Canadian trail camera maker Spypoint has built a solid reputation for quality and performance. Naturally, those two factors come at a cost, but Spypoint cameras are not overly expensive. These trail cams offer superior performance at respectable prices, perhaps leaving room after the investment for some actual hunting gear.
This camera is the forerunner of the Spypoint Solar, which is essentially a Force-11D with a solar panel on top. While the Solar-W may resemble a Force 10 or Force 12, it has its own internal components. It shares the Force 10’s body, but pixel count is upped to 12 (from 10), and trigger speeds are now .07 seconds. The Force 12 shares those features, but has a larger (2.4 inches) viewing screen than the Solar-W (2 inches). Coupled with its half-second recovery time, that means the Solar-W can fire off a second photo before some trail cameras have taken their first.
Daytime photos are much better than night pictures with this camera. Under performing at night while using red-glow LEDs might not sound like a great combination (and it isn’t), but night photos are not the Solar-W’s selling point. Its solar panel collects whatever light is available, boosting its already impressive battery life. So it lasts practically forever and takes quality images and video. Did we mention it measures its trigger speed in the hundredths of a second?
- One of the fastest trigger speeds available
- Excellent image quality
- Forever battery life
- Good video day or night
- Recovery speed on par with trigger speed
- Some Spypoint cameras offer Blur Reduction; not here
- Poor nighttime photography
Battery life is a critical component to a trail camera’s ease of use. Constant battery swapping may not bother someone using a trail camera as a home-security system, but it’s a different matter for a hunter. Users normally install their game cameras in areas that are difficult to access, such as a hunting lease that may be far from home. Hunters also must always be mindful that a battery swap means contaminating the area with human scent. Camera visits are best left for the necessary retrieval of images.
Using this trail camera means that battery life is essentially irrelevant. Without the solar panel attached, Spypoint cameras may get up to three years on a set of six AA batteries in photo mode. Those types of numbers are reserved for the top tier of trail cameras, but they are just the beginning for the Solar-W. It really can go indefinitely, as long as there is light available.
The other point to note about the solar panel on this Spypoint is that it works with any available light. Because it does not need direct sunlight to charge its internal battery, users are free to position it where they would any other trail camera. Shady spots are no problem; indoor and ambient light charge the battery just fine. The AAs are only there to power the camera at night when the battery’s charge drops. The Solar-W uses its power frugally, so the AAs hardly get used at all.
Near-Instant Trigger Speed
Few trail camera makers can even hope to compete with the current Spypoint trigger circuit. At .07 seconds, the trigger time of the Solar-W is nearly instantaneous. This incredible speed means there is no discernable lag from the time of movement detection image capture.
Not so long ago, a half-second trigger speed was as good as it got, but Spypoint has changed the game. Other manufacturers are catching up, and it makes you wonder how much faster trigger circuits really need to go. The Solar-W clicks its shutter at the instant its detection circuit is tripped. Are the trigger wars over?
Superior Recovery Times
Getting trigger times into the hundredths of a second is one feat, but it wouldn’t be relevant if that blazing speed were coupled with a pedestrian recovery time. The Solar-W resets in about a half of a second, though, eclipsing the trigger speeds of some off-the-shelf trail cameras.
With these speedy trigger and recovery times, each detection could conceivably result in multiple detections and images of the same target.To prevent that potential headache, Spypoint includes a programmable detection delay. Users can adjust to various intervals between instant and 30 seconds.
Adjustable Detection Range
Just as Spypoint allows users to toggle between detection intervals, there is also a setting to control the detection distance. For enclosed areas such as game trails and feeders, the detection zone can be whittled all the way down to just five feet from the trail cam. When the area is more open, as with a field or clear-cut, users can increase the detection zone out to as far as 80 feet.
Using the more extended detection-zone distances make empty frames at night more likely. Some users complain of this problem, and it begs the question if they have tried to adjust this setting. Spypoint’s listing of a 100-foot flash range is a bit optimistic. Sure, the light casts that far, but it is pretty diffuse at the edges of that distance. Adjusting the detection zone down below the maximum distance, where the light is more concentrated,reduces empty frames and ghost-like images.
Excellent Daytime Photography
The Solar-W takes excellent color photographs. It may not be the best infrared camera, and its videos are good without being extraordinary,but the daytime images here are among the best in the business. They have impressive focal depth and sharp contrast, with vibrant colors that make for interesting viewing. Spypoint claims 12 megapixels from the onboard image sensor, which is refreshing for its lack of hyperbole. It is still an interpolated number, but at least it isn’t outlandish.
Good Video Quality
While it may be true that some other trail cams offer video with higher definition, the Solar-W’s 720p video is still quite good. It isn’t cinematic, but it gets the job done. There is only a hint of the drag and pixilation that can often plague digital video. The Solar-W can record 10 to 90 second clips. Daytime video is on par with most of the best trail cameras available, though there is no sound.
Night videos also compare favorably with most other manufacturers. That last fact may seem surprising, considering the lack luster night photography of this trail cam. It is a testament to the gulf that exists right now between the night photo and video capabilities of most trail cameras on the market. The Solar-W just doesn’t experience much of a drop in performance from infrared photography to video.
Operate With or Without Batteries
If you choose to operate the Solar-W without batteries, you will likely miss photos. The camera will eventually experience a heavy workload and dark conditions, which drain the internal battery faster than it drains otherwise. But the option is there to run the Solar-W on the internal battery alone. The camera will power down once the internal battery is drained. It powers itself back on after the battery receives sufficient charge.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can the camera produce poor night images but get good results with night video?
