In the Field with the MIOPS Capsule 360 Motion Control for Timelapse

Updated: Sep 7


As a timelapse photographer and instructor, specializing in landscape astro photography and storm chasing, I typically don't recommend the use of motion control gear in situations where speed of set up is critical. This is because set up and configuration takes too long.


One example is on my storm chasing workshops. Since storms move quickly, we need to move quickly. By the time a motion shot is set up we're already having to get back into the to continue chasing the storm as it moves past us.


Over the past few years I have seen quite a few compact timelapse devices on the market, but most of them were designed for lighter smart phones. And the ones designed for larger cameras still were not compact enough. When I discovered that the Capsule360, weighing only 8.8 ounces, could handle cameras up to 15 lbs, I was very intrigued. So I wrote to Miops to inquire about testing out the Capsule360 and they obliged by sending out a unit for me to use and review. It arrived just one day before heading out to Colorado for my July storm chasing workshop so I had virtually no time to learn how to use it before plugging it in to charge.


I believe that if it can support the weight of my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV or Sony A7R III with lens, and offer smooth panning and fast set up - this could be the perfect motion control head for those that want a simple-to-use and fast-to-setup option.



See the Capsule360 in action shooting a cloudlapse through the trees



OVERVIEW

The MIOPS Capsule360 is a ultra-compact motion controlled pan head (or tilt) that takes up virtually no extra space in your camera bag. It’s built-in battery will keep the device running for up to 24 hours when shooting timelapse images (8 hours continuous movement for video), so you’ll be able to shoot all week long with it before having to plug it in to recharge. It can also be charged and powered by an external USB battery, in case you need longer run times in the field.

The Capsule360 supports these timelapse options:

  • Standard

  • Long Exposure

  • Bulb Ramping

  • Interval Ramping

While this review will focus on the timelapse features of the Capsule360, keep in mind that the Capsule360 also supports these stills and video modes:

  • Multi-Row Panorama

  • Video Mode

  • Follow Me Mode

  • Turntable Mode

  • Remote Controller

  • Star Tracking

  • Focus Stacking


IN THE FIELD When shooting timelapse it always seems that as soon as I arrive at my location something special is going on in the sky - a great sunset or sun rays shining through the clouds that forces me hurry to set up a shot. When these situations arise I don’t consider setting up a motion controlled shot because by the time everything is set up and programmed - whatever it was I was trying to capture has already passed.


A Motion Control Pan Head that can stay on your tripod


The Capsule360 allows me to set up a panning timelapse shot so quickly that it adds only about 30 seconds to my setup time. This is aided by the fact that I can save settings for future use.


Unlike my heavier and bulkier multi-axis motion control heads, the Capsule360 is a tiny puck-shaped device (approx. 4" round) that you can either keep mounted to the top of one of your tripods or attach it to a ball head when needed. For convenience and leveling purposes I prefer to position it between the tripod's center column mount and my ball head, but if it's windy out, you'll get more stability mounting it directly to the tripod's ball head.


There's only one cable needed when shooting timelapse, and that's the intervalometer cable that connects the Capsule360 to the camera. This cable allows the Capsule360 to trigger the camera and sync its movement to happen between photographs. This is known as "shoot-move-shoot" and is the way that virtually all motion control timelapse gear works.


You can also set the Capsule360 to move continuously - in timelapse or in video mode. Continuous movement isn't the preferred method to use when shooting timelapse, but it does come in handy when you forget to bring the intervalometer cable with you. Just use your camera's internal timelapse mode or intervalometer - and set the Capsule360 to "continuous." Continuous mode works best with day lapses since the camera's shutter speed is high enough to freeze action, but even with astro lapses you can get away with continuous mode as long as there isn't a close foreground subject.



Rotating vertical shots add a dynamic element to a timelapse



Motion control vs Ken Burns Effect


The way I tested the Capsule360 was using it as a panning motor to allow my camera to keep pace with cloud movement during a recent storm chasing workshop. I also use panning for night sky timelapses to keep the camera aligned with the motion of the Milky Way.


Yes, you can simulate a pan using the Ken Burn's "Pan & Scan" technique to pan or zoom during the editing of a timelapse, but in order to pan across an image you would have to zoom in quite a bit on the composition in order to have that extra "off-screen" area to pan towards. While the effect looks good it cuts down on the final output resolution of the timelapse and it changes the intended composition of how you framed your shot. Of course if you want to track a subject beyond the boundaries of your frame, you'll need to actually move the camera during the shot - all reasons why it's worth using a motion controlled pan head instead of relying on effects in post.


