Selecting any sort of camera often involves a lot of agonising over choices, features and cost and it's no different when choosing a game or surveillance camera. Here's a quick guide to help you narrow things down a bit. If you want a detailed guide, there's a free paper called "Which camera trap type and how many do I need?” A review of camera features and study designs for a range of wildlife research applications".
Please contact me to discuss what camera model suits your needs and your budget.
Some camera models are available with a white flash. These are useful for getting colour images at night if the animal identification is reliant on colour. Examples include the Reconyx HP2W and WP9 models and the ScoutGuard SG562-D and SG565F models.
Some important issues to consider if you are planning to use a white flash camera.
- White flash will disturb the wildlife more than infrared, possibly leading to avoidance of the area while the camera is in place. Some animal ethics committees won't allow the use of white flash unless it is necessary.
- White flash cameras will be highly visible to any other people in the area at night. If camera security is an issue, don't use a white flash camera.
Detection and Illumination Range
Most cameras have a Passive Infrared Detector (PIR) range of 15 to 25 m with a corresponding flash range of 10 to 20 m. Most models have some degree of adjustment on the PIR sensitivity to prevent false triggering by moving vegetation.
The Loreda infrared cameras have an adjustable flash setting (high or low) and the Reconyx cameras auto adjust flash levels to suit the range of the subject. This prevents photos being washed out when the subject is close.
Alternatively, if you are taking images at close range, you can cover some of the flash LEDs with electrical tape to reduce illumination levels to suit.
Most camera traps use AA batteries. Reconyx cameras require 12 x AA and most other cameras require 8 x AA. Note that Reconyx do not recommend the use of alkaline batteries in their cameras, but lithium or NiMH rechargeable batteries are acceptable.
The cost of good rechargeable batteries is comparable to lithium batteries ($4-$4.50 each) with charge capacity being 2000 mAh for rechargeables and 3000 mAh for good quality lithium.
Rechargeable batteries are the best choice as overall cost after a few uses is less than for lithium batteries. Also, you have the advantage of knowing that you can deploy your camera with fully charged batteries every time. Lithium batteries however, are the best option if you are setting up in extreme conditions (snow or ice) or deploying for very long periods (more than 3-6 months).
The brand of rechargeable battery that you purchase can have a significant effect on camera performance and time working in the field. Eneloops have been renowned for their quality over the years, but changes in ownership of the brand name vs the factory making the batteries has made the situation a bit murky. In summary:
- Eneloops used to be made by Sanyo in a factory in Japan
- Panasonic bought the brand name Eneloops, but not the intellectual know-how or the factory, which was sold to Fujitsu
- Panasonic continue to get Eneloops manufactured in Japan as well as China (using different technology). Eneloops now sold in Australia come from the Chinese factory.
Thanks to self-confessed battery geek Filter Joe, you can get some well researched advice on which batteries are the best choice. In summary, make sure it says Made In Japan on the battery. The rechargeables I sell are made by Fujitsu, in Japan of course.
Viewing images in the field
Most cameras have an internal viewing screen allowing you to check images in the field. Some Reconyx models don't have one, so if you want to check images while setting up or after retrieval, you'll need to take some sort of viewer with you that can handle SD cards (small digital cameras work well).
Image capture options
There is a wide range of capture options available for you when programming your camera. the availability and specifications for these can be very model specific, so please contact us to check the details if you need to use any of the following options:
- Video. This is a common option, but some camera models don't have it.
- Time lapse photos or video. Images are captured at set intervals, whether motion is detected or not. Some cameras can have a time lapse program and still be triggered by motion as well.
- Scheduling operation. Cameras can be programmed to only operate at certain times of the day or night.
Most cameras will allow you to enter a code or PIN to prevent unauthorised access to the programming.
Reconyx cameras have a hole in the camera body which allows the use of a cable lock up to 10mm diameter. Other cameras require a metal security box to discourage removal of the camera or tampering with it during deployment.
Note that the wide availability of battery powered angle grinders has significantly reduced the effectiveness of these anti-theft accessories. Theft and destruction has become such a problem that it now stimulates specific research into the problem, with some suggestions for alternative solutions.