Reconyx Cellular Trail Camera

By IPVM Team, Published Aug 12, 2013, 12:00am EDT

Often businesses or homeowners want to put remote cameras at a distance from their buildings, to spot intruders or see who is entering. One common product used in this situation is a trail camera, as it is low cost and simple to setup. A major problem, though, is having to go to the camera and retrieve the stored video. However, one trailcam manufacturer, Reconyx offers cellular security trail cameras. In this note, we investigate how well they solve this common problem, comparing to other trailcams, QStar and Videofied.

Product Basics

The Reconyx security camera basics are similar to other trailcams: 1080p/3.1MP, 42° FoV, records images to on-board SD card, integrated motion sensor and IR illuminator, 2fps max recording. Additionally, Reconyx offers a separate 720p/1.3MP license plate capture unit that records plate images of passing vehicles at speeds up to 50mph.

Cellular Enabled

What makes Reconyx interesting is their options that include a GSM Quad Band cellular modem [link no longer available], which enables the camera to transmit captured images via text message or e-mail via T-Mobile [link no longer available] or AT&T Wireless [link no longer available] to 4 cell phones and two e-mail addresses. However, the covert security camera transmits less than SD 512x384 pixel images (while recording to the internal memory card at higher resolution), and the license plate capture camera transmits images at full 720p resolution upon an alarm event. The number of images transmitted per event is set in the camera configuration, Reconyx recommends not more than 5 images per event. This option makes the Reconyx camera a more active solution as compared to the passive non-cellular trailcams where the images have to manually retrieved, usually long after an incident happens. The cellular trailcam is only available in the US.

Communication via cellular is one way, users cannot connect to the camera remotely from a PC or smart phone to "live view" the camera. Battery life of the cellular enabled camera is between 2,000 to 5,000 images, a 12VDC external power connection is included, if necessary. An optional solar power kit [link no longer available] is also available for longer duration camera placement.  

Reconyx includes the cellular modem with SIM card, it is up to the user to set up the cellular service with T-Mobile or AT&T Wireless. The modem can be added to existing accounts in the same manner as an additional line or mobile device, and plan text/data charges will apply. If creating a new account, it would be best to pick a plan with unlimited texting and data, if possible. The choice of carriers may depend on T-Mobile or AT&T Wireless cellular coverage areas, check first before buying. An optional high-gain antenna [link no longer available] is available for remote locations with poor cellular coverage.

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Pricing

The cellular enabled Reconyx SC950C covert security and SM750C license plate capture cameras retail for $1,200 each. They can be purchased online direct from Reconyx [link no longer available] or they are available from other online stores and security distributors [link no longer available]. The non-cellular versions have an MSRP of $650. 

Enclosure Accessories

A major concern with using trailcams for security is that they are often stolen by thieves or trespassers to conceal their acts.  To combat trailcam theft, Reconyx offers a heavy-duty steel security enclosure [link no longer available] that can be anchored to a fixed object and covert kits to disguise the camera as a rock [link no longer available], cable box [link no longer available], or electrical utility box [link no longer available]. 

Comparisons

Here is how Reconyx cellular enabled cameras compare to similar products IPVM has covered:

  • BuckeyeCam - This product is very similar in form factor and operation to Reconyx, except it uses 900MHz wireless to transmit images back to a nearby base station, which reduces placement flexibility and introduces the complexity of needing a near line of sight wireless path from the camera to the base.  The BuckeyeCam Orion XIR camera kit is priced comparably [link no longer available] at $1,050 (not including the base unit) to the Reconyx cellular enabled cameras. BuckeyeCam does not offer a license plate capture camera.
  • Q-Star Flashcam - The Reconyx camera does not have the resolution of the Q-Star at 12MP or the ability to play a recorded audio message. Reconyx has the ability to transmit images upon alarm and schedule recordings, which the Q-Star does not. Q-Star sells for $4000-5000, the Reconyx cellular cameras are a fraction of that price. Q-Star does not offer a license plate capture camera.
  • Videofied MotionViewer - The Outdoor MotionViewer [link no longer available] is somewhat similar to the Reconyx security camera, except it transmits less than SD resolution video wirelessly to a control panel located within 500 feet, which can limit options for camera placement. The control panel can operate on batteries and can be cellular enabled. In our most recent review, we detailed how the MotionViewer has the ability to transmit video via the control panel to a remote monitoring station and can be remotely viewed via a smart phone app.  The Videofied Outdoor MotionViewer has an MSRP of around $600, not including the control panel. Videofied does not offer a license plate capture camera.

Recommended Use of Reconyx Cellular Security Trailcam

The Reconyx cellular security trailcams seem to be a good option for where a conventional video surveillance system is impractical due to cost, lack of infrastructure or location.  They can also be useful for law enforcement or private investigations where a camera needs to be installed quickly and covertly. They can be placed anywhere that T-Mobile or AT&T Wireless has cellular coverage in the US. Some practical applications include construction sites, farms & ranches, remote cabins/lodges, illegal dumping sites, warehouses/storage yards, illegal border crossing locations and areas prone to copper theft. Just remember, no live video viewing, only motion triggered alerts.

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