Tilt is an option as well


You can also use the capsule 360 in a "tilt" position by placing it between two ball heads and setting both of them to their portrait (vertical) position or by using an L-bracket attached to the tripod to mount the Capsule360 vertically, then a 2nd L-bracket or ball head attached to the Capsule360 to allow the camera to sit horizontally. This gives you a motion controlled tilt axis for when this type of motion is desired. You can also combine two units together with an L-Bracket to have a compact 2-axis pan & tilt set up. I haven't tested it in the tilt orientation so I cannot speak to its effectiveness or steadiness in this configuration. Miops also sells a very compact slider which turns this into a 2 or 3-axis system (depending on configuration).



Free iOS and Android Compatible App

One of the best things about the Capsule 360 is the mobile app used to control the hardware. Unlike some apps I've used in the past, their app connects quickly and reliably every time. Once the timelapse is running I can turn the phone off or walk away from my timelapse and when I return the app quickly reconnects.


The app uses icons to represent different features:

Timelapse Features include:

  • Basic Timelapse

  • Long Exposure Timelapse

  • HDR Timelapse

  • Bulb Ramping Timelapse

  • Interval Ramping

Video Features:

  • Basic Video

  • Follow me*

  • Turntable

  • Remote Controller * For use with Smartphones

Photography Features:

  • Panorama

  • Star Tracker

  • Focus Stacking.




Programming your timelapse is simple

Setting up the motion portion of the time lapse is as simple as dragging the slider in the app to move the camera to the point where you want to start the timelapse, and again to where you want the camera to be pointing at the end of the timelapse. Tip: Frame up your shot for the start of the timelapse and you wont' have to waste time setting that 1st keyframe. Just hit "Next" and move the camera to the ending position - and you're all set. To set up the shot parameters just set the FPS (Frames Per Second) that you typically render you timelapses at (24, 25, 30, or 60fps); set the desired interval (time between exposures); then set the "Play Time" (how long you want the final video to be), then hit START.


While this is fairly straightforward, it's not really the way I work when I set up a time lapse. The app shouldn't require the user to do math just to know how many shots our settings will create. The App does keep track of it, but it doesn't reveal the number of shots until you get to the next screen, AFTER you start the timelapse.


Plus, the FPS (Frames-Per-Second) isn't really important when you're out shooting. That's a decision I'll make when editing to turn the stills into a final video. In post-production I'll choose the final frame rate based on where and how the footage will be used or based on the amount of movement in the scene itself. For example, If clouds in my sequence are moving very slowly, I may output it at 60fps to get a smoother, faster time-lapse, or if the clip is being licensed for use in a film, I'll render it out at 24fps (23.976) to match their frame rate.


I'd rather have the option to select the interval time and either the duration of the shoot or the total number of images I want to capture. If I select the number of images I want to capture, then the app can fill in the duration time - or vice versa - based on the interval. For example. If I set my interval to 2 seconds; and set it to run for 20 minutes, the app can then show me that the total shots will be "600" images. Or if I set the interval at 2 seconds and total shots of 600, then the app will calculate the duration to be "20 Minutes.”

While it might be nice to know the "Play Time" of my final timelapse (assuming I use the entire clip) this shouldn't be a data entry criteria. This "photoshopped" screen shot below is how I would prefer to see the timelapse function set up. Interval time, shoot duration, and total number of shots. The app could still show the different playback times based on the 3 standard frames rates, as seen below.


This is not an actual screen shot. Instead, it's how I'd prefer to program my timelapses.


Long Exposure Timelapse Setting up to capture a long exposure timelapse for night exposures is very similar to setting up a basic timelapse with the addition of one more important setting - Exposure Time. So if I wanted to set the camera for 20 seconds with a 4-second interval between shots I would set the camera to "Bulb" mode, then set the exposure in the app at 20-seconds and the interval for 5 seconds. When I press "Start" the camera will keep the shutter open for 20 seconds, then will wait 5-seconds, and start another 20-second exposure. Meanwhile the Capsule360 will pan to it's next position during the camera's "down time", so that there isn't a movement of the pan head during the exposure.


Bulb Ramping Timelapse


Bulb ramping is a feature where the controller, in this case the Capsule360, ramps the exposure time up or down, in very small & equal increments during a sunrise or sunset, in order to create a smooth day-to-night or night-to-day timelapse sequence.

