Trail cameras aren’t often known for the quality of their images but Stealth Cam’s new 16 megapixel Browtine BT16 is a cheaper option that lifts the bar of optical detail. And as a bonus, it doesn’t go through batteries at a millions miles an hour.
I’ve had this camera out in various locations for weeks now and the battery level still shows there’s three-quarters of a charge left in the eight AA batteries I installed.
That’s after it has taken more than 7500 images, including 670MB of video.
This is a camera you can leave out for the long term, doing its thing to monitor a patch of land as animals come and go.
When you retrieve the card, the images you get don’t leave much doubt about what’s been going on.
The still images are big: 5376 x 3024 pixels. The jpegs are quite detailed because of the high megapixel count.
The contrast is nice, with the difference between highlights and shadows far from stark so you can see well in both.
Even middle-of-the-day shots in dappled light — one of the hardest things to get right in terms of contrast — are good.
Still, we’re talking about a physically small sensor, more like that in a smartphone rather than the lovely full-frame things in professional cameras, so don’t expect pro quality!
There’s still some noise and pixellation, and the smoothing in low light is noticeable.
But compared with so many other trail cams I’ve used, this one is better in all those respects. The following pics are all un-edited.
The pixels have to be small to fit 16 million on them onto the little sensor, which often ruins low-light performance, but the night-time shots and video the BT16 shoots were much clearer than I’d have expected.
They were sharp, well lit and with very little noise or grain.
The BT’s video resolution is only 480p, and you’d think that with 16MP Stealth Cam could have gone for a bigger size.
But at least it means the file sizes aren’t too large and the quality is at the level it is.
The BT16 has three pre-set modes for taking pictures and video as well as a customisable mode that you can set up to do either.
You can set a burst mode of three pics at a time; set the delay between shots from five seconds and two minutes; and reduce resolution from 16MP to 8MP and 4MP, which will increase the number of images the camera can fit onto your chosen SD card before it fills up.
The claimed detection and flash ranges are both 24 metres, and this appears to be a conservative claim. In the daytime it sometimes picked up movement beyond 30 metres, but I haven’t worked out if it’s as good at night.
The BT16 snaps a pic within a second of detecting motion (Stealth Cam claims 0.8 seconds, which my rudimentary count of “one potato” agrees with). However, movement wasn’t always detected instantly. Some photos and videos captured in the field were clearly taken shortly after the action had started.
Of the thousands of images I captured, only a handful showed nothing discernible, possibly because of that occasional delay in detection.
The infrared flash doesn’t disturb much, although the bright red LED sources are visible and there’s a small click as the lens activates. One shy fox did react to it and take off, but nothing else seemed to be worried at all.
The aptly named Stealth Cam blends into the bush nicely, too, with its camo finish, so it’s less likely to be spotted by someone walking past with light fingers. It is compatible with the Python lock system if you need the security.
The Stealth Cam BT16 is a good camera. It seems to retail for around $130 in gun shops, although that could vary; I didn’t find many advertised prices to gauge it by.
I like it for its image quality, its simplicity and its very long battery life.