The Hunting “Industry”

Having been in this “industry” longer than I care to admit (makes me seem old) it always seems to surprise most people when I give them a glimpse “behind the curtain” so to speak about the hunting “industry”.

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At my first trade show (kidding – that’s my son, Hunter)

Loyalty 
I can recall a time early on when I was giving trail camera seminars at trade shows, there was still some loyalty left in the industry. The big name guys were also at these same shows giving seminars and meeting with the crowds. At that time in the industry they stood behind a product because they believed in it not because they were being paid. There was almost a pride in their opinion and it mattered to them that they believed in a product before they would even think about being associated with the product. The industry strives to get acceptance from these experienced industry experts by producing a superior product, not by writing bigger checks. “Buying” opinions wasn’t an option in those days. Guys stayed with the same product for years, because they truly believed in the product, not just because they were getting paid. The irony is the standards were set by those that truly knew industry and it felt almost like they were obligated to tell the rest of us if the product was worthy or not. Did it meet their standards? If it did, why? It was a great time for the industry, because it was an honest shake on the products being produced.
Not so much now. Hunting industry “stars” come and go now pretty regularly, this happens about every 2 years. I have often joked that I could get just about anyone in the industry to sponsor my new “AIJ” (Air In a Jar) product line if the check I wrote them was big enough.

“This segment brought to you in part by:”
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Hunting TV and Cable Shows
The last couple of decades I have spent my fair share of “marketing” money on hunting shows. In the beginning we started off locally with a very small but talented group of videographers. They were like us, small but motivated and very eager to show their wares so to speak. What they produced was entertaining and well produced. It had a small town “real to life” charm and was humorous without trying to be funny. At the time we couldn’t afford to go “big time” and get our own, show so we stayed with producing hunting videos.
The videos didn’t do bad and we did finally get to the point where we were able to start sponsoring shows, but it seemed like the times were changing. I can’t really say if the marketing money helped us get there or was it just our shear will to survive, but we did manage to keep our head above water in an ocean full of sharks.

At the height of our “TV marketing” efforts we had our own show plus major sponsorships on 2 others at the same time. We were spending A LOT of money to “advertise” but what struck me most was the more we spent on TV shows the more we were being approached by others wanting us to sponsor their shows. It seemed as though the only real bump we got of all the marketing was offers to spend more money on marketing.
The Hunting show industry was full of people trying to make a name for themselves by, well, making a name for themselves. It’s an ocean full of sharks trying to get famous for being on a hunting show… This is what everyone with a product to sell in the industry thought you had to do to make it, you had to sponsor a hunting show. It’s simply not true. Not then and certainly not now. The outdoor/hunting channels used to have limits on how much “Advertising” you could do during the show. The reason, which I agreed with, was because they were trying to make sure the shows actually had content, versus ending up just being an 30 minute infomercial. Since that time, it seems that the channels no longer have any limits to advertising during the shows. It is not surprising to have 27 minutes of advertising (soft and hard) during a 30 minute show. It seems that content has taken the back seat to advertising, which probably explains the extreme decline in the amount of hunting related shows and channels now available. The channels that used to have a 1 year waiting list now are running old westerns to fill the spots. It’s sad to see the decline, as it used to be very entertaining.

