Cuddeback Ambush Camera Review

2012 Cuddeback Ambush/February 8, 2012

 

ImagesFactory SpecsCG ClassificationCG TestingTriggerSamples

2012_REVIEWMEDIA_CUDDEBACK_AMBUSH_0013

SpecificationValue
ClassOptics
CategoryScouting Cameras
Model Year2012
ManufacturerCuddeback
ModelAmbush
Flash TypeIR Red Flash
Battery Type8 x AA
MSRP
Test PerformedResult
Flash Range25 feet
Trigger Time without flash0.39s
Trigger Time with flash0.56s
Video Trigger Time
Day Range
Battery Life
Filter Clunk
Invisible FlashNo
Motion BlurAverage
Sensing Test25 feet at 50 deg F
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2012 Cuddeback Ambush 28 count red flash 5 MP digital camera review

We choose to do this camera early in the year so we did not get clogged up during the busy time of our review period. Out of the box we found that they still have chosen to use that junky little plastic bracket to mount this camera to the tree (a little different than last year). This was one of the negative issues for the Attack camera last year and was reported by many. This camera is smaller and lighter so it might have a slight chance of a little longer life with this bracket. In appearance this camera is a sawed off version of the attack camera and the same color. This year they have chosen to access the SD card and USB port through a top hinged door that opens toward the front of the camera and is spring loaded. I thought this was pretty cool after having to deal with the setup that the Attack used last year. I just watched a U tube of Melissa Bachman wearing a Cuddeback shirt give a little presentation and her explanation of the new door was because of what probably was said about the Attack and no longer having to disassemble your setup to service the camera when it was time to pull the card. This new door allows for you to just pop the door open (plastic latch) and access the card. Darn it, those great plans just went sour because I just viewed the instruction book and on page two it says that you have to view the LCD screen (the worm) prior to removing the SD card to ensure that the camera is not busy. She was right that though you can access the card but until you open the back door and view the LCD and turn off the camera, you cannot remove it. Should you choose to remove the card while the camera is on and writing to the card you could very easily corrupt the SD card. You also cannot move the switch to off either until this is checked. So that new door plan didn’t work and we still have to pull the cam off the setup and open yet another door and check the LCD prior to hitting A or B or turning the camera to the off position after checking the LCD. This takes us back to the same issue everyone had with the Attack camera. That plastic bracket may not take the continuous use also. I line up all my study materials and one of the items in that stack is the 2012 brochure that we gathered at the ATA show. There is a chart that is called a “buyers guide” and in bold black letters on the bottom they say that this camera is recommended for trails and rub lines and the Attack is good for feeders and food plots. That sure seems different than what was said in last years advertizing about the Attack.

This is a good looking camera and is about seven inches tall and about 3 ¼ inches wide. It sticks out off the tree when mounted on the little plastic bracket 3 inches. The front of the camera has the array top front and the PIR and camera lens just below staggered a little bit. The camera lens and PIR sensor lens is miss labeled in the book. The camera lens is the one with the clear lens over it, Cudde management. The bottom of the camera has the battery box and it is held by the bottom screw on the back. Above that on the back is another screw which is what slides into the plastic bracket for tree mounting. The top screw on the back also is to secure the access door for the programming switch and LCD screen. Except for the flaw with the SD card compartment this programming method seems to be well thought out. The need to tear down the setup to service the camera is still a bit flawed. We feel that the on/off switch should be under the top door with a camera working indicator there also and then the top door becomes functional.

This is a very basic camera that is still/video only but it has now the great minimum delay time of 5 seconds which after the fact lessons they learned last year they attempted a firmware down load to change that. They also still have chosen that “centered subject” technology again this year which was one of the down sides of previously produced cameras. If you could imagine a piece of hallway runner carpet that is about three feet wide and twenty five feet long that is laid down in a straight line out in front of this camera then you could see the approximate area that this camera would cover when deployed. Even with the great trigger speeds that cudde has had, we still say that if the camera cannot see the animal it will not take the picture. This has been put to the test many times by us with much lesser cameras (cheaper) with the wide angle motion sensors and slower trigger speeds and those cameras have always taken a far greater amount of pictures and missed very few. They say the flash is good out to 25 feet and they recommend that the camera be placed 10 to 15 feet (pg 5) from the target area, so now imagine that same piece of carpet now just 15 feet long. Aim is highly critical in order to get the target animals into that tiny area. These figures and recommendations are taken from their own publications and are not from our actual tests which will come later as we move through the review.

