Poor battery life has always been an issue with trail cameras. Spypoint has taken on that challenge head on with their new Spypoint Solar trail camera. The Solar is just like the Force series, with one important distinction; the built in solar panel.
It truly looks to be one of the most innovative cameras to be released in recent years. Battery life is always an issue, so I was super excited to pick a Solar to review and see how well it worked.
Specs & Unboxing
- 12MP Images
- 720p Video
- Integrated Solar Panel
- Red IR LED’s
- 2” Internal Screen
- Takes up to 32GB Memory Cards
- Rapid Fire Multi-Shot Mode
- Time Lapse Mode
- Hybrid Mode (Image then Video)
- Runs on 6AA Batteries
The specs for the Spypoint Solar are nearly identical to the Force 12 and Force 11D cameras. Even the case design looks the same between these models. Obviously, the reason for buying the Solar is the integrated solar panel, which I’ll get to in a minute.
The case design is pretty solid. All the plastic parts have a high quality feel, although I wish the latches were a little snappier. The camo pattern is mostly brown and tan with some faded mossy greens mixed in. The left side of the housing has a leafy pattern while the right half is a tree bark design.
Looking inside the housing, you will be pleased to see a 2” color LCD for viewing the photos and videos, as well as setting up the camera. The only buttons present are an on/off toggle, up/down arrow keys, and OK/Back buttons. Navigating through the setup screens is very easy with those buttons.
Integrated Solar Panel
No doubt the most interesting thing about this camera is the built in solar panel. The solar panel is built into a wedge shaped housing that sits atop the main camera body. There is also a rechargeable battery pack within the panel housing. The design is patent pending, so other camera manufacturers may need to design around this.
The big question you might be having is; does it need direct sunlight to charge? According to Spypoint, the Solar does not need direct sunlight to charge the batteries, although every bit will help. I suspect the triangular shape helps catch the small amount of sunlight that is reflected off things in the woods.
Before you deploy the Spypoint Solar, fully charge the internal battery pack and load it with 6 AA lithium batteries. For best results, try to find a spot where at least a little sunlight can reach the camera. The camera draws power from the internal rechargeable battery until it fall below 25% charge, at which point it switches over to the lithium AA.
The guys at TCP say the current draw is super low, even without the solar panel being factored in. When you add the solar, you talking about well over 1-1/2 years of battery life. It is simply amazing that changing batteries will become optional with this camera.
Stupid Fast Trigger & Recovery
Like all the new Spypoint Force cameras, the Solar has unheard of trigger and recovery specs. We’re talking .07 seconds to trigger a photo, and just 0.5 seconds to recover. It’s nearly as good on the video side at 0.6/0.7 seconds to trigger a video and recover. Not many cameras in this price range can compete with these speeds.»
The detection circuit has 5 zones, and the range is advertised as 80 feet with a 100 foot night flash. That is pretty decent, but after some use it seems like the actual range is closer to a more average 60 or 70 feet.
Picture & Video Quality
The imaging sensor is identical to that on the Force 11D/12 cameras, meaning the Solar excels at daytime photos. The color is full and crisp, and the whole frame stays in focus. No matter where I placed this camera, it seemed to provide well-lit and colorful pictures.
Night photos are where the Spypoint Solar stumbles a bit. Reading through online reviews, several people seem to experience occasional blurry night photos. It doesn’t make sense to me yet, because the flash has more than enough power (100ft range), and there are 3 different modes to tweak the night image quality.
IR Boost mode puts the flash at max strength, but it seems to result in more frequent blurred images. Blur Reduction mode does the opposite, with shorter flash range and improved image quality, especially when the animals are crossing the frame. Finally, there is Optimal mode which is set right in the middle.
Overall, if Spypoint could have gotten the night pictures right, we’d have one of the best trail cameras on our hands. Instead, I have to knock a few points off the Image Quality score.
Is the Spypoint Solar Worth It?
The Spypoint Solar 12MP trail camera is the only trail camera of its kind and is an excellent one at that. It wouldn’t surprise me to see other camera manufacturers attempting to design their own solar powered models, even though there is that pending patent they’ll need to workaround.
For the higher camera price, you’ll save that money and more by buying fewer batteries. I would take those savings and spend it towards adding more cameras to your collection. Based on the excellent design, and solid picture and video performance, I can give the Spypoint Solar an enthusiastic two thumbs up. I will definitely be adding a few more of them to my fleet.
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