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Browning Defender 850 Review

Browning has been setting new standards since it made a splash in the trail camera market in recent years. Packing more features into smaller packages while upping picture quality, Browning is pushing the industry forward. To see that innovation in practice, look no further than the Defender 850 – one of the first Bluetooth trail cameras in existence.

The Defender 850 is the sister unit of the Browning Defender 940, which has invisible no-glow infrared emitters instead of the 850’s red-glow emitters. The Defender 940 also has a shorter flash range (80 feet versus 120 feet), but that is to be expected when comparing a no-glow trail camera to a red-glow trail camera.The Defenders are also similar to the Reconyx MicroFireMR5, but in a more traditional case and at a more pocketbook-friendly price. You can read more popular trail camera reviews for your next hunting trip.

The Defender 850 is a mid-priced trail camera, but the photos and videos it takes are the equal of any high-end unit. The Wi-Fi connectivity is a novel feature, but one with a limited range that also limits its usefulness. Its excels at surveillance. Connecting to a shared Wi-Fi enables instant notification of a triggering, but only within a limited range. It could also be useful as an advance hunting scout, sending pictures of approaching game before it gets into range of sight.

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Pros

  • Gorgeous full-color and night photographs
  • Equally beautiful high-definition videos
  • Blazing-fast trigger speeds
  • Equally fast recovery times

Cons

  • Limited Wi-Fi range
  • No external power connections

Key Features

Remote Viewing

Other cameras take nice photos and videos, but few offer the ability to download the images they take directly to a cell phone, at least without a subscription service. The Defender 850 uses Bluetooth to send photos up to 60 yards away. This feature enables hunters to steer clear of the camera and not contaminate the area with their scent.

The remote viewing feature also allows homeowners to view surveillance footage from a safe location. The typical home user will place their cameras high above the ground where it is more difficult to steal, but that also makes it difficult to access. The advent of a Bluetooth trail camera means homeowners no longer have to climb up to remove SD cards.

Up to 128 GB Micro SD Card

The Defender 850 does not only send photos via Bluetooth. Just like a conventional trail camera, it also stores them on an onboard SD card. However, this camera uses a micro SD card, which is much smaller than the SD cards we are all used to using. It can utilize micro SD cards up to 128 gigabytes, allowing much more space for videos than the included 16-gigabyte card provides.

When in the field, the micro SD card can be a bit nerve wracking to deal with. Users unaccustomed to their tiny size may not realize how easy they are to misplace, especially when dropped unexpectedly. Cold air and gloved hands only complicate things further. But miniaturization is all the rage, and these itty bitty SD cards are likely the future. The amount of data they can hold for their size is amazing.

Cell Phone Application

While the Defender 850 has onboard menu navigation just like any other modern trail camera, users can also control any of its functions via a downloadable cell phone app. Once connected through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, the user can then view any photos or videos stored on the SD card. A live-view option is also available.

The app is capable of distinguishing between cameras, allowing a user to choose between any other Defender 850s in Bluetooth range. With the settings option, the app allows the user to use a cell phone to control all of the settings and functions of the camera.

High-Definition Video and Photography

The cool Bluetooth connectivity would just be a gimmick if the Defender 850 did not take quality images, but that is not an issue with this camera. Its 20-megapixel camera takes reliably clear pictures regardless of lighting. The red-glow infrared flash allows for night-time images that also have excellent contrast and clarity.

The Defender 850 shoots video in true 1080p HD quality that are meant to rival much pricier trail cameras. Night videos can be equally impressive, depending on the IR flash setting. Even at the lower settings, 1080p allows for excellent contrast and illumination.

AdjustableIR Flash

The Defender 850 is one of the first trail cameras in the Browning lineup to offer an adjustable infrared flash. It has three settings: Power Save, Long Range and Fast Motion. Power Save mode dials back the flash range to approximately 70 feet from the camera, which is suitable for tight spaces and wooded areas. It reduces power draw to extend the life of the four CR123 batteries.

In Long Range mode, the IR emitters are turned all the way up, illuminating the area out to a distance of 120 feet. This mode is useful in wide-open spaces, but it can reduce battery life to three months or less. Fast Motion mode sets the flash range at about 100 feet. It also increases the shutter speed from 1/20th of a second to 1/40th of a second to better capture fast moving game.

State of the Art Detection Circuit

As it leads the way in size reduction and connectivity, Browning is also moving the needle when it comes to detection circuitry. For all practical purposes, the Defender 850 is as fast as anything else available. Its trigger time of .4 seconds is about as good as it gets. Any faster times are practically imperceptible. Its .8-second recovery time is fast in any segment.

The 80-foot detection range is also the equal of almost any camera on the market, regardless of price point. It does not suffer from the issue of detecting motion past its flash distance, so empty images and ghost pictures are not a problem.

Multiple Photo and Video Modes

Quality imagery is one thing, but modern trail camera customers expect multi-functionality. The Defender 850 offers time-lapse photography and a Rapid Fire mode that allows for up to eight pictures on each trigger. Picture Delay is also adjustable from 5 to 60 seconds.

