I have been using trail cameras for a while and I have come to like them so much that I now take one with me on almost every safari or wildlife expedition that I go on and would highly recommend that if you are going to spend some time in the wild that you do the same.
This is mostly because a good remote game camera often captures images or video footage of the wildlife (especially the very shy nocturnal animals) that you almost never get to see in person and so is a fantastic way (and much more fulfilling than tracking) to discover more about the wildlife in your area.
Wildlife & Security Surveillance
Whilst I use them for capturing wildlife, they can also be very effective a a surveillance camera for all sorts of uses including security. This is even more the case with the new DTC 1000 which has a built-in cell phone wireless module that can instantly send images or notifications to your phone or an e-mail address.
Minox Trail Cameras
Some of you, especially those in the US, may not have heard of Minox before, but they have been creating surveillance, spy and remote wildlife cameras for years. Indeed with the latest Minox DTC 1000 trail camera, this is the third generation of their game cameras that I have used.
Last year I took the very popular Minox DTC 600 with me on safari which I really loved, but as you can see, if you read the review I wrote, testing came to a premature end when the camera was destroyed by a hyena!
I was so disappointed, not with the camera itself as it was plenty tough enough to handle most “normal” mishaps, but because I still had so many trips to go on after that incident and could have captured so much more with it.
Minox DTC 1000 Trail Camera Review
When I got back to Europe, I immediately contacted the guys at Minox and let them know what had happened and they very kindly arranged for me to get their newest version, the DCT 1000 in time for my next safari to test and review:
- Adjustable motion sensor
- 8 megapixel Camera Resolution
- Shoot Video with sound in full HD 1280×720 from 5 to 60 seconds in length
- Shoot invisibly at night with a high power infrared flash (48 LEDs) with a range of more than 50 feet
- Instantaneously send photos to your mobile phone or e-mail address
Whilst the outer case and the overall shape of the DTC 1000 may initially look a lot like the older models, Minox have made a number of very important improvements to this latest model which I will go through and highlight below:
As with the older models, this latest offering comes with a very robust external casing that protects the battery compartment, main camera, LCD display and control console in the inside. Whilst I have established that this may not be strong enough to survive a hyena bite (which has one of the strongest jaws of any animal), it will easily handle most normal bumps, bashes and drops.
Whilst I would not suggest fully submersing it in water, the casing is waterproof to a degree and does an excellent job preventing rain water from entering it. This is something that I tested on a number of occasions during my first expedition as it survived quite a few extremely bad thunderstorms with plenty of rain and I never found even a drop of moisture on the inside.
Being able to survive wet conditions is obviously a very important feature on any remote camera, especially if you plan to leave it at a location for a prolonged period of time.
On the front face on the top section is located the very powerful infrared flash, with it’s 48 LEDs, which Minox state has a range of around 15 meters.
In the middle is the camera lens and then below that is the motion sensor.
External Rear & Mounting
On the back of the case there are a couple of loops used to thread the supplied quick release nylon strap through that I mainly use when mounting the camera.
Whilst this strap works well and for the most part will secure the camera tightly to objects like tree trunks, it can at times be a little cumbersome and time consuming to get it set up, especially if you need to change the length of the strap a lot from it’s last setting.
However in the center there is also a standard 14" thread made from metal that you can use to quickly and easily fix the camera onto a tripod. This method has some advantages as it makes it much easier and quicker to mount the camera, position it and point it in the exact direction that you wish. However this is also a little less camouflaged and that is why I prefer to mount my trail cameras onto something like a tree trunk where possible.
On the top section on the rear there is a channel that can be used to run a cable or something similar through, that if you need to, you can use a lock to provide some security from theft.
Also on the rear are two rows of plastic spikes. The ones on the edges are a little longer and they do a good job of adding a little grip and centrally mounting the cam to object like tree trunks.
Because the LCD monitor is inside the case and the camera lens is on the outside front which swings shut on a hinge, you cannot use it to line up the camera when setting it up for auto release.
This is a little bit of a shame as to ensure that you have the camera pointing in exactly the right direction, I usually have to set it up, turn it on and then walk in front of the camera to trigger it. I then go back, open it up again and check on the LCD to see if the footage is being recorded exactly where I want it to. If it is not, I have to reposition the camera and then follow this process over again.
This can take quite a while if you want the camera trained onto a specific point, which if like me you sometimes set it up in an area where there are large and dangerous animals about like lions, hyenas, elephants and hippos can test your nerve a little. To simplify it I would love to see something like a laser sight added to the front of the camera.
The aerial, which can be removed is located on the top of the case. This is a new feature on the DTC 1000 and which, combined with a SIM card which you insert inside the case next to the memory card, allows the camera to send photos to your mobile phone or e-mail address as they are taken using standard GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications).