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Retail’s Race to the Bottom
At the same time the big online retailers “box shops” were just starting to gain momentum. There were still small “Mom and Pop” shops around, but their extinction was all but a certainty at that point. For a new manufacturer in the world of up and coming box shops the goal, as I understood it, was if you wanted to make it in the hunting industry you had to get in with the box shops. So off we went to get in with the box shops. After years of trying we finally made it! We finally made it in to a couple of the bigger box shops. Product was now officially in the “made it” column right?
Not so fast there… Let’s back up a bit.
See to get in the big box shops you have to pay a fairly large percentage. That understandable right? Sure it is, you set up your terms, agree to percentages, agree to give them a little bit extra percentage if they pay at 30 days versus their standard 60 day term (side note here, they will take the early pay percentage and still pay you late…welcome to world of “made it”)
Then you agree to give them a little bit extra to be in their catalog, even more to be on their shelves and even more to be in the prime locations on their shelves (you will also be required to buy out all the current inventory on the shelf).
Ok so once you get past all that – you’re in…. You’re in the catalog and your product has finally made it right? Well you get paid very late, give away huge percentages and the next thing you are hit with is one of two choices….
One is they contact you saying the competition is coming out with a similar product and they are giving better percentages and/or they are cheaper so you need to give up more to stay in the game.
The other is they decide that they are just going to make a similar product and brand label their name on it and no longer need you, thanks for playing.
All the time you are lead to believe that this is your only way to make it in the industry. Increase your percentages to them and reduce your price only for the end game to get bumped out by the big box shop. So basically you could be signing up for the end of your product line by going with a box shop.
There is always an absolute base cost model for any product. There are ways to cut costs but you do get to a point on any product where the base is and no matter how much you’d like to make them cheaper it’s just not possible.
So early on I realized that this was a race that I did not want to be any part of – The Race to the Bottom as a I call it. Basically, it’s ‘who can go out of business first trying to do business in the box shop industry’ is not really a business model I want to be a participant.
Maybe you have noticed this pattern, maybe not, but the next time you get a catalog or are on their online shop, look to see how many actual brand name products are there. Then notice how many brand name products have been replaced by their own label over the years.

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Magazines, Editors picks and Top 10 Best
Maybe it doesn’t come to you as a surprise but it certainly did to us. Along the same time as we were cutting our teeth on box shops and hunting shows, we started getting inundated with requests from writers and magazine editors who wanted to write about our products.
Really?? Just out of the blue they wanted to write about us? Awesome, we have made it big time now for sure……full stop.
What I was about to discover was this part of the industry had many unspoken rules…. Want an article written? Just give the writer loads of product then send them what you want written. Don’t expect to ever get that equipment back by the way….
Want to make Editor’s pick or the Top 10 List? Buy a big ad in the magazine. You are not going to make that or any list without paying for it.
Want to be featured in their magazine? You better be buying a huge amount of ads to substantiate the “amount of coverage you will receive”….
It really all came as a surprise to me that the inner workings of that industry had some really deeply concerning “practices” that shed an entirely new light on all those editor picks and top 10s I had read over the years.  I didn’t expect any favors or special treatment but I certainly didn’t expect it to be a pay to play either for what was suppose to be an unbiased ranking … unfortunately it was.

Don’t get me wrong, there used to be a time when writers in the hunting industry were extremely well versed, knowledgeable and respected. These are not the guys I’m referring to. By the time we got into the industry the great writers were enjoying their retirement with grand kids and had gotten out of the industry.
‘Tip of the Hat’ to many of these greats I consider great friends and still legends of their time.

Probably nothing that hasn’t been covered hundreds of times over with people in the industry, but I have found more than once people seemed to be amazed at just how it all works (and in some cases, doesn’t work at)…….

So, if you are just up and coming into the industry, be cautiously suspicious of the industry.

Know that you can make it without having to fall prey to the industry pitfalls.

Trail Camera Gain and Exposure

Just a quick little note covering gain and exposure:

To help shed some light, so to speak ironically, on night pictures I will try and explain what some of the biggest factors in getting good quality night photos.  As with most things a lot of it is open to interpretation and what you personally feel is a good picture.
For us, we try and achieve the maximum brightness while maintaining the lowest gain and exposure settings while attaining the furthest range/distance.
Distance is important because most cameras out there use a wide angle lens – which makes targets appear much further away then they actually are – giving the perception that the flash range is also much further then it actually is. So always know the distance. And since I have already covered the differences between red glow and no glow we will just compare only no glow in the article.
What is gain and exposure?
Gain is pretty simply explained by artificially increasing the brightness – there is more to it in reality but for the general term that is what you are doing by increasing gain.
To some, this is acceptable.

