We set up the new BirdCam Pros this week, invited our Blue Jay friends to stop by, and ran through some of the camera's features to get a better feel for how they compare to the original BirdCam. After working with the Pro for a few days, here is a summary some of our FirstUse thoughts.
BirdCam Pro features and what they mean for the user:
- Improved weatherproof casing: longer camera life
- Higher resolution 8MP camera: more detail
- LED flash: useful for night shots
- WiFi SD card compatible: convenient for hard to reach setups
- Physical buttons for often used settings: quick and simple setup
- Precise focus adjustments: see discussion below
- Color LED display: see discussion below
Getting the focus set precisely is now possible with the Pro. This is because the focus ring is no longer constrained to four click settings. However, some trial and error is still required to get it set right. The left photo was measured and set to focus at 32", but the actual setting which captured the bird in focus was just a little under 36". Of course, sometimes there is no controlling where the birds will land. The best strategy is to pick a spot and be patient. Sooner or later, somebody will be in the sweet spot!
The new color LED display is great for both selecting the settings and reviewing the captured pics. One thing we wish was still possible is that we didn't have to open the case to check on the camera's status: with the original BirdCam the LCD display was visible through the front. As the LED display would quickly deplete the batteries if left on, the Pro's display must now be activated with the push of a button. It is a very minor point, and we understand the reason for the decision. Still, those who got used to just glancing at the LCD readout of the original BirdCam may notice the difference.
We know readers will be interested in how the photo quality of the original BirdCam compares to that of the Pro. Surprisingly, when the lighting conditions are good, images from the original BirdCam compared quite favorably with the Pro. The times when the Pro showed it strength was when the lighting was less than optimal. This is important because while many birds feed throughout the day, some creatures are more active at dawn or dusk. So depending on what you are after, the Pro could be the difference between a photo of a shape and a clear photo of what you were after.
Besides being better than the original BirdCam in low light situations, we found the Pro yields better images in high contrast situations.
While the BirdCam Pro does handle high contrast lighting conditions better than its predecessor, it performs best when there were no extremes.
When conditions were optimal, both the BirdCam and the Pro will give excellent results. Here are some examples of images from both camera, mounted in the exact same spots, and cropped at 100%. One can see that while the higher 8MP camera of the Pro yields a larger photo of the Blue Jay, the clarity and detail from the 1st gen BirdCam was just as good.
However, when the lighting conditions became more challenging, the Pro was the only one to yield usable images. The following three photos, linked to their respective full size versions (23MB), were taken with the Pro at three different times of the day (dawn, noon, dusk). We chose the bamboo as a backdrop as it shielded the camera from drastic lighting changes. As a result, the detail of the birds showed up nicely regardless of what time of the day the photos were taken.
Wingscapes has done an excellent job with the Pro update. The increases in image quality, usability, and features have made the BirdCam Pro both easier to use and to obtain superior results. We would definitely recommend getting the Pro over the original. For those who already have a BirdCam, start dropping hints now and perhaps there will be a Pro under the tree come this Holiday Season ;-) [permalink] -BirdCam Pro FirstUse