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2015 Browning Dark Ops HD Review
Model # btc6-hd | Browning Dark Ops Owners Manual
- Quick recovery time
- Great picture quality
- Improved video resolution
- Solid detection zone
- Only capable of 10 second night videos
- High day & night power consumption
The #1 question we get about Browning cameras is "what is the difference between the Dark Ops and the Strike Force?" Let's answer that before we do anything else. The Dark Ops HD is simply the no glow version of the Strike Force. No glow means the camera does not emit a light that is visible to the human eye. The Strike Force is red glow (we can see a faint red glow when it takes a video or picture). The Dark Ops also prints the barometric pressure on the pictures (Strike Force does not).
Browning has been advertising all their 2015 cameras as having a higher resolution of video and having improved latch construction. Let's take a closer look and see how the Dark Ops HD is doing.
Quality of Design
Dimensions: 4.75" x 4" x 3" | Battery Type: 6 AA Batteries | External Battery Jack: 12 Volt
To the naked eye, the case design remains virtually unchanged. This is a very small, compact, easy to conceal trail camera. All the buttons for programming work pretty well, although sometimes you will have to push a button a second time for it to react.
The battery tray ejects from the bottom, the eject button is a bit sticky and doesn't feel as positive as others we have tested. The programming on the camera is very simple and easy to use. The Dark Ops HD does lack a few programmable features that we like, such as; overwrite function, password protection and PIR/Flash Range settings.
As for durability, in 2015 there have been a run of cameras that took black night pictures along with cameras that are turning on and off rapidly. Browning has released firmware updates to fix this problem. Here is a breakdown of some of the more popular settings:
- 1-8 multi-shot
- 5 s. - 120 s. video clips
- Time Lapse: 1/2/3 hr (am & pm) or All Day (Sunrise to Sunset). 5 s. - 60 min. time intervals
- Photo Stamp: Time, date, temperature, moon phase and camera name
- Picture + Video Mode: No
- Start/Stop Time: No
- Password Protection: No
- SD Card Overwrite: No
- PIR Settings: No
- Flash Settings: No
Picture Trigger & Recovery Speed: 0.77 s. / 1.5 s. | Video Trigger & Recovery Speed: 1.65 s. / 2.5 s. | Detection Range: 70 ft.
The picture trigger speed is ok, but the video trigger is significantly slower. The recovery time after taking a photo is incredible, especially for a $150 camera. The video recovery is just a tick slower, however, that is still an impressive number.
Detection range is a very solid 70 ft. This can vary based on ambient temperature (hotter days result in cameras that are less sensitive), but on average you can expect 70 ft. if the camera is setup properly. For maximum range, the horizon needs to be centered in the middle of a photo the camera takes.
For whatever reason, the Dark Ops HD is just a tad slower than the its Strike Force counterpart. If you are using this camera for taking pictures, the detection circuit is incredible. If you plan on taking videos with this camera, this detection circuit is simply above average.
Photo resolution: 10, 8, 4, 2 mpxl | Video Resolution: 1280 x 720 w/ audio | Flash Type: No Glow Infrared
Daytime pictures mimic what we typically see from Browning trail cameras. Good color, nice clarity and they stop motion relatively well.
As is typical with any no glow trail camera, the Dark Ops HD's night pictures are darker and grainier than you see with the red glow Strike Force. The flash range goes down a bit as well. There have been some blur on night photos with motion. Overall, night pictures are above average for a no glow camera trap.
In the past, many people get confused with the megapixel ratings trail camera manufacturers advertise. Don't get caught up in this. We consider 99% of megapixel ratings to be a marketing gimmick. Companies inflate the mpxl rating to attract eyes to their products. They do this through interpolation, which digitally adds megapixels to a photo without actually improving the picture. The only way to judge picture quality is through the pictures a trail camera takes. For instance, the Dark Ops HD interpolates its photos out to 10 mpxl (if you choose "ultra" photo quality in the settings). We consider interpolation completely unnecessary, however, every manufacturer employs this tactic. You will notice this the most when you zoom in on a full size image that the camera has taken. The details of the photo will appear hazy or even digitized. This is normal and to be expected.
Video resolution is 1280 x 720 and it does include audio. We have found the daytime videos to be very good; nice color, good clarity and solid contrast. Night videos are a little darker and grainier than the Strike Force, which is to be expected, but overall they are very good. We did dock the night videos because they will only take a maximum of 10 second clips. No matter what you set the video length to be, night videos will only be 10 seconds long.
Resting Power (on): 0.72 mW | Daytime Power Consumption: 6.0 Ws | Nighttime Power Consumption: 8.0 Ws
The resting power is one of the lowest we have ever tested. 0.72 mW is almost nothing. The day and night consumption is high, in large part because they stay powered up in order to take the next photo quicker.
The camera operates on 6 AA batteries. You will get the best performance out of your camera if you use Lithium batteries. Alkaline batteries will work, but they are very unreliable and drain faster in cold weather. The Dark Ops HD will work with Tenergy Nimh Rechargeable batteries.
If this camera were to take 35 day pictures and 35 night pictures every 24 hours, this camera could last 4.9 months in the field (with lithiums).
2015 Browning Strike Force HD Conclusion:
The improvements Browning has made to the Dark Ops HD from 2014 to 2015 may be small, but the difference is rather large. We consider recovery time to be one of the most crucial aspects of how effective a trail camera will be. The 2015 Dark Ops HD has improved in this category enough to make it one of the fastest recovering cameras on the market. The improved video resolution is also quite noticeable. Overall, this is an excellent no glow trail camera and it gets our highest recommendation.
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Additional Resources: Browning Trail Cameras