HCO Panda GSM Camera Review

HCO Panda GSM/December 13, 2012

 

ImagesFactory SpecsSoftware UtilityCG ClassificationCG TestingTriggerSamples GSMSamples Full Size

Specifications:

  • 6MP high quality photo
  • Sends photos to phone or email via GSM wireless network, 2G GSM/GPRS network compatible
  • Built in 1.5” screen for programing and photo playback
  • High-output Invisible IR LEDs
  • Fast trigger time of 1.1s
  • Two Phase Time lapse: 5s+ interval
  • Overwrite function

2013_REVIEWMEDIA_HCO_PANDA GSM_0003

SpecificationValue
ClassOptics
CategoryScouting Cameras
Model Year2013
ManufacturerHCO
ModelPanda GSM
Flash TypeIR Black Flash
Battery Type8 x AA
MSRP359.95
Test PerformedResult
Flash Range30 - 40 feet
Trigger Time without flash1.31s
Trigger Time with flash1.09s
Video Trigger Time1.67s
Day RangeGood clarity with natural color
Battery Life1984 photos of which 819 transmitted over 30 days
Filter ClunkNone
Invisible FlashYes
Sensing Test50 ft at 61 degrees F
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As we have done with others we are going to refer readers to the standard HCO Panda camera review for all the particulars and this review will only deal with the GSM function. Unless otherwise noted trigger results and flash results are identical on this model to the standard camera.

This company has some very good experience in Cell based systems and systems that are in the hands of the users are working well. We expect this camera will also fall into that category.

The over all appearance and assembly of this camera displays a high degree of attention to detail. The gasket seal is very tight and there are three latches to ensure that there is pressure all the way around the door. The small size and great dark color will make it fit in the woods very well, except maybe on a very light grey barked tree. The box included the strap and USB cable along with a small antenna for the Cell function. The balance of this review will be the screen shots and setup procedures needed to get this little camera working on the air and start sending pictures back to our computer.

Battery life will be done by one of our friends once we finish with all the necessary review work. I do not think anyone will be disappointed with this camera.

Progress and Activity
12-17-2012 update
12-17-2012 update: Using the user guide supplied with the camera, I was easily able to follow the documented instructions to get the GSM features configured.  After you get the camera loaded with batteries and an sd card, you use the camera menu to “download” the set up program.  This download menu choice will place a copy of a Windows application used to create a set up BIN file that the camera uses to load its settings.  Turn off the camera, pull the sd card and place it in the sd card reader.  The program is zipped so the next step is to unzip it.  I right clicked and told Windows to extract here.  There will then be a copy of the setup program on your sd card.  You can remove the ZIP file to reclaim that space.  You double click the set up program and use the guide to change the settings.  Essentially you choose what country you live in and whether you use AT&T or T-Mobile, along with phone numbers and email addresses.  You then click the OK  button (actually should be called “Save”).  Click CANCEL to exit with out save..  By default it saves the BIN file onto the SD card which is what you want.  If you save the file somewhere other than the sd card, you are not accomplishing anything.  Upon inspection you will see a BIN file now on the sd card.  When you insert the sd card into the camera, power the camera on into SETUP.  Watch the screen and you will see a message “Update Success”.  This lets you know that the GSM settings loaded properly.  Complete the rest of the menus on the camera to complete the set up as is standard practice.  It is probably best to start with a delay time of around 1 minute.  This gives the camera time to send that picture before it will capture another one.  In some areas with poorer signal, 90 seconds may be better or in optimal cases 30 seconds might work as well.  The camera is now on the hill and we are getting photos sent to our email address.
12--09-2012 update
12-09-2012 update: The programming procedure on this unit is a bit different than some we have seen. There is a three area prompt across the top of the screen which you can scroll across and move down into the selected area. The first attempt at this made me stop and d a little thinking (remember we do not have the book yet) as to the method of programming. A couple tries back and forth and it became apparent as to how to precede then the programming became easy. The view screen is very small and things are a little close together so attention to detail is needed to insure that you make the correct selection.  One question I have is how does a Mac OS user configure the camera since the setup is Windows??
12--19-2013 update
12-19-2012 update: After running a couple of days with this camera sending to a single email I decided to add a second one and could not get it to send.  I emailed HCO support and received a quick answer and that was to remove any embedded spaces.  I had a space after the semi-colon separator.  so make a note when you type them in NO SPACES allowed or you will not get any pics sent. You also type a semi-colon to separate each email address.  The photos we are receiving via email are 640×480 in size
01--20-2013 update
01-20-2013 update: Note if using the MMS function to send photos there appears to be a fixed size of 640×480, whereas if you use the GPRS data function then the set up screen allows for a target file size and will use a larger resolution if the file size will fit.  This give the owner control over resolution and bandwidth consumed.
01--12-2013 update
01-22-2013 update: This is a battery life update on this camera. I got 819 images transmitted out of 1123 before the camera stopped sending pics which is roughly 73%. The send percentage while the batteries were above 50% was 98% but as the battery strength dropped so did the sent pic percentage.  I suspect this was due to the low night temps which sapped some juice from the alkalines which was the regained as the day temps rose. I did not receive a low battery message.  The final pic count was 1984 pics of which 819 were transmitted. 861 pictures were taken by the camera after the batteries were too low to transmit. The bulk of the testing was done during temperatures between 11 and 67 degrees. The battery life test was approximately 5 weeks.
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