2011 StealthCam Archers Choice Camera Review - March 31, 2011

2011 StealthCam Archers Choice

2011 StealthCam STC-AC54IR Archers Choice 8 MP 38 count IR Camera Review

Built on the same platform as last years UNIT camera, this is a little different horse race. It has some additional features like time lapse and is one of the main reasons it made it onto our list this year to be reviewed. This small 6X4X3 inch sized camera is stuffed full of features. Unlike its predecessor we dont think this camera will give us the sound feature in the video mode. I will look a little further into this as I get a little deeper insight. We liked the Unit camera and we are sure we will find favor with this camera.

To start with here is the specifications:

High precision multi-layer glass lens with coating.

Built in 1.85 B&W LCD display.

External memory support: SD memory card up to 16GB.

Resolution Options: 8.0Mp, 5.0Mp, 3.0Mp.

Capturing Options: 1 - 9 image burst mode or video recording with audio.

Time Lapse Mode: Sets the frequency of pictures during a time period.

Time Out Feature: 0 secs - 59 mins

Image format: Standard JPEG

Auto white balance and auto expose.

Auto IR emitter light control.

Effective Range for Still picture (up to 50 ft).

Effective Range for Video clip (up to 50 ft).

Real time clock for date and time stamping.

4 digits LCD Image counter.

Low Battery LED indicator.

Green TEST LED indicator.

Focusing: 5 ft to infinity.

Effective viewing angle: 50 degrees

PIR detection angle: 48 degrees

Interface type: USB 1.1

Power: AA size alkaline or lithium Batteries x 8

External power: 12 volts battery pack

The instructions has a microphone listed and there is mention in the instructions about sound recording in video so lets just say that there is a video with sound feature on this camera. I could go through and explain a lot of things that are very apparent in the specification chart but I will just highlight some of the things that are great. First off it does time lapse but it is limited to a single window that can be adjusted all the way up to 24 hours with a frequency with a frequency rate that can be adjusted down to zero seconds but we know that cannot happen so a bottom time should be somewhere close to 10 seconds so that the camera can have time to take care of business like writing to the card prior to the next capture. The delay is also adjustable down to zero so that is also great but not doable as with the time lapse because of the write time. So we have normally used 6 seconds for our low point and that has worked well for us. There are three resolution settings that are program adjustable from three MP up to eight with a five as the center setting. If this camera can crank out some sub 2 second trigger times then we will be dealing with a real jewel. We normally have not worried about picture quality because most of the Stealth cameras that cost as low as the Wildviews have given us some pretty good pictures.

The programming is very straight forward but for some reason we have seen where some people have had problems until they get through it a couple of times. They use star indicators to indicate the resolution setting which is a little different and the LCD lower case may confuse some so keep the book handy the first time or to if you are having problems. The instructions are well written and easy to follow.

I went ahead and made me some of my good custom ground coffee and paged through the instructions with a pad to take notes as to what maybe was missing. The first thing was internal memory which is fine with me but some like it. Next thing that popped up was the lack of multiple time lapse windows like one in the morning and one in the after noon would have been nice but the fact that it is there is just great in my book. My third note was security which is non existing so an after market box would be suggested. The fact that the UNIT camera was out last year its box should fit just fine so there would be no wait locating one for this camera. The tri-pod insert is actually 20 in size so it will go on all the aftermarket mounting brackets so I scratched that of this list of things needed. Missing also is that satin black finish and instead it is wrapped in a hardwoods fall pattern catalogue pattern. The array and red and green indicators are quick to catch the eye though when hanging on the tree. There isnt much we can do about that except maybe have a more subdued background behind the emitters.

SD cards for this card cannot be the high speed type. Also up to 2 gig use FAT format and for 4 gig and above use FAT32 format. Do not use NTFS or exFAT because those formats are not supported. There is a switch inside labeled custom and posse which allows in custom for the user to set the programming his way but in the posse mode it is a pre set program that can not be changed which is PIR 5mp, 2 burst, min delay, 1X zoom. This means there is three modes of operation. These are standard PIR function and then the time lapse. That leaves just the posse quick set as the last option. I ran through the set up to time lapse operation and that was fairly easy once I could get the light just right on the buttons. What this means is the button function is scribed into the plastic and it is hard to see unless the light is exactly right. I might rub some colored paste into printing which can be found somewhere around the make up area of the wives makeup table, just dont get caught.

