Build Cheap Panning Camera Mounts For Time Lapse Photography


Panning time lapse photographs always look pretty cool, but there’s that whole “making a panning time lapse” rig that gets in the way of all the fun. [Getawaymoments] put together a tutorial quite a while ago showing how to use Ikea egg timers as cheap and dispensable panning units, and has updated his instructions with a pair of refreshed designs.

He stumbled upon two new egg timers at Ikea, the Stam and Ordning, which sell for $1.99 and $5.99 respectively. The Stam is a small plastic model that can be fitted with a set screw, to which most cameras can be mounted. A small bushing can also be installed in the timer’s plastic base, allowing it to be mounted on any standard tripod.

The Ordning is a beefier unit capable of withstanding more abuse than its plastic brethren, hence the larger price tag. A few minutes on the drill press makes room for a metal bushing, allowing the Ordning to be installed on any tripod as well.

The hack isn’t high tech, but we’re impressed with the results he was able to get with these simple kitchen timers. For the cost and time required to build them, they are sure to give most other panning rigs a run for the money.

Continue reading to see a short instructional video demonstrating how to build one of your own.

[via Make]


24 thoughts on “Build Cheap Panning Camera Mounts For Time Lapse Photography

      1. Hey Peter, I hope you don’t think I pinched your idea. I posted my first DIY on this topic back in July 2009.

        I built my first timer unit in 2008, I don’t know if anyone did it before me but I have been doing my DIYs as an open book, glad to see people build them and make them better. I just got an Ikea in town earlier this year, so I had to modify their timers.


        p.s. I want your motion control hack for gopros, very cool.

      2. Cool,
        I have another video coming soon with more modifications to the timers. I am interested in knowing if you had success removing the “detent” so that the timers could go longer then an hour. If you did I would be happy to link back to your site.


  1. Very cool.

    My sound isn’t working right now on the pc, so perhaps this is addressed, but do you have to go back to the camera and rewind it up by hand to do it again and again? I had in my mind – time lapse panorama… where you time lapse the entire panorama again and again. The egg timer spring is likely only good for one rev before needing to be rewound?

    1. Yes, it only does one rotation and takes 1 hour(or however long to cover the arc) to do it.

      If you wanted timelapsed panoramas, you’d have to pick a shorter total duration timer(so it turned faster) and reset it manually after each rotation.

      If you wanted something automatic, you’d either have to regear the whole thing to act more like a lawn sprinkler. Or motorize it.

      1. Not necessarily – if you had something that did more than one complete rotation, you could simply leave the camera spinning, discarding shots in the incorrect direction and stitching the rest from each revolution together into one frame. That would require something that does one rotation for each frame you want though.

  2. Unfortunately, I don’t think this would work with a DSLR camera. Lighter cameras would work fine, but I would be concerned about the longevity of the mount with a DSLR weighing it down.

  3. Sort of the simple butt hacks that always great to read about. I assume the timers move slow enough there would be no motion induced blur in the images. I can’t recall a shutter speed setting for my “better” digital camera or if it’s automatic only. I’m stuck with using the classic model. The nearest Ikea is 327 miles away.

    1. Or it is just as far away as your computer keyboard. Ikea mails small stuff also. The same hack can be used on just about any analogue type egg timer, I’m sure your local grocery store, 5 & dime, etc… has a model that can be transformed easily.

  4. Hey Mike thanks for the “hack” love.
    I first made these things three or four years ago to spin my Elph for some cool extra b-roll.
    They are not for DSLRs, they are perfect for GoPros.
    If you want to spin a DSLR check out Kesslers product line. You do have to crank them up for each Pan and they do “tick”. I have a few new modifications on the way as soon as I can shoot and edit part 4. Lastly, my Ikea keeps running out of the Stam ($2 model)so if you find them grab a couple.

  5. That movie was amazing.

    Really nice..

    What is the current state of the art for low cost pan and tilt vis stepper motors? I want to build a automatic panorama head that can do repeatable spherical panoramas – still photography- at fairly long focal lengths. (so I can get a high resolution final panorama)

    The open source panorama software world is getting better at stitching everything that can be stitched, but the best way still is to be able to do it with either a commercial pano head with click stops, or a controlled stepper motor setup.

    The stepper motor setup also offers speed, which is a huge plus because otherwise, in the time it takes to take all your shots, things like clouds move quite a bit.

    I’ve been able to get nice spherical panos with a decent tripod and a pano head but Ive had to do a lot of touchup in the Gimp before they were something I wanted to show others, and the reason is usually things moving. So I want to build a camera motor that can both pan and tilt precisely.

    If it used the right kind of mount and a stepper motor with very fine steps in both axes I am guessing it might also be used in visible light astronomy or amateur radio astronomy.

    The possibilities for interesting stuff with photography are really limitless.

  6. I’ve been keeping my eye open for a decent egg timer – off to Ikea I go!

    I’ve experimented with other timers. You can speed them up by modifying the mechanism ( lighten up or even remove the oscillating wheel ).

    I’ll have to resurrect my MSP430/CHDK project if I can motorize that metal timer casing. Wonder if I can shorten it up… looks great.

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