As you will know, I am an avid user of the Bushnell trail cams but, until recently, I had not had a go with any of their night vision kit. A few weeks ago, Bushnell sent me the new Equinox Z 6x50mm to have a go with and I must admit, I am pretty impressed! I will doing a more detailed review on this piece of kit in the next few months when I have given it a good trial in a range of situations, but first impressions are really good.
The unit is light and easy to hold and surprisingly small considering its capabilities! It has a rubber-armoured casing, which is water resistant and it feels pretty rugged. It uses an Infrared sensitive CMOS sensor and multi coated optics which increase light transmission and reduce glare.
The aspect that I was most excited about was the record facility. This unit will take either stills or video. For me, this opens up all sorts of possibilities out in the field, as I love recording what I see. It also has a 6x digital zoom and the option adjust the level of IR.
All that is well and good…. but what is it like to use out in the field in the dark??!!! When I first got it, I wandered around the house in the dark… and I could not believe the clarity, even when it was pitch dark. Next, I went on a walk around the garden and up the bridle path, trying out the zoom and variable IR options. Once you know where the appropriate buttons are on the top (and the are pretty easy to remember), then it is amazing. I zoomed in on leaves , branches and caught a glimpse of a rabbit racing away.
What I now needed was somewhere to try it out where I knew there would be some wildlife that would stay around in the dark, giving me a chance to have a go at videoing to see what the quality was really like. Ringing Rob up at Silver Trees on Cannock Chase, I arranged to nip over and spend some time out in the woods there. There is always lots of wildlife and the deer come close into the park to sleep at night.
I met Rob last night, as the light was fading, and we wandered into the woodland area. Stopping at various points, we both tried the unit out on different settings. Again we were blown away with the clarity, even at low level IR.
As we stood there, I kept hearing a buzzing-type clicking noise. I asked Rob what it was, but he could not hear it. Suddenly it was really loud, right above my head and I realised that is was a noctule bat!! The frequency of its calls are a lot lower than that of the Pipistrelles, which only very young ears can hear! I was delighted that I could hear them.
As we wandered through the wonderful sensory darkness, that is a woodland at night, we were both treated to a very special, distinctive call…. that of a nightjar!! Great to know that these amazing birds are back on the Chase and I hope to go out again in a few weeks onto the main site where they like to hunt.
As we turned back toward home, we both heard a hissing type call and recognised it as young tawnies! Rob had seen one chick near a nest box, but these guys were out in the trees and calling for their supper. We sat down in the unfurling bracken and listened……. It is a wonderful experience to be in a woodland at night and if you have not done it, then I recommend you do! Just sit in one place and let the whole place envelope you in a sensory experience. Allow your eyes to be accustomed to the darkness and soak in the wonderful smells of rich soil and emergent foliage. The sounds are the best though. As you lose nearly all your eyesight, your hearing becomes heightened; rustling in the undergrowth, bat calls and Nightjars are very special, but the tawny babies calling was incredible! I scoured the trees with the Equinox as they sounded so close but, despite our best efforts, neither Rob nor I could see them and the batteries were running dangerously low! We just sat and listened to the conversation for ages, with the female calling out of the darkness from time to time. It was wonderful!
Heading back to the main site, I set the Equinox up on my tripod to do a test video of the deer which were dozing in the darkness. They were SO clear through the eyepiece, I wanted to see if this was translated onto the video. Here are the results… I will let you decide!
This is a screen capture from the video. These females are now heavily pregnant….
I aim to try to film some other wildlife with this great piece of kit before I write a full review. Retailing at around the £300 mark, this level of night-vision quality is now becoming affordable to wildlife enthusiasts!