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Now if we increase the gain a little you get something like this: Does the picture look brighter?
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We have this conversation quite a bit about what looks “good” and what doesn’t.  For us, quite simply, the less gain means a better picture. You get more contrast with less gain and better detail. Some will still argue that more gain means a brighter picture but in all actuality it isn’t. The target (in this case the deer) has more clarity and brightness in the normal picture with little gain. Because as you add gain you also add noise which will add to the pixelation to picture which then loses detail. It also adds that ghost look to your picture.

The other side of brightness to a night picture is the amount of exposure being used. The longer exposure you use the brighter the picture will be. The downside is that any target that is moving with long exposure times will end up very blurry. So with most cameras they are forced to use a very long exposure and lots of gain to appear to have bright pictures. Our systems use a very short exposure and very minimum amount of gain trying to achieve a nice balance of brightness and contrast so we can maintain the highest level of detail possible.

 

Base Receiver Options

From the very beginning we have always maintained our wireless network to be modular in design. We have always tried to build our wireless platform for our design to be robust enough to have the capability to expand. So it probably comes as no surprise that our system can be operated in a variety of different ways.
The key to remember with our system is all the X series field devices (cameras, echos, feeders, activators, etc.) are all interchangeable between the different base receivers. So you can switch bases at anytime without having to do anything to your field units.  I’m not going to go into every detail on every feature of the entire system, but my typical answer is whatever you want it to do – it probably can…. All the base receivers can handle up to 254 field devices and all utilize the same software. So to make thing easeir, I will just stick to the differences in the base receivers. 

Our most common base receiver is what we refer to as the PC Base.  This would be the base you would use when you have a computer within range of your field units (cameras, etc.)

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The PC Base is connected to your computer’s USB port and comes standard with a dipole antenna. So your cameras (and echos, feeders, etc.) communicate directly to your computer via the PC Base.  A typical upgrade to the PC Base is to upgrade the standard antenna to a high gain antenna. This will get the antenna outside and up higher so as to significantly increase the transmission range.

The next type of base receiver we offer is the CellBase. The CellBase is unique because it can be deployed in the same area as the field devices with no need for a computer to be within range. The CellBase can operate off standard wall power or battery power with solar panel and can be setup on most major carriers and cell providers worldwide. We have CellBase systems operating in Africa and being controlled by their owners in the USA, so the CellBase is quite versatile. Our first CellBase was deployed over 12 years and even back then we knew that we had to have a system that could utilize ANY cellular provider because some carriers just perform better in some areas. So we have always been able to operate on just about any carrier across the globe. The one key feature that most don’t realize is the ability to upgrade the CellBase as carriers switch “G’s”. The more recent trend for carriers has been to race to the highest G possible. So if you are using the standard “cellular camera” that was operating on 2G and the service went to 3G you were stuck with a cellular camera that would no longer work. With our CellBase design as carriers switch from 2G to 3G to 4G the CellBase can be upgraded as well. Our current CellBase can actually switch from 3G service to 4G service automatically on the fly as services become available without interruption. This may not sound like a big deal until your CellBase and 40 camera system is 600 miles away then it becomes a big deal.
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The next base we offer is what we call the NetBase. The NetBase requires an Ethernet connection at location and the ability to locate the DCHP IP address on the network (typically private). From that point you can control all the field devices from the netbase over the network using the X manager software. This base is typically more for commercial applications utilizing communication towers in the field but we do have some consumer customers using the NetBase as well.

So in a nut shell we have the PC Base for those that have a computer within range of the field devices. The CellBase for remote applications and the NetBase for those DCHP savy users..

I almost forgot that you can use a camera as a base and have all your devices report to a single camera so you only visit that camera to retrieve the SD card that will store all the other field devices images and videos. This is a great feature if you want to have a temporary setup (say like a hunting trip) but in most long term setups users quickly find what a difference a base makes and migrate to one of the 3 base options listed above.

