2010 PlotWatcher Time Lapse Camera Review - May 27, 2010

2010 PlotWatcher Time Lapse Camera by Day6Outdoors

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 PMs 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 AVIs 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.

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.

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.

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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