Spypoint Tiny W3 Review
Model # tinyw3
- Connect up to 10 cameras to one black box receiver
- Adjustable period of operation
- No glow infrared
- Slow trigger / recovery times
- High battery consumption
- Unreliable picture transfer
The 2013 Spypoint Tiny W3 is the latest version of Spypoint's popular "black box" camera traps. This camera is designed to take a picture, store that picture on both the cameras SD card and the SD card on the hidden black box receiver. If a thief were to steal your camera, you can simply go to the black box and theoretically retrieve all the pictures the camera has taken.
The Tiny W3 comes with a few needed improvements from the Tiny W2 model. This upgraded version sports a no glow infrared flash, ability to hook multiple cameras up to one black box receiver and an advertised transmission range of 500 ft.
On the flip side, the camera has actually gotten slower in both trigger and recovery times from last year. On top of that, the battery life is extremely limited and the camera is not intuitive for setup.
Detection Circuit 2.4 Stars
1.59 second trigger times do not impress us, especially for a camera that is billed as a security device. From 2011 to 2012, Spypoint took a huge step forward, getting several of their cameras trigger times to under 1 second. However, from 2012 to 2013, it seems they have reverted to slower trigger times.
The camera alone recovers in 9.9 seconds. This ranks in the 30th percentile of all current trail cameras. The recovery time drops to 25 seconds when it is transmitting to a black box. This is roughly the same time as the Tiny W2 takes. Regardless, we were hoping for faster times, but it is understandably slower given the camera is transmitting a photo to a hidden device.
The detection zone is the lone bright spot in this category. It is wide and can detect out to 60 feet. This is an above average detection zone and is solid enough for just about any task.
Picture Quality 3.0 Stars
Daytime pictures remain average in the W3. We have several sample photos that look really good and we have several that are blurry or distorted. The camera seems to be extra sensitive to sunlight but rather good in the shade. Our biggest gripe with any Spypoint cameras daytime picture just lacks the vivid colors that other cameras have.
The pictures do seem to be really sharp when the object is close. The little doe on the right is crystal clear, in fact, so clear that you can see each of the individual ticks on her face and back.
On the flip side, the pictures below show just the opposite. The fox is blurry and the little fawn is somewhat distorted. Even the grass in the fawn picture below just doesn't look quite right.
Night pictures are pretty much the same story. Some are good (especially the close ones) and some are below average. You can see prime examples of both cases below.
So which picture can YOU expect to get if you buy a Tiny W3? Both.
The pictures transmitted to the black box are compressed to a smaller file size. Normally, this means a decrease in picture quality and they develop "graininess." This really isn't the case with the Tiny W3. We have to applaud Spypoint, because these pictures are 800 x 600 and they retain nearly the original quality. We are very impressed by the pictures that can be recovered from the black box. Below are three examples pulled directly from the black box.
Battery Life 2.3 Stars
Battery life is not a strong point with the Tiny W3. However, a recent firmware upgrade (that is available via Spypoint's website) does significantly help the battery life. Below is the updated data. We ran the same camera without the update, and then with the update.
The black box initially struggled to get even a week out of a set of batteries. The new firmware has significantly improved the longevity of a set of batteries. While this still is not the most impressive data, it certainly is an improvement.
Spypoint does not recommend rechargeable nimh batteries, so you will need to use either alkaline or lithium batteries. The black box takes 6 batteries as does the camera. You will need 12 AA batteries total.
Quality of Design 2.7 Stars
Make sure you keep the owner's manual handy on the Tiny W3, you will need it. Programming is neither easy nor intuitive. Even trail camera veterans, like us, had problems with the programming.
Theoretically, synching the camera to the black box is a simple process. However, every time we attempted to synch, it was never as simple as it appeared. Also, the camera seems to work best with SanDisk SD cards. The MaxFlash cards that we use and sell are hit and miss on whether they work or not.
After a few attempts we were able to get the camera to send pictures the advertised 500 ft. To get the full 500 ft., we had to setup the camera and receiver to be line of sight, without anything blocking the transmission. When we put them in the woods, with trees and brush, the range drops to under 200 ft. We tried it in our office and the pictures would not transmit through the metal walls.
Case design is very good with the Tiny W3. The camera seems solid and durable in your hands. The camera has a built-in viewer, as well as the black box. We don't know how much extra it cost Spypoint to put the viewer in the receiver, but it is worth every penny.
The battery tray is removable, which eliminates batteries popping out of place accidentally. It also makes switching batteries a cinch.
In 2012, our second most returned and/or warrantied trail camera was the Tiny W2. Whether it was for defect, or more frequently, user-error, we saw many of them returned via our 90 day no questions asked return policy.
To say we are skittish of the Tiny W3 going forward, would be an understatement. Many of our customers became too frustrated with the finicky programming and SD card compatibility, that they ended up returning the camera to us.
Spypoint has really made a big name for themselves in the trail camera industry the last several years. You see their advertising everywhere and they have prominent space in many of the big box retailers.
We commend them for having progressive, unique cameras that the other companies are too scared to even attempt to re-create. However, we have had too many issues with the Tiny W3 for it to warrant our recommendation.