 

BuckEye Cam Tactical

Be sure to check out our BEC Tactical site and Facebook page specifically covering our tactical side products. BEC Tactical is just a way for us to cover specific topics and applications so to better assist our tactical customers.
Our product line has become so versatile over the years that we really needed to segregate our lines simply because the needs and questions we receive from our wildlife community tends to be completely different than the questions we receive from the tactical customers. Although a larger percentage of the information is covered very similarly between the groups, the presentation of the information usually needs to be different.
BEC Tactical site covers an in depth look at how to apply the systems in different situations and setups including how to integrate the BEC system with existing sensors and systems.  The site also covers the GSA and SBA for our government customers insuring they receive the best price possible without having to go to bid our get additional quotes from other sources.

Be sure to contact us if you have any questions at all!

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Differences in Batteries

We get this question quite a bit. Why do we use SLA (Sealed Lead Acid) and not Lithiums or Alkalines?
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There are many advantages to the SLA type batteries the biggest by far is there tolerance to many different types of charging methods. Being able to accept a charge from different charging methods is what separates sealed lead acid batteries from just about any other battery. This is also important if you want to use solar chargers to help keep your battery charged up. If you look at the nature of lithium batteries for example they require a very specific charging method and have no tolerance for any other methods. The lithium batteries are typically controlled (regulated) as to their “on” and “off” as well as their “charging”.
Seen the reports of lithium type batteries catching on fire, exploding or just melting down? This is usually due to a failure in either the charge control or the regulated control allowing the battery to get too hot, over charging or discharging or all of the above. Lithium batteries have a very tight tolerance for these functions and if they go outside of those tolerance bad things can and will happen. End results can be from benign to catastrophic. At at the end of the day you really do not gain anything over the SLA battery in power, weight or physical size not to mention that the lithium batteries are more expensive.
Alkaline batteries are really not a viable option when you consider the heat/cold and power requirements, plus the fact that they are one and done in most cases. Our IR “flash” alone would be enough to sink most alkalines in very short order.

We use the SLA battery because they operate in a reliable, simple to use power spectrum and if properly maintained should easily last 3-5 years in the field. The one downside to SLA batteries is they need to be properly maintained. The quickest way to ruin a SLA battery is to leave it in a discharged state for a long period of time. Even new batteries have to be properly maintained in order to keep from losing capacity. This is one reason why it’s important to buy the batteries from someone who sells a lot of batteries (like us!) because shelf life “maintenance” is extremely important. You can buy a brand new battery from someone who has had the battery on their shelf for over a year and not properly maintained it making it completely worthless (even though it is brand new). So be careful buying cheap SLA batteries – you get what you pay for….
And once a SLA battery has lost capacity it will never be the same.
Think of the battery like a fuel tank. It starts off brand new fully charge and can hold “10 gallons”. Then you leave it in the field discharged for a couple of weeks, it will no longer hold “10 gallons” – it will charge up and appear to function normally except now it only holds “8 gallons”. So you can see if you repeat this process several times (leaving it in the field discharged for a couple of weeks) it will eventually lose all it’s capacity – it will act like it is charging but only last a couple of days in the field. This is because it now will only hold “1/2 a gallon”. At the point where a SLA battery loses it capacity it will need to be replaced as it will never regain it’s capacity.
If you keep the batteries charged and don’t leave them in a discharged state for very long you can expect years of solid performance from a single SLA battery. This is one of the main reasons a good solar panel is worth the money simply because they can keep your battery maintained properly for years.
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Political Views and Business

I guess I’m old enough to remember a time when the political arena was no place for a business. I am also old enough to have seen a lot of businesses go out of business trying to push a political agenda rather than just running their business.

Who are these people? 
Our industry is competitive enough without trying to hamstring our entire corporation with our “personal” political views. Who are these people that are willing to risk their entire company and all their employees fate over a personal political position? I get it that some are just doing it for the old adage of “any marketing is good marketing” but there is always a tipping point.
Why would you want to rally so many potential customers against your business based on a singular political view? Is your business doing so well that you can afford to alienate an entire customer base? I just don’t see it. I really just don’t see it.

