One feature I've been wanting to try is the ability of the new cams to remember their zoom position when powered off. I think it could be handy for trapping smaller animals, and for sets where you want the camera a distance back from the scene.
And, in theory, zooming should be better than cropping. I.e., given the same f-stop, ISO and flash distance, glass optics should always trump pixels for resolving an image. Well, at least until they can get those pixels down to photon size. :)
But a side effect of zooming is a smaller field of view. I.e., you're much more likely to get triggers with animals out of the shot, chopped off, or in less-than-ideal crops. But, perhaps that trade-off might be worthwhile now and then.
For my first experiment, I put a new cam on an old, early 1900s outhouse that is now the happy home of a Dusky-footed Woodrat, Neotoma fuscipes. Woodrats construct amazing middens out of sticks, leaves, rocks & pinecones, and while they often build in the forest on stumps, or around the bases or trees, they also like old structures, and will merrily move in to man-mades.
Btw - the native woodrats should not be confused with the icky, non-native Rattus Rats or Norwegian Rats that infests ships and sewers and cities and such. Native Neotoma woodrats are clean mammals that live solitary lives, and are great propagators & cultivators of native plants. They're also a necessary link in the food chain for coyotes, bobcats, foxes and owls.
Here's the ole 3-seater outhouse now occupado by a woodrat:
(how bad does your cooking have to be for you to need to be ready for 3 on the toilet at once?)
We've tried to camera trap the outhouse woodrat before, and even once put foil squares down to see if it would integrate them into the den. As you can see, the Moultrie IR-flash trail camera took recognizable photos - but only just:
However, my new 8 mega pixel, white-flash homebrew cam trap, did much better. Here's a series of uncropped photos it caught. This was at ~ 6 feet (2 meters), with the full 3x optical zoom (to 112mm). I also biased the EV to -0.7 to mitigate flash blowout over the short distance. Ideally, I'd like to cut back the flash, but these cameras don't allow it. I've been playing with putting translucent plastic over the flash to reduce it, but haven't refined that yet, so did w/o in this test.
In the first shot we can see that it's a Mama woodrat in the outhouse! She has a youngin' latched on underneath. Baby woodrats often pal around with Mom by staying attached to a teat:
Check out that fuzzy tail - a trademark of woodrats - it's not pink and "scaly" ala the non-natives. There's even a species in Cali with a lush, bushy tail (Neotoma cinerea).
After dropping off the babe, Mama came back - this time to show us a little den building. Here she is hauling in a stick from the forest:
Once in the scene, she shows her "kill" to the camera:
Then she sizes it up, and gets ready to move it into the outhouse:
She takes the twig to a safehole in the baseboard, where she commonly comes & goes:
But it can't fit and gets stuck (to her obvious embarrassment):
So she wrangles the stick around and through the outhouse "main" door:
And then gives the camera one last glance as she heads off for another one:
Not bad for a first test of the homebrews. Thanks Mama Woodrat! :)
For comparison, reference & fun, here's more photos of Neotoma fuscipes and their middens:
- There seems to be some thought that Dusky-footed Woodrats, Neotoma fuscipes, and Big-Ear Woodrats, Neotoma macrotis, are the same species. Some scientists call woodrats north of Tahoe N. fuscipes, and those south N. macrotis. Since DNA typing is in the process of shuffling all of the flora and fauna taxonomies, I choose to just use Neotoma fuscipes for now.
- Neotoma woodrats are the original "Packrats" and like to collect shiny and brightly colored objects to bring them back to their middens.
- It's illegal in California to dig up woodrat dens without a permit.