Normally, your camera can only adjust exposure in 1/3-stop increments causing visible jumps in brightness if the exposure is changed during a timelapse, but in Bulb mode most cameras allow much smaller adjustments (as little as 1/10th-stop increments or even smaller) when using a device that can control the exposure to this degree. This allows for very smooth transitions from light to dark (or vice versa) when trying to keep up with changing light levels from magic hour, through to blue hour, and then to astronomical twilight.


Bulb Ramping is a lot trickier than it sounds since the rate at which the sun rises or sets varies by time of year and longitude and latitude, so while you may get lucky right out of the gate, the reality usually involves a lot more trial and error.


When using Bulb mode of your camera you'll need to keep the shutter speed at 1/30th of a second or slower, so you probably don't want to start your day to night timelapse much before sunset as you'll find it hard to get a proper exposure with a 1/30th shutter speed (or slower). You could use an ND filter to get a lower initial shutter speed, but you'll need to keep it on the camera during the entire timelapse, which means you'll need very long shutter speeds as day turns into night - which makes the use of an ND filter Note: Bulb mode is best used only when you want to go from daylight all the way through to a starry sky. If you just want to capture a sunset and/or you're shooting in a bight location at night (city) then use the standard timelapse mode and put your camera into Aperture Priority mode (Av). Most of today's cameras offer exposure smoothing when shooting in Av mode, which helps to smooth out the exposure between frames despite the 1/3-stop limitations.


Interval Ramping Timelapse


Interval ramping allows you to start a timelapse at one interval and then have the software slowly ramp the interval up or down until it reaches your desired final interval. As light changes during a sunset or sunrise your camera, when set to Av mode, will automatically compensate for these light changes by increasing or decreasing the camera's shutter speed. If the shutter speed becomes longer than the interval (2 second shutter vs 1 second interval) the intervalometer will end up skipping shots. Interval ramping helps to prevent this from happening.


Multi-Axis Motion Control Capability

As mentioned earlier in this review, the Capsule360 is part of a multi-axis system that includes a slider and an option second Capsule360. The slider, combined with a two Capsule360's, would provide a portable way to get 2-axis movement (slide and pan) and would be an ultra portable way to do interview style video tracking shots and 2-axis timelapses. Or instead of a slider a second Capsule360 could be connected to the first one with an L-bracket (See photo on right) for pan & tilt video and timelapse motion and tracking sequences.

Optional Start & End Times (Another programming option I’d like to see)

When capturing moon rises, moon sets (or sun), or night sky timelapses, another option I'd like to have when programming the motion key frames would be to allow the user to assign a time to the end position and use the current time for the the start position (or the time I press “Start”). This would allow me to match the camera's movement to my star app in order to ensure the camera moves at the same speed as the night sky, the setting moon or sun. So instead of just setting where I want the camera to end it's move, I'd like to be able to tell the app to get to that point by a certain time. I’d enter either the interval or the number of frames I want, and the app can calculate the other settings.

The image below shows a start time of 11:59 p.m. and an end time of 1:07 a.m. (68 minutes). If I wanted 400 shots, the app could do the math for me to let me know that the interval will be 10.2 seconds (68 minutes = 4080 seconds / 400 shots = 10.2 seconds). Or if I instead set a 10 second interval, the app would let me know that a total of 408 shots (4080/10 = 408) will be captured.



TURN OFF THE LIGHTS AT NIGHT (Setting needed)

While the indicator lights are very useful to know when the device is off, on, and connected - when shooting long exposures at night there should be a way to turn them off. For example, when shooting a timelapse at night, the blue “connection” light goes out once you press “Start” – but that’s only if you keep the phone connected. If you walk away from the camera or turn off your phone, the blue light glows to warn you that your phone isn’t connected. I’m not sure why this is needed, since the phone doesn’t need to be connected for the Capsule360 to continue shooting. Either way, no lights should come on once you hit “Start” and if I’m wrong then at least create an option to turn off all lights when shooting long exposures or timelapse.

SCHEDULE

A feature that I’m really happy to see included is the Schedule function. While I wouldn’t use it often, the Schedule feature allows you to delay the start time. If the camera is set and ready to go, but sunset won't start until 6:30 p.m., I am able to set the schedule to start the timelapse at 6:30 p.m. This feature is most important when you're busy managing a couple of different cameras in different locations. You could also use the schedule to start the camera on a specific date & time in the future. This could come in handy if you're powering your gear off of AC current or solar / battery combo

.

COLOR LIGHT INDICATOR


The Capsule360 features a multi-colored stripe around its perimeter to let the user know the device status. This is a very nice touch and is very easy to see from a distance. But as mentioned above, please give us the option to turn these off at night. If someone is set up and shooting, then I come by to set up my shot - they won't be happy that my blue light is messing up their foreground.