With cam in hand and a new SD card installed (just slips in with no click) I headed for my oak tree to take a couple of pictures while the camera is bright and shiny for the review. The strap loop on one side of the plastic bracket broke the first time out.

Next when I raised the top lid, the SD compartment filled with bark debris because of the close proximity to the tree and the door opening toward the front. (good thing I had the card installed). This reminded me of my experience with the lunch box Moultrie cameras (top door) where I actually had bark debris fall down the SD card slot and this caused me to spend hours with a dental pick and light magnifier getting that out of the slot. That same camera had problems with when early morning dew was on the leaves above the camera and the action of just servicing the camera we had drops of water fall on the top of the now unprotected area of the camera and that moisture went down the SD card slot and USB port. This did not happen with us this time getting ready for taking pictures because things were dry when the loop broke but it would be a strong potential of a repeat of what we had happen during that Moultrie review. Now let’s just think, what if you service the camera on the tree and you have small bark pieces fall and it lands on just the area where the spring loaded top door seal hits? If you fail to notice this and release the door then the top of the camera would not seal and then a good rain would definitely be a problem. This makes a good case for some kind of roof to be mandatory on any camera having this type of system to protect the camera. It is also a very strong case for the camera to be removed from the tree away from the bark and wet leaves when ever the top compartment is open and accessed. Next I headed for the shop to make a new mounting bracket and to blow out the remaining debris so I could finally begin taking the pictures without all the trash being shown in them. I was wondering just why so much bark debris fell into the camera and I now have figured this out. The top spring loaded lid sticks out past the back edge of the camera about a half an inch. If you choose to use that little plastic bracket to mount the camera, the normal practice is to mount that bracket on the tree then slide the camera down into a thin plastic slot. If you are paying attention to this alignment and pushing the camera down the top lid portion that sticks out past the back hits the tree and raises it up as you move the camera down into the slot and drags bark pieces off the tree and onto the now partly open compartment. This setup is pretty sorry and not very well thought out.

I opened up everything to air out the camera and I noticed that there is a seal on the bottom battery compartment door and the battery terminal wires are about 1/8th inch inside this door from the bottom edge. The two right and left sides of this seal are loose and roll in as the battery box is inserted and there is an opening through into this compartment that water could enter. This also got me to thinking about a similar camera that also had a bottom compartment that was somewhat protected; this was the old Scoutguard 550. Its battery compartment was much further up inside the bottom compartment but some found that when used in a closed security box like the “cuddesafe”, water from a driving rain would get deep enough that there was a chance of damage. This camera would need only a fraction of the water inside the security box as the Scoutguard to have those exposed wires from the battery in the pool. This means that it would probably be a good idea to make sure that you modify any security enclosure like the cuddesafe so that adequate drainage was provided to the bottom of the security box for drainage to prevent this or just use the camera without the security box. The 550 worked well when just put on the tree without being in an enclosed environment or when box drainage was provided and the moisture would just drain straight down.

The main programming compartment is not sealed but it appears that this may be ok unless there is a way inside the camera behind the rotating knob. The rain can definitely leak into this area all the way to the switch and LCD. There is a opening at the top of this compartment and the inside of the door has a big plastic X on it. If the rain came in the top this X would channel the water to be dropped directly on top of the rotating knob. (sure hope there is a seal behind that knob).

I built myself an angle mounting bracket using one of Custom1enterprises mini mounting brackets and two small plates and 4 screws. (see the custom one review on this product) A new eight pack of cells that went through a test were out and ready to put in the battery holder.

Here is yet another small issue but can be worked around if you are careful. This is probably a very low class battery holder because the springs fold over with just a bit of pressure so much care is needed when filling this holder up to ensure that they remain straight and flat against the negative portion of each cell. This holder is obviously from some other application because the terminals are like you see on a standard 9 volt battery. These must be lined up with two spring terminals up inside the camera. Once the holder is slid up in place the gasket now has to be inspected left and right to ensure that it is somewhat in place and then the door can be closed and held firmly in place while the screw is tightened.

Note: When changing the batteries, the settings are lost.

