Australian Shooter was given a Spypoint Solar trail camera by Sydney-based company ProsChoice to review in the field. When I received the camera I already had confidence in the Spypoint Solar product as many of my mates use them and rate them highly. The cameras are ideal for a mixture of property surveillance, game viewing and pest/predator management. The Spypoint Solar is a 12-megapixel (interpolated), 42x850nm light-emitting diode (LED) super low-glow trail camera. Like most modern 850nm trail cameras this Spypoint model takes colour images by day and infrared (black and white) at night.
A key feature is a permanently attached and fully integrated solar panel and internal storage battery which charges from either a USB connection (for pre-charging) or via the solar panel (for charging and operation in the field). The trail camera also has a built-in 5cm diagonal viewing screen with zoom and pan functions, allowing the user to quickly scroll through the pictures and/or videos taken. Integral viewing screens make setting up so much easier and help ensure you walk away from your camera knowing it’s monitoring the target zone exactly as you want it to. The internal viewer also relays to you the percentage the solar panel is charging at and will tell you separately the percentage of charge for the AA batteries (if you have them installed) and internal storage battery.
I borrowed my mate’s Spypoint Solar cameras on one of my regular hunting blocks so had already found the large screen display and intuitive home menu which automatically pops up on the internal screen. This made the Spypoint a breeze to use in the field. The easy-to-navigate buttons turn the unit off/on and allow you to scroll through screen-displayed menus to select your preferences. On reading the comprehensive instruction manual I discovered there’s even more user selectable options/settings tucked away in various modes. After selecting ‘settings’ from the home menu the user has the following options.
General settings ‑ in this sub-menu you can set the date, time and night picture mode. There are three night-time picture types to choose from: Optimal (efficient battery consumption); IR Boost (more power into the ‘flash’ for greatest flash range) and Blur Reduction. To choose the operating mode, select one option from either the photo, video or time lapse menus.
Photo Delay: Allows the user to choose the time interval between each detection before the camera can record the next photo. Photo Multi-Shot sequences: A user-selected choice of one to six frames per trigger/detection with five seconds between each photo in the sequence.
1280x720p HD Video (10 seconds to 90 seconds) with audio stored in Audio Video Interleave (AVI) files - the delay can also be set for the interval between each detection before the camera will record the next video. Video with ‘Photo First’ option (aka Hybrid mode) - a photo is also taken at the start of each video. Time Lapse - JPG photos taken at regular, user-set intervals; no detection/trigger required (intervals can be set from 1 minute to 24 hours). Detection Test - there’s also a ‘Detection Test’ mode for set-up confirmation.
I’m a fan of the multi-shot sequence mode but also find the hybrid mode very useful. Both features are essential in an ‘all-round’ trail camera.
Detection and range
This camera’s single motion detector covers five detection zones with a detection angle of 40 degrees. Its distance detection sensor can be adjusted from 1.5m to 25m, this span covered at night by a flash range of up to 30m. The trigger speed is in milliseconds (0.07sec) which is the fastest I’ve tested to date.
Night photography is enhanced by automatic infrared level adjustment. High-end cameras like the Spypoint Solar can automatically adjust the strength/intensity of the flash the night-time subjects are exposed to depending on how close the animal is to your camera. This reduces the likelihood of whiteing out details in the photo. For best results make sure there’s something in the background, such as trees or bushes that can reflect light emitted by the camera’s LEDs. I find the best quality night pictures are achieved when the setting is in Blur Reduction mode.
In a belts and braces approach, not only does the Spypoint Solar trail camera offer the solar power and internal storage battery combination, you can also install either 6xAA batteries or a lithium cell for back-up. This combination provides an almost unlimited battery life in the field and there’s also an option to connect an external 12-volt power source.
Following the maker’s instructions before field use, I charged the internal battery for 48 hours using the USB cable then set the camera up using just the solar panel and internal storage battery as the power system. For testing purposes I’ve run these cameras for months at a time and found they operate perfectly on the solar source alone. According to the directions, if the power level in the internal battery becomes too low to operate the camera, the camera will shut down and preserve all settings. Once the internal battery’s power level has been charged sufficiently via the solar panel, the camera will turn back on automatically and resume operating with prior settings unchanged.
After convincing myself the solar power source was everything I hoped it would be, I added a set of 6xAA batteries just to be sure. My intent is to run this camera on the hybrid ‘video + photo first’ setting. When 6xAA batteries are installed (or the proprietary lithium battery pack utilised), the camera pulls power from the solar panel until the charge in the internal battery is insufficient. At that point it switches to the power from the AA batteries. Once the internal storage battery has been topped up the camera reverts to solar power.
The Spypoint Solar doesn’t need 100 per cent panel coverage or direct sunlight to charge the internal storage battery. In early testing I even ran one on the shady side of a reasonably large tree. Upon checking after a month I found the solar panel had kept the internal storage battery fully topped up, showing that any light present will generate some charge. As previously mentioned, the internal viewer (screen data) shows the percentage the camera is charging, which can be useful when positioning it. You can immediately see the solar charging benefits of angling the camera and its fixed solar panel one way or another, but as the sun moves the charging data is only relevant to that specific orientation of sunlight and camera.
The camera’s external measurements are 10cm wide x 17cm high x 10cm deep. It comes with both a strap and/or quick detachable bracket option for mounting on a tree. You can use either the bracket and strap or go without the bracket by passing the strap through the alternative loops on the back of the camera.
With the bracket strapped to the tree you can clip the camera in/out of the bracket, making it easy to check or change the AA batteries without affecting the set-up and orientation of the mounting bracket. The battery cover is flush with the rear of the camera and unscrews to expose the AA batteries. A female thread for a tripod mount is recessed into the base of the camera.
Card choice and image storage
Access to the Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) memory card slot is via the camera’s front ‘door’. The Spypoint Solar accepts SDHC cards up to 32GB and will also work with smaller capacity SD cards. However, this is one of the best available cameras for those situations where, in order to minimise human scent and its effect on spooking game, you may not want to check your trail camera too regularly, hence logic says use the biggest card possible. And if using video I suggest also opting for not just Class 10 cards but those with super-fast read/write speeds (SanDisk offers a SDHC 32 GB card with 300x write speed). Spypoint also has 48MP software for image processing by computer.
Day-time pictures are superb with detection sensitivity and trigger response exceptional for both photo and video. This unique trail camera saves on batteries and therefore addresses many of their limitations. The Spypoint Solar is available at proschoice.com.au