It’s been a few years ago now since Minox kindly sent me their DTC 500 trail camera to test and review. On that trip we managed to capture some really incredible footage with it that included plenty of elephant, buffalo and warthog in the day, as well as nocturnal mammals like hyenas, honey badgers and more during the night (see the full review and captured footage here).
Because of this success and the really positive experience I had with the camera, I now almost never go on safari without some sort of remote surveillance camera with me to help me capture at least some of what you most definitely do not see in person, which is especially true at night.
So for my latest expedition to a number of wild and remote locations in Zimbabwe, I decided that I just had to get the newer version of what has become my favorite game camera.
Minox DTC 600 Review
Rather than just going over all of the camera’s specifications and features, I thought that for this review I would take you through how I use it, mentioning what I like and don’t like and showing you some of the results. In this way I hope that it is more interesting and that you get a better feeling of how it could work for you in your situation.
The newer Minox DTC 600 arrived just a day before I left my home in France and so I was not able to test it before leaving. But what I immediately liked, is that it is light (365g without batteries) and fairly compact (15,3 x 11,4 x 6,6 cm) making it no problem to pack in my bags and take on safari or any other expedition. To give you an idea of the size, the image on the right is of the older DTC 500 which has the same external dimensions.
Unlike my main camera and telephoto lens (which I have to carry with me as part of my hand luggage), the tough exterior case on the DTC 600, which is designed to withstand the elements meant that I could simply take it out of the box and place it in with my main luggage feeling absolutely confident that it would survive the journey. This protective case would once again be tested later on in the trip which you will read about later.
In order to get the best possible chance of capturing something really interesting, I like to leave my Minox trail camera (or indeed any other one) in as remote location as possible and unless I am near a waterhole, burrow or something where I know animals are going to gather, I usually place some sort of bait in front of it.
As you can see from the photo below, I decided to use a small tree that was just on the edge of a small inlet that ran into the Umi river in the Matusadona National Park in Zimbabwe.
As well as herbivores like elephants and hippos, I knew that there were large predators like lions and hyenas in the area as I had had heard them the night before from our camp across the river. A guide at the camp had also told me that he had seen lions there only a few days before we arrived.
Just in front of the camera, you can also see the bait I was using which consisted of some large catfish remains which we had caught whilst fishing the day before and which I thought would work really well as by now it had a very strong smell!
To mount it to something like a tree or fence pole, the Minox DTC 600 comes with a nylon strap that can be threaded through a couple of loops on the case on the back of the camera and then fastened using a threaded buckle.
But what I have found is that because the strap is made from nylon which slides quite easily, it can be a little tricky to fasten it tightly enough and make sure that the camera is perfectly trained on where you want to capture your footage.
So what I did was to also thread a length of rubber through the loops on the camera, which is much more grippy and then I then fist use it to tie the camera to the tree or whatever else I am using as a post. I then adjust the camera to the exact position I need and only then do I fasten it securely using the included strap.
Note: On the back of the camera there is also a standard 14" thread that can be used mount it onto a tripod, which works very well and it is much easier to position the camera exactly as you wish. But because I wanted to keep the camera as inconspicuous as possible, I prefer to attach it on a tree.
The DTC can capture colour video and still images during the day and black and white video and photos at night using an infrared flash. This IR flash has a range of up to 15 meters which is usually more than enough as I tend to try and capture footage from a reasonably close range.
Below is the video footage I captured on the second expedition that I went on to the Matusadona National Park in Zimbabwe. I was staying at a camp on the far side of the Umi river which flows into Lake Kariba.
Most of the footage below was taken from the tree pictured above, but I also moved it to another location a few nights later because rather surprisingly even though I managed to get video of an impala, a hippo at very close range and a large-spotted genet, nothing ever came to eat my bait. At the new location I was very glad to capture on film a White-Tailed Mongoose (Ichneumia albicauda) which I have never seen before.
To give you an idea of just how beautiful and remote this area was, you can see some more photos of the area and wildlife that I took with my main camera in this gallery: The Umi River, Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe.
More Video – My first try at using this Minox camera was at a place called Charara on the eastern basin of Lake Kariba, also in Zimbabwe. Here and once again, in front of a tree I left some bait which consisted of the innards of some fish that we had caught on the lake earlier in the day and had gutted to eat.
This was just a first test and to be honest, I was not expecting much as this camp in Charara is not as remote and compared to many places I visit has relatively more amounts human activity.
However to my surprise I got some nice footage of a Small-Spotted Genet (Genetta genetta) which is also known as the Common genet.
I don’t often use the camera in photo mode as I personally prefer to capture video, so the example photos below are those that I captured with the older DTC 500, but which has the same 8 megapixel resolution.
Example photos taken at day and at night with the MINOX DTC 500 camera.
As with most game cameras, this Minox DTC 600 is activated via a sensor, which can be set to low, normal or high sensitivity. This enables you to make sure that it only captures what you want and does not record irrelevant motions like moving branches or even insects.
I have had this happen to me as a low hanging leaf blowing in the wind set off the camera almost every 30 seconds which was set to high sensitivity, using up valuable memory and battery life. So it is important to test it and decide just what setting is right for your needs.
