The 2017 Browning Dark Ops HD Pro packs a lot of punch into a small package. The first thing you’ll notice is the tiny size – about half that of a standard camera trap.
It also uses a new kind of LEDs to give really strong IR flash range at night. This Dark Ops model has no-glow LEDs, and is otherwise the same as the Strike Force HD Pro. These no-glow LEDs make it better suited to security setups as well as wildlife.
Trigger speeds are outstanding – at around 0.3 seconds for photos, and 0.4 seconds for videos – to be this fast for both types of trigger is very impressive, and few cameras come close to this – especially in this price bracket.
Video quality is very good at 720p, and certainly stronger at night than in the day. This camera is also great if you’re after photos; it won’t give you anything like DSLR quality of course, but it is great at capturing all manner of daytime and night time animals, and with minimal motion blur at night.
The build quality and overall design of the camera is very good, with a 1.5″ forward-facing colour screen to help with set up and so you can review images/videos without dismounting the camera in the field. It also has a great little steel bracket which the camera can pivot off for better positioning – if you’re used to fiddling around the get your camera trap positioned right, this makes things much easier!
The Dark Ops HD Pro is also straight-forward to use – uncomplicated, without a vast array of settings, but quick and simple.
Due to it’s 12V power system, night time videos are limited to 20 seconds per clip. However, if activity remains, the camera can recover in just under 2 seconds and record another 20 second clip. The warranty length in the UK through NatureSpy is 2 years.
This camera is a great little all-rounder and a genuine pleasure to use – we give the Browning Dark Ops HD Pro an 8 out of 10.
Read more of our review below…
Trigger speed: about 0.4 seconds Recovery time: about 2 seconds
Night videos on this camera trap are really good for such a small and affordable unit. The flash range is great and the trigger speeds mean you rarely miss anything at all. Contrast is good and you’re never left wanting. The videos below are from a specific security-style set up, to see how the camera would perform in a role, focusing on activity that cross the gate on the left.
Daytime videos on the Dark Ops are good enough, but certainly no where near as good as those on the Recon Force and Spec Ops Extreme cameras. The colour is lacking a little.
The Dark Ops HD Pro has two video resolution settings; ‘High’ and ‘Ultra’. The Ultra resolution is uncompressed 720p HD video. The only drawback here is the larger file sizes generated with this setting. If you want to use the Ultra setting, an SD card of at least 32GB is recommended, with a 1 minute daytime clip being around 376MB in size.
We use the camera on the High resolution – the quality isn’t really much different at all and it relieves the pressure on the SD Card.
The Dark Ops HD Pro also records audio which is of pretty standard quality, similar to that on other similar priced camera traps.
As with all Browning cameras, exposure control at night is also fantastic, with the Dark Ops instantly adjusting to maintain the correct light levels. This is best demonstrated on the images below.
It also has ‘Smart IR Video’ – with this turned on, the camera will continue recording up to 2 mins in the day and 20 seconds at night if activity remains. This can be quite useful – for example, if you set the video length to 10 seconds and Smart IR video on and a badger stops to have a big scratch in front of the camera, it will continue record until either the badger is gone or the maximum video time is reached. And if the badger just runs past, then you just get a 10 second video – not wasting any batteries or SD card space.
Trigger speed: about 0.3 seconds Recovery time: about 0.4 seconds
Photo quality is solid on the Dark Ops. As with video, the night shots are better than the day. The colours can sometimes appear a little washed out in day shots, particularly if there is no sunshine.
Night time shots are good on this unit, considering it is using No-Glow LEDs. Whilst these LEDs have the advantage of not glowing red at night when the camera is triggered, it always means that the camera has 30% less IR light to work with. Therefore, the shutter speed has to be slightly slower to let the light in, and can occasionally lead to motion blur. On the Dark Ops HD Pro however, its very good at tempering this, producing good and identifiable shots consistently. A good camera position is important to help this further.
