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Browning Strike Force HD Camera, Camouflage
|Price:||$127.85 & FREE Shipping|
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- Lightning fast 0.67 second trigger time
- Records HD videos with sound 5 seconds to 2 minutes in length
- Long battery life from 6 AA batteries, Batteries not included
- 100 foot flash range
- Includes Browning Buck Watch time-lapse viewer software
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10 MP infrared LED illumination with 1280 x 720 HD video option. Features a 100' nighttime flash range. Zero Blur technology helps eliminate motion blur from moving animals. Has a Time-lapse Plus camera mode with IR triggered images. Fast 0.67 second trigger speed. Requires (6) AA batteries (not included). Includes Browning Buck Watch Time-lapse viewer software. Dimensions: 4.5" x 3.25" x 2.5".
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ORIGINAL REVIEW - I did quite a bit of research, including internet and speaking with experienced trail cam users, and this was by far the most highly recommended trail cam on the market. The Strike Force has essentially changed the market and price points for trail cams, as when Browning debuted this trail cam it had features available only in the $300 price point range. The trail cam website test reviews I researched all had this camera ranked top five for overall performance, and at the top of the value for the $$ rankings. My biggest decision came down to deciding between the Strike Force, and the comparable Browning Dark Ops. (Note - for those debating the same quandary, I have recently purchased the Dark Ops model as well, and a comparison is discussed later in this review).
1. Terrific Daytime Picture quality - actually captured a Bobcat on the run with incredible clarity.
2. Fairly good IR flash range - Works well even in fairly thick timber
3. Good Night Quality - Black & White night photos but the IR flash often highlights antler details
4. Great Versatility & Options - The burst mode and timing adjustability are very handy
5. Lightning fast trigger speed - one of the best on the market
6. Great Detection Range
7. Display for Battery Life & Remaining Photo Memory (Battery Life indicator does not work well with Li Batteries)
8. Good Video Quality
9. Great Battery Efficiency (begins to use more battery power over time - see comments regarding Dark Ops model below)
10. Connection Port - Camera can be utilized as SD card reader by connecting USB cable (not included) to PC or TV.
11. Really easy to use. Simple menu options.
12. Responsive Customer Service (see comments regarding latch below)
Con's (Not many, but if had to think of some...)
1. Cheap plastic latch breaks easily. (Update - I emailed the customer service address on the Browning Trail Cam website, and they immediately sent me two replacement latches.)
2. Motion Range is slightly wider than Camera view, so with a fast trigger speed you get some photos taken prior to the animal coming into frame. This really is not a problem for use over a feeder or mineral lick, as you might just get a couple of extra blank photos just before the animal comes into frame. For use on a travel trail, this might be more of a concern, and you will probably want to set up in burst mode to ensure you get a photo while the animal is in frame.
3. IR Flash is visible - This is not necessarily a con, unless you plan to utilize for security purposes or if the cam is located in an area where potential thieves may notice the flash and attempt to steal the camera. (If either of the above mentioned are an issue, the Browning Dark Ops model has a black flash which is not visible).
4. No Field Viewer - There is no viewer to preview photos in the field, or to check alignment (although for alignment purposes it does have a test mode which flashes as the camera detects motion within the detection area).
5. USB cable is not included (digital camera connection on one end, USB connection to PC)
Update 3/1/2015 Strike Force versus Dark Ops Comparison
As promised, I am updating this review based on my experiences with the comparable Browning Dark Ops (Dark IR model). The Dark Ops has proven to be just as reliable as the Strike Force with the same easy to use features, and good battery efficiency. The night photos taken by the Dark Ops are necessarily somewhat darker with the dark IR flash, so the clarity level is slightly affected. Still the range for night photos for the Dark Ops, although slightly less than Strike Force, has been fairly impressive just the same. I have been able to positively identify specific bucks in night photos taken in medium density timber at ranges of at least 40 feet. The daytime clarity is terrific, and is virtually identical for both cameras. Now that the price point for the Dark Ops has fallen down to match the Strike Force, I would tend toward recommending that model due to the additional flexibility offered by dark flash technology (i.e. it can be used for security purposes and is less likely to be noticed by potential passers-by on hunting properties). Either way, you really can't go wrong with either camera. As an aside, I tend to capture more nighttime photos of both Coyotes and Bobcats with the Dark Ops model, so if you intend to use for predator scouting I would go for the dark IR flash model. Deer do not seem to be spooked by the visible IR flash, but predators do seem to spook, and I have video on the Strike Force of Coyotes turning and running as soon as the light comes on.