My political view
My personal political view has no business being, well, in our business. Our business is in the business to win customers over by our high quality product and keep them coming back because of our excellent support and customer service. It’s tough to make it in this industry as it is, let alone trying to be some social justice warrior worried too much about politics and not enough about their products/services. Besides the fact that this seems to be an American issue that a lot of our customers overseas 1) Don’t understand and 2) Could really care less about our “first world American” problems..
So don’t be “that guy”….

My hope
My hope is that everyone buys our products. We stand behind our products and hope that all sides of the political world just sees us for what we stand for – A company that makes one heck of a wireless system. I know we have played a vital role on most sides of the political world and that’s exactly the way it should be. We want your business, first and foremost because that’s how we stay in business and that how our employees keep their jobs, pay their mortgages and raise their families. That is what is important to me and our company.
All the while big corporations are out there pitting everyone against one another is some fashion to make a political statement and I just want our company to be successful. Our wireless systems are used by hunters, by researchers, by the left, the right and the center. Our goal is to make your goal easier.
You want to save the snow leopard? Glad to help!
You want to catch poachers in the jungle? Glad to help!
You want to monitor the glacier flow? Glad to help!
You want to catch your neighbor harassing your cats? Glad to help! (true story)
You want to get a picture of that monster buck? Glad to help!
You get the idea…. It’s a big world out there…..

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Sibuya Game Reserve

International Wireless Application

Small Company Big Impact
We are a small company located in Southeastern Ohio and have been in business since the mid 80’s. It might (or might not) surprise you that BuckEye Cam wireless systems have been global pretty much since our first release in 2004. Since the system at it’s core level is not reliant on any specific carrier it can operate anywhere in the world. It might also surprise you to learn the different ways in which our systems have been used over the years. The applications for our system have gone from a wireless hunting trail camera to a serious tool used to protect, research and alert.
Our systems have been used to monitor hazardous environments such as monitoring volcano activities, tidal changes, storm surges, flood waters just to list a few.  From Alaska to the Arctic, the Antarctic, deserts, jungles and just about every place in between.
BuckEye Cam systems have spent years in some of the harshest environments around such as on McQuarie Island. Macquarie Island is a World Heritage Listed sub-antarctic island located in the Southern Ocean, approximately half way between Australia and Antarctica (basically, a tiny island in the middle of the no-where). Researchers were studying the affects of burrowing animals on the native penguin populations.

In the War
BuckEye Cam systems were first deployed in Fallujah during the Iraq war and utilized as long range perimeter security for our troops. Cameras were deployed in Afghanistan as well during the same period. They were also used for security detail for our allies as well as many neighboring countries to monitor traffic from a distance. I wished I had pictures I COULD post from this time but I do not… for obvious reasons 🙂

Research
Our wireless systems are used in countless research applications ranging from monitoring the snow leopard in Central Asia to jungle surveys in Central America and everything in between.
One of the more memorable events was when Mexican researchers had our camera systems deployed in 2007-2008 on the Colima Volacano. Ironically, at the time it was suppose to be an inactive period for the volcano.. As you can see from the last series of photos it wasn’t so inactive.
The last picture the camera took…. “small eruption”
Colima explosion
before this happened…
Damaged camera open

So needless to say, the cameras were/are not volcano proof, in case you were wondering……

Securing the Border one country at a time.
Cameras are deployed worldwide being used for border security and enforcement. Our wireless no glow infrared systems have taken border security to an entirely new level. We cut out teeth on the US border security and enforcement and now have systems worldwide. We have agents from all over the world telling us how our systems have changed their entire border security. No longer are they reliant on the old sensors now that they have our system deployed. They are saving time, money and lives and that’s pretty awesome!

 

Anti-poaching
Our systems have played an important role in trying to apprehend and convict poachers all over the world. It is a battle that most of the “general” population isn’t aware of and have no idea how brutal it is.
Our friends at the Sibuya Game Reserve, down near Kenton on Sea, have been fighting a strong fight against rhino poachers in their area. You can learn more about their fight by visiting Sibuya Rhino Foundation.
They utilize our wireless systems as their first line of defense against the poachers.  It’s a brutal and ruthless scene to witness the damage the poachers do the rhinos. Keep in mind most of the rhinos survive brutal attack where the poachers literally hack the horn off only to die a slow painful death later.

