NHBS In the Field – Browning Recon Force HP4

Fast becoming one of our most popular trail cameras, the Recon Force Elite HP4 delivers outstanding quality video, super-fast responses and some great new features, all for excellent value.

The model joined the ever-growing suite of highly regarded trail cameras offered by Browning at the start of 2021. What sets the Recon Force HP4 apart is that, while introducing some useful new settings and providing generously rich image and video resolution, it doesn’t stretch the budget too much, the way some of the higher-end trail cameras currently do.

With the HP4, Browning has successfully found a way to keep the cost of a top specification camera reasonable without compromising on any of the quality they are renowned for. After some time experimenting with this camera, we feel sure that it is set to become one of our most desirable models, fulfilling every need you would have for a trail camera.

As is the case for most of the high-spec Browning trail cameras, the HP4 includes a front-facing colour screen, but at a bumper 5cm in size, this screen really is ideal for reviewing footage while in the field, particularly if you are capturing smaller wildlife. It also can’t be stressed enough just what a great aid this large screen is when setting the camera up, as it is so much easier to check that the camera’s positioning, angle and height are all set as desired before deployment.

Despite increasing the screen size, Browning has still managed to reduce the overall size of the camera itself, which is handy when it comes to transportation, discreetness and ease of attachment to trees. The back of the camera features a sturdy metal bracket for threading a strap or cable lock through, as well as the usual tripod screw on the underside, giving you plenty of options for mounting the camera.

Some of the more notable features of the HP4 include its smart IR video, which continues capturing video as long as an animal continues to be active in view of the camera, with recordings lasting up to a maximum of 2 minutes in daylight and 20 seconds at night. Its SD card management function is another useful addition, providing the option to overwrite older images on the card if the memory gets full.

Using its top-quality specifications, the Recon Force HP4 reliably and beautifully documents the wildlife you wouldn’t normally see and is both versatile and affordable enough that it should be suitable for most circumstances.

How we tested

For an insight into the camera’s performance and its suitability for different circumstances, we used the camera in a variety of habitats where the behaviour of different wildlife could test the camera’s range of functions.
After setting the camera up with a full set of AA batteries and a 32GB SD, we first focused on smaller mammals by using the camera in a low canopy broadleaved woodland setting. We used a Python Mini Lock to secure the camera to a suitable tree and positioned the camera overlooking a small woodland clearing where a few peanuts were scattered. We left the camera out here for two days and nights under the following settings:

Mode: Trail Cam; Photo Quality: Ultra; Photo Delay: 1 Secs; Multi Shot Mode: Off; Image Data Strip: On; Motion Detection: Long Range; Trigger Speed: Fast; IR Flash Power: Long Range.

The camera was then moved to a more open garden setting, where we focused on video. We set the video length to 10 seconds, but also turned on the smart IR video function.

Motion tests were performed before leaving the camera running, which is a very convenient feature to ensure that the triggers are operating as expected before deployment. This simply works by checking that a red low glow is emitted when waving your hand in front of the camera.

We also tried out the programmable stop/start timer, which informs the camera to only trigger during specified timeframes. This is another very useful feature, especially if, for example, you are targeting only nocturnal or diurnal wildlife or baiting a site and wanting to avoid excess triggers from unintended species that may be attracted to a bait during the day/night.

What we found

Under these settings, the camera captured significant activity from brown rats at night and grey squirrels during the day. In terms of still images, which are captured at 22MP, we felt that the quality, colour contrast and detail recorded is fantastic and the black and white IR images were not too grainy.

It was interesting to see that with the 1-second photo delay, whole sequences of squirrels finding and then burying peanuts in front of the camera were nicely captured, just like a broken-down video, showing the camera wasn’t missing any action in front of it.

Even when a fast-moving squirrel was leaping in and out of frame, most of the images captured were sharp, showing the value of the impressive fastest trigger speed setting of 0.2 seconds (s). It is worth noting, however, that this fast trigger speed did result in many captures of animals just as they were entering the field of view, rather than more in the centre.

In response to this, we adjusted the trigger speed to the slower 0.7s to see how this affected the captures going forward. This resulted in some captures of rats further into the centre of the image. Also, when a slow-moving domestic cat approached the area, the first capture was made once the cat had made its way into a fairly central point of the frame, resulting in a more useful image. This demonstrates the value in having an adjustable trigger speed, which allows the user to customise the set-up to the particular circumstances or the habits of target wildlife

The Recon Force HP4 boasts a great infrared sensor with a detection range of 34 meters and utilises new long-range LEDs, so it was very encouraging to see the camera triggering when a rat was passed by at approximately 5 meters away, outside the main detection zone and partially obscured by leaf litter. Although we have not yet had a chance to put the full detection distance to test, we already feel from these captures that the detection and trigger speeds can be relied upon.