Using the menu during setup, you can also set the camera to record the date, time, temperature and even the phase of the moon onto the footage if you wish.
In Video Mode, you can set the DTC 600 to take AVI videos of 10, 20 or up to 30 seconds in length with resolution of 640×480. You can also adjust a delay interval of between 5 seconds or right up to 60 minutes in between each time the camera will be activated by the sensor.
Because I go back to check on my camera almost every day, I generally set it to take 30 seconds videos with an interval of only 5 seconds to help ensure that I don’t miss any of the action.
However if you had to leave your camera at a location for a long time, you may wish to set the video to take shorter videos with a longer delay between each and possibly also insert a larger capacity memory card than the 2GB SD card that it comes with.
In Photo Mode, you can set the resolution of the camera to 8MP, 5MP or 3MP and you can set it to take 1, 2 or 3 photos (photo burst) every time the sensor is activated.
As in video mode, you can also adjust the delay interval in a number of increments between 5 seconds or right up to 60 minutes.
The main camera, LCD display, sensors and the batteries are enclosed and protected by a very tough plastic case.
This makes travelling with much easier than mot far more delicate camera ear as I just put it in with all my clothing in my main suitcase.
Whilst on this trip, no occasion arose for me to just how tough the body is, when I was using the old DTC 500, an elephant decided to take a closer look at this little “green box” and actually came and nudged it with it’s forehead and trunk. Obviously if he had decided to use all his strength he would have crushed it, but even so he did use some force and luckily the case was strong enough to prevent the camera inside from being damaged.
This case is also completely waterproof, which I fully tested as it rained almost every night during my second test of it and on one night we had a huge thunderstorm and the rain was incredibly hard. I was a little concerned, but returned the next morning to find that the camera was still fine and no water had penetrated the case.
Minox also say that this case will protect the camera from cold as well as heat, but don’t mention at what extremes you can take it to.
Inside the case you find the 2″ LCD display, which rather surprisingly is smaller than the 2.5" one one the DTC 500. I am not sure why Minox have decided to make it smaller in the newer model, but it still works fine.
I generally just use it to navigate through the menu to set up the camera and then just quickly check what I have captured when returning to the camera the next day.
The battery chamber is located on the opposite face of the LCD screen on the inside of the body. Unlike the DTC 500, which took 8 x 1,5 Volt AA batteries, the DTC 600 now uses 10 of these batteries. I assume this is to increase the battery life, which Minox say can last up to 6 months, depending on what type of AA batteries you use and how you set-up and use the camera.
One thing I would like to point out is that the battery bay does not have any way, other than the springs to keep the batteries in place and I found that they would sometimes come loose when setting up the camera.
This is something you have to be very careful of, as the last thing you want is to set up the camera and return a few weeks later to find out that it has not taken any pictures because the batteries were not in place properly! Having said this, there is a light on the face of the camera that blinks a few times when you turn it on, which you can quickly check before leaving it to make sure it is "armed" and working.
Minox also include a set of 10 AA batteries, a 2GB SD card and an instruction booklet.
Disaster strikes! On my final safari before heading back to Europe, we decided to a game reserve, not that far from the capital of Harare in Zimbabwe.
I set up the camera trap on a tree (see image above) and used some meat as a bait (pork). The next morning, I arrived to find that not only had the bait disappeared, but the camera was no longer on the tree, but was scattered all around the area in a thousand tiny pieces!
Looking for clues, we found a lot of hyena tracks all around the area and can only assume that one ate the meat and then smelt the scent on the camera and decided to have a little fun with it!
Below are a couple of images all the pieces that we could find. I searched for the memory card as I thought that it would be great to at least have the final moments on film, but unfortunately could not find it.
|Minox DTC 600 After the Hyena Attack! (click on image for larger version)|
I have read that hyenas have some of the strongest jaws in the animal kingdom and this is proof as the case on the DTC 600 is really very thick and strong and should protect it from most other animals.
So as a tip, if you are leaving it in an area with hyenas, make sure you put it in a cage or out of reach. Also if you are using something like meat as a bait, I would make sure that you try to not get the scent on the camera.
Interestingly I managed to get a photo (below) earlier in the day of a spotted hyena not far from where I left the camera that night … I wonder could this be the culprit?
As with the older version, which is very similar, I really love the Minox DTC 600. It takes excellent quality video and photos of subjects that you would almost definitely not see otherwise and so I have no hesitation in highly recommending it to anyone staying in a wild location and who wants to capture what is out there.
Whilst I love the camera, after using it for a while, there are a few things that I wish it had that I feel would make it even better:
- Sound – it would be excellent if the video camera also recorded sound.
- Mounting – Whilst the strap is secure once fastened, initially positioning the camera so it is aimed correctly is a little tricky. To help I also used a length of rubber to quickly get it into position and then fasten it, but what would be really great is if it had some sort of ball head or a way of rotating the camera after it is fastened.
- Aiming – Knowing exactly where the camera will take a photo a little time consuming as the view finder is inside the protective cover. So to set it up, I point it where I think is right, then trigger the camera and then go back to open it and check that the photo I have just taken is correct. Perhaps they could use something like a laser of sighting would make this easier?