2010 DLC Covert HR Review - April 20, 2010

2010 DLC Covert HR

Official statement from DLC concerning the new firmware:

To obtain the most current Covert II and HR update email:

We will reply with the necessary files for either the HR or II along with the instructions until we get them on a direct download from the website. Please state which camera is to be updated.

2010 DLC Covert HR 8 MP red flash 28 count digital camera review

This is a very early prerelease sample we received for evaluation. This is another Keep Time production camera using the exact same board (platform) that is internal to the Bushnell XLT. Being shy a few emitters from what this years Bushnell offers there is more than enough to do a good job as we found out with the 560 Scoutguard. This is about the same case size as the #2 Covert but there is a little difference as to the IR arrangement in the flash array. The tripod insert seems to be very solid and not at all like the previous setup that we found on last years camera. A full weather gasket was intact and stayed in place when we first opened the cam which was a problem on the first XLT cameras we tested. The latch pins seemed to be in place and did not drift out during use. Once opened up you can see a couple different things that Covert chose to do over the Bushnell. First is the reversed battery holder that is built into a door of its own and you open up to install the cells but when closed this holds the cells in place so they cannot be jarred loose. Inside there are the same switches as the Bushnell but they are arranged in a little different position. The SD card slot and external battery/USB ports are also in a different position. The front on view has kind of an old Scoutguard look to the array except this is the typical cam box as last year. Below that is the camera lens followed by the PIR sensor. The PIR sensor is of the round multi zone type which has in most cases proven to be better than the wrap around type previously chosen. The back of the camera is just the strap loops and no feed through for a python. The main door hinges are very small and delicate and not at all like the heavy duty full length found on the Bushnell. Seems that both cams have some strong points and some lesser points, it is good to have those differences. Below is the list of specifications which show some areas that are a big improvement over last year and with the new platform we hope to see the ability to upgrade firmware when and if it becomes available. So far this manufacturer has balked at releasing upgrades and we have had to stop the review on the Bushnell because we do not have the latest model with the new firmware. I ran outside and put this cam through a few tests that the Bushnell had failed at and this camera so far did not show any of those traits. I will get to the dead zone issue in the next couple of days but we do not expect that we will find any problems there because of what happened last year. The Bushnell with the wrap around sensor has a little area but not excessive. This cam with the improved lens should not have any problem there hopefully. Our sample is the same brown dull finish as seen last year but we have been told they plan to have the shipping versions in a new mossy oak camo color.

Technical Specifications

Image Sensor 5 Megapixel Color CMOS
Maximum Pixel Size 3264x2448 (8MP)
Lens F=3.1; FOV=50; Auto IR-Cut-Remove (at night)
IR-Flash Range 36-45 (12m-15m)
Display Screen Color Display: 32x42mm (2)
Memory Card SD or SDHC Card, Maximum capacity 16GB
Internal RAM 32MB
Picture Size 8MP=3264x2448;5MP=2560x1920;3MP=2048x1536
Video Size 720x480/30fps, 640x480/30fps, 320x240/30fps
PIR sensitivity PIR with 3 sensitivity levels: High/Normal/Low
Operation Day/Night
Response Time 1s
Triggering Interval 1 sec. - 60min. programmable
Shooting Numbers 1~3 programmable
Video Length 5-60sec. programmable
Power Supply 8xAA recommended, 4xAA as emergency power
Stand-by Current < 0.3mA (<7mAh/day)
Power Consumption 200mA (+530mA when IR-LED lighted)
User Interface LCD display
Interface TV out (NTSC/PAL);USB;SD card holder;6V DC external
Security Strap; 1/4-20 attachment
Operating Temperature -20 - 60C (Storage temp: -30 - 70C)
Operating Humidity 5% - 90%
Security authentication FCC/CE/RoHs/WEEE

Lets scope out a few of the specs listed above. First off the main camera sensor is 5 mp and it is interpolated up to 8 mp. The flash range is rated to 45 feet which it should reach easy. For those that want to park their cam for a couple months then the 16 GB SD card size will be a welcome feature. Three video settings with the 720X480 on top that is nice. The delay is rated down to one second but do not believe this because it still takes a little time to write to the card so we normally set our cameras at 6 seconds minimum to make sure we do not cause any conflict during the write time. One to three picture burst is also programmable. The video feature can be tuned to do 5 to 60 second videos. With the fast trigger (1.5 second predicted) and minimum delay a setting of 10 to 15 seconds is what we normally use to keep from having a lot of empty space in the video once what ever tripped the camera walks off. Using our experience with the Bushnell (same platform) we expect the 8 AA cells will give this camera very good battery life that will probably be measured in months rather than weeks. Security is at a minimum so a security box (already available after market) is a must for those who deploy in those areas that things disappear in.