Video length is adjustable from 5 seconds to 2 minutes. The Smart IR video mode is common across the Browning lineup. When engaged, the camera begins recording video when triggered and continues recording until the motion stops. The Defender 850 will only engage this mode in daytime. Night videos will record at whatever length they are set as normal.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the useable range of the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity?

The answer to this question depends on how clear the path from camera to phone is. In dense woodland or when walls are in the way, the effective range may be only 30 feet or so. When there is clear line of sight, the Bluetooth signal is plenty strong enough to reach out to the advertised 60 yards. Reliable connectivity at distances of up to 100 feet are common when the proper steps are employed.

Can you manage the stored data remotely?

Yes. Once a cell phone is connected to the camera, pictures can be deleted from the SD card without actually retrieving it. This means the only time the camera needs to be physically accessed is for battery changes.

Is there an app you can download to operate the camera remotely?

Yes. With the application downloaded onto your phone, you can use it to control every setting and feature on the Defender 850. The app also enables a live view from the camera, which makes it ideal for home security.

Can you view images without Wi-Fi or Bluetooth?

Yes, but the only way to do this is the old-fashioned way: physically retrieving the SD card. The camera comes with a 16-gigabyte SD card, but it can accept a card with up to 128 gigs of space.

Can you use external power sources?

No. One of the few detractions of the Defender 850 – and a clear oversight on Browning’s part – is its lack of an external connection for other power sources. So neither an external battery nor a solar panel will power this Bluetooth trail camera.

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What does the Customer Say?

Crisp Photography

Daytime imagery is outstanding for a camera in this price range. Colors are vivid and bright, with excellent contrast from bright to dark areas. Movement shows no sign of blurring in good lighting. Night photos are also high quality. The adjustable infrared makes it easy to ensure that all areas of the frame are well-lit, and it can eliminate blur from fast-moving nocturnal animals.

Stunning Video, Lacking Audio

This camera has true 1080p HD video. Images are clear and colorful, with no lag or drag during motion. The audio feature can sound a bit like static or white noise. It serves no real purpose, but it doesn’t detract from the stunning video quality. Day or night videos are equally impressive.

Deep Flash Range

As a red-glow camera, you should expect a deeper field of view than no-glow cameras deliver, but the depth of night videos on the Defender 850 is surprising. The depth is about the same when dialed down to Power Save mode as most other trail cameras, but Long Range mode distinguishes the Defender 850.

Amazing Night Vision

Night images and video are amazingly clear. Small details are easy to pick out, and textures are discernible. The infrared emitters really throw some invisible light, illuminating anything in the frame quite well. The clarity is not confined to just subjects that are up close and personal, either. Velvet on a deer’s antlers is often apparent from 50 feet away.

Battery Life is Low

Nothing is perfect, and the Defender 850 certainly has its flaws. Browning’s choice of CR123 batteries is confusing. These are not the easiest batteries to find, as they are not a common inclusion in those battery kiosks found in stores. Even on Power Save mode, battery life may not extend much past three months. A common solution is to use rechargeable batteries, but the rechargeable CR123 batteries available now are a bit too big for a comfortable fit. Some users are forcing them into place and saving money on replacing batteries.

Limited Bluetooth Range

Bluetooth devices rarely stay connected at distances of more than 30 feet, so it is no surprise that the Defender 850 struggles at longer distances. Walls provide the worst hurdles, which is problematic for the homeowner who wants a Bluetooth game camera for surveillance purposes. Repositioning of the camera sometimes improves connection distances, but unfortunately this issue is a result of limits in the technology not in the device.

Works as Advertised when Properly Connected

The thing to remember about connecting a phone to the Defender 850 is that Bluetooth and Wi-Fi amount to two different user modes. The Bluetooth mode is always engaged, and the phone and camera must pair on Bluetooth before any more progress is possible. Using the app, the user can next connect to the camera’s Wi-Fi. The Defender 850 can then reach longer distances and stay connected. The user must use Wi-Fi mode to view images, live capture images or control settings.

Final Words

Only time will tell if Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity are viable technologies for game cameras. The Bluetooth trail camera is still a new invention, and a few bugs are to be expected. Enough users are getting the advertised level of connectivity to suspect that those who aren’t are experiencing user error. It is more logical than to think that Browning might have quality control issues. Browning has a stellar reputation, especially in the trail camera market.

Anyone comfortable with modern technology should instantly see the potential benefits in combining trail cameras, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Hunters will be spooking game less as they no longer need to approach their game cameras in the field. The homeowner can expect to reach for the ladder less often, as game cameras usually get placed in inaccessible locations to prevent theft. The ability to live-monitor the goings on near the camera are another positive. Until now, you had to pay for a subscription on a cell camera for these types of benefits.

All of that technology is just window dressing if the camera does not function well, but the Defender 850 has no detractors in that department. It shoots stunning, crystal-clear still photos and brilliant 1080p videos that are as good as almost any other camera out there. Browning could have used the Bluetooth connectivity to sell an inferior camera and probably had a hit. Instead, it added that connectivity to a superior camera and created a new market segment that nobody knew was missing.