It is worth noting though that for small mammals and birds, they can often be a challenge to identify unless they are triggered very close to the camera and within the core detection zone.

When testing in the garden setting, we hoped to capture foxes but instead recorded several domestic cats alongside garden birds. Here we decided to also test the smart IR video which worked well and resulted in 20-second night videos of cats sniffing around while they remained in view.

This setting proved particularly helpful when the camera was later returned to the woodland and was triggered by a passing badger. The recording did not end until the badger had fully left the frame. Using this function therefore greatly reduces the risk of interesting behaviour being missed just because a video has been timed out by default.

After reviewing the video footage, we were first struck by just how sharp and smooth the quality was at 1920 x 1080 taken at 60 frames per second, revealing plenty of detail both during the day and at night. The level of detail produces attractive footage that could perhaps help with the identification of individual animals.

It was also a pleasing result that we found no false triggers under both the long and normal detection range and the fast and normal trigger speeds, even under some windy conditions.

Our opinion

We would have no hesitations in recommending the Recon Force HP4 for both serious naturalists, researchers and even a first-time user looking to capture reliable and quality footage in their garden or local area.

Certainly, one of the most practical features is the large 5cm colour screen which really does make a difference to set up, alongside the no-nonsense menu navigation and instruction manual. Even those that are not so technically minded should have little problem using and enjoying this camera. Large front-facing screens are by no means unique to this model, but most others are usually significantly higher priced.

The super fast picture trigger and recovery speed of 0.01s and 0.6s respectively and video trigger and recovery speed of 0.38s and 0.7s, shouldn’t fail to capture anything, but the trigger speed is adjustable which is great for flexibility. Depending on the circumstances of your detection zone and what wildlife you are targeting, switching to the slower trigger speed could be more convenient, for instance for recording slow-moving large mammals, so this function covers you for all options.

One aspect to consider is that it lacks a hybrid mode that would enable both video and still images to be captured simultaneously, which can be useful in many circumstances. It is also worth being aware that the HP4 is a red ‘low glow’ camera, and the discreet red light emitted during night-time triggers did appear to draw occasional minor attention from some wildlife on occasions. But as is often reported, most wildlife is not spooked or adversely affected by this, so the most important reason to opt for a No Glow camera instead would be if using the camera in public areas.

The field of view is 40.2°, just slightly narrower than that of a similar model, the Browning Strike Force HD Pro X. Based on our findings however, it is hard to see that this minor difference will have any significant impact on your success rates.

We found that the images and videos captured during the depths of night were particularly impressive and significantly less grainy than many older models. The sharpness and colour contrast is very aesthetic and allows for details such as fur texture to be visible on even the smaller animals.

Other highlights we found included the relatively wide range on the adjustable trigger speed, and the smart IR video which made the most of the behaviour being captured.

To conclude the HP4 is an outstanding trail camera that builds on Browning’s long-standing reputation for durable, easy-to-use and high-performance trail cameras. Even if you are considering a more entry-level trail camera, after seeing the quality of videos this camera produces it would be hard to resist not treating yourself to this camera as an upgrade, given its price.


The Browning Recon Force HP4 can be found here. Our full range of trail cameras can be found here.

If you have any questions about our range or would like some advice on the right product for you then please contact us via email at customer.services@nhbs.com or phone on 01803 865913.

 

NHBS In the Field – EasyLog USB Temperature and Humidity Logger with LCD Screen

The Easylog USB Temperature and Humidity Logger with LCD Screen (EL-USB-2-LCD) from Lascar electronics is a great addition to any field kit bag. This is one of the most popular models in the EasyLog range, offering a very high degree of accuracy for its recordings, measuring a range from -35°C to + 80°C, plus a humidity range from 0 to 100% RH.

What’s in the box

The EL-USB-2-LCD is packaged inside a static shielding bag and comes with a translucent plastic cover to protect the USB stick. A quick start guide is included with clear step-by-step instructions on set up, replacing the battery and a mini-guide to the different LED flash alarms.

Setting up

The first step in preparing to use your EL-USB logger is to download the EasyLogUSB software from the website here.

The software is free to download and is compatible with 32 bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7, 8 and 10. Please note that the software is not compatible with Apple or other devices not specified.

Once installed you will need to insert the logger into a USB port and click the Setup and Start USB data logger which will take you through a series of steps to calibrate and personalise your logger, ready for use. This will give you the opportunity to set the parameters of the logger to your requirements.