It’s all relative. First, the night photography from the Solar-W is mostly adequate, and a few years ago it would have been considered excellent. Night-vision technology is improving exponentially, and Spypoint has obviously placed its bets on other aspects of trail cam tech. If this camera had better infrared with the detection circuit it possesses, it might corner the market.
The second thing to realize is that there is often a bigger difference between a trail camera’s infrared photos and videos than that which exists for the Solar-W. Users can opt for infrared video without disappointment, or they can accept the occasional unidentifiable frame as part of an ongoing cost for operating this machine. Again, these cameras have .07-second trigger speeds and .5-second refresh times. Is it really all about infrared?
How bright are the LEDs?
It would be a misnomer to say this is a low-glow trail camera. The truth is it actually uses red-glow LEDs with extremely dark external lenses on the body’s cover. Tinted covering is a common tactic for quieting the brightness of infrared LEDs on trail cameras, but these covers are phenomenally dark. That said, they mute the LEDs enough that one might consider the Solar-W a low-glow trail camera.
Users don’t normally complain of the brightness of the red after glow because it is an effective flash. Eighty-plus feet of infrared flash is mighty impressive in a camera with near-eternal life. And that flash range extends well past the detection zone, so completely dark frames are not common.If the there is a possibility that the red glow might draw the attention of your quarry, you should be shopping for no-glow cameras. Just be aware that the flash range will be necessarily shorter.
What is the Limit on SD Card Size?
Solar-W users are limited to only a 32-GB SD card (not included). True, some other cameras can utilize much more spacious SD cards, but those trail cams have the coding necessary to use the larger SD cards. Secure digital, high-capacity (SDHC) cards like those that the Solar-W uses are limited to 32 gigabytes. The SDXC (extended capacity) cards can store up to 2terabytes of information. They also transfer at much higher speeds, and there in lies the problem.
The Solar-W simply cannot use the format (FAT32) that the larger-capacity SD cards use. The FAT16 format of the Solar-W’s SD cards is getting older, but it isn’t antiquated yet. It’s a bit like USB 2.0 versus USB3.0. The newer tech is backward compatible, but older tech cannot read the newer storage devices.
What Does the Customer Say?
Solar Option is a Game Changer
Lots of manufacturers tout their cameras’ extended battery life, but only a camera like the Solar-W can offer the option of going battery-free. This camera offers its users that option, though it isn’t one that every hunter will likely opt to use. Operating the Solar-W sans batteries saves money, but it also creates the possibility of missed shots as the camera recharges the battery after it’s spent.
As the Solar-W operates, it gradually depletes its battery – just like any other camera. The battery stays charged when plenty of light is available, but darkness and heavy activity will drain it and lead to shut-off. The battery is soon recharged when light becomes available, but keeping AAs installed solves the problem of missed picture opportunities. With the Solar-Win the lineup, battery life is much less of a concern.
You Can Feel the Quality
From the heavy, double-latch cover to the easy-to-use configuration buttons, the quality of the build sets the Solar-W – and all Spypoint cameras – apart from the crowd. Barely larger than the average human hand, the size of the Solar-W can throw some users off at first. Those who equate the size of the compartment with the features and quality inside can sometimes assume too little of the lithe Solar-W, but this diminutive trail cam can hang with the big boys.
The settings are simple and uncomplicated to manipulate. The solar panel is equally confounding. It looks as though it might only barely power the camera, but it produces plenty of electricity with either direct or ambient light. Trail cameras are always an investment, but the dividends are guaranteed with a Solar-W. Spypoint backs this camera with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Night Pictures are Nerve-Wracking
No manufacturer has yet made the perfect trail camera. The industry is making leaps and bounds by the year, but there is always a thorn in any otherwise-perfect trail cam. Obviously, the Solar-W’s Achilles’ heel is its infrared photography. Ghostly blurs plague the nighttime photo roll whenever the Solar-W’s detection circuit is tripped after dark. Left in video mode, the same level of definition becomes acceptable, but it doesn’t change the fact that Spypoint has been lapped when it comes to night pictures.
Users rarely question their own purchase, but simply warn prospective buyers of the issue. They don’t often complain for themselves because the night videos are comparable to almost any other maker. Why even struggle with unidentifiable images when perfectly acceptable – even superior – night video is available for use? Normally one might say because video mode eats batteries, but that isn’t an issue here. No, this probably isn’t the right camera for anyone seeking stunning, gorgeous infrared images. It may just be perfect for the rest of us.
The Spypoint name is one that brings to mind cutting-edge detection circuits and futuristic battery life. This company makes cameras that show what trail cams could become, setting a standard that users are quickly coming to expect out of other manufacturers’ offerings. In terms of trigger speed and battery life, the Solar-W is the camera to which we compare all others. Those are bragging rights that must be earned. In all ways but one – night photography – this is the perfect trail camera. That it costs less than most others in its class is a bonus.
It should be noted that it is not exactly breaking news to say a Spypoint camera does not take the best night photos. Night time photography has as yet not been Spypoint’s strong suit, and that is something the executives at that company should rectify. The technology exists, and Spypoint has already become an industry leader in other areas. It would seem logical to think that the company could do the same with night photography if it so chose.
In every other quantifiable area, the Solar-W is an uncompromising trail camera. Impressive day and night video with vibrant full-light photos combine with instantaneous operation to produce a camera trap hunters and home users alike can trust to work when needed. The integrated solar panel is a no-brainer that puts the Solar-W in a select class. Users should decide for themselves whether the infrared pictures are really that much of a problem. For most of us, the other outstanding features more than make up for any shortcomings.