I recently caught up with a couple of the guys from MINOX at the CLA Game Fair 2011 that was held at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
We spoke a little about their range of binoculars, especially the ones that are ideal for taking on safari like the excellent Minox BL 8x33 Binoculars and their compact BD 7x28 IF binoculars.
After a short while I noticed a small green box on their stand and enquired about what it was and what it did:
Update: Also check out my Minox DTC 600 Review – the newer version of this excellent trail camera.
MINOX DTC 500 Trail Camera
They told me that it was their new trail or game camera. Which for the benefit of those who don’t know is a camera that you leave at a location to take photos or video of what ever passes by that activates the motion sensor on the camera.
This is something that I have been wanting to take with me into the bush for a long time, but have as yet just never got around to getting one for myself and so jumped at the opportunity to get one to review.
Unfortunately for me, I would not be going back to Africa until next year, but did organise for a brilliant wildlife photographer and good friend of mine to take one with him, so that he could try it out.
Main Features & Specifications
- Up to 8 megapixel resolution
- Internal 2,5″ colour monitor
- Colour Pictures during the day – Black & White at night
- Records date, time, temperature and moon phases
- High speed release
- Powerful Infrared (IR) flash with a range of up to 15 meters
- Low power usage
- Up to 9 picture series and videos up to 60 seconds
- Password protection
- Power: 8 x 1,5 Volt AA batteries – battery life of over 6 months
- Dimensions: 153 x 114 x 66 mm
The main intended use of this Minox camera is to capture images and video clips of animals in the wild or for analysing animal movements around the clock.
For Safaris? Whilst this camera won’t be ideal for all types of safaris, I can imagine that for those who will be camping in a wild area or if you will be staying at a lodge that will accommodate your request to leave the camera at an ideal spot on the reserve (and most should) then I can see this as being a fantastic piece of kit to take with.
This Minox DTC 500 and most other trail cameras are not quite as small as a compact camera, this is because they need to have a protective waterproof casing around the camera as well as include the motion detection sensor and the Infra Red LED’s for night shots. So the fact that it still only measures 15.3x11.4x6.6cm is pretty impressive and is almost half the size many other makes.
This relatively small size means that it won’t take up too much space in your suitcase and the fact that the camera comes encased in a tough waterproof exterior means that I would probably also just put it in with my main luggage, rather than having to carry it on board as part of your hand luggage.
Image Quality & Resolution
Above are a couple of example photos taken at day and at night with the MINOX DTC 500 camera.
The MINOX DTC 500 has a maximum 8 megapixel resolution, which when compared to most “standard” digital cameras that you find these days is a little low, but is about the same as it’s main competitors.
The image resolution can also be adjusted to shoot at lower resolutions to save space if you are planning on leaving the camera out in the field for long periods of time. Remember that this camera has a battery life of over 6 months!
The camera will also document the date, time, temperature and moon phase of each shot, in this way you will know exactly which animal was where, when and for how long!
Continuous Shooting Mode
Another great feature is the continuous shooting function that when selected will enable this Minox trail camera to shoot from one to 9 sequential shots in rapid sequence every time the shutter release is actuated – be that manual, time lapse or via the motion sensor.
Most people will probably just set the camera to “shoot” with the motion sensor, but rather cleverly there is also a nice time lapse mode that will record the next movement at a programmed interval. This can be set to 5s, 10s, 20s, 30s, 1min, 5min, 10min, 30min, or 60min. In this way you can make sure that the camera does not take too many photos of the same event if you don’t want it to.
More Sample Photos
As well as photographs, you can record video with the DTC 500. Once the camera is activated either by the motion sensor or the time lapse setting, it will record video of between 10 and 60 seconds depending on what settings you use.
Below is a video I put together using footage taken with the Minox DTC 500
Night Time Shooting
This trail camera has a infrared flash that will allow the camera to take black & white photos with a range of up to 15 meters in unfavorable light, twilight or at night.
Both photos and video are stored on a SD card. The slot that you insert the card into is located inside the protective body.
The camera and sensors are protected by a tough and weatherproof plastic body that is not only water and dust proof, but will protect the unit from cold and heat.
This tough body case actually helped us as during the testing of the camera in Zimbabwe – One elephant took a keen interest in this little “green box” and actually came and nudged it with it’s forehead and trunk. Luckily it did not use all of it’s power as that would damage almost any protective case. But the case was tough enough to prevent the camera from being damaged by this inquisitive ele. You can see footage of the actual elephant that did this in the video footage above.
A feature that I really like is the integrated 2.5″ LCD display that is located and protected on the inside of the body. This is great because it means that you can leave the camera at a remote location, go back the next day and check your results without having to carry a computer with you.
The USB port and included cables will allow you to view/transfer your images to a computer or other device. There is also a port that enables you to view images on your TV and one which you can insert a external 6V DC power supply (not included).
On the inside left of the body is the battery compartment that takes 8 x 1,5 Volt AA batteries and what is really impressive is that according to Minox, the camera has a battery life of over 6 months! I am not sure if this includes the batteries that come with camera or if you need to use some more powerful NiMH or Lithium batteries.
One thing to mention is that the battery compartment does not have a door or any other way of keeping the batteries in place, and so they can sometimes come loose when you are adjusting the camera. Just a little thing, but this can be a little annoying.
Why use a Trail Camera?
I think that the biggest lure for me is getting the opportunity to see why comes by once humans have left an area… you just never know what you are going to capture!
We were lucky enough to get footage of some animals that you almost never see in the wild due to their nocturnal and or shy behaviour. This included a Porcupine, African Civet, and Honey Badgers.
On top of this we got some really close up footage of Spotted Hyenas, Elephants and Warthogs that would be very difficult to get otherwise.
As well as this it is a great way of being able to document exactly what animals are active in a particular area.
For another example I recently read an article where a team from the BBC filmed a “lost” population of tigers living in Bhutan mountains. The researchers used trail cameras very similar to the Minox DTC 500 (they actually used the Bushnell Trophy Cam). You can see a short video of this amazing discovery below that will also give you an ide of the quality that you can expect both during the day and night:
Mounting the Camera
On the back of the camera there are two slots that are used to pass the included mounting strap through. Because this tough nylon strap is about 1 meter long, you can then use it to attach the camera securely to anything from a fence post to a fairly large tree trunk.
As well as this, there is also a standard 14″ thread for mounting the unit to a tripod.
The Minox DTC 500 comes with an instruction booklet, a tough nylon mounting strap as well as USB and TV cables, a set of 8 AA batteries, a 1GB micro SD card and an adapter that converts the micro SD card to the standard SD card size to enable you to easily use it with this camera and on your computer.
A really excellent device that takes good quality photos and video. Overall I would highly recommend this Minox DTC 500 Camera to anyone who is looking to capture footage that would not be possible to do if you were present.
Possible Future Improvements
After testing this camera below are a few of our recommendations to Minox on how they could possibly improve on what is already a great camera:
- Mounting – Mounting it on something like a tree is easy, but to then aim the camera is a little tricky – it would be great if they had some sort of ball head or a way of rotating the camera once it is fastened.
- Knowing exactly where the camera will take a photo is trick as their is no view finder – perhaps they could use something like a laser sighter?
- Sound – it would be great if it also recorded sound with the video!
Cost & Where to Buy
The Minox DTC 500 now costs about $219 in the US, meaning you make a huge saving on the orriginal recommended price of $349. In the UK they now cost about £250 (Order-No. 60674):
Minox DTC 600 Review – New, check out my review of the newer version of this excellent trail camera