We generally use the photo mode with ‘Rapid Shot’ and 8 images. This gives 2-8 images per trigger (pre-set by the user), at 0.2 seconds apart. This results in an almost stop-motion animation sequence which can be vary rewarding. The Multi-shot mode gives up to 2-8 images at 2 seconds apart, which means longer sequences and is useful if you want to record behaviour.
Some example images are shown below – again, this camera was positioned in a security rather than wildlife set up.
Detection range: approx. 100ft LED type: No-Glow LEDs
The Dark Ops HD Pro is certainly a fast camera, no doubt about it. There is no need to choose the mode based on the trigger speed you need – either is exceptionally fast. In fact, we’ve not yet had a trigger from this camera where we’ve thought ‘I wish it had triggered a little quicker’. It never seems to miss anything.
These are among the fastest detection and recovery times available today, and for on a little, mid-range camera like this, it’s seriously impressive. You can see the trigger point in action particularly on the videos above. Most cameras can’t touch those speeds. This makes it especially useful as a security camera.
This is a big deal because previously, if camera trapping fast animals, or something passed your camera quickly and you had it in video mode, you’d often catch the tail end or nothing at all, and therefore need to use photo mode. The Dark Ops HD Pro lets you can have the best of both worlds.
Photo triggers are slightly faster than videos – but only very marginally. Whilst it’s true there are certainly faster triggers for photos on some cameras (i.e. SpyPoint Force 11D, Bushnell Aggressors), it’s still easily fast enough.
Recovery times are also very strong. This is the time the camera takes after finishing once capture to be ready to trigger again. The lowest ‘Delay’ setting is 5 seconds; however, that just tells the Browning to recover as fast as it possibly can. We have consistently found that the Browning will generally re-trigger in about 2 seconds for video, and under a second for photos.
Detection is amongst the best currently available. The detection angle is narrow, but means it can detect out to around 100ft. Due to the way PIR sensors work, it is best to place the camera so that animals will move across the sensor, rather than directly towards it.
We love the design of this camera. Really strong build with some great little features. And smaller than the average camera trap.
One of our favourite things, and something that customer’s also feedback to us, is the metal bracket on the back of the camera. This allows you to strap it up – with the metal teeth gripping the tree/fencepost – and then tilt the camera down to whatever level required. It means an end to finding the perfect tree, or wrestling with sticks behind the camera. It’s quick, easy, and very well though out.
Battery life is strong on the Dark Ops, particularly if you use Lithium batteries. It requires 6 batteries at a time. Generally, you can expect around 11 months battery life for photos (taking around 60 pictures every 24 hours) and about 4 months for video (taking around 20 videos every 24 hours). This will obviously vary depending on how active and how each video is, and if there are more night shots than day. We’ve found that the Dark Ops HD Pro is excellent on battery life, and up there with the best available.
Browning cameras have been also very reliable for us and are covered by a 2 year manufacturer’s warranty in the UK when bought through NatureSpy.
The Browning Dark Ops HD Pro is certainly easy to use. When turned on, you’re presented with an overview screen showing a view of what the camera can currently see and what it is set to take. It shows the files recorded and the space remaining at a glance. If you don’t press any button within 10 seconds (to access the menu etc) the camera arms itself and is ready to go.
This forward-facing colour screen is extremely useful – you can strap the camera up, then use the screen to perfect the positioning. Its also very handy when you want to review the images/videos captured without taking the SD card out and using a computer/tablet etc – just open the door and have a quick check – useful if out and about, or a sneaky look before you head to work!
It is a small screen, at 1.5inches, but actually still easy to use. You don’t find yourself squinting to read it and the text is nice and bold.
There are three main modes; Trail Cam (photos only), Video, and Timelapse Plus. Most of the time, you’ll be using either photos or videos. The timelapse function only works during the day – and with timelapse plus, you can have photos taken at set intervals plus the camera will trigger day and night based on any detections.
There is also a ‘Motion Test’ feature, like most camera traps have, where a test light on the front will blink when it detects you. You can use this to find the right distances or angles and it can help with setting up the camera in the best place possible.
Overall a very straight-forward camera trap to use, but if you do require any help or have any questions you can just get in touch with us.