2010 PlotWatcher Time Lapse Camera Review - May 27, 2010 Back to Main Review Page

2010 PlotWatcher Time Lapse Camera by Day6Outdoors

Using a short piece of 2X4 and two one inch holes the supplied top section of the stake makes a good tree mount. if you need tilt the top hole can be drilled to 7/8th inch and use the adjustable section of stake.

GameFinder Software

A clear plastic hood taped on the "nose" will help keep water off the lens while not blocking any sunlight:

2010 PlotWatcher Time Lapse Camera Review

A couple months ago I started to hear the noise of a new camera coming to market. This was a sneak release onto a number of forums. I did a couple of PM’s and the result was an eventual contact. I had explained our mission on the net and that if they were interested we would do a review on their product. We had many folks that we have contact with that are not in the review business tell us that they had already began to test this product. We had also at that same time done a lot of research plus we had a hoard of mail asking us to also look at the Garden camera by Brinno which in one day I had my hands on one. Once that review hit the net, we were notified that the test unit from day6outdoors was finally shipped. Now we are in a thither because we wanted to run both reviews kind of parallel but we had several cameras slip in between the two like units including another time lapse camera by another manufacture. 

The “PlotWatcher” is a time lapse stand alone camera that runs off 4 AA cells and has chosen the thumb drive as the storage device for the AVI’s  that are collected. The documentation that came with the unit did very little to help with this review because there is no specification page like found in all the camera instruction booklets we normally deal with. The folks at day 6 asked me to contact them by phone to get any questions asked for this review. That would not be as if I were a regular consumer and had only the book to work with and I was in my truck setting at the gate of my hunting property needing answers. We try our best to figure out with what comes out of the box. Of course we can get it to operate then measure the file size and play with it and figure it out that way. This unit requires that you must have a computer to properly set it up and insert the time date information plus that is also the only method to view what ever data that is collected. There is no TV out like on the standard trail camera. We did not mention this about the garden camera because it is designed for back yard use and not field where we chose to take it and play knowing its capabilities. 

My choice of batteries was four pre tested Ray O Vac AA cells and one of my Brinno thumb drives to start with. I installed the software and the setup was very easy to do and I could not see where most users would have difficulty with the installation. I copied the mode and time/date to the thumb drive and followed the instructions and inserted it into the camera. One of the noticeable differences between the garden cam and the plot watcher was the garden cam came with batteries and a thumb drive and the plot watcher did not. Now it is ready for operation. I followed the turn on and turn off procedure according to the booklet and there was a bit of confusion as to what is on and what is off. The light sequence is the key because the audible beep is so low that old ears would have a hard time hearing it. I could very well see where someone might think it was on and leave it in the field only to return and find that he had actually turned the camera off. Probably the best way would to just wait the interval (start up) and see if the green light turns on when it takes a picture and then you will know for sure it is on. 

The outward appearance of this camera is very pleasing with a nice fall camo look. The big button is gray instead of orange which helps it hide. There is a couple of little bungee cords that come with it to hang it on a tree which is not very secure and the first tree rat that happens along would probably screw up the aim. The supplied stake works well but lacks altitude if placed in the ground. The stakes and bungee combination on the tree is maybe a better way of mounting with the bungee cords wrapped around the tree and stakes and the angle head used to achieve aim. There is a much larger lens on this camera that is the big different than the one seen on the Garden camera. The garden camera lens is adjustable from Macro to infinity but this lens is fixed. The black plastic around the lens is semi matt so not to reflect much light. The 1/4X20 tri pod insert on the bottom may also be of great use for many of the after market items we are hearing about to aid in mounting and security. There is absolutely no security on this camera. Our drop tests and leak tests all came out fine, but care must be taken to insure that the latch on the battery door is fully engaged. The first drop test dislodged the battery cover and batteries because I failed to get it to snap closed. Besides the custom method of setting the operating parameters there is a wheel between the batteries to select six non custom settings. Which either gives you an operating interval with no time out to an operating interval with a mid day time out to conserve battery life during non peak periods. This old hunter learned a long time ago that the non peak hours is when I have had my greatest success at much larger and older bucks. The wheel selection starts at day break and will take pictures for four hours then go to rest if selected either 4 or 8 hours depending on where you have the wheel set. It looks like they have taken the very acceptable Garden cam and made it a little more hunter friendly. We will get this on the hill in a few days and see how it works and log some of the differences in function between this and other TLV cams we have in the system. 