Our preliminary evaluation has not shown any of the issues found with the prelease Bushnell XLT cameras which is good.

I down loaded the documentation and printed it out for field use but because of the simple operation and programming I really did not need it. The documentation reads just like last years so most will not have any problems comprehending its content. The programming and screen displays are exactly as the Bushnell right down to the color scheme. Just remember to hit OK after each selection. I did not mention this camera has a built in viewer 2 and does not have a remote as is required on the 560 Scoutguard. I will do the field of view tests next as soon as it gets dark so I can still see the lights in the walk test position. Then we will get it out for trigger times and flash range testing along with the sensing distance.

(The PIR Sensor appears to be
mounted at an angle)

04-23-2010 update: Trigger times came out at 1.4+ with flash and 1.25 seconds without flash. Sensing range was a little confusing because we had very little change in how the camera sensed through the three settings. The camera appeared to sense just as good on the low setting as the high setting. All three settings caught movement at 75 feet for a temperature of 70 degrees. So far we did not encounter any false triggers or run away. Flash range worked well out past the 50 foot marker. A zoom on the 8 plate showed a good degree of definition in the night IR flash pictures. Day colors are slightly washed but are fairly clear and sharp. So far we have not found much except for the alignment of the camera and PIR which is a hardware issue caused on the assembly line. With a correction in that area this little camera should be relative trouble free. Our tests with the Uway XtendIR-B for black flash conversion also look good. Tonight we will get this camera up on the hill to monitor some brown and furry critters in photo mode.

04-27-2010 update: So far we have been very happy with this camera. But on the way to the hill to grab our start of the sample pictures we noticed a glue failure on one of the lenses. A note to the distributor let us know that he was aware of this condition and he had seen it on other cams that he had received out of this same lot number. It seems that the choice of adhesive to attach the PIR lens to the case was of the wrong formula. It hooks up fine to the case but fails to grab onto the lens material. This is in the process of getting fixed on the shipping versions of this camera. Even though this camera has operated very well so far I spent a lot of time with our one remaining last years camera and this camera side by side for a little comparison. Last years camera was built very solid compared to this years camera. It appears they have downgraded the case to a much lighter thickness and much smaller hinges. The inside components seem to be also built with thinner components. Even with this years camera having a built in viewer, it weighs less than last years camera that had to use a remote for programming. We so far do not see this as a problem just an observation. Now that I have managed to dig out my super duty epoxy and corrected a potential leak where the lens had slipped in a little we will get this little jewel on the hill to again attempt to get started on getting the sample pictures. The trigger times came in at a respectable 1.25 ~ 1.4 seconds which is the same as the XLT camera. We are also going to mate this camera up with the Uway ExtendIR at some point to see just how well that combination works out. If it is even close to what we've seen with the XLT it will be a winner and give yet another reason to have one of these cameras in the field as part of your arsenal of cameras. Our thoughts are that it should do better than the XLT because so far we have not seen the issues here as we did on the XLT.

07-15-2010 update: The original cam took its long trip back along with a ton of notes and descriptions. Coming out of the same place as the BTC and them having the power curve it took a while to get things going and the new stuff here to go through the new break up camo process. The end result is very respectable. Just take a minute and think. The rush to market by the power brokers put a lot of cameras out in the hands of users that seemed to have a need for a tweak hear and a tweak there. All that process was fed (sometimes shipped) back to the factory to try to save this years crop of XLT cameras from extinction. Who was put on the back burner while all this was happening? You guessed it, and what was learned in that six plus month period had to be corrected and upgraded to a much higher standard. Well now the red headed step child finally gets their turn at delivery and all that good stuff has already been done and upgraded to their product so we feel that this will probably give the Covert HR version a big upper hand when it comes to quality. Thanks Bushnell for your help, time, and expense and all we had to do is to wait a little while but we think it will be worth it. These cams all have the upgrades and there is no need to shop firmware numbers to get the latest because they are all new.

