How well do hunting cameras shift to a home security environment? (February 11th, 2014)
Product Manufacturer: Moultrie
Price: $150 to $250
- Erases older data to keep cards from filling up
- Triggers on an event rather than constantly filming
- Ease of use
- Circumvent security by theft
- Run on traditional batteries -- not hard wired
- SD Card memory
Hunting cameras are key to selecting the perfect spot for setting up a perch before hunting season begins. But what happens when a company wants to take their technology in hunting cams, and apply it to home security? The result is the TRACE line of home surveillance cameras from Moultrie. The company brings the same triggered recording technology and sensors to a suburban neighborhood with the TRACE Perimeter and the TRACE Premise. Do the cameras handle their transition from watching deer to watching cars pull in a driveway well? Or would the consumer be better off buying a dedicated, wired system over the individual TRACE cameras?
Tactical Recording and Capture Equipment (TRACE) cameras bring simple installation and use to home security. Rather than having a complex camera system, expensive software, a troublesome DVR, or a dedicated PC, Moultrie brought their simple system of game cameras to the home consumer. The TRACE cameras look just like Moultrie's game cameras, sans the camouflage paint jobs in lieu of a slate grey on the exterior, and in the internals are much the same. Hardly any setup is required other than fixing times, dates, and renaming the cameras to something more fitting to start keeping tabs on your home.
Both the Perimeter and the Premise utilize gray weatherproof casings that snap shut to house the infrared nighttime sensors that boast a less than one second activation time. They shoot video in 720p through their eight megapixel sensors (3840x2160 at the high setting for photos) to SD cards with a capacity of up to 32GB.
The difference between the two TRACE cameras from the standard Moultrie game cameras starts to come in when looking at some of the features between the models. Sacrifices were clearly made internally when looking at the transition from the woods to the streets, since the cameras don't require the range that one might need to see game. For this review, we compared the features of the TRACE Premise to the hunting camera M-880, and the TRACE Perimeter to the Panoramic 150.
When compared to the hunting-oriented models, the home security line shows a reduction in range from 10 to 30 feet. The range can be a situational loss depending on the area the cameras are to cover, but considering usage for security around corners and doorways of homes, the range differential shouldn't be an area of large concern. The loss of range and other features in the hunting cameras, notably the time lapse mode which isn't present in the Perimeter, isn't much of a loss at all.
Because of how the trigger system works, a full feed isn't necessary -- the video that is automatically recorded is all that is ever really needed. Moultrie created a sensitive system that kicks on with the slightest bit of significant movement. By significant we mean that it will easily detect a person walking up to a door or a dog wandering about, but the window blowing some bushes most likely won't trigger an event. Users can also select the duration of the recording time to either stop after a fixed period or once the visuals remain inactive for a certain amount of time.
This concept becomes important because both TRACE cameras are made to run on batteries; AA for the Premise, and C cells for the Perimeter. Since the cameras are building on technology that is meant to be tied to a tree and left there for an undisclosed amount of time, the recording options make sure to make the most of what is available. Moultrie states that the Premise should be able to reach 16,000 photos taken, while the Perimeter will peak at 9,000. During the month of testing, each camera was able to fill a 16GB SD Card with HD video with little impact on battery life.
Some buyers might be deterred by the fact that, compared to dedicated home security cams, the TRACE models offer less storage space, depend on batteries, and are themselves able to be stolen if discovered by thieves. Most home security cameras are meant to be always on, capturing footage continuously to a self-contained or remote storage drive that is also powered continuously. The other side to that debate is that if power was cut to a residence, the cameras will still operate. Moultrie does offer a power adapter, but it isn't included with the camera. In our experience, both cameras were run for a month without an problem with the set of fresh batteries.
Storage space isn't as much of a concern since the TRACE cameras don't simply stop recording once the SD cards fill up. Instead, they feature "Managed Memory," which causes the recording to "roll over" as the card approaches full and start overwriting the oldest files on the card. In most case,s this won't be a problem -- since the data won't be needed unless the camera recorded something important. For people reviewing footage, it is up to the camera when data is erased forever. SD cards do have their problems though, as we discovered when trying to pull a day's worth of video from the Premise that was completely corrupted. Both cameras are compatible with Wi-Fi SD cards, though one wasn't available for testing.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the TRACE cameras comes down to how secure the cameras themselves are. The real problem comes down to preventing the cameras from being stolen -- with the included mounts, there's nothing to lock down the cameras to prevent them from being unscrewed from the wall. Since these cameras stick out rather prominently, especially the Perimeter, thieves could circumvent them by just stealing them. There are spaces for padlocks to keep people out of the cases and security codes for data access, but that doesn't mean much if the cameras can be unscrewed from the mounts and made to disappear.
Moultrie has brought their popular game cameras to the home security market with their solid technology in a somewhat awkward fashion. While none of the missing features are something a homeowner would necessarily need, the TRACE cameras are just stripped-down versions of existing products with no real adjustments for practical application. The cameras are easy to use and record both good quality video in day and night, but the idea that they run on standard batteries as opposed to household current and can be stolen with little more than a Philips head screwdriver shows that little thought was put into adapting them for the consumer home security market -- or targets that are cleverer than wildlife. At $150 for the Premise and $250 for the Perimeter, the TRACE cameras are ultimately just a cheaper alternative to some of Moultrie's existing options for the woods, but might be suitable for homeowners looking for a limited level of video security monitoring on a budget.