 

Watching water…rise..
One of the more common uses is to literally monitor water……rise and fall. Whether it’s for research, the government, storm chasers or just the remote property owner, our wireless systems have been used to monitor waters all over the world.
Having seen thousands of different scenarios over the years, not much is as impressive as the power of water.

 

Big impact
It is amazing to see the impact our systems have had over the years. This entire system came from a coffee cup conversation in the beginning of 2000 I had with one of my engineers. It started off with me saying, “You know what we would be cool? It would be cool if we could capture a picture and transmit it wirelessly to a base receiver….” the rest is making history….

LiveCam

BuckEye Cam first launched LiveCam in early 2006. We had this concept earlier but took some time to develop – as things do. It’s funny because the first thing we discovered after launching the site was our system was on full display for everyone to see. Most standard cameras have always had the luxury of keeping their “flaws” private. I mean to say that once you start automatically posting every single picture from your entire camera system online, publicly, you have zero opportunity to hide from the crowd. You better be confident in your system if you are going to do this.

What is LiveCam?
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LiveCam is a service that we offer to our current BuckEye Cam customers. The LiveCam service is basically a hosting server for them to have their pictures and videos automatically uploaded to their own “site”. Customers can customize their LiveCam site to suit their needs including username and password protected so no one else can view their cameras. It’s a really cool site and since it automatic the user doesn’t need to do anything other than check their pictures and videos anytime and from anywhere in the world.
LiveCam automatically uploads the latest pictures from each and every camera the user wants uploaded. It makes it extremely easy for them to view their entire system from anywhere or any device at any time. If you go to this LiveCam page you will see a list of cameras with some dates, times and a brief description. Each camera has been selected by the user to be uploaded (you can select all or any of your cameras). The ability to select only the cameras you want keeps the ones you want private, private.
You can click on each camera and see the most recent pictures from each camera. LiveCam accounts are setup with a limited number of pictures per camera (300 per camera for example) so you can see the most recent 300 pictures from each camera. As new pictures come in they will be automatically uploaded to the site so the user doesn’t need to do a thing.
Users can also create alias accounts for short term use in the event they want to give access to someone for a limited time (like a building or construction site for example). Then when they are ready to shut it down they can shut down their alias account and go back to using their private account with private access.

NO PLACE TO HIDE!
Like I stated in the beginning, even before we started offering LiveCam just offering a wireless camera system there was no place to hide. Unlike traditional cameras where the pictures are stored on a SD and may not be viewed for weeks or months in some cases, wireless systems have no place to hide. I mean if our system doesn’t work the customers know that day – or that hour. You are held to a completely different standard with wireless – the system has to run 24/7-365 period with no exceptions. If any part of the system doesn’t work the user knows immediately.We can’t tell them to “just put your camera out and check it in a month”. Nope they are going to check in a minute, so it better work…. and it better keep working…
What this has done for us?
It has forced us to continuously improve.  It keeps us honest and that has worked great for us and even better for our customers!

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Night Photo Quality

What makes a good quality night photo with Infrared cameras? By far if you are seeking only quality at night and have no concerns about the infrared camera being spotted by trespassers, then you should be asking about the “Red Glow” infrared. The red glow infrared has the most available “flash” but is also very easily spotted from just about any distance. WE do offer these for our X series cameras but most want the no glow infrared. So if you are wanting to stay with the “No Glow” infrared then you should know that all are not created equally.

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There are quite a few factors that go into getting a good night image but mainly the list below covers the majority:

  • Image sensor
  • Lens
  • Infrared
  • Power
  • Shutter Speed
  • Gain

Image Sensor
The image sensor is what the camera uses to actually “capture” the image.  It is what the camera uses to actually scan the image if you will. Better quality sensors have fast scan rates and processing speeds. They are more sensitive to light changes and can cover wide bands of light differences. So the better the sensor the better capability your camera will have.

