2011 PixController Raptor Camera Review - March 12, 2011

2011 PixController Raptor

Software Configuration Screens

2011 PixController Raptor red flash 36 count wireless VGA cellular based/GPS Camera Review

After the past two years of dealing mainly with the mini cameras, we now have in our position a giant. Roughly 9X8X5 inches, which is like one of the old BuckeyeCam cameras in size. This camera is built in a very heavy duty Pelican boxes and the inside boards are all industrial in appearance. The case color is a flat OD green in color. It will take a serious strap or cable to hang this camera because it comes in at about 8 pounds. There is two case hardened eye bolts (one each side) for security cables to run through and for mounting. The front displays the PIR sensor lens and camera lens surrounded by the array in the Leaf River 3BU style. There is a removable articulating stub antenna about 8 inches long mounted about 4 inches from the PIR lens. There is an external charging (panel) port on the left side of the camera. The unit came with its associated solar panel (optional) and pre charged ready to go to the woods so we will not have to go through the full set up as normal.

This camera not only will send the pictures to your phone and computer (not internet site based) by cellular systems it will also include GPS data and through supplied software display an aerial of the property where it is deployed. We are assuming that it would also do the same if it were stolen and turned on in another location. This data is transmitted at a rate of every 30 seconds per photo at the 640X480 resolution. Motion sensing is adjustable out to 80 feet. The mail protocol is SMTP/POP3 & FTP. Each photo contains time/date and battery level. Time lapse mode is possible. Trigger times are advertized as being about 1 second and delay times can be programmed. Once the supplied disk is viewed on the computer the settings all come in view and can be gone through and set. All this data will be gone over once Anthony has begun his phase of the evaluation.

I tried to get things arranged in one of my light boxes and it was just a pure pain in the butt doing this. I am just not use to cameras this large and my setup is a little small so I apologize for the pictures not being up to par and I had to fold the antenna over so the full length could be viewed in relation to the camera.

03-26-2011 Update: Today we performed the trigger testing using the default settings. The Trigger time setting in the software was left at the .8 setting. A setting of 1.0 or less is stated to produce photos with a pinkish tint to them. The trigger times with this setting turned out to be around 1.82 seconds for with and without flash. The sensing at the default sensing setting (adjusted by tuning a POT which we did not want to change) was up to 45 feet at 60 degrees. The day range test revealed a pinkish tint in a wide angle (fish-eye) lens style. Keep in mind that we are in the maximum resolution which is 640x480.

03-27-2011 update: With everything set up on the bench and a week of going over all the material in my spare time, just to see just how parallel this camera was to previously tested systems. We twisted this and adjusted that and pushed this button and in a few minutes we started to receive E mails. I know that sounds a little far fetched but it is basically true. The set up procedure for us was just to pull the supplied thumb drive, plug it into the computer, run the Raptor configuration software, add our email addresses to the list and click the save button and very shortly the pictures started to arrive. We must also say that this is a test unit that had already been deployed in the field so there was no mystery. We also had good contact with the PIX people that were Johnny on the spot to answer questions. The transmitted pictures are 640X480 in size and my first thought as the first picture arrived is that it seemed as though the camera lens expands the view and has no zoom at all. The distances as seen in the picture appear to be greater than they actually are. The most I can say is that it does work and was easy to do. It took less than an hour to set up and understand. Trigger times came in the 1.8 second range and is adjustable according to the instructions. You will see that about everything about this camera is adjustable and can be managed through programming. The day range pictures came out clear and the night range pictures were also very readable. Because of the lack of any type of zoom the subjects in the picture look very small. The 8 plate zoom was readable but because of the resolution was somewhat fuzzy. We will do more today providing this big storm that is on top of us right now moves on off the coast.

03-29-2011 update: When we moved from the day/flash range to an area to capture some sample pictures. We ran into difficulties and the camera quit sending pictures. We checked with the company and they felt that we had not given the camera enough down time (rest) prior to booting it back up. They say we need at least two minutes from shut down to the time that the camera is brought back up. This seemed to work and yesterday we did get some day pictures but over night we did not receive any more. This camera also is equipped with a built in GPS which reports its location along with the picture. We have yet been able to get this feature to work. The camera GPS does not seem to want to acquire the necessary three satellites that is needed to report the location. It is felt that being that our area is heavy canopy (winter without leaves) is the reason for this function not to work. We will later move to an open area to see if we can at least get a real report as to the GPS location.

The next area that was a little troubling was the way that the report (GPS data plus picture) is received. There is a lengthy report ahead of each picture. Being this camera is capable of taking a picture a minute and transmitting it, it is possible to receive a large sequence of pictures in a short period of time. This requires that you scroll past each data section in order to view the picture. The time and other data is the only thing that changes per picture so most users will only want to just scroll picture to picture without having to re read each data section. This all works very well but it is only my opinion and desire to get to as many pictures one after the other as I can to see that prize that this camera has captured.

03-30-2011 update: Another day of good service and this product has shown that it does work very well. We have still failed to make the GPS function work and it has been determined that there is an issue with the internal GPS antenna because the diagnostics seem to reflect that to be the area. Being this camera has the wide angle lens and the subjects seem to be smaller that they actually are, we decided to move the corn piles closer to the camera. This proved to be a big plus in the day pictures but we experienced almost total IR burn in the night pictures. We will say that a fair distance for the target animal during night captures should be in the range of about 15 feet and then there is no IR burn. We got a pretty good load of pictures last night and about half or better were whiteout on the closer subjects due to the IR burn. The distant subjects came clear and sharp.

