Is the Aldi Wildlife Camera a great buy for wildlife photographers? What Digital Camera sent Luke Massey out into the wild to find out how it performs
As a wildlife photographer I’ve found research is key to getting results, this can be anything from reading up on your subject, studying your subject in the flesh or setting up remote trap cameras to work out where they’re going and at what times.
Trap cameras have recently become available to a much wider audience, you can now purchase them off the shelf and see what is visiting your garden at night. The cameras are triggered when the on board sensor triggers the shutter or starts the film rolling. With their rise in popularity camera prices have fallen but you’ll still have to spend around £150 plus for most trap cameras available on the market, making the Maginon a steal at £79.
Usually most trap cameras are quite bulky and stand out massively when tied to anything. The Maginon wild is compact, perfect for chucking in your bag and taking out with you to pop up in any suitable spots you might find.
The camera comes with its own 4GB SD card, along with batteries; so it’s almost ready to go straight out the box. The only downfall is, if you’re not fluent in German, you’ll have to work out how to change the language (when turned on press the left/right arrows until English is selected).
The camera has two main modes, stills and video. With stills you’re able to choose either 5MP or 12MP (despite only saying 5MP on the box), but with the video mode you are stuck with 640×480, which is not HD. You’re also able to set it to time-lapse mode, which could be very cool for certain things, e.g. a beaver gnawing a tree or a growing wasp nest.
As with all trap cams positioning is very important, luckily the Maginon has an onboard screen so you can frame your shot and make sure it’s pointing where you want it. Sensitivity is important, you don’t want your camera taking a snap every time the grass moves in the wind, but you also don’t want to miss the fox sneaking past either. I left it on normal (high and low being your other options) and was happy enough with its success rate.
The camera is covered in typical khaki print, although I’m sure most animals will notice the strange box with eyes sprouting from a tree. Once in position try to leave it in one spot for a few days to allow the animals to accept it.
The back is slightly concave making it a little easier to attach to tree trunks, however only one tie is included in the kit. I’d recommend using a long piece of wire to secure it even more and, if you’re really worried about leaving it out, a laptop securing cable could provide extra security.
One problem I found was that the side clips on the camera can be a bit fiddly, if you haven’t got them clipped in the front has a tendency to fall off, so make sure they’re both clipped in securely. I actually ended up using some gaffer tape on the hinges to make this less of a problem.
I’ve never found trap cams to be much competition for DSLRs or Bridge cameras, but they’re incredibly durable and are able to be left in one place for a long period of time. Without shelling out a lot of money you can never expect to capture perfect images.
From my experience the camera works well at night if the space isn’t too enclosed and the animal is a suitable distance from the camera. The built in IR flash works well, but I found if the animal is too close this can completely blow all the highlights, over exposing the image. A possible way around this would be to cover some of the IR lights, reducing the brightness.
During dusk/dawn periods I did find if the camera triggered it struggled to expose the image correctly, probably something to do with the amount of light reaching the sensor.
The camera’s automatic shutter speed seems to vary greatly, whilst some images you could work out exactly what the animal was, others featured only a mammalian blur, a mystery never to be solved. There is no way of changing this, so is much like shooting on Auto on your SLR, there no control over the shutter speed.
Image quality varies greatly; you won’t be getting any award winning images. However, when the light is even you can get some nice stuff.
Unfortunately at night the quality does drop significantly, images are only really suitable for record shots. As already mentioned, the IR light is too strong for any close images, however wide shots are fine but there is a fair amount of noise.
During the day, shadow detail does cause some problems, you have to study the image closely to see identify the subject. However, I found bringing the images in to image editing software and adjusting the shadows, enabled me to see a bit more detail in the picture.
If you’re after a trap cam to see what you can find in your local area, or for research purposes I wouldn’t hesitate in investing the £79 this camera costs. There aren’t many other trap cams on the market available for this price.
Obviously, if you want fantastically crisp stills and HD video, you will have to go for one of the more expensive models, which cost around £200. This camera does what it says; it takes photos of subjects when they trigger the beam. I found it useful to track the movements of my subjects, saving time in staking spots out physically.
For more information head to the ALDI store.