Camera equipment isn’t something that I have heavily reviewed on Tech Support Forum, but the opportunity for it is slowly growing. From point-and-shoot cameras to action-based GoPros, to slow motion photography, it always puts a smile on my face when I can capture the moment and then share it with others at a later point.

Yet, what if I’m looking to record content over a long period of time? Living in Wisconsin, we have wild seasons with the winter being brutally cold and full of snow, while spring and summer can reach into the upper 90s. How cool would it be to record a video that captures the snowfall in the winter and then the greenery explosion that happens in the spring?

As much as I would like to use my point and shoot camera or smartphone to record these videos, leaving the camera in a window sill for multiple hours, or even days, isn’t practical. Also, neither camera would enjoy sitting in a potential rain storm or baking in the sun. What I would need is a camera that doesn’t mind being left alone for a long period of time and can handle the Wisconsin elements.

For those that know the film Wallace and Gromit, each frame you see is just a slow-motion picture film. By moving each limb of the character at a very slow pace, and then taking a picture, and then continuing the process over again, you can create an entire stop-motion video.

Well, the same goes for a time-lapse video. The night stars are always a great example of time-lapse videography. At a set interval, a camera can snap a picture, and then turn off. It does this until it’s stopped by human input, a timer, or the battery runs out.

This loop of picture taking results in a lot of photographs and when you put them all together you can get a quick little video from it. Furthermore, there's a lot that goes into taking just one picture over and over again.

The white balance, focus, scene, frames per second, exposure, and more detail settings can drastically affect the outcome of the time lapse. That's why a camera that can simplify the process is ideal.

Brinno is a well-known brand in the time-lapse camera market and may possibly be one of the largest brands on Amazon for these cameras. With their new TLC120 camera, this jam-packed square camera can offer up a lot of fun and exciting video that was previously difficult to record.

Welcome to my review of the Brinno TLC120 Time Lapse Camera.



Design

The Brinno camera is considerably smaller than some of Brinno’s other products. Not only is it a fraction of the size, it’s also a different shape than most cameras. Measuring at 2.3x2.3x1.3 inches, the TLC120 is a tiny square that houses a lot of powerful electronics.

On the front of the squared design, there is a large HDR 4.2 μm camera that is surrounded by a satisfying rough matte surface. This surface material is only found on the front and rear and I would have preferred if Brinno made the entire body out of it, instead of the rough and flat matte mix.

At the rear, there isn’t anything to see, but the sides of the camera contain two top mounted buttons, with the right of the camera hiding the SD card slot and microUSB connector underneath a cover. Those top mounted buttons are switches to turn the unit on and off and to start the time lapse camera.

Unlike the Brinno TLC200 Pro I reviewed a while back, the TLC120 does not have a display on the rear of the unit. Instead, this compact camera connects to a smartphone using both wireless and Bluetooth. Brinno offers a free iOS and Android application that gives the user full control over the camera. More on this later.

Powering the TLC120, there is an internal rechargeable battery that lasts a significantly long time. The TLC200 Pro uses AA batteries which were nice for a quick battery swap, but the rechargeable in the TLC120 is cost effective and saves batteries.

Since the TLC120 doesn’t have a screen and the SD card and microUSB connector are covered underneath a rubber seal, Brinno was able to make this time lapse camera water-resistant certified. With a rating of IPx4, the TLC120 can easily take light rain and splashes, plus it gives you the chance to capture better, more thrilling video.

Finally, with its 3.5-ounce weight, the TLC120 is travel-friendly and can be placed/mounted anywhere you desire. For more of an angled position, the TLC120 works with standard camera tripods.

Speaking of which, I would have preferred if the TLC120 came with a tripod instead of offering one as an accessory. I will discuss this below, but positioning the TLC120 can be deemed challenging.



Functionality

The thing about recording a time-lapse is the recording is expected to take a long, long time. When I first reviewed the TLC200 Pro, I recorded some flowers that were close to blooming. A long, eight-hour time period only resulted in a three-minute video.

To get the most of out of what you are recording, while also remaining a time-lapse, the TLC120 can set its picture-taking interval as short as 5 seconds or up to one picture every 24 hours. That said, the camera can also take a custom interval or be set to 'always on recording', but it is best that a preset interval is chosen to get the most longevity out of the internal battery.

Besides the battery, another object to be careful about when recording a time-lapse is the amount of storage you have. The TLC120 comes with a generic 8GB SD card, but the TLC120 can accept up to a 32GB SD card. The pictures and video files are quite small, so unless you plan on going a long period of time before you offload the video to a secondary storage, 8GB will suffice.

To use the TLC120 it will require an
or Android device and the free Brinno smartphone app. By using both a wireless and Bluetooth connection, you can control every aspect of this camera. The wireless connection is used for a live video feed as well as to offload files to your smartphone and Bluetooth is what sends configuration changes to the camera. If desired, you only need to use the Bluetooth connection to the camera, but you won’t have a live video feed.

I was stunned at how well the application worked and how fluid everything was. With the camera turned on and opening the Brinno app, it quickly connects and lets you begin your time lapse.

The orange and black app theme is easily navigated and you don’t become lost in complex or deep menus/settings. Most of the important things are right on the main screen and just a tap away.