Powering On: Swirls Orange Once

Powering Off: Swirls Red once

Firmware Upgrade available: Red Light

Charging: Semi-circle Red Light * When reading the manual, there were many more color options than what actually experience while using it I’m not sure why that is, but either way the colors are designed to let you know the device status.


Additional Timelapses using the Capsule360


Night Sky & the Milky Way

This Milky Way timelapse was captured in the basic timelapse mode.

I set my camera for a 13 second exposure at ISO 10,000 using an F/2.8 lens. I set the Capsule360 software to an interval of 15 seconds (2 seconds longer than the exposure time). My FPS was set at 25, and the play time was set to 15 seconds, meaning I wanted to capture a 15 second timelapse.



The Milky Way moves across the lake as the Capsule360 keeps the camera moving.



During my July Storm Chasing Workshop I used the Capsule360 to add motion

to the landscapes while also tracking the movement of the storms.


SUMMARY

It’s rare when a low-cost product impresses me, but the MIOPS Capsule360 did just that. The product is incredibly compact in size for a motion control head that the manufacturer claims can support up to 15 lbs - and it works reliably, making this an easy recommendation for those who wish to add some tracking motion to their timelapse with a device that can easily fit into almost any camera bag.


For anyone looking to add some camera motion to their work, whether it's video or timelapse capture, the Capsule360 is a very inexpensive and reliable option. I never encountered an issue while shooting with it - either hardware or with the app - everything just worked as advertised. This may sound like a silly statement because products SHOULD work as advertised, but in this world of products that start out as crowd funding campaigns, it's amazing how many products are delivered without the promised functionality or worse - they just don't work well.


I was truly skeptical that a product of this compact size and price would win me over for motion control. I expected the movement to be less than smooth, and I didn't expect the app to connect as easily as it does or to really work as promised. But they do.


Things I would like to see changed


I have have a few small nitpicks about the product.


Give the user control over whether to keep the lights on or off at night.


For timelapse I feel the interface options could be more intuitive. We shouldn't have to do the math to know how many shots our settings will give us or how long we'll be out in the field. As it stands now, I enter an interval (let's say 15 seconds), a play time (15 seconds), and the FPS of 25. How quickly can you do the math to know how long this timelapse will run?


Here's the math:

First we need to figure out the number of shots:


15 second play time x 25fps = 375 shots

Next, we need to figure out how long will it take to capture 375 shots:

15 second intervals = 4 shots per minute, so 375 seconds / 4 = 93.75 minutes.  After doing the math I realize 93.75 minutes isn't enough, so now I have to work backwards to figure out how to get a 2.5 hour shot of the Milk way.   Not so easy to do in your head. 

It's true that once you press "Start" the app starts a countdown from the number of shots calculated and also displays the duration, but it would be nice to know this information on the setup screen - before pressing "Start."


Personally, when I set up a timelapse I want to set the interval and the number of shots - or the duration of the shoot. The app should then take those entries, do the math for me for the other criteria and display it for me on this first page. It's a simple change and one that I hope Miops will listen to and add.


When setting up a motion shot it would also be nice to be able to set a start time and end time, along with the interval in order to more easily match where the camera will be with relation to the sun, moon, or stars when using apps like PhotoPills or Planit! Pro.


One other feature I'd like to see added, if it's possible, would be an electronic level inside the app. This would only be possible if there's technology inside the Capsule360 for it to know its orientation and angle Since it does know it's orientation for pan or tilt, I assume it has this technology. If not, I'd love to see a bubble level on the unit itself in a future version.


Over the next couple of months I plan to test out some of the other functions that the Capsule360 offers. Just from playing with the app I discovered that the turntable feature, when switched to manual mode, stops to wait for you to hit "continue" to shoot again, making it easy to create stop motion animation with motion. In automatic or smartphone mode it's simple to capture 360 product shots from your regular camera or even your smartphone.


Overall, Miops has created a fantastic and ultra portable motion controlled panning or tilting head. It's so small I recommend keeping it attached to one of your tripods, between the tripod and the ball head. It's really so small that you won't even realize you brought it with you. The app connects in an instant and every timelapse function that I used and tested worked perfectly.


You can get more information on the Miops Capsule 360 from the Miops.com website. If you purchase the Miops Capsule 360 from the links below we'll receive a small affiliate commission which can help us cover the cost of doing product reviews. Purchase directly from Miops: http://www.miops.com

Purchase directly from Amazon: Amazon.com




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