Small; rugged; handy for bush surveillance
Doesn’t capture all movement; needs more mounting options; unintuitive controls
The OutbackCam from Melbourne-based Swann Communications is a portable, battery-powered surveillance camera that can be attached to a tree or pole to keep an eye on … well, almost anything, by day or night.
It’s a hardy, weatherproof black plastic unit about the size of a hand. On the front are a camera lens, a passive infrared motion sensor – like those used for home alarm systems – and a bank of infrared LEDs for night-vision photography.
The OutbackCam can be attached to objects via an adjustable strap long enough to go around a medium-sized tree.
This is useful but a bit restrictive – it would be nice to see it come with a more versatile mounting option, such as the flexible tripod legs found on Joby’s Gorilla range. The unit’s 2-megapixel camera can take JPEG still images or 15-second AVI videos in colour or black-and- white. Recording is triggered by motion detection – it registers anything that’s a different temperature to its environment.
To aid in surveillance, all images are stamped with the date, time and moon phase.
It takes four AA batteries, which makes sense when you’re in the bush and away from power points, but you’d want to use rechargeable ones as the OutbackCam chews through them fairly rapidly. Images and movies are stored on SD memory cards – there’s a 2GB one included in the box.
Setup is done via a small internal LCD display and four buttons. It’s relatively simple, but unintuitive, so you’ll need to have the manual handy. You can set the date and time, choose between still and moving images, video image quality (1600 x 1200 or 1024 x 768 at 30fps), number of photos (a single one or a burst of three) and the time that must elapse between recording one event and the next.
In my testing, the OutbackCam proved to be a bit hit-and-miss. I first mounted it on an umbrella on the porch, facing up the garden, hoping to get a few images of our cats. Over a week it took just one photo, of my wife.
I then attached it to a trampoline, facing the back of the house. Over two days and nights we got a few hundred photos of our friends and family at a day/night barbie – some of which were very funny. It was great to fire up iPhoto and see what was really a stop-motion record of the day’s activities. The night shots alternated between colour and black-and-white infrared shots.
My final attempt at the cats was to secure the OutbackCam to the back of a chair, about 5m away from, and directly facing, the cat-flap. Again, over two days and nights, I got no shots except for three false triggers showing nothing at all.
There’s no doubt that the OutbackCam does work, as Swann provided me with several great shots of American wildlife. The manual gives many tips for use and placement to get the best results, and I think you just need to be prepared to spend some time experimenting.
Macworld Australia’s buying advice
The OutbackCam is a great idea, and produces very good images, but its results were a little hit-and-miss in my testing. It requires a lot of experimentation in placement to strike a balance between getting no photos at all and getting too many of nothing.