Further update, I also have my first complaint about the Strike Force camera. The plastic latch on the Strike Force that seals the control buttons and protects the SD card slot from moisture snapped in half recently, while I was retrieving the SD card. (The Dark Ops model has an identical cheap plastic latch). I believe some other commenters have also complained about this same issue. It is certainly not enough of an issue to deter my purchase of another Browning once the need for another camera arises, but I certainly hope the manufacturer looks to correct this issue on future models. I advise users to be very careful when snapping the latch back closed, as it will shatter under a very modest amount of pressure. Update - I emailed the Browning Trail Camera customer service department and they immediately sent two replacement latches (so I now have a back up in case it happens again). The latch is extremely simple to replace, so in the end no harm, no foul.
Dark Ops Update 1/11/16 - After approximately 8 months of use, my Dark Ops camera suddenly started severely declining in batter efficiency. It is only getting two weeks out of Li batteries using settings that would last for 2 months when the camera was new. I am now using rechargeable NiCad batteries and switching the batteries out every time I check the SD card (every 10-14 days). I have seen some slight decline in battery efficiency from the Strike Force, but nothing I would complain about. I am not sure if this issue is specific to a problem with my Dark ops camera, or whether this an appropriate contrast between the Dark Ops & Strike Force models. I will be contacting the manufacturer, and will update this review with a any relevant response.
Here are few tips for new users that I have picked up from my experience with this trail cam:
1. Use Lithium batteries. Update 1/11/16 - I now recommend rechargeable NiCad batteries, unless you plan to leave the camera for extremely long intervals. During the first few months use, the camera was very efficient and Li worked great. As the camera gets older, Li becomes cost prohibitive. Li does last longer overall, but the NiCad will last a couple of weeks (or more) on trail cam mode, and obviously they are much more economical.
2. Purchase two SD cards - that way you can quickly change out the card to go check the site activity without having to spend too much time in the area or having to return to disturb the area later to replace the card (and possibly missing activity in the interim). Unless you set burst mode and timing settings extremely liberally, an 8 GB card is plenty for checking most trail cam sites on 10 - 20 day intervals. I have a couple of 16GB SD cards, but even in video mode, 16 GB is pretty much overkill with correct delay settings.
3. Use a lock or security box. I use a Master Lock Python cable (bolt cutters can cut through a Python lock but at least it prevents theft by the typical trespassing poacher). When setting up the camera, the Python cable is not required to secure to a tree, as a strap is included with the camera. The Python cable can be a bit aggravating, though, as the key mechanism can be persnickety and the keys will easily break off in the lock.
4. Keep in mind the height range for the intended target when securing the camera, as a trail cam set at five foot from the ground is not going to catch many deer or turkeys, but a camera set too low will probably catch more squirrels that you want to see. I recommend a height of approximately 30 inches for deer (depending on the topography), and possibly slightly lower for turkeys. If you want photos of raccoons for some reason, don't worry about camera height because those curious little boogers will give you some extreme close ups as they try to figure out where that light is coming from.
5. Settings - If you plan to set the camera up over an area that the animals may tend to linger, you probably want to minimize the burst mode to two photos (or don't use burst mode at all), and keep the delay duration at five minutes (or greater). On one occasion, I set the burst on 3 photos, with a one minute delay, and ended up with 2,000 photos in a week - which does pretty much guarantee you will have good shots of every animal that walked through, but makes for a long sorting process when trying to establish patterns. A two photo burst will capture most targets that were essentially just quickly walking by, and a five minute delay is pretty good timing for deer, which tend linger for a maximum of about twenty minutes in any single interval. I found the same settings work fairly well for wild turkeys, also, even though flocks tend to linger longer than deer will. For some reason, the camera is triggered more easily by mammals such as deer, raccoons, coyotes, dogs, and humans; than it is by wild turkeys. Most initial phots of mammals occur while the subject is barely in the frame, but many times a large portion of the turkey flock will already be in frame and fairly close to the camera when the initial photo is triggered. Predators like coyotes and (especially) bobcats are a bit trickier, and burst settings are helpful to ensure travelling subjects are captured in view.
