The 2018 Browning Dark Ops Pro XD adds innovation and ingenuity to the Dark Ops Series. The first thing you’ll notice is the tiny size – about half that of a standard camera trap – and the fact it has not one, but two camera lenses…
This is a first for Browning this year – one lens is tailored towards day images and the other night – making the quality better on both counts.
It also continues to use a new kind of LEDs introduced on some models in 2017 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 Pro XD. These no-glow LEDs make it better suited to security setups as well as wildlife.
Photo triggers are slightly faster than videos, as always, and have really improved on last year’s Dark Ops HD Pro – halving the trigger speed to a speedy 0.15 seconds. Quick is an understatement.
For videos, trigger speeds are about 0.4 seconds – to be this fast for both types of trigger is very impressive and few cameras come close to this, particularly for video triggers.
Video quality is improved at 1080p – though maybe not quite as good as the Recon Force cameras. This camera is particuarly 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 activity, and with minimal motion blur at night.
The build quality and overall design of the camera is exceptional, 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 Pro XD is also straight-forward to use – uncomplicated, without a vast array of settings, but quick and simple.
Due to it’s 9V 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 Pro XD an 8 out of 10.
Read more of our review below…
Trigger speed: about 0.4 seconds Recovery time: about 1.15 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.
Daytime videos have really improved this year compared to the Dark Ops HD Pro – this was always a weakness before. The bump in resolution to 1080p and increase to 60fps for both day and night is great.
Recovery times average about 1.15 seconds – very quick, although not as quick as the Spec Ops Advantage.
The Dark Ops Pro XD has two video resolution settings; ‘High’ and ‘Ultra’. The Ultra resolution is uncompressed 1080p 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 generally 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 Pro XD also records audio which is of pretty good 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.
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 0.15 seconds Recovery time: about 0.4 seconds
Photo quality is solid on the Dark Ops Pro XD. This is where the dual lenses start to come in – Browning call this their ‘Dual Lens Technology’. One lens is custom-tuned purely for daytime shots, and the other for low-light to take clearer night time images.
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 it can occasionally lead to motion blur. On the Dark Ops Pro XD 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 like to 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. Alternatively, turn this modes off and the camera will just take 1 shot every time its triggered.
Detection range: approx. 100ft LED type: No-Glow LEDs
The Dark Ops Pro XD 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. The camera just doesn’t seem to miss anything – you can get a feel for this on some of the examples.
These are among the fastest detection and recovery times available today, and Browning really seem to have cracked it. In the case of the Dark Ops Pro XD, 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. With the Dark Ops Pro XD 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 1 second; however, that just tells the Dark Ops Pro XD to recover as fast as it possibly can. We have consistently found that the Pro XD models will generally re-trigger in about 1 second for video, and well-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 loved the Dark Ops and Strike Force HD Pro designs last year, at this new model builds on those nicely. The camera is sturdy, well-constructed and feels good in the hand.
One of our favourite things from last year’s designs, and something that customer’s also feedback to us, is the metal bracket on the back of the camera – and its great to see that on this new Pro XD model. 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 exceptional on the Dark Ops Pro XD, particularly if you use Lithium batteries. It requires 6x AA batteries at a time. Generally, you can expect around 11 months battery life for photos (taking around 60 pictures every 24 hours) and about 4-5 months for video (taking around 20 videos every 24 hours). This will obviously vary depending on how active and how long each video is, and if there are more night shots than day. We’ve found that this camera is excellent on battery life, and one of the best available.
Browning cameras in general 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 Pro XD 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 (coupled with the metal bracket) 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 1.5 inches, 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 Spec Ops Extreme 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.