Bulb ramping for Nikon

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One of the most common time lapse is the day-to-night sequence. In this case Canon has always had a lot of advantages, like Magic Lantern, the little bramper and the possibility to finely control the shutter speed trough the remote controller while Nikon has always been excluded from this kind of time lapse. Is it true? I’ve made an experiment with my Nikon D5000 controlled by Arduino.

You can find here the simple circuit to connect the camera to Arduino trough a disassembled remote controller. In fact it’s the same I use for the DIY dolly controller and to photograph water drops. In fact make contact the reeds of the controller with an optoisolator (4n35).

You have a shutter speed accuracy of a tenth of second. It isn’t enough for short exposures, like 1/50 second, but with longer times it makes a smooth variation between consecutive frames. So I decided to increment the exposure time by step of a tenth of second. Unfortunately, also by incrementing the exposure speed from 2 to 30 seconds, it didn’t covered the exposure difference between day and night and the interval became very long. So I’ve got the idea to open gradually the stop, too: I increment the shutter speed from 2 to 8 second, when it arrives to 8, I take it to 2 again and I open the stop from f22 to f11 (or f11/f5,6 or f5,6/f2,8) so the exposure difference between the 8 second frame and the 2 second one is nothing.

Shutter speed it’s controlled by Arduino, while I have to change the stop value manually, for the moment (Arduino turns a led on at the right time). I’m going to buy an USB host shield for Arduino in order to control automatically the stop, too.

Once shot, the sequence requires to be deflickered, for example with Tltools, but it’s all automatic, you haven’t to do any manual long operation, like holy grail, etc…

Here you can find some tests:

deflickered by Tltools:

original version

So, this system still has a lot of defects (some of them corrigible by Keyframes in After effetcs or Premiere). The main one is you can’t modify parameters at the moment of shooting and it doesn’t measures the real luminosity of the scene: he work following preset values. So I still have to find the best values.

For the moment it is only a bit more than an Idea, I hope I will develope it properly.


A new test. Parameters a bit different, now the interval is 12 seconds.

In sunny days you can use lower ISO or a ND filter, so the sequence anding is less over-exsposured. I’m going to implment the possibility of change the parameters at the moment of shooting, and an automatic control of all parameters by Arduino… one day.


Tests go on. This is the link to a new sketch for Arduino. It’s possible to start and stop the bulb ramping with two bottons. If bulb raming isn’t activated it runs a normal time lapse sequence. The comment are only in Italian for the moment, if you need help just ask.

If you find any mistake, please comment.

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