I have got my feet wet with a couple of other time lapse cameras (dedicated) plus we have ran tests using some of those trail cameras that also can be programmed to do this task. The results were all very positive but because we seen no interest generated we decided to not test that capability on recently released cameras. The hype generated on the forums spiked a degree of interest in ways to make time lapse fit more into the hunting vocabulary. This product along with its little brother has chosen to use the flash (thumb) drives as storage. This will add about forty dollars the cost (two drives) and require that you have an available USB port on your computer to view the pictures and do the setup. Most enthusiasts who use trail cameras have a supply of SD cards which has pretty well become the standard. 

The Game Finder software (included) is a big plus for this device. It was easy to install and during my initial tests was a big plus over the Brinno Garden cams version. It is a toss up though with the Wingscapes because of the entire extra features available there. The stop/reverse and zoom is really handy to use. We will get much further into this once we get this cam on the hill. So far it looks like it will do a pretty good job, except we found initially that when zoomed (using the included software) even on close targets the pictures were somewhat grainy. I went ahead and purchased more 8 gig thumb drives (about $20 each) so we could go ahead an swap out the drives instead of having to bring the whole camera back and check the results. Carrying lap tops to the field along with the mass amount of other equipment is a pain and it is much easier to just swap cards and be done with it. That way the only other thing we have with us is for battery support. Well as soon as a hole on the hill opens up we will start the field tests.

06-01-2010 update:  We managed to set up and do an initial trial to measure advertised function. First off their software is much handier to use than the other cams tested. The zoom feature is good but a distant spec becomes even less when zoomed. Horn count is limited to distances under a hundred feet. As far as entrance and exit to a distant given area it will tell you that information, but only that information and not gender. The firmware monitoring of light conditions appears to be an area where there is some more work to do. We could see as much as two hours difference on some days when the camera would start and shut down. The camera is weather resistant with the acceptance of water on the lens. Rainy or drizzle conditions wipes out intelligible video content. This cam is most definitely a candidate for a roof to keep the moisture off the lens. Not having a standard day/night sensor is a plus so the roof should not effect operation.  

Software is easy to use but the motion would detect sunlight moving and the threshold had to be increased to avoid this. The zoom is a great feature but is limited because of graininess. A custom area of motion detection (rectangle) can eliminate blowing tree tops stopping the video unnaturally as "motion". One day’s video is stored per file, and stored in files ending in .TLV which can be changed to .avi and windows media player played them just fine. You can stop the video and step frame to any image then export that image for archiving or Emailing. You can save small portions of video in original quality or save as a windows media video in a compressed format for Emailing and so on.  

The indicator lights give a better indication of the on/off status that the garden cam. There must be a programmed write time to the drive that is not during the delay period. There was very good activity in front of the camera up until 1 PM, at which time we swapped the drive. The last picture on that drive was at 10:30 telling us that those pictures taken during the 2.5 hours from 10:30 to 1 were lost. There are several upgrades that Anthony picked out that he would like to see happen but this will be handled when he does the write up on the software being he is our resident programmer and is really into the audio and video areas. 

So far we will say that we feel the camera works as advertised with the exception of the zoom feature in the software works but the value is more toward much closer targets and not that 60 to 70 yard animal. We like most everything so far because of its function, but we bumped into some areas where things left us wanting. The extra dollars for this camera over the other two we just tested show up in a somewhat better picture quality and some fun to use software for your presentation. We have a lot more to look at and this is just day one in the process.

