2010 Recon Viper Camera Review - November 04, 2010

2010 Recon Viper

2010Recon Viper 2.1 MP red flash IR Camera Review

It seems that I have the need to give a bit of history when I start a review. Our history dealing with this company has been a pleasure. I am not going to say that we have never had a camera problem and had to have it fixed. What I will say is that the frequency of any kind of problems has been very few. This company makes a true made in America product that has a lot of heavy duty components that will stand up and work year after year. We still have original cameras that work every day and they are going on 6 years old. None of the products that they have put on the market in the past would break any speed records when it comes to trigger time, yet the times were always fast enough that most owners would never complain but slow compared to some other cameras that were produced around the same time. A look at the circuit boards will tell you that they are basically industrial strength. They are thick and appear to be built to Mil specs.

Now we are in the year of 2010 and things are about to change. The migration of very small cameras has begun to move into the light. This is now the fourth year of the mini cam and we will probably see lots more hitting the market. Recon did not rush in to grab a piece of the fame, but chose to dit back and do the research to bring out their version of the hand full of lightning with the Viper. This probably could have been the first one out for 09 but they held back and kept on with their testing in order to perfect their product.

Coming in at about seven inches tall and five inches wide it will only stick out off the tree about one and a half inches. The face is covered with mossy oak camouflage so with its small size and color should hide very well on the tree. Back a few months when the entire trade show buzz was hitting the net telling about this camera and a few pictures, we came up with a nick name because of the way it looked. We called it the back pack cam. This was because of way the back of the camera that fits the tree looks like the frame of a professional back pack but in miniature.

All of the controls are on the outside of the camera, and accessible at a glance. The card and battery compartment (4 AA) are on the inside. This is a two piece camera. A back housing and mounting bracket is built like an oval with an open receptacle for the camera unit to slip into. This is held in place by a couple of spring clamps and is water tight. The back portion can be mounted and aimed and when ever the camera unit is removed it will slip back in place and still maintain the aim. Look and feel and finish of this camera is first class. It is very solid and built to last.

Because of this cameras appearance and size it created a pretty good amount of vibrations through out the industry. This is the age of getting there first with the most, and Recon got there and was among the first but didnt qualify as being with the most. What they did have was the most unique along with some state of the art specifications that we will check but in the past found that their cameras exceeded their advertised hype. There is a bit of confusion as far as some items on this camera like CF vs SD card use and I had to call to get the reason for this and it turned out to be just a typo and the correct card is the SD card (format fat 32). Good glass and high quality sensors should produce very good pictures.

Two different versions are available and they are the 4 (Green) and the 6 (Camo) both with a 2.1MP fixed resolution. Very fast trigger (1/2 second) and very small delay periods are the way this camera is designed. Multi burst picture sequences can be programmed like one second delay and a 15 picture burst. That setup (15 burst) is not recommended for feeder operations and one GIG cards. So far they have used up to a 32 GIG card with no issues. Date/time to the second plus lunar data is located on each file. Trigger times for day color pictures is in the half second time frame and a little less with flash. We will test this and not take their word for it but they have not told us a story yet that didnt prove to be fact. There is going to be a lot of folks sitting on the edge of their chair in front of their computer trying to figure out just how many of these cameras that they can order without getting caught by the little lady. The $199.95 price tag for the green version (4) and $229.95 for the camo version (6) cam is very much in line with where the bulk of the cameras are being priced this year. Function will weed out the choices and I feel that this is going to be one of the top choices this year. Having to wait to get into production a full two years has allowed one of the longest production test periods we know of. That most definitely should be enough time to iron out the bugs.

Here are a few of the specifications:

  • Less than second trigger time

  • 20K pictures per set of batteries (lithium)

  • Recessed (filtered) array

  • No video

  • 1 to 15 count burst

  • 2.1 mp (fixed)

  • Small modular mounting system

  • Variable strength aiming laser (slow build up for eye saftey)

  • No picture info strip (all data shown on picture file)

  • SD card (up to 32 gig) Scandisk or Delkin recommended

  • Security/Hunting setting which allows for write over in Security mode

This is a very fast and very small picture only camera. The delay can be set to a minimum of three seconds. The picture count per trigger can be set from one to fifteen pictures. Programming is very straight forward with a select (mode) and advance/up/down buttons. There are a couple of programming features that are hidden in the instructions which is a great feature and forces the user to read the instructions and not try to be smarter than the manufacturer. There seems to be that select group of individuals who just have an opposition to reading the instructions and get upset when things do not go well. Those problems can be easily answered by reading the instructions. This company has gone the route of putting their instructions on a disk and this requires that it be printed out for field operations. There is a quick start card also for basic data inside the shipping package.