We are going to proceed with doing the trigger times and day range with sensing then flash. After that get the video and picture samples. A full physical inspection found nothing outstanding. The latches were good and tight and seemed to pull the lid in tight. This was one of the weak areas on some of the XLT cameras we tested. The array lens is in firm and was not movable the glue in is solid. The formal testing will begin next.

08-05-2010 update: Being stuck in the pile has been hard to make it back to a space near the top. All of our preproduction findings and a few post production findings were consolidated into a note that made its way back to where all the big wheels turn at the factory so that this camera does not fall in the same gutter that Bushnell is hanging around in at the present. This little bird connection we have has let us know that there has been some finagling going on by the big boys who also have their cameras made at this same factory and that purposely pushed this company back and kept them from having a nice early release. This finagling came out to be a blessing because none of these cameras made it out in the hands of the public where the processes of getting a bad name can happen. Instead all that was caught and stopped so corrective action could be accomplished and now look who is going to get to market against all those messed up rush to market cameras that morphed into blur producing three second feeder cams with over blasted color, run away sensors and leaking cases. Now that I have done all this bragging lets hope that this new HR camera with its belly full of new firmware will perform up to the standards they have led us to believe it can. We are starting off with new trigger tests and then the flash range, day range/8plate, and on to gathering some samples. We wish them good luck; it has been one hell of a ride so far.

08-06-2010 update: We have not gotten the go ahead to publish yet but we can say that the flash range is 50 + feet and the 8 plate zoom is a bit grainy. Day color pictures on the day range showed no over saturation and more natural colors. Trigger times are hanging in there at about a second and a half. Sensing was out to 35 feet at 80 degrees and the video FPS came in at 13 FPS.

08-10-2010 update: Deployed in our hill test area where we have a pretty heavy canopy this camera seemed to do pretty well except for two areas. There was a slight problem with the transition time where the day color pictures became somewhat dark but clear and very light (not white out) IR pictures. The night pictures are good but a little grainy. Where there was good available light the pictures were sharp and clear and no over saturation. Overall performance in this tough canopy area was satisfactory and it performed much better than a lot of other cameras tested this year. It is a Bushnell butt kicker for sure.

08-11-2010 update: I had a couple comments on the butt kickin comment but I can take those pictures and view every one and if I need more information they can be very easily be batch corrected in about a second. This is also true for the BTC but, you must get past the run away, blur, and other issues that so far have not appeared to be associated with the HR. We gathered some videos and they came out looking acceptable and the day color was nice and bright unlike the dark stills. By far not the best we have seen but very useable in the scouting world.

08-17-2010 update: Just a short note on the recent happenings involving this camera. We have again received another upgrade in firmware and applied it as soon as it came in. This was to improve the picture quality again. It seemed to lighten up the pictures a little and give some more detail. The over all look is still a little dark but still very readable. Again I just ran a batch correction in about one second and compared the results. Of course there was a difference but I think the original pictures were better than most and good enough for most every application. If you are a purest then just hit the Im feeling lucky button on your Picasa and give your pictures a slight hit.

08-29-2010 update: We spent a lot of time with this camera and the great thing about this whole event was that the distributor remained on top of the situation and was ahead of all problems prior to them getting out into the hands of the users. We put it through all the necessary tests and have given the results. Battery life is still on going but the rest of this review has been brought to a close.

09-19-2010 update: We have put a lot of hours dealing with this camera and because of the load we will not be able to exactly evaluate the battery life. We know to date we have used this camera for three months and it is still alive. We are going to go ahead and close this review with the intention to pull it back out during the cold weather to evaluate a couple of items we have notes on at this time.

Final Production firmware tests - 08/05/2010
Trigger test without flash 1.45 seconds

Trigger Test with Flash 1.53 seconds

Flash Range (click photos for actual size)

PreProduction Tests Below

Flash Range (click photos for actual size)

Black Flash Range Test (using Uway XtendIR-B)

Day Range 8 Plate Test

Trigger Tests with and without flash

approx. 1.25

approx. 1.4

5MP Photo Samples - Production Firmware 08/2010

Video Samples using latest firmware


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