At this point it's clear cellular trail cameras are here to stay. At this point, it's also clear that the vast majority of cellular trail camera users are first timers. As with anything, doing something for the first time comes with a learning curve. From our experience with thousands of first time cell cam buyers and users, power sources are easily one of the most over looked variables when running cellular trail cameras. Power sources are also the one vital variable that you can control that will ultimately dictate your experience with that cellular trail camera.
Let's take a look at some important things to know and what you can do to get the most of your cell cams!
WHAT TO EXPECT
Would anyone every expect to get more than a couple of days battery life out of their cell phone? Not usually. Take that a step further and imagine your cell phone powered by a handful of AA batteries.....
Between cell phones and cell cameras, there's a giant gap in the technical capabilities. However, at their core they operate very similar. Each devices moves data through a specific RF frequency via cellular network. Understand I am not saying cellular trail cameras are consuming as much power as your cell phone. It's certainly not. I am simply helping you draw the parallel in cellular technology and how much energy it does take to power any cellular module.
At the end of the day, the facts are very simply. You can't expect a cellular trail camera to have the same or even similar power consumption of a regular SD card cameras. Cellular trail cameras are mobile devices and should be thought of as such!
Exodus REP: "Hello, Exodus Outdoor Gear how can I help you?"
Customer: "Good morning, I have a few questions about your cell cameras."
Exodus Rep: "Ok. I would be glad to help you with those questions. Fire away..."
Customer: "So, how long do the batteries last?"
That is a typical first time cell cam user customer inquiry. Questions around battery life are often on the top of most first timer's list. The truth of the matter is, there's no hard answer we or any other company can provide due to the extensive outside variables that influence power consumption. However, the one rule of thumb is that if you use a larger external power source you never have to give battery life a second thought. But for those who are still curious, let's take a look at the settings and circumstances that do influence battery life of a cellular trail camera.
Just like your mobile phone, the better the signal strength the longer the batteries will last. While there are settings inside Exodus cell cams to only activate the module upon uploads, if the camera is searching for signal or has to stay connected to the network longer due to weak signal and/or slower speeds it's going to consume more power. Keep this in mind when placing your camera in field. The better the signal the better the battery life.
Other obvious setting. Upload frequency dictates how often your camera connects to the network to upload photos and videos. The more the camera connects the more power it uses. For those folks trying to get the most out of internal batteries any delayed upload frequency will increase the longevity of those batteries. The more you minimize or limit the upload frequency the better off you are in terms of power consumption. The less the camera connects the longer the batteries will last.
Just like regular SD card cameras, different modes will keep the camera running and active longer. Hybrid Mode consuming the most power, followed by Video Mode, Photo Mode, and TimeLapse Mode consuming the least amount of power. In addition to the camera being in an active state, the size of the transmitted files also play a part. The larger the files sizes or amount of data being sent the longer the module needs to be powered up and connected to the network. The smaller the data size the longer the batteries last all the way around.
Over The Air commands are one of the cooler features with cellular trail cameras. Being able to control the camera without physically being at the camera location is a huge attraction for cell cam users. Every OTA command does use data from the network connection and does require the camera to execution some type of function which inevitably uses power. Simply having and using the ability is worth it's weight in gold. The more OTA commands are used the shorter your batteries will last.
EXTERNAL POWER IS KING
There's an rule of thumb we've adopted here at Exodus and it's very simple. If you are going to run cell cameras you have to have external power. For any reason, if you aren't able to do that with your cell cameras, you are truly shooting yourself in the foot and missing the full experience and benefits of running cellular trail cameras.
There's no way around cellular trail cameras consuming more power and having decreased battery life when comparing them to regular SD card cameras. The beautiful thing about external power sources is that they take all the battery life worries away.
Over the last several years of not only running cell cams with external power setups but also selling them, there have been 1000's of use cases where individuals get a season or more out of their cellular setup when ran in conjunction with a SP18. A typical setup with 6 Ah of capacity with half of that coming from a rechargeable solar panel source has proven to be efficient and effective. The key here is to know and understand what voltage and amperage the camera requires and making sure your setup provides exactly that!
As we continue to move down the path of advancing technologies, products will continue to evolve. As more folks continue to move into the cellular trail camera space, people will become more educated. When both happening in conjunction both consumers and product companies win. We're just at the very tip of cellular trail camera possibilities with a very bright future ahead.