We wanted to photograph the local wildlife at night, so we bought ourselves a trail camera for Christmas. Four months later, here is my honest review of the Browning Dark Ops Apex Trail Camera.
Trail Camera Styling
There is something fundamental that you need to get your head around. The Browning Dark Ops has a camouflaged design. Now if you are basically a city person, owning anything camouflaged could fill you with existential dread. However remember why you bought the thing. The camo isn’t here as an aesthetic choice it is practical. Get over yourself.
The construction is solid. There is a reassuring weight to the Dark ops trail camera that I liked.
The weatherproofing is achieved with a silicone gasket and and strong clasp. Having inspected it closely I was happy that when properly shut, no water would enter my camera. After a couple of months of use it has been left outside overnight in some very heavy downpours without any ill effects.
The strap that comes with the camera is for attaching it to tree trunks and big branches. In my garden none of the trees has a trunk radius more than about 8 inches and the strap really doesn’t seem to work well for these smaller sizes. However you can clearly see how it would be a big help on a large tree. The only time I have actually used the strap was to attach the camera to the side of a terracotta plant pot. It worked very well.
Thankfully the camera also has a standard camera mount screw for attaching to tripods etc. I dug an old tripod out of the shed and found this to be an excellent way to set up my dark ops camera. This is how I have the Browning set up on most nights.
Batteries and power consumption
Actually very impressed with battery consumption. We used the camera every night for a month and a half on video mode before we fully drained the batteries. The trail camera takes a stack of six standard AA batteries and of course you can use rechargeables if you wish.
The instruction leaflet is clearly written and well designed. This made the process of setting up the camera for the first time as easy as anything. However, there is a sense you get from reading the manual that the manufacturers believe the only reason you would want to take pictures of animals is to later go back and shoot them dead with a big gun. It was a bit galling for me to be giving money to a firm with this attitude, but they are thousands of miles away and I want the camera to see hedgehogs at play.
The Browning Dark Ops Trail In Use
The photos are stored on a standard SD card. The camera doesn’t come with an SD memory card so you need one. In actual fact the site I bought mine from (Nature Spy) threw a 16Gb card in as standard but you can upgrade if you ever need to. 16Gb will hold about a weeks worth of high res nighttime videos but you can go up to 512Gb if you want.
My first experiment was using the Browning Dark Ops out of the box settings, pointing the thing at my bird feeder and leaving it running for an hour or two. The results were, frankly disappointing. Low resolution blurry shots where you could make out the species of birds but little else. I was a little concerned I had bought a piece of rubbish. However, I left it out all night and was delighted with what appeared on my screen the following day.
Next I tried video mode and again was very pleased with the results. Seeing unexpected behaviours and, better yet, unexpected visitors to the garden has been a joy. Each morning I go out and get the SD card, load it onto my computer and find the most amazing sights. It really is a great way to start the day.
And it isn’t just at dusk and dawn. Even pitch black nights produce clear images of the wildlife. here is a compilation video of shots taken from lots of angles over a month in late spring.
I also liked the fact that by default the resulting pictures and videos have a bar at the bottom telling you time of shot and outside temperature.
I feel there are a few obvious rooms for improvement with the Browning Dark Ops trail camera. Firstly when lining up the camera in a particular spot there is nothing much to help you align it correctly. A notch or two in the plastic casing would give a little assistance in setting up your angles.
Secondly I feel that a bluetooth connection would be an improvement. I didn’t enjoy removing the sd every time I wanted to view the pictures. On that topic, a shallower spring release would be a nice touch. As a man with big hands and short fingernails I find the removal of the SD card a bit fiddly.
It also takes a little while to get over the fact that night vision means all the visitors to your garden have glowing eyes. Creepy!
Overall, despite the few minor gripes mentioned above I would have to say both of us are delighted with our Browning Dark Ops trail camera.