Even though in some areas where there was no cell phone coverage, I would still keep the aerial attached as I thought this screw on jack would potentially be an area that could let water in should it rain.
On the underside of the external case is a tethered rubber covering that when removed, reveals the DC jack, that can be used to supply the camera with an external power source (6v or 9v), should you not want to use the AA batteries.
Accessing the interior of the camera is achieved via opening the large sliding latch on the side. This can be locked using a small padlock or something similar and by threading it through the holes on the body and the latch.
On opening the Minox DTC 1000 trail camera, you are confronted with large battery compartment on the right hand side, which takes 12 x 1.5v AA batteries (Alkaline, Li-Ion or NiMH batteries).
This is two more than the 10x AA batteries that go inside the older DTC 600, but I feel is a good thing as I used the suppled Alkaline batteries on 10 consecutive nights and shot a lot of footage without having to change them.
Minox do not state what the expected battery life is as it varies depending on a lot of factors including the type and quality of the battery, how long the videos you take last, burst mode etc. However I do get the feeling that it is vastly improved on the DTC 600 that they say could last up to 6 months. I use good quality NiMH batteries and at the time of writing have not had to change them yet.
On the left hand side are the main controls, LCD screen and memory storage slots:
The camera stores the videos and pictures onto a standard SD/SDHC memory card and comes with a 2GB card included although it can take one up to 32 GB in size. The memory card fits into a sprig loaded slot on the top left-hand side of the interior, next to the LCD screen and the SIM card slot.
Inside the camera is a 2" LCD Color display that can be used to scroll through the menus when making changes to the camera, brows through the photos and videos on the memory card and use as to aim the camera when in manual release mode.
Directional, Menu and Main Buttons
Under the LCD display are all the main control buttons that are used to change the camera settings and turn the device on and off.
The camera on the Minox DTC 1000 is activated via a sensor. You can change the sensitivity on the sensor to ensure that you only record the footage that is relevant to you and it is not triggered by leaves moving in the wind for example.
In the menu you can also choose to have the wildlife camera record the date, time, temperature and even the phase of the moon onto the footage if you want.
Password protection is also available within the menu settings.
Day & Night Modes
When using the camera in Manual Release mode, you can manually change the settings to activate either the day or infra-red night mode. In day mode, your photos and videos will be recorded in color. Infra-red nighttime images and videos are captured in black and white.
When using the camera in automatic capture mode using the motion sensor (which you will be doing most of the time), the camera will automatically change from day to infra-red night mode depending on the available light.
I found this to work very well, although at dusk it can flicker a bit when recording videos.
One of the biggest and best improvements on the DTC 1000 is the ability to instantly transfer the images to a smartphone number that you store on the menu of the device via MMS or if you prefer you can send them to an e-mail address.
The huge advantage of this is that you can take immediate action depending on what has been sent to you. In security settings this is a major plus.
To enable this function, you have to insert a working SIM card (either prepaid card or a phone plan card will work) into the slot located on the side of the camera near the memory slot.
The Minox DTC 1000 has an 8 megapixel camera, or if you wish to save space you can set it to take photos at 5MP or 3MP and in either "Normal" dimensions with a (4:3) ratio or "Wide" which have a ratio of (16:9).
Another excellent feature is that the camera can take one, two or three photos in very quick sequence with every movement trigger release, combine this with a shutter lag of less than a second, it really helps to ensure that you don’t miss any of the action.
Whilst the DTC 1000 shoots excellent quality stills footage, I prefer to shoot video as I feel that for wildlife it gives you a better feeling for what is going on.
You can set this trail camera to shoot in either VGA with a resolution of 640×480, or in HD at 1280×720.
You can also adjust how long you want the camera to record for once it is triggered with the motion sensor, these adjustments can be made in increments from 5 to 60 seconds in length.
The video function is far improved to that of the older DTC 600 which could only shoot videos of up to 30 seconds in length and with a maximum resolution of 640×480, which for me is really important.
During the day, the video is recorded in full colour and in full 1280×720 HD mode, but at night the camera switched to black and white and the resolution automatically drops to 720×400.
Below are some examples of the video footage that I have been able to capture so far using the DTC 1000. I will continue to add to this section as and when I get some more, so watch this space!
Overall Minox have once again produced an excellent trail camera that definitely improves upon their already excellent previous models.
It is tough, waterproof and the battery life is excellent and I love the ability to be able to send any captured images to your phone or e-mail address all of which mean that you can leave it out on location over very long periods of time with complete confidence.
The improvement in the video quality along with the fact that it now also records sound is excellent as this was something that I mentioned as being a shortfall on the DTC 600.
So in my opinion if you are looking for a tough, high quality trail camera, the Minox DTC 1000 is up there with the very best.