This company does offer an optional metal security bracket (available in Jan 2011) for for use with the python cable. So far we have seen no aftermarket boxes offered by the usual vendors of that type of product. Their website has not been updated with the latest accessories but that should happen soon. From all the original specifications we have seen that this camera has had to be changed to a new set of specifications and that is due to the replacement hardware that prevented its release last year. My original unofficial tests have shown me that this camera will probably have a following as the popularity grows.

The last couple of years there has been another camera company (Predator) that has attempted to use the touch screen type of switch setup. They have experienced difficulties with their setup and it became almost not usable under sub freezing conditions. I put this camera through that test in sub freezing conditions over night and it still performed well this morning, so we feel that same problem should not be an issue with this camera. The switch setup is somewhat stiff even during very warm conditions and I could tell no difference when it was frozen. Leak and drop tests passed with no issues. Another thing that I noticed with this camera is that it did not have that horrendous plastic smell fresh out of the box. Programming is date/time/delay/burst/hunting-security/picture count/aim settings All performed with four switches which are mode/set, advance, up, and down which are all in one line under the LCD. Battery condition and picture count is also displayed. There is a very unique double flash behind two filters that each contains one large recessed IR emitter. The company says that it is recommended to do your setup within twenty feet for most situations and still have good flash coverage. My quick setup prior to the freezer test showed out to 25 feet with no problem.

11-06-2010 Update: After trying a sack full of different cards all formatted to fat 32 we then settled back down to a Sandisk card which kicked in and started functioning. Trigger times are very fast around the 1/3rd second time frame and sensing for this cool morning was about 50 feet. Day range pictures under canopy were very weak in color somewhat fuzzy but readable. Night range showed the flash out to 20+ feet. Bright sun pictures were mostly monochrome/amber in color.

11-07-2010 update: Sad news, The night pictures just did not come out very well at all. The flash range is good just past 20 feet. The picture quality is very lacking and we seem to maybe have either the wrong camera or the camera we have is not working correctly. The packaging indicated that this is a 6 MP camera yet the file size indicates that the pictures are in the 2 MP range. We tried to use the XtendIR I and B with this camera and the I (red flash) model did not help and the Black flash could not be seen at all by this camera. This leaves us to only use the camera as is and even with the limited day function we are not happy with the results so far.

I have some correspondence pending with the factory people and hope to have a few answers very soon. The long conversations about this product leading up to its final release led us to believe that we were going to see a very amazing camera that will stand on its own against the competition. This leads us to believe that maybe our test camera is defective in some way. This will be discussed and reported on as soon as we hear something. Until we hear back we are putting this review on hold.

11-09-2010 update: I had another very long informative conversation with the tech folks at Recon and they were able to clarify several things. First off I need the mention that the Viper 4.0 and Viper 6.0 that appears on the packaging refer to the part number and not the mega pixel rating. Someone in their system got into a bit of trouble because of that and the confusion that it caused. The true MP rating for this camera is 2.1 MP fixed. The next area is the IR cut on this camera is done electronically to a point and it has no movable filter. This means that foliage will not have that vibrant green but a green corn feeder will show up green because of its reflective properties. Day/night metering is done through a sample frame rather than a sensor. The night flash range is going to be limited to the advertized range of about 20 feet. Now, lets talk about the picture quality. It seems that they chose to use a product like liquid nails to stabilize the focus once it was mechanically set. The final assembly was done after this had set up. As of yesterday they discovered that once this product dried, it shrunk somewhat and in that process it took the focus adjustment with it. The first lot of cameras all will have this issue and they are aware of this and they want our camera back for a rework of the focus setting. Things will be on hold again for a while this gets ironed out. We still may get some better feelings about this camera once it gets re worked.

11-17-2010 update: A very quick trip off to the eye doctor at the factory and we received our camera back with a new prescription. They went in and re adjusted the focus and the results were about a 50% improvement in picture quality. Please view the before and after adjustment samples below to see the degree of improvement because of this minor adjustment. This is still somewhat lacking, but very acceptable for most scouting up close observations. There is no noise with this camera and the light factor is very controlled.

Before Lens/Focus Adjustment:

After Lens/Focus Adjustment:

11-23-2010 update: We have fielded this camera three times with no results for the first two outings. This camera seems to be very sensitive to its sd cards. Make sure that the card icon is there prior to deployment and I would probably do a little in house testing to get familiar with its traits. We did gather a bunch more pictures mostly at night but we did get several during the day in various lighting conditions.

06-21-2011 update: We had this camera deployed and the front indicator indicated it was functional. Today we shut it down and pulled the card and the card was empty. We have no idea as to the problem but after this amount of time waiting on battery life and finding this we are now forced to close this review.

Trigger Tests
(without flash .32 seconds)

(with flash .31 seconds)

Day Range/8 Plate

Flash Range


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