Some of the features of the logger that can be customised include:

  • Logger name
  •  °C / °F
  • Logging rate (10s, 1m, 5m, 30m, 1hr, 6hr, 12hr)
  • High and low alarms
  • Immediate, delayed, and push-to-start logging
  • Display off, on for 30 seconds after button press, or permanently on
  • Data rollover (allows unlimited logger by overwriting the oldest data when memory is full)

Once the setup is complete, you will receive a confirmation message and the logger should then be removed from the USB port, to preserve its battery life and cool down before use. It is now ready to go.

Use in the field

We tested the logger on the banks of the River Dart in south Devon in early August 2021. We set the logger to record every 10 seconds and monitored the site from mid-morning to early afternoon.

When using the logger, always keep the clear plastic cap on to protect it from the elements. When ready, start the recordings using the single button.

This button can be used to navigate between settings, although we found it rather stiff, requiring a firm push for activation. The LCD screen then displays the live temperature or humidity reading (you can switch between the two) and previous maximum and minimum readings for both too. The little LED for both will also flash to indicate when recording is in progress and will alert you to any temperature or humidity alarms, if reached, too.

In many circumstances, where the logger is being used to record temperature or humidity at a static field site, it can be attached to a tree, cane or post via a cable tie or tape, or placed in a secure location. Alternatively, it can be simply carried or clipped onto a belt/lanyard if needing to accompany a surveyor along a route.

We found the accuracy of the readings superb and far more sensitive than those that might be produced by, for example, a phone. The device is small, lightweight, and easy to navigate, so is ideal for taking out into remote or inaccessible locations. It can be equally as helpful for constant monitoring, for instance when checking incubators, animal habitats and enclosures, or even a room or fridge. With an impressive battery life lasting up to two years and the capacity to store 16,000 temperature and humidity readings, it’s a particularly versatile logger, suitable for many circumstances.

The EL-USB-2-LCD is also one of the EasyLog’s most robust models with a sturdy casing that has been tested to IP67 standards. And so, when the protective cap is correctly fitted, it has excellent protection against water and dust.

Software

Once you have collected your readings, insert the logger back into a USB port and click the Stop USB Data Logger and Download Data. The data will then be transferred to your computer and can then be viewed. The display will first default to show your temperature, humidity, and dew point readings all in an axis graph.

Here is an example we produced from our readings:

Below is a key to the graph information.

  1. Vertical axis, including scale and unit
  2. Horizontal axis, including time-related information
  3. Data logger name
  4. Low alarm trigger level, a horizontal dashed line
  5. High alarm trigger level, a horizontal dashed line
  6. Plotted data line
  7. Marker line that follows the mouse pointer
  8. Marker line data for the current marker line position, or the logging period if no marker line is shown

Within the top toolbar, there is the option to save, export, zoom in and out, and switch from a graph to a data view. Under the view tab, you can also sort and organise your data under very useful different parameters that include data range, gridlines, mark samples, statistics, and data view.

Each of these tools can help further filter or analyse your results. Then using the Export function, you can easily produce and extract professional reports saved as either CSV data files, JPEG images, a PDF document of the data, a graph summary, or an Excel spreadsheet.

We found that extracting specific information from the data was quick and straightforward with these functions. The toolbar is kept simple so that the display does not appear cluttered with too many options and functions. Overall, the software is very intuitive to navigate.

Summary

Although there is now a wide range of temperature and humidity loggers available to choose from, the outstanding accuracy of this model, alongside its customisable features and tough weather-proofing makes the EL-USB-2-LCD a standout choice.

The EasyLog range starts with the entry-level EasyLog Mini USB, which is limited to only recording temperature and at 30-minute intervals. At the top end of the range is the EasyLog Professional Data Logger which covers the greatest temperature ranges, offers the longest battery life (3 years), recording capacity (32,000) and the most flexible parameter settings, including the option to record every second.

We find the EL-USB-2-LCD to be the best ‘all-rounder’ within the range, covering both humidity and dew, as well as a wide range of temperature recordings, all at an affordable price. We also feel it has an advantage over the similar EasyLog USB Temperature and Humidity Logger. For a relatively small increase in price, we found the LCD screen a particularly useful addition when out in the field, as we could check the live temperature or humidity before starting a survey or prolonged recording session. This screen also reassures you that your logger is working correctly, which is valuable if taking the logger out to a remote location, for example.

Users can rest assured knowing that their readings will be highly accurate and that their data can be also quickly converted into effective reports through the excellent software.

Overall, we found the EL-USB-2-LCD superb and would recommend this model for its versatility, accuracy and fantastic settings that should cover most needs and circumstances.


The EL-USB-2-LCD can be found here. Our full range of EasyLog products can be found here.