Those who have nice open woods and fields/plots where the trees are not too thick will probably get more value out of this kind of camera. The animals moving through the trees were very hard to see unless they were hitting little patches of sun. Only those animals that managed to get much closer were picked up and noticed. The start and stop times were very good for maybe the light needed for photography but was an hour inside both dawn and dusk for the prime movement times so those animals would not be recorded. The slightest intrusive activity to the animal’s domain will in most cases alter travel routes and travel times more toward nocturnal activity. This style of camera would be a good tool until the animals get wise or have been somewhat disturbed then you will see the same thing that we see with trail cameras, those are 90% nocturnal (buck/doe fawn) pictures and 10% (doe/fawn) day pictures. The comfort zone moves toward darkness as stress to an area is increased. Off season time lapse pictures will probably help to curb that itch from the addiction that you may have developed by years of trail camera abuse. All of us will probably find a use for this tool but it will probably be directed more towards what it finds during the day time and not towards it being a scouting tool early to mid season. This camera could very easily watch a hunt camp or boat dock for visitors as long as you set up relatively close. There is no flash or PIR sensor so everything on the camera could be covered up to hide it except the lens and it needs a little roof. If you choose to use it for security, be sure to put a little black electrical tape over the three indicators or they may give the cameras location away. 

The area we call “the hill” is one of our testing areas and we keep underbrush cleaned out so we have some areas where we can look through the woods to a hundred yards. The trees are not thick (see video) but even under these conditions, movement at a hundred and fifty feet would be difficult to determine what it was until it was somewhat closer. I studied one video a step at a time and believe me the animal got real close before I was sure what it was. This dappled sunlit environment is common here in the southeast but many areas have much more underbrush. Our food plots have grown up from disuse.

06-05-2010 update:  We still have this camera on the hill waiting for its batteries to run down. We will check today and when they do we will record the time and the amount of days it recorded at the setting we have chosen. Next it will get moved to our other area and put on an big area to watch.

06-08-2010 update:  Now that we have had a degree of time on this camera and the Brinno camera (PWC), we have a few things to talk about. We have not analyzed the exact battery life because we think there is either a fault with the firm ware or there is a bug in the camera. It is suppose to take a picture and analyze the light in the picture to say is there enough light to keep on working or not (It does not have a light sensor). Most of the time, the morning start times have been around the same time but the stop time may vary as much as 6 to 8 hours on one or two days during the life of a set of batteries. Anyway we did not experience this on the PWC Brinno during the testing and it started and stopped very well. This light monitoring through software seems to be not nearly as effective as the light sensors on the standard trail camera. Another troubling thing is after it does shut down at night the indicator will continue to flash all night which might shorten battery life somewhat plus be a dead location giveaway to anyone in the area after dark. 

Let’s talk about its function a little. The picture quality of this camera is better than what we experienced with the other two that are now in the system. Even at that we feel that if its goal in life is to locate travel routes/times, Exit/entrance points, and general activity it does a good job of this during the day light hours. To use this to analyze a particular animal as to horn count or age would be weak unless that animal was very close (<40ft). At the distant end of a food plot entrance, the animals would be just dark specs that are moving but this information would give you points of travel. Hopefully we will produce a video of that type of setup very soon because the next set up will be exactly that.

06-15-2010 update:  Made a special trip to check on this camera and the fellow that was supposed to install it on his new food plot has a situation. It seems that on the way to the field he passed the new ATV store and they had all their wares displayed out front. Well being the sportsman that he is he was paying a lot of attention to a certain ATV that was displayed high on a perch. What he wasn’t looking for was the car that had stopped in front of him. The truth is we had a slight delay but the cam did make it to the field and is in the process getting pictures. We will probably have the results in 5 or 6 days provided I can keep the blinders on him when he takes that route again. Sorry for the delay.

