Time-lapse mode is just one of the cool new features coming when iOS 8 hits devices everywhere this fall, but you don’t have to wait until September to play with it on your iPhone or iPad. There are plenty of third-party apps that offer time-lapse photography; here are four of my favorites, each offering a slightly different experience depending on what you need.
The most like iOS 8: Time Lapse Camera (Free/$1)
If you want something similar to iOS 8's automatic timelapse mode, it’s hard to go wrong with Time Lapse Camera (Free with iAds, no-ad version for $1). A bare-bones but functional app, Time Lapse Camera offers you just two options: the interval you want images taken at (from every .4 seconds up to every 30 seconds), and when to press the start button.
From there, you just hold your camera steady in landscape or portrait until you’re ready to finish your movie. Time Lapse Camera’s sharing and playback options are minimal: There’s no way to view your recording in-app; you’ll have to send your video to the camera roll to do anything further with it. But for simple time-lapse recording without excess fidgeting, it’s a nice little pickup.
For those who want more flexibility: iMotion HD (Free/$3)
Though it's not the sleekest app in town—its graphics favor the grey, slightly skeuomorphic approach of previous versions of iOS—iMotion HD (Free, $3 pro version to unlock share settings and filters) is my favorite time-lapse app for people who want to tweak a few settings but don’t need ultimate control.
iMotion films either a 1080p square (if your phone is positioned in portrait) or 1080p widescreen (if shot in landscape) timelapse. Its initial setup is minimal—you just note what mode you want to shoot in: automatic timelapse (based on intervals from .1 seconds all the way to a shot every day), manual mode, remote mode, or shots triggered by the microphone.
Those last two options are pretty nifty, and can allow you to get shots from far away with an additional iOS device or time-lapse snaps of wild animals, but it’s the first (automatic timelapse) I used most often in testing.
Once you choose your mode and tap start, you’re brought to the capture screen, where you can immediately start your timelapse or add a few extras to your video (including turning on the flash, changing the focus and brightness, adding a ghosting/onion skin mode, or turning on grid mode).
On playback, you can play back your timelapse at varying speeds (from 1FPS to 30FPS), delete individual frames, and add more to the capture if you wish before you export. Pay a $3 in-app purchase, and you can even add a soundtrack and filters to your video.
When sharing, iMotion offers to send all the frames as images to your camera library or as a single video; in addition, you can send your video via email or to Facebook or YouTube if you've already paid the $3.
Time-lapse for settings tweakers: Lapse It (Free/$2)
The big kahuna of time-lapse settings apps, Lapse It (Free, pro version for $2) offers just about every preference you could think of for a time-lapse app—great for the buttono-obsessed, though maybe a little bit overboard for your average iPhone photographer.
Lapse It offers a fully customizable capture interval, letting you shoot in any number of milliseconds, seconds, or minutes. In addition, you can set whether your time-lapse is limited by the user, by a timer, or by a set number of frames. There’s also an option for an initial delay, resolution size, dimming the screen when capturing to save the battery, and a scheduling mode (Pro version only).
When capturing, you have just as many tools, including ones for changing the exposure, focus, and white balance; turning the flash on or off; and flipping from the front to the back camera.
Once you’ve captured something, you can trim the project, add effects or music, crop it to square, add a timestamp overlay, or loop the video, though these controls are a tad clunky in the app. You also must render your video once you’re finished tweaking it; once rendered, you can watch the video, publish it online, or save it to your camera roll.
Time-lapse, meet iMovie: Frameograph ($5)
Last, but far from not least, is my new favorite app for turning time-lapse movies into delightful projects: Frameograh ($5), by the folks at Studio Neat.
Frameograph eschews the multitude of settings found in other apps for a clean, fun capture experience; it also provides you with an easy-to-use timeline for editing and cleaning up your project. You can add multiple time-lapse clips, overlay music, delete individual frames, and finally export to the camera roll where it can be shared with your service of choice.
I wish Frameograph allowed you to shoot more precise intervals than at every second (its full interval options are from 1 second to 10 minutes), but it's not a horrible limitation—the longer shoot times make for a smoother video playback experience, and you can adjust the framerate to make sure your frames play as slowly or quickly as you’d like them to.