6. Camera Woes

I bought a Spypoint Force 20 for the specific purpose of recording hedgehogs at night. I have had it set up for 2 nights and find the results unacceptable for the following reasons. The camera settings used were:

      • Night: Boost
      • Mode: Video
      • Delay: Instant
      • Quality: HD
      • Length: 60″
      • Detect: High

NIGHT 1 The centre of focus is the entrance to a food station about 18 feet from the camera which is mounted 3 feet off the ground and connected to 12v DC. The camera was switched on at about 21:00hrs by which time it is more-or-less dark here. Nothing was recorded till I replenished the food supply around 03:00 [caught on camera] i.e. all the food that had been there was gone but nothing captured on camera. About 1 hour later a hedgehog was recorded entering the station where it remained till the end of the 60″ clip. It was not recorded leaving. After about another hour another hedgehog was captured in an almost identical sequence and not recoded leaving. No other events were captured; no cats were recorded in spite of there being at least 3 cats that patrol regularly every night.

NIGHT 2 Camera etc all as before. About 22:30 a hedgehog was recorded but only walking away from food station, not walking towards it or entering. 01:00 replenishing recorded; all the food that had been there was gone. 01:15 a cat, centre field, was recorded walking away from food station. [They are unable to enter.] 01:30 another cat also walking away, centre field. Neither cat was shown approaching the food station. 05:00 a hedgehog was briefly caught moving away from the food station but not shown approaching or entering. And that was the sum total for the second night.

On a more general note I find the Spypoint optics unsatisfactory. Video is unclear even at infinity and poor compared to cheaper cameras I have had. Also the focal length of the lens is too long for my purposes, a wider angle being better suited, something admittedly I might have discovered before buying although the information provided on the Spypoint website is highly misleading. For example they claim the images are 20mp but these are interpolated pixels i.e. inflated artificially by software to produce the headline figure and in no way achieved optically. The only advantage of a longer focal length is that theoretically more detail is captured at the centre of the field of view [always assuming the camera captures anything at all!] but conversely less peripheral action is captured. As peripheral action tends to be the bulk of what happens when an animal is on the move, a narrow angle lens will inevitably misses most of the action. The screenshots below show the first frames from 2 sequences from two separate cameras set up in exactly the same location. The lower image is the Spypoint, whose effective field of view is barely 45ยบ.

Cheap camera – make unknown!

In the first image a hedgehog can be seen in the process of climbing the steps at the right of the image. This sequence would have been entirely missed by the Spypoint. Note also the position of the hedgehog in the second i.e. Spypoint image. Again, this is the first frame of the sequence yet where had the hedgehog come from? It had almost certainly emerged from the food station in the centre of the image but you’d never know from the Spypoint which has the hedgehog miraculously materializing centre-frame out of thin air. According to Spypoint the ‘trigger speed’ for this camera is 0.7″ There is no starting point in the above image from which the hedgehog can have sped to the position in which it is shown in 0.7″ This claim would be risible were it no so preposterous.

The image resolution of the Spypoint Force 20 is poor compared to the much cheaper cameras I have used. The latter typically produce images 1920 x 1080 px, in the jargon Full HD, whereas the Spypoint’s are only 1280 x 720 px or HD. The difference is noticeable as can be seen in the 2 images above, where the first 1920 x 1080 image is much sharper and more detailed than the Spypoint’s.

I also had to buy another card reader as the one supplied by Spypoint was so poor or flimsy that the pins collapsed on the first use. It is also a minor irritation that no direct connection is possible between the camera and a computer e.g. via USB. All the other cameras I have used can be connected thus. This camera has no audio which I knew about before buying it. As I am not interested in audio that did not bother me, but if you want audio then the lack of it might be another reason not to buy this camera.

Since posting the above I bought something called a Browning Recon Force Advantage which is no better than any of the other cameras I have tried and considerably worse in that it cost about three times as much. Not recommended!