06-22-2010 update:  My friend did not state whether or not he got presented with a pink slip for his misfortune while checking out the perched ATV. He did though manage to get the camera deployed on a nice open food plot. The set up was looking down a long fence line with a horse pasture to the right and a big open plot to the left. For the time spent we saw very little activity. There were some hawks that perched on the fence posts and now and then one of the horses would stretch over the wire to grab a bite of the food from the forbidden zone. However we did have one crusty old doe that romped around a little and showed us her entrance and exit routes. We will get a little flick put together and show her playing in the plot. We thought we had selected the full day on the camera but for some reason it reverted to the morning and evening program. This was not a problem for us gathering footage except the camera worked great during the morning and when it shifted to evening the pictures became extremely fuzzy instantly. That setting just did not seem to work for us and we are going to re program to insure it stays going all day to avoid this issue. We will show examples of this change from morning to evening and the loss of picture clarity. This very hot near 100 days really limit the amount of deer activity during the day time. Other than bird activity there was just not very much daytime activity with the rabbits, coon, fox, coyote, or cats. The tree rats even kept to the shade and did not want to venture out in the high heat. We may try a little later and use a combination of day camera and evening trail camera operations and see just what is there.

06-22-2010 #2 update:  I failed to mention that the little clear plastic rain hood worked great and kept the rain from collection on the lens. We have had some very strong afternoon storms and other than the supplied stake looking like it was made out of dirt there was no ill effects from the rain once this simple hood was installed.

06-25-2010 update:  We are getting ready to do another setup on a big open field where we have some fair traffic that moves between two heavy wooded areas. This time we will not select the dead during the day option due to the wake up being quite fuzzy. This should be an interesting setup and is the home of one very large critter that takes on a moose look during the velvet period. We are hoping to capture him making his way between the old water hole and the bedding area. The other two TL cameras will probably be keeping this cam company in this same area.   

07-03-2010 update:  The best laid plans get slammed by mother nature. Limbs down and the stake knocked over so the result is a lot of pictures of the sky and dead batteries. Maybe next week.

07-27-2010 update:  Another couple of weeks and have had a steady flow of field reports and most really love this camera and the software. What is not liked is the 4 day battery life unless you turn it down to just a few pictures. The most we have heard is “this camera does what it is supposed to do but does not match the advertized battery life”. This is our findings also and if they were to engineer a method of hooking up an external battery then it would be much better. Day only during the off season does give the users an idea of movement. Once a little pressure is felt the habits change and that gathered data would be of little value except for the first few days of the season. We are going to close this review at this time and wait for a period later in the year near the season to do a re visit.

10-24-2010 update:  This unit has been pulled out of the closet along with several other time lapse cameras, three of which were mated up against this camera at the beginning. The outdoor forums were busy with the shill process throughout the past three months pushing and promoting this product. This was a turn off to many but because of the amount of issues reported from the field everything probably balanced itself out. There was a software upgrade and we performed this which is supposed to improve the four day battery life to a little longer. We will see if there is any change during this go around. It is back out deployed as of this morning and in a couple weeks we will have another update.

11-05-2010 Update:  After applying the firmware update and deploying in the field, we returned after 3 weeks to get the camera.  Inspection of the thumb drive showed that the camera operated 4 hours per day from 10-24-2010 through 11-04-2010.  This is a full 12 days of operation and 48 hours of filming coverage  at 10s intervals.  This is vast improvement on battery life.  Picture quality appears to also have been improved.  We are now closing this review.


Original Quality 50 Frame Sample
Note: This file is 8MB (fairly large)
Midmorning Dappled Sunlight Sample

The videos below are 100 frame exported videos using the Windows Media format feature in the software.  I have left them in the exported format so you can see exactly what they will look like using the software

Horses on Fence #1
Horses on Fence #2
Deer at 100 yards






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