I had not yet turned the switch to on and taken a look at the programming because all of the above items had surfaced. Just to be fair I took a new Attack and set it up a long side and just took a quick fit and feel look at things and it is my opinion that the QA on this camera is yet another step down hill just being compared to the Attack which had its share of issues.

There is no need to comment on the documentation or specifications. The booklet is very small and general in information and there are no published specifications inside either. With the camera off the tree and top back door opened I rotated the switch to the time/date positions and using the two A and B buttons I advanced up through the selections until I found the proper numbers. There are no down options available. This setup was simple and went well. I then headed for the dark room and tried a few sample pictures in the IR mode. The 5 second delay seemed to be stretched out to about 8 seconds which is not to awfully bad. The IR pictures had good black white shades and very little grey wash. They were somewhat fuzzy. Next to the outside with the sun behind the camera I gathered my first test samples and I will say there is very good color but the picture quality is not sharp and clear at all. The dead pixel test showed no significant indication of this. First sensing for a 46 degree day showed out to about 26 feet unofficial. I have noticed now that I have been into the top spring loaded compartment a bunch of times that the latch disengages without any effort which is not good.

After market security for this camera is needed for those who have areas that are not particularly safe. Make sure that what ever box you get has some degree of drainage through the bottom to prevent moisture from reaching the battery holder.

I have may have discovered yet another problem. This is in the video mode and it is because of the picture first and then the video. What I did was to set up for 5 second delay plus video and when I would cross in front of the camera at a normal walk at about ten feet it would catch me in the picture most every time but then the video was empty. This means that it takes time for it to trigger and shutter the picture then write time to the card prior to starting the video capture. I will try to move out a little further and see what happens but the documentation states to try to stay inside 15 feet for the best results. That does not leave much room when video is selected. I moved out and performed the same test and crossed (normal walk) several times at 12, 15, 20, and 25 feet and the picture had me each time but the video missed me every time. I was not very impressed by the grainy poor quality video even when it was blank with no movement being recorded. With out putting this camera on our analyzer to get exact times I would judge from observing the firing of the array that the video is started at some time shortly after the two second mark. Attempts out past that distance did not work because of the sensing. These last few tests were done after dark and I did not see any IR burn on the close passes but being I was moving at a normal walk across in front of the camera there was motion blur in the pictures that were being taken ahead of the empty videos.

I went ahead and worked into the evening and did angle walks at a diagonal to the camera. On the approaching angle and crossing around the 15 foot range the camera still missed me in the video. Doing the same angle but in the other direction away from the camera the video would have a blip of me in the first couple of frames at the very edge. This sure makes the test against the “centered subject technology” as being absolutely ineffective. Only getting the picture with nothing in the video this means that the next picture without video would be in about 20 plus seconds. This pretty well shows that this camera really only has limited function in the picture mode.

You can see that we have chosen not to speak of warranty or customer service in relationship to this camera. We do however strongly suggest that if you choose to purchase your own Ambush camera that you choose a vendor that has a very good return policy. We prefer vendors like Cabelas which supply a free return label in the box should you have a problem with the purchased product. We also suggest that you make up your mind and do your own in house and yard tests prior to field deployment and should you have a problem with the function, just use the supplied label and return it to that vendor for an exchange, replacement, or refund. Warranty and customer service has been fully discussed in the past.

I forgot to mention about the first bracket I made after the original plastic mount broke. It is made from an 80 cent electrical switch plate cover. I drilled the appropriate sized holes and connected them by using a hack saw blade and drilled holes for the bungee to catch. I then made a couple of bends to hit the tree and allow room behind the plate for the camera mounting screws to clear the bark when it is slid down on the bracket and it works great. Be sure to select a plate that has the proper thickness so it will fit inside the slots in the mounting screw heads.

Because of the type of sensing on this camera, it is not advised to raise the camera up and have it look down on an area. This is a normal practice with other wide angle sensor type cameras to keep the red IR flash above the target animal’s eyes. By raising this camera above your head and aiming it down would severely limit the already limited sensing area to just a spot on the ground. With this camera it would be better to lower it down to about three feet off the ground and have it looking out even with the contour of the target area. This way you can probably get the full use of that 25 foot sensing range.

Progress and Activity
02-09-2012 update
02-10-2012 update
02-11-2012 update
02-15-2012 update
02-16-2012 update
02-17-2012 update
02-18-2012 update
02-27-2012 update
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