Okay, I’ll admit it: the first time I came across the TimeLapse PlantCam, I thought it was a gimmick. But this past September, when I attended the Garden Writers Association annual symposium, a thought struck me as I passed the PlantCam booth at the trade show. I asked the woman at the booth: “Could you use one of these cameras to figure out which animal was eating your garden?” The answer was yes, so I made arrangements to get one to review.
Included in the BoxI was very impressed with the completeness of the kit. They include three different ways to mount it: a bracket, a strap, and stretch cords. There are also tripod nuts so it can be mounted on a tripod. There is an A/V out cable to connect to your TV for viewing the images or video directly from the camera. There is a USB cable to enable you to view or transfer the images on the 16MB internal memory. The batteries are included, and they even give you a measuring tape so you can measure the distance from the camera to your subject, and adjust the focus ring accordingly. You truly could set this camera up right out of the box, but 16MB of memory would only allow you take a short clip at low resolution, so I advise using an optional SD memory card. If you don’t happen to have one, a postcard for a free memory card is included.
Setting It UpUnfortunately, the PlantCam is not the best device to use if you want to catch a critter in the act. The BirdCam 2.0, which is motion-activated and has a flash for nighttime photos, is best for that job. And frankly, by the time the PlantCam arrivied in October, the vegetable garden was already harvested, so there wouldn’t be much point to catching an animal in the act of eating what we were going to compost anyway. But I had a hillside of autumn foliage right in front of me, and the PlantCam was perfect for chronicling the changes there. First, I entered the correct date and time. I set it to wake up at noon, take one picture, and go back to sleep at 1pm. Since it was only taking one picture a day, and I had put a 2GB card in there, I set it at its highest resolution: 2560×1920. I turned the focus ring to 3ft or farther. Then I turned it on, latched the door closed so it was weatherproof, and used both the strap and one of the stretch cords to attach the PlantCam to a porch post.
Creating The Slideshow
After all the leaves had dropped, plus a few days extra for good measure, I took the PlantCam down. I tried the Convert to Video feature, but it created a slideshow that switched from one picture to the next very quickly, and there was no fade or other transition from one slide to the next. It would work well if you were tracking a flower blooming, but seemed too choppy for the more gradual changes I was recording. So I copied the individual shots to my hard drive and made a slide show with Windows Movie Maker. Windows Movie Maker is a simple program to use, but I don’t think it manages memory well (I have 4 GB in my computer) and every so often it would choke up or start dropping slides when I previewed the slide show. So I saved my project and restarted my computer numerous times. If you have a favorite video editor for Windows, I’d love to hear of it.
At any rate, I finally got it made, and this is how it came out:
You can tell by the telephone pole tilting that the camera shifted a couple of times. I was disappointed that bright sunny weather gave the images an orange cast. I suppose I could have edited the individual images before creating the slideshow, but I wanted to show you how it worked without any fussing. It is kind of neat to see the weather changes. It wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped to see the foliage changes, at least, not the subtle changes. But it was still interesting, and would have been even better if I had started before the leaves had started turning. (But I hadn’t gotten the camera in September.) I can see real potential for school gardens and science projects, and any other project where you want to show changes over time.
I’d really like to get the BirdCam 2.0 with Flash. Since it is motion activated and can take night photos, this would be perfect for answering those pressing questions, such as: what is getting into the garbage cans every night? Who is nibbling the parsley down to nubbins? Why are the chickens raising a ruckus at 3 a.m.? Well, they have been pressing questions around here in the past. Oh, yes, and it would be excellent for getting closeup pictures of birds at the feeder, especially the ones that always fly away before you get your camera out.
Look What Others Have Done
My little experiment is just the tip of the iceberg. Check out these links to see what others have done with the various Wingscape products. I also linked to their article archive so you can get an idea of how easy it is to configure.
Now that you’ve heard all about the PlantCam and seen what it can do, I’m going to give you the chance to win a Timelapse PlantCam. Just comment below to say which of the Wingscapes products you’d like to have and what you’d like to do with it. This giveaway is limited to residents of the continental United States, and you must be 18 years old to enter. Contest ends on Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 9pm Eastern time. I will use a random number generator to pick the winner. The winner will be contacted via email, so make sure you enter a valid email address in the comment form.
Wingscapes provided the camera for me to review and the one to give away. Of course, if you can’t wait, or want one of the BirdCams, you can click on one below (affiliate link to Amazon).
We have a winner! Jennifer M’s comment was picked by the random number generator. Thank you all for your comments. Comments are now closed and the giveaway is over.