Using the application was enjoyable and pleasant. In fact, I enjoyed using the simplistic and easy menus over the on-screen menus on the TLC200 Pro. The smartphone app lets you adjust things without even touching the camera.

The range of the application and the camera is about fair. I was able to walk about ten feet away before the application would report a fail status on trying to change settings. The good news is that the live video feed maintains a strong connection from even farther away and only has about a one to two-second video delay.

One thing I really like about the app is when you are finished recording your time lapse and the camera is processing its video, it shows you gives you ideas for the next time lapse.

For example, the app will be processing your current video, while it shows you how to record the perfect night sky or even a waterfall shot.

There are a few hiccups in the application that should be addressed by Brinno. The first is that the app uses icons to represent the function or setting. For example, to change the scene you tap on the little mountain icon, whereas the white balance is changed by tapping the AWB icon.

By using the icons instead of labels, not everything is descriptive. A candle with a circle on it seemed confusing at first, but that turns on the low-light mode, but what about some wiggling lines with the word "Off" underneath it?

You'll also notice some grammatical mistakes in the app, like this error I received while testing: "Oops! You Loose WiFi Connection".

Everything about the TLC120 is self-taught. There is an included user manual, but it focuses on what the application's settings do. The good news is you don't have to be a rocket scientist to get started.

Three scenes were chosen for this review, but I've been using the time lapse camera for multiple different occasions. Below, there is a day, twilight, and night time-lapse that used the best-desired settings for these scenes.

I opted to use auto white balance, exposure set to zero, quality set to best, frames per second at 30, and used the maximum resolution of 1280 x 720p. No additional visual or after effects were applied to the videos, what you are viewing is the direct copy of what the camera recorded to the SD card.

Beginning with the daylight video, it's relaxing to see the afternoon clouds transition to the evening and then, even some getting dark as a little rain makes its way into town. This recording began at 1:00 PM and was stopped at 5:30 PM. The coloring on the video is a tad yellower and darker than real life, but I feel like it makes for a decent video.



As a comparison, I also recorded the exact same video using the TLC200 Pro with the same settings.



Furthermore, due to the IPX4 water resistance of the TLC120, I decided that I would record an afternoon rain storm. I placed the camera underneath the house eaves with the camera on a table. The camera wasn't directly in the rain, but close. Fortunately, it was a thunderstorm!



Next, the twilight setting was one of my favorites. I used it to record the sunset and I wish I lived by a beach for an even better sunset time lapse. Nevertheless, it was neat to watch the sky go from bright to dark and for the sun to set below the tree line. The colors on this video are much brighter than real life, but still pleasant for a video. Do note, that towards the end of the video, it appears to still be bright outside. When I stopped the recording it was at 9:45 PM and dark all around.



Lastly, the night recording has a "cool factor" as you can watch the night stars rotate in the heavens above. Everything is dark, so the colors don't apply here, but other objects, like the stars, were brightly showing and easily seen on the time lapse. It's nice watching the stars move because when you look up above at night, it seems like they are stationary.

When recording at night, the moon can sometimes be a big problem. The bright reflective glow of the moon can wash out the time lapse and it can even seem like you were recording the sun, not the moon.



Everything so far has been a seamless operation. Brinno makes it easy to get started and easy to record your time lapse, although there was one problem I would run into and that is camera positioning.

Because the lens on the camera is fixed to the square body, it can be challenging to position the camera upwards or at an angle. A tripod fixes this issue, but every time lapse in this review wouldn't have been possible without a tripod and that annoys me.

You can take forward facing time-lapses, but most of the time that isn't what you'll want. Plus, the narrow body of the TLC120 doesn't help matters, because with a bump of the table it is sitting on, it can fall over. I really wished the TLC120 came with a tripod in the box.

Once you are finished recording, simply tapping stop on the app will tell the camera to process the pictures it took and puts them into a video. This is something that not every time lapse camera does.

The last thing to talk about is the battery life. The internal battery does a fantastic job at keeping this little camera up and running. Brinno has a battery chart that states a five-minute interval can last the camera twelve days worth of recording; twenty days if you opt for shutter mode.

I didn't go twelve days long of video recording and instead went for hour-long recording sessions and did multiples of them. Having this camera for the last month, I have only recharged it once, because it was at 50% battery.

Brinno doesn't mention the battery's capacity, but I would say that most of us will be happy with the internal battery and how it performs. Only the 'as soon as possible' recording mode will drain the battery quickly.



My Final Thoughts

I wouldn’t change a thing about this camera and I would recommend it to those looking for one over other time-lapse cameras. The small and compact size, internal battery, and water resistance make for an excellent device to just leave somewhere and record video.

Priced at $299.99, this squared camera can make a dent in most wallets, but it’s certainly worth its cost. Brinno makes other models for less, but the water-resistance and small housing win me over on recommending the TLC120 over other models.

The image quality is fantastic, the HDR response and colors are close to real life, the battery feels like it never dies, and the camera is easily configured and setup. If time-lapse videos are something you are thinking about doing, you can’t go wrong with the Brinno TLC120.

Buy it now:


© 2017 Justin Vendette