This camera did not come with any time lapse software so this could be a good reason to look at maybe those new guys on the block with their Scouting Assistant software to view those tons of pictures. Stealth customer service told me they are just pictures and just scroll through them. They were not aware that most companies offer software to handle the time lapse picture load which can mount into the thousands of pictures in a very short period of time. These pictures would be exactly the same view over and over again with no change unless an occasional animal would enter the view area. Then good software will find this extra movement and pick out those frames without having to view every frame for a difference.

This is great we have yet another multi function camera to the list this year and this one seems to be blessed with multiple functions that most would find desirable. It even has a functioning X 20 threaded insert for tri-pod or multi-positing mounts. No 5mm threads here. Right now it is setting outside watching an area for just one hour at 5 seconds interval so I can pull a test set of pictures for a quick look and see how it worked. The PIR function is very familiar so I need to play with the different stuff (fun) to get a better idea of how it works. All that and it even comes in camouflage. The price was $123.00 which is in the IR-5 Spypoint and Moultrie M-80 range. For that price I would say it is a pretty good bang for the buck provided it performs well in our field tests. The setting was set at every 5 seconds but it actually took between 11 and 12 seconds delay between pictures which we feel would be about minimum and all allowing for the write time to the card. The results were very good and the start and stop times were right to the second. We feel that most people would choose a delay time longer than that. The resolution setting was the middle 5 MP choice and the pictures were sharp and clear even for the old grey rainy day we are having today. Well it is off to its place in line to get the rest done.

04-03-2011 update: With the sun shinning on this bright afternoon we took advantage and ran to the day range and managed to get those samples. This camera did not disappoint us and it produced some good clear natural color day pictures. Then we remained in place and went ahead and captured the night IR pictures and we had very good light all the way back past 60 feet. The sensing proved to be very good at about 40 feet on this 76 degree evening. Most every task so far has been performed in a fashion by this camera to keep the smiles on our faces. Stealth certainly has a nice camera here with a $123 price.

04-06-2011 update: There is an over hanging fog on the time lapse function of many of the new cameras. As the new stuff comes in I make a special effort to thumb my way through that function. Last year we had a company who made a proprietary camera for that function which has limited battery life and used a little different memory than normal. There was the mid day work around which proved to be somewhat popular. We know that the morning game traffic and the evening game traffic will probably happen in different areas. This means that a camera operator must slip out mid day and re aim or move the camera to cover that other area or with yet another camera. These units sold in the two hundred dollar area and still had limited function because of the short battery life. All of this got me to thinking about this little camera and its price. It will do time lapse and only use a single window but can be tuned down to long hours of continuous operation. Well with the price tag it seems that it would be almost affordable enough to have two of them and they you could cover two areas in time lapse for about the same price. Then when that operation is done it can still be set up for PIR function where ever you would want. The other thing is it will take an external battery and has standard memory. This year is going to be fun and the time lapse enthusiasts will stay in trouble with their wives because of those clandestine purchases. I think some of those purchases will be one of these cameras. The more I play with this camera in that area the more I like it.

04-09-2011 update: Part of the process is to get the trigger times done early then move on to other things. We have had a bit of a mess while we get the pre release cameras finished up and those reports to the factories. A fast look on the table after being hooked into our system and this camera gave us around two seconds for both day and night triggers. The with flash tests seemed to be about a quarter of a second faster. This keeps this little camera still high up on my list of being a keeper so far.

04-10-2011 update: As soon as we got through all the lab work we headed for our local testing area and hung this critter on a tree. This morning we only had a few pictures but they showed both day and night picture quality is right up to par. Our aim was somewhat high for this first out but now we know what to do after today. Please view these few samples to see how this camera did last night.

04-12-2011 update: With the aim a little bit lower we managed to get another bunch of pictures. We for some reason seem to have a low picture count for the settings we are using. This leads us to believe that maybe we have a little bit of a weak sensing issue. With the delay set to 06 seconds we are not getting near the expected of pictures even though there is a presence in front of the camera for an extended period of time. Look at this next set of night pictures and note the time on the bottom of the pictures and not the amount of time between pictures. They are posted in the order they were taken. When we set up for the trigger times, our machine was set to trigger the camera every 10 seconds and it would record every trigger. This is done directly in front of the camera so we feel that it is something to do with the sensing range of this camera. During our sensing tests we did get 40 foot triggers but we did not do multiple repeat tests to measure whether or not those triggers would happen every time. This will be done sometime after we get through with the video with sound samples and before we move into the time lapse mode.