As an aside, there are several new web-based software applications coming on the market to help trail cam users garner useful pattern info from their trail cams. These applications allow users to select trail cam locations using GPS & aerial satellite photos, and upload photos from each cam site. The application then downloads local weather data for each site, and matches the photo time stamps with local weather conditions. Specific animals can be tagged by photo. This allows the application to utilize predictive algorithms to pattern a deer's movements and predict your most likely areas for success based on predicted or current weather (and moon phase) conditions. I have long complained about the significant gap between the information trail cams provide, and a simple way to fully utilize that information to determine the end means for most users (patternable deer movements). Hopefully, some of the trail cam manufacturers will key in on these new applications and begin to include this type of software with their cameras.
The pictures on this camera are excellent. I only have the Primos to compare it to, but the 10 Megapixels show. It triggers fine out past 40 feet. The flash is definitely impressive. There is definitely enough light to see deer well at 50+ feet. This does have the consequence of whiting out deer that are less than 10 feet from the camera, but their outline is still very obvious. (It would be nice if the light was even, but I'm certainly willing to put up with the white out effect rather than trying to figure out how to hook up several remote flashes.)
The detection circuit works reasonably well. There are relatively few empty shots (last time I checked the camera, all 50 pictures were of deer). It does detect right to the edge of the field of view, because I got a picture of just a deer's head as it walked in about 25 feet away.
Battery life seems to be quite good, even if it does take just six AAs. I swapped my Eneloops after a month and 127 pictures, and when I recharged them, found that they still had over 85% capacity. (The Strike Force does have a built-in battery charge level indicator, but it is calibrated for 1.5V cells rather than 1.2V of the Eneloop NIMH cells.)
The camera does flash a small red light when it takes a picture at night, and apparently deer see it (or hear something in the camera) because I have several pictures of deer looking right at the camera. However, I've gotten multiple shots of the same deer that looked at the camera from less than 15 feet away, so it doesn't seem to bother them. (I also have a Dark Ops, which is virtually the same camera with black flash [completely undetectable], but its flash range is not as good as the Strike Force, and I think I like the Strike Force bettter.)
I wanted a very compact camera, and this is it. Setup is done via a small LCD screen and buttons, but it works quite well. Other cameras with slider switches, more buttons, etc. are easier to set up, but they are also larger.
Browning has delivered a terrific product at a very reasonable price. I have not seen any other camera that will beat a Browning in performance per dollar. If you are looking for a trail camera that takes great pictures, night and day, has trigger response and recovery times beaten only by cameras at 3x the price, has a reliable detection circuit, reasonable battery life, is very compact, and is also affordable, you've found it. This has got to be one of the best values on the market currently. Unless somebody one-ups Browning in a hurry, my next camera will be a Browning, likely a Strike Force.
Fact One: Mac users can change the SD card>DTIM>TLAPSE>.tls suffix to .avi and enjoy time lapse photography without having to bother with the factory provided Browning Buck Watch Time lapse viewer PC software.
Fact Two: Browning cameras will perform at temperatures ranging from -20 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Beyond that range, the batteries will likely give you problems. (Source Facts 1 and 2: Browning Customer Support)
I'm taking delivery on my second Strike Force tomorrow.
Well, took delivery of my second Strike Force camera from Cabela's, and now I feel a need to drop my product rating to a single star. The Strike Force is great, IF YOU GET A GOOD ONE!. Our local Cabela's has a good return policy and I traded and tested FIVE different cameras in hopes I'd find one that performed like the one I received from Amazon. Runaway flash shots, sometimes 40 overexposed in a row, was a chronic problem, and the last one I returned (for a refund this time) could not perform the motion test sequence.
The serial numbers were in the 17102XXX081405 range and my cameras ranged from consecutive numbers to a 40 unit production lot interval. Bad lot? Don't know...don't care!