firmware.timelapseplus.com/sunset


PC-sync cable feedback +  auto calibration

The Timelapse+ can use the camera's flash sync for reducing flicker and auto-calibrating the camera's timing parameters.  Set Settings->Auxiliary->AUX Port to 'PC Sync In' to enable.  The result is less flicker, faster shutter speeds in bulb mode (up to 1/60th for Canon), and auto-configuration of timing parameters.  Just connect the camera via USB and it will prompt to auto configure if it hasn't been done already for that camera.

Remembers camera-specific settings for multiple cameras

Easily switch between cameras without having to change camera-specific settings when using USB.  Additionally, the Timelapse+ will automatically update the Camera Make setting according to the connected camera, so it's easy to switch between Canon and Nikon while keeping the optimal settings for each.  Everything in Settings->Camera is linked to a profile for the currently connected camera.  Changing those settings without a camera connected will change the defaults for new camera -- preconfigured cameras will always use the saved profile.

More videos are in the works -- thanks for your patience!

Posted on October 15, 2014 .

Time-lapse Moab

I had the wonderful opportunity to hang out with Ron Risman's Timelapse Moab workshops this past week.  As always, I wish I had more time!  I only had a few days available, so I spent a couple days with each workshop, catching the end of the first and beginning of the second.  It was truly wonderful to get to hang out under the stars with so many interesting and like-minded people.  Ron Risman and Mike Taylor taught time-lapse photography with a special emphasis on the night sky, which of course is incredible out there.  I highly recommend the workshop to anyone interested in learning more about night-sky time-lapse -- they covered time-lapse concepts, photographing the night sky, day-to-night time-lapse, motion control systems, using the Timelapse+ and more, all in a hands on environment.

It's great to see and learn from people using the Timelapse+ in the field, and just like last time, I came back with more ideas for furthering and refining the firmware.

I especially enjoyed finally getting to meet Dave Shogren, a fellow Minnesotan and an early-adopter of the Timelapse+ from back when it was available for preorder right after the kickstarter campaign.  I've exchanged dozens of emails with him over the last couple years and it was wonderful to finally meet and do time-lapse together in such a beautiful place!

Thanks to everyone one who was part of the workshop for your welcome and company while I was there!

Posted on June 5, 2014 .

Introducing...the new website!

Timelapse+ has a new home on the internet now, hosted by Squarespace.  Being a web developer myself, I hesitated to use a managed platform instead of rolling my own (like the previous site).  What I'm finally learning, however, is that just because I can do something, it doesn't mean I should do it.  The old website worked, but didn't support mobile and it was time to make updates to the Amazon payments system.  The time involved in switching to Squarespace vs. updating the old site was significantly less, and Squarespace so nicely works with Stripe, an awesome payment system.

Also, I built the old site before the Timelapse+ was even in it's final version, so I didn't have much content to work with.  Now, it's all about the content, so the site is more minimal instead to highlight the content and the product.

Along with the new website comes a better store, too, with more accessories for your convenience.  While many of the items might be found slightly cheaper (there are links to other sources, too), many people want the convenience of buying everything from the same place and having the confidence that it all works together.  Check back often as we'll be adding more items to the store here.

Thanks again to everyone who is a part of the project, from the kickstarter backers to the many hundreds of customers -- you've made it possible to keep moving forward, adding features, and of course, having fun while doing what I love!

Elijah

 

Posted on May 15, 2014 .