If you have any questions about our range or would like some advice on the right product for you then please contact us via email at customer.services@nhbs.com or phone on 01803 865913.

 

NHBS In the Field – The Anabat Scout product review

Here we review the Anabat Scout from Titley Scientific. The Scout is an easy to use active bat detector that offers excellent quality live audio and recording, plus many handy surveying features and durability that sets it apart from other detectors. It uses heterodyne, auto-heterodyne and frequency division audio that can be recorded in either full spectrum or zero crossing files.

Designed with professional surveyors as well as the more serious bat enthusiast in mind, the Scout is an ideal detector to take on bat emergence and transect surveys. This is thanks to great features such as a bat counter and GPS tracking transect mode.

How we tested

In early July 2021, we tested the Scout outside an old barn in South Devon to monitor the dusk emergence of several bat species. The building was known to host many common pipistrelles, brown long-eared, lesser horseshoes and some myotis species. We wanted to see how easy the detector was to use in the setting of a busy emergence and get a feel for its recording quality and its special features. The audio was set to auto-heterodyne to see how good this feature would be with multiple bats close by. Under the trigger settings is the option to adjust the sensitivity, which we set to high as there was unlikely to be too much undesired noise in this setting.

What we found

Firstly, it is worth noting just how lightweight (at 160 grams without batteries) and easy to hold the Scout is with its handy wrist lanyard and comfortable fit within your hand. These features are particularly important when undertaking long surveys and holding other equipment such as a clipboard for instance.

The OLED display screen is small, but bright, so key information such as peak frequency and time is easy to note in the dark. With just key information visible, the screen does not become too “busy” unlike some detectors, which in some circumstances is a real advantage as it avoids too much distraction. The buttons all glow in the dark, which we found very useful once it had become completely dark, as it kept navigation simple, without having to use a torch.

One of the Scout’s most handy features are the in/out bat counter buttons which enable you to easily tally the number of bats recorded coming out and back into a roost, without the need to look away to make notes and perhaps miss bats. The counter also time and date stamps and geotags each count (CSV file output), so saves you having to manually note this data.

The Scout has a transect mode which notes a GPS coordinate every second so maps out your route as you walk it. It also logs another GPS coordinate for every bat recording made which produces detailed transect maps.

We found that the adjustable volume control was very good and loud enough when needing to compensate for background noises such as a passing lorry.

Also noteworthy was the Scout’s ability to record voice notes. Once it has become fully dark or if you are surveying and need to keep your eyes fixed on bat watching, then the ease of just speaking into the device to add survey notes or further information is very helpful.

The Scout was very productive at picking up all the bats we encountered during the evening (although sometimes a brown long-eared emerged without calling and was missed). The auto-heterodyne tuning to the peak frequency was superb and saved much time. On a few occasions, we switched to manual heterodyne which enables you to adjust the frequency by moving the up and down arrows. This setting would be useful when first teaching beginners. The Scout’s range is also excellent, which was demonstrated when a high flying noctule was picked up probably over 30 – 40 meters away.

Two recordings taken on the Anabat Scout and visualised through the Anabat Insight Software.

The recordings were always clear through the built-in speaker, although there is also the option to attach a 3.5mm headphone jack. All recordings come with GPX track files attached. This gives accurate GPS data, that when viewed on the free software: Anabat Insight, a .KML (Keyhole Markup Language) file can be generated using Google Earth which will show your route with location tags for each bat recording.

All recordings were stored on an SD Card (recommended min: 32GB and max 512GB) and then output via WAV (Full spectrum) and Anabat sequence files (Zero Crossing).

Battery life lasted roughly 10 hours on 2 x AA (NiMh, Alkaline or Lithium) batteries with the remaining memory space and battery life displayed on screen, so we could keep a check during the evening.

Our Opinion

The Anabat Scout is certainly one of the easier to use, professional bat detectors available. It is highly accurate with its triggers and by being so lightweight and practical it makes for an ideal choice for both ecological surveyors and keen naturalists alike. The Scout has been designed with the needs of surveyors in mind and even those new to bat detecting, will find it simple to use and highly rewarding.

The main limitation found was that the Scout does not display full spectrograms like the Anabat Walkabout, therefore beginners particularly, may not find this detector so helpful for learning the differences in calls and identification in the field.

Overall, we feel the Scout offers very good value as an active detector that will fulfill the needs of most ecological surveyors. Its advantage of being incredibly easy to use and get to know, makes it fantastic for beginners, subcontractors and educational purposes also.


The Anabat Scout can be found here. Our full range of active bat detectors can be found here.

If you have any questions about our range or would like some advice on the right product for you then please contact us via email at customer.services@nhbs.com or phone on 01803 865913.