PlotWatcher Pro Camera Review

2011 Day 6 PlotWatcher Pro Camera Review - June 08, 2011

2011 PlotWatcher Pro

With a fairly rocky start last year this company caused a big swing towards the use of time lapse in the hunting scene. Last year our unit would only give us about 4 to 5 days battery life and then we had a case where one of the batteries got very hot and caused some of the battery compartment to begin to melt. Being this situation was so instantaneous we were snatching and grabbing batteries to stop the situation so we could not determine if we had possibly installed a battery in wrong or not. Any way a modification was in order so we could install the batteries and thankfully it did not burn out the unit. That was all last year and a lot of work and changes were in order to make improvements so maybe the product will finally find a greater degree of favor with the buying public. The time lapse competition is very high this year. Believe me the 10 times battery life claim is truly a welcome change. We hope that claim will hold up.

The new features are items like an add-on optional zoom lens, temperature and moon phase on the pictures, SD card instead of thumb drive, security cable ready, configurable time of day for start and stops, view screen, external battery port, 8 batteries instead of 4, Conventional split latchable case instead of the rear snap in cover, and 1280X1024 HD video.

In general appearance this camera has the same look as last year except for the hinge and latch plus the cable loops on the back. They also include some basic software called Game Finder and it is a step above some other basic softwares and last year it was considered pretty good. We will evaluate and see if there have been changes made there. Coming out of the box it appeared to be a little bigger than last years version and that is probably because of the hinge assembly. Gone are the ground stakes and in place there is a supplied strap and there is also a cable slot that will take a Python cable. The tripod X20 is located on the bottom. After I opened it up I could see scratches in the plastic about inch ling on the side of each and every switch hole in the camera face plate. It is as if they had to use some kind of tool to poke out something from of each hole prior to assembly. There is no serial number that I could find so users will probably have to make their own identifying mark in case some one decides to borrow your property without permission. There is a nice full thick gasket to keep the water out and leak tests did not allow water in but that beak of a lens still holds drops like a magnet so a hood on this camera is going to be need as was last year. Drop tests dislodged the batteries somewhat but everything survived.

Programming was easy and if you choose any custom settings make sure the switch for that function is in the custom position for that to be selected. The new pre tested batteries gave me a reading of 99% the first time the unit was on. I messed around with the programming for about 45 minutes trying different things and the battery condition dropped to 92% for that little bit of use. We understand that most of these on screen indicators are ballpark indicators but it still caught my attention. A big disappointment was that my super duper Custom one security box for my last years cam is too small for this years camera because of the hinge and padlock hole.

I probably will not use this camera for a while because we will be doing all the scouting cameras first and then pay attention to all the time lapse cameras at the same time. We will just stub this out because we have very little lab work to do due to not having to perform trigger times and we will only do a day range picture the rest will be sample pictures and we will see how well that goes. Should we find a hole in our schedule we may just go ahead and stick this camera out somewhere and get a few pictures.

06-09-2011 update: Programming by switches only starts of on start and stop times. The first is where start and stop times is regulated by the light sensor (dusk/dawn) and the other is timed setting and this is where you have to go into the programming and set those times. You can also choose always on which is 24 hrs. They also have the option of midday on or just by moving a switch you can select 10 AM to 2 PM. The last for mid day is the custom setting and that is also where you must go into the programming and select those hours you whish for the camera to not take pictures during the mid day period. The last switch is the interval where there are two switch settings of 5 and 10 seconds. The interval can also be programmed under the custom setting. In custom interval setting you can select 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 20, 30 seconds and 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 30, 60 minutes. All of these settings should pretty well match anyones needs. We were extremely satisfied with Moultries approach with programming where they just select the morning times and afternoon times in hours of operations. If your needs are more critical as far as hours and seconds are concerned this camera should be able to be adjusted to those needs. During the 24 hour operations if selected the camera will only record one file. Should you choose the mid day off schedule then it will produce two files that day. There is also a door switch that stops and creates new files each time the door is opened. Memory cards (SD) are limited to 32 gigs and I could find no where in the instructions where there are any class limitations for cards.

External power is center positive and both the Stealth 12v box and Moultrie panel will work and have compatible plugs. There may be others but we have not checked that out. The standard alkaline battery approach with 8 new cells is advertized to give 120 days of 8 hour days using the 10 second interval. If you choose the external approach be sure you check to see that the plug fits tight into the external receptacle because it is located on the side of the camera and would leak if moisture was present.

What is really nice so far is that the shill activity has not been pushed on the forums like last year. We hope that activity does not happen as it got out of hand and caused some hard feelings and maybe sales last year.

Being that there has been so much to do about warranty on camera products because of a few. This company has a one year warranty but it stipulates that that decision is strictly up to them whether or not it is honored once they check the problem. You must call them on a toll number because they do not have a standard 800 number. Proof of purchase and a RMA is needed for that return. This information is not in the user manual or on the supplied warranty card. I had to search out their web site to find it. After that last warranty go around with another company this could be a stopper for some who are in the market for a new camera. This data should be in the package with the item being sold.

06-14-2011 update: We received a note from the company and they stated that in order to make a shipping deadline the stickers for the serial numbers were not received prior to having to ship to the vendors. This only affects 48 of the original items shipped. The stickers have now arrived and all future units will have the stickers reflecting the serial number of that item.

06-16-2011 update: I had written a long piece on the bundled software but it appears to be the same as last years version so I went ahead and deleted it so not to complicate the review. We already have our more advanced SA software to handle the videos and it works very well for us.

We set up a new area to evaluate time lapse cameras and this camera got to be the first up at the plate to see how well it works for us. Please view the sample video below for your personal evaluation. We have no lab work to do with this camera because there is no sensing/flash or trigger to do. This review is closed.

06-28-2011 update: Well after our field tests we just set up to complete the battery life testing and to watch our whole testing area with a class 4 16 gig card. Thinking we would have about a month or better time we slipped in this afternoon and pulled the card and found the card empty and the batteries dead. This means we are going to have to invest in yet another set of cells and again run a battery life test. We are not sure that this camera may also have a card rejection issue also. We definitely did not need a long drawn out evaluation with a box of cards to figure out which ones will be accepted. So we can complete the test.

07-10-2011 update: We have had a number of reports from the field that the issue with no pictures and batteries dead in about a day seems to be happening a lot. The issue seems to be something to do with card rejection on different brand names and class size. Once we figure out what will work we will report. Presently we have san disk 16gig class 2 and so far is working in our battery life test. Our Toshiba 16GB Class 4 card would not work.

07-30-2011 update: This little hummer is still clicking away at 78% battery life so it looks like they whipped the short battery life issue. We have seen a good degree of good comments from the field also. The shill activity has not happened so far this year.

08-06-2011 update: We have another week under the belt and we are down to 72% on the battery scale and this unit is still clicking away. They have done a very good job on the battery life upgrade.

08-18-2011 update: I believe we are going to just go ahead and formally close this review and say that the battery life of this camera is very close to its advertised amount. We have a large number of units lined up and just running battery life and it has a good amount of needed cards involved with this testing and this being the case we are going to close out some of the units that are approaching the final days of their battery life tests.

Sample Time Lapse video segment

(click to play in original size/quality - 1280x720)

Range Photo


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