04-05-2011 update: This camera has continued to give us good service but I have a major peeve that seems to keep on being repeated. The PIR does a great job sensing and the camera just keeps on taking pictures and the unit sends them to our computers. Here is the hang up that has happened since day one. That is the water on the lens issue that collects and stays there. We installed a small metal hood but we are still having the same problem. We had a bit of a storm last night and we also had a good group of visitors to the area which the only proof of that was a leg here or an ear there in the pictures with the rest being covered up by water drops hanging on to the lens. I know this is a very small problem but never the less it is aggravating. Once we have a little sun the water will dry and on our next visit to the camera we can clean the remaining residue from the lens. I would like to see a small stick on hood designed for this camera to help prevent this. The only other camera that we recently tested that had the same problem was the Plot Watcher which seemed to have a water magnet for a main camera lens. I made a small clear hood just above the lens and that worked great and prevented the reoccurrence of the water on the lens problem. I will look and see if I can find a solution for this that is an easy fix.

04-06-2011 update: As I tried to get through some more of my extra strength home brew coffee, I dreamed up a little hood for this camera. I took a little piece of clear plastic 1/8 inch and cut it in a half circle to fit just above the array opening and just below the PIR opening. I then took a part of a clear plastic cup and cut it to resemble a hood and mixed up some clear epoxy and stuck them together (see picture). I then just took some double sided tape and fixed it to the back to stick it to the front of the camera. We will see how well this works. We are hoping for no ill effects due to reflections. Next we have been monitoring the cell transitions and have determined that when the signal is low (low bar count) it takes longer to send each picture than when the signal strength is high. This correlates to variable battery life depending on which location the user may choose. Even though the battery life is great as far as we can determine so far, this may be a consideration when choosing the cameras deployment site. Now if you choose to use the solar panel, none of this will have an impact on operation.

04-07-2011 update: This is just a short note to add more information in relation to the hood we built. We did not take into account the wide angle lens of this camera and a bit of the new roof could be seen in the pictures which meant we had to trim about inch off the end to prevent this but the length still seems to work well. It is hard to simulate a rain storm with a cup of water but it gave us an idea that we are on the right track.

04-11-2011 update: I went ahead and designed another hood for this camera because we were getting a bit of reflection from the corrugations in the plastic. This hood is a bit of plastic down spout and a piece of clear plastic to hold the double stick tape. I used a little epoxy to put it together and we will see how this one works. See the picture of how this one looks on the camera. I will report as to how this one works.

05-04-2011 update: We put this system through its operation and during this first outing we got just over 400 pictures on the first charge. We felt that this may have been an error so we performed a new charge and double checked the battery to ensure that it was actually charged to over 12 volts. We had picked a great location down in our country testing area to redeploy and again run the battery test. Once arrived at this new location we searched for a location that had adequate cell service for the ATT system but we were not able to use that area due to no signal service. We moved to the high ground away from the swamp and even then had to get up the tree to acquire enough signal to register on the camera. This area has not near the activity as our first chosen location but it is in the wild and several tests with Anthony there and me on the computer here we determined that we had communications by way of his version cell phone and that the system was going to work. Since that time we finally have received about a dozen pictures and many had the deer looking directly at the camera for some reason, but it proved that we did have an operating system. We have found out through communications with Pix that when the signal strength is marginal the camera has to work harder and this may cause the battery life to be somewhat shorter.

There are other things that we need to say about this system. Every morning the system will send you a status report which contains the GPS location and all pertinent camera data. The system will shut itself down once battery level gets to a certain threshold. The current Raptor systems also have a WiFi option available. There is also a external PIR wireless trigger available for this system. There are various mounting methods incorporated into the case depending on deployment needs. This system can also be programmed to do time lapse operations over this cell system. All communications can be received either on your cell phone or E mail receivers. Alternatively the system can be configured to deliver the photos via ftp to a server. A programmable time schedule of operation can also be accomplished through programming. The prepaid cell SIM card no contract (pay-as-you-go) can be used for this operation.

We will leave the system up and running on this current charge until it shuts down and make that report and we will bring this review to a close.

05-24-2011 update: This camera ran 18 days on a full charge and took 229 pictures. The GPS began to work so the original issue was more than likely related to the heavy forest canopy. Please remember this last deployment was in an area where we had a marginal signal (1/5 = poor) so the camera had to work much harder (longer) to transmit the pictures. This test was also performed without the solar panel which would have given a much longer time. We had the panel but we needed to know what the battery life would be without the optional panel. Over all, the camera worked well and gave us a good string of pictures. Later on this fall we will be testing the next generation with some new upgrades. One thing to note is that our first battery life test resulted in twice the number of photos transmitted as our signal was double the strength (3/5). So, a full signal could mean as many as 1000 pictures transmitted without solar panel. As of now we are closing this review.

Trigger Tests
(without flash)

(with flash)

Day Range 8 plate in dappled sunlight

Flash Range


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