Note: This is a sequential set of photos with deer present and moving, and the camera is not taking photos every 6 seconds as programmed:

04-14-2011 update: Boy, did we vet video with sound a plenty. Our local testing area is not far from the interstate so there is a lot of road noise that comes sneaking through the woods. The video quality is very much up to par with some light clips during the transition times but they are still very readable. The sound on the clips is good and loud and clear. I cant wait to get this little bugger on my favorite tree down in the swamp at our other testing area. Down there the nights are filled with some sounds that resemble some of the stuff from the thriller movies all the kids like. We lined it up in time lapse now and have it watching an area for a while then we will be pulling it to move it down south.

04-15-2011 update: Well this camera's time lapse works really well but not exactly what most would want especially when some operator just switches over and leaves the resolution setting at 8 MP. That is what we did and it filled a two gig card in about an instant (1.5 hours). The day color pictures off this camera set at 8 MP are huge. So I am going to say that you had better count your lucky stars (their indicators for resolution) and it had better be no more than one showing which is still 3 MP and still large for time lapse operations. I spoke with customer service and told them they might want to think about toning that down some to an even lower resolution. What pictures we got were great but it was not even a days worth. We have it set on one star which is 3 MP which should do better and we will see how it does at that setting.

04-17-2011 update: We messed around and lost picture and video count but I do know that with all the testing including the 8MP time lapse tests we still got better than two weeks on the first set of cells. We are going to reinitiate just the battery life test and do it in 3 MP and 9 shot burst. For the price and deployed where the picture count isnt extreme I would think most would be happy with this camera.

04-23-2011 update: We are 1891 pictures into the Archers Choice camera and the batteries still have a full reading on the LCD. That amount of pictures could be a couple of months worth in some deployment areas. We will keep it out with its present setting and see just how long it will go. The three MP setting is still giving us good clear pictures.

04 30-2011 update: The count is up to 3950 and going strong and battery is still on full according to the LCD. The company has told me that they are working on a firmware update to maybe bring the resolution down to 1.3 MP when the time lapse is selected. If that happens this camera is going to be very hard to beat.

05-07-2011 update: Seems we got three weeks out of this set of batteries and the final count was 4017 pictures. That was pushing the camera hard in burst mode so on single capture on a normal situation you would get a lot more time out of this camera. We are still waiting for that new download to upgrade the time lapse and we will have this camera back out working in a very special place.

05-16-2011 update: We are going to close this review for now but keep one eye open for the new firmware update and we will comment on the results. The last thing will be to run this camera in our time lapse trials later on this year.

06-09-2011 update: We just heard that the new firmware download is still being worked on and they are trying to get it perfected. That is why it has not yet appeared on the site.

07-03-2011 update: Our camera took a little vacation back to the engineers and was used in the upgrade to the firmware. They have loaded this new fuel and they are waiting for us to get some testing done and they will release this as being a needed download for the time lapse function. The download is to insure battery life and lower the MP rating to 1.3 so that the file size does not clog up the SD card with those over sized files. We loved this little camera and are looking forward to the results.

07-08-2011 update: Well as much as we liked this camera during the review with all the performance it has failed in the time lapse area. We cannot recommend this camera for that mode. The factory got 11553 pictures using lithium batteries. Their setting was 10 seconds so for a 12 hour day that equates to less than three days of operation and at our local price for 8 cells a cost of $16. Once I received the camera back I ran the test on pre tested known good new alkaline batteries and got just over 8 hours of operation in time laps. I also had an occasion to view a published add in one of the national hunting magazines where this camera was being advertized as having a 1 second trigger time and this prompted me to again run this through that test and our original posted times are correct which are a little less for with flash and over two seconds for without flash. This camera was operating off the latest firmware. This review is again closed.

Trigger Tests
(without flash)

(with flash)

Flash Range
(camera only)

Day Range/8 Plate

Video Samples

Night Video Sample

Day Video Sample


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