Two camera traps for Africa

Friday, April 27, 2012posted by Bruce 10:17 PM

LBK ‘Clear-View’ trail camera project: Twin W7/1010/SSIs

Sony W7s in Pelican 1010 cases with Snapshotsniper SSI boards

In 2008 when I first began building digital trail cams, I used several different models of Sony, Nikon and Canon cameras but found the Sony W7 to be one of the best producing very good quality photographs, both day and night, with its Carl Zeiss lens set to ISO 400 in ‘program’ mode. I actually use a W7 for general photography while in the field and have come to like this model even though it’s a bit large for a digital compact compared to newer models.

W7/1010/SSI components ready for building

The W7s are robust cameras that use two AAs and are fairly quick for all-round use. The only drawback; they are tough to hack and a steady hand, good eyes and nerves of steel is needed to modify these as the connections are tiny..! Check out Camtrapper.com and Buckshot164’s video tutorial on the W5-7, or the W1 for that matter (similar camera).

By using the Pelican 1010, they are truly ‘pocket size’. I normally use two ‘Energizer Lithium’ batteries that can usually last a month or more. I bought 8 W7s and built camera traps around six of them but kept these two for a special job one day.

 

W7/1010/SSI cam #1

I sourced the clear Pelican cases and managed to get some of Gary’s last SnapShotSniper ‘Simple Sniper’ boards before he discontinued them. I also ordered the metal sensor mount for easier installation with epoxy. By laying the camera and the 9-volt battery in the deep end of the case and the sensor in the shallow end, everything just fits.

W7/1010/SSI cam #2

The build is straight forward, and no hole is cut in the case for the flash allowing the camera to shoot straight through. A lens snorkel and HPWA is used and there are no externals. I have tested most of the cameras in this ‘clear view’ series and the power of the flash is not cut down by the case.

In fact on these builds as an experiment, I’ve installed a flash diffuser (cut from a Nikon SB26 flash diffuser) to cut back on harsh light sometimes caused by the factory flash. This idea came from an Olympus ‘dive housing’ for their U-700 digital compact shown here. My main objective with camera trapping is close frame filling shots that really show wildlife and the diffuser just softens the flash.

Olympus U-700 digital camera in an Olympus dive housing with a flash diffuser

A couple of aluminum boxes protect the W7s/1010s and a ‘Python’ 5/16” locking cable is used plus small ‘shark teeth’ are welded on the back to lock the cams in place on a tree. Holes are drilled to accommodate two lag bolts but these will not be used where I’m going, but later when I deploy these cams in the field here in Thailand. I have made-up one with 3D camouflage pattern and the other with 4-color camouflage paint job using fern leaves.

Completed trail cams ready for the field

I have built these two for my yearly African photographic trip that is coming up on May the 1st for two weeks. I will be going to Kenya once again, but this time will be visiting the great Amboseli (close to Mount Kilimanjaro) and Tsavo (East and West) national parks plus Shimba Hills Wildlife Sanctuary (especially after sable) and finally close out the safari at Nairobi National Park.

I hope to slip them in depending on local restrictions and laws, plus available wildlife and forests in the hotels and resorts where I will be staying on the fringes of the protected areas. In most reserves in Kenya, one is not allowed to leave the safari vehicle at any time or place other than in the hotels, and heavy fines can be incurred by the driver/guide (more than a $1,000 US dollars) if they are caught. It seems unjust but some people have already been maimed and even killed by this reckless behavior.

Detail of the drilled and taped box

In 2010, I slipped a trail cam in the bush and got a beautiful shot of a giraffe in Samburu National Park and then in 2011, got several shots of the rare bushbuck (both male and female), an African mongoose and a large-spotted genet plus a night patrol ranger with a .458 Winchester M70 express rifle at Siana Springs Tent Lodge near the Masai Mara Game Reserve. It was a neat experience.

Sony W7s and Sony S600 trail cams: ‘Python’ locking cable and camouflage sleeves.

These two Sony W7s and another Sony S600 are some of my smallest trail cams and just right to take with me while flying abroad. Being little, they are easily carried in my baggage and set-up will be quick. I will post any pictures at a later date.



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