Lenses
The lens plays a surprising important role but probably not in the direct way you think. All sorts of engineering specs on lenses but to keep this simple the lens have a couple differences that can make big changes on your picture. Viewing width (or angle) – is exactly what it wounds like. The width of the field of view on the lens is what sets the field of view on the camera. Wider viewing angle lenses get “more” in the picture but they also make the targets appear further away and can trick your brain into thinking your flash range is much further than it actually is. Because the target in the picture will look smaller you immediately “feel” like the target is further away from the camera giving you the false impression that your flash range is reaching out further. A lot of camera companies out there prefer the wider angle lens because it gives the camera more time to trigger and still get the target in the picture plus it appears to give a better flash range because targets look smaller.
Using a more narrow lens limits the trigger time (less field of view) but they also tend to gather more light and bring the targets closer in the picture. Keeping the targets closer can give you more detail which is important to most. Lenses that gather more light allow you to use a faster shutter speed so you get less motion blur at night. We are able to use a more narrow lens because our systems are fast enough to trigger and still keep the targets in the field view of the picture. Plus we are able to use a fast shutter speed on top of that giving you less motion blur.

Infrared
Our X series cameras use over 70 no glow infrared LEDs per camera. Powering that many LEDs over a long period of time can take a lot of power (covering that next). The number of LEDs a camera has, is extremely important on a lot of fronts. Several different types of LEDs out there but for the most part (through hole LEDs vs SMT LEDs) are pretty comparable on a per unit same type basis. If you count the number of same type of LEDs a camera has and calculate the camera’s total power output capability (battery type and size they use) you will get a good idea of the Max LED output. So if you are looking at a camera that has 20 LEDs they just are not going to have the output of one that has over 70.

Power
Having enough power to be able to properly run your LEDs is important. When you see other cameras running on 6 or 8 AA batteries with 20 LEDs you’ll understand why. The more LEDs a camera has the more power is required to fire them. That is one of the reasons why we have always used the large SLA type batteries. They are extremely durable, reliable and can provide a lot of power over a long period of time. The biggest issue when firing LEDs is they have a tendency to “sink” the battery. Sinking the batteries with AAs will run them dead pretty quickly so cameras that run AA’s don’t run their LEDs to full capacity to avoid this which means they also have extremely dark pictures at night. It takes a lot of power (capacity) to avoid this if you want to run your LEDs at their upper end of power.

Shutter Speed
This is where most out there make up for their poor infrared performance at night. The way the camera works, technically there is no real mechanical shutter it’s just a term from the past that is still used today. Anyhow, shutter speed is basically the time you leave the shutter “open” to capture the picture – the longer (slower) the shutter is the more light you can capture. So if the camera requires a very long shutter speed at night to get acceptable night pictures they will be trading that for extremely blury pictures. Pretty simply put, the longer shutter a camera has the more motion blur you have. Since we have over 70 LEDs and plenty of power to drive them our cameras can use an extremely fast shutter which reduces the motion blur significantly. This coupled with a more narrow lens gives our system a big advantage over most out there.

Gain
Gain is a term used to essentially artificially increase the brightness of a night picture (or even day pictures). So if a camera needs to have a brighter night picture they will increase the gain. There is always a natural limit to the amount of gain you SHOULD use but that doesn’t seem to stop some from using too much. See when you use too much gain to brighten a picture you also introduce what in the industry is called “noise”.  I am sure you have seen the night pictures that looked all grainy and hard to actually make out what is in them. Well that is the noise from too much gain being used. Typically, when too much gain is being used they will have to post-process the picture to “smooth” or filter out the noise in an attempt to remove the graininess in the picture. This entire process ends up making the picture appear to be slightly blurry and modeled looking in the end.

When you start really digging in to the entire process of what all goes on to take an infrared picture at night you start realizing the differences in systems. You should look for a camera that utilizes a quality image sensor, lenses, plenty of power to back the IR and operate with faster shutter and little gain. This will ultimately give you the best night images possible….

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