While most of us would associate the Bushnell brand with its good value and well-made binoculars, in recent years, and particularly during the lockdown, it has done increasingly well with the more specialist – and static – observation device known as the trail camera or ‘trail cam’ for short.
The Bushnell Core DS-4K No Glow is one of those self-same sensor-controlled devices, to be strapped to a tree trunk or tripod-mounted in order for us to observe wildlife from afar, day and/or night, and in all weathers and conditions.
With shops, offices and sources of entertainment shuttered until recently, a lot of us have felt the appeal of getting closer to nature. Trail cameras allow us to do just that, without even needing to be present at the time and without spooking our quarry.
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- How to set up a trail camera: 3 essential steps
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Bushnell CORE DS-4K No Glow trail camera review: Design & Handling
With a green-ish mildewed tree bark camouflage print on its faceplate to help it blend in with natural surrounds and a more sober muddy-brown for its backplate, the Bushnell Core DS-4K No Glow is built for the great outdoors rather than the studio.
Though the size of a house brick, the Chinese-made trail camera feels a little plastic-y when held in the palm – largely because it’s made out of that very material – but is reasonably solid with it, with little if any flex. That said, while it looks like it could withstand a couple of falls from a branch or tree trunk onto the ground, and claims to be weatherproofed with it, we wouldn’t want to try standing on it.
The control panel element of the device – resembling the familiar backplate of a digital point and shoot camera, including a small LCD screen roughly the size of a large first or second-class stamp – is hidden within the housing.
Buttons are protected from accidental activation and the elements by a cover which is firmly shut via a clamp-like side latch once settings have been assigned, so that no external creature – such as a squirrel scuttling across its faceplate – would disturb the trail camera’s settings.
Bushnell CORE DS-4K No Glow trail camera review: Features
As mentioned in our intro, a key part of the appeal of the Bushnell Core DS-4K No Glow is that it boasts an extra sensor over and above its competitors, thereby enabling it to function as adeptly in the day as at night.
Like its model name suggests it features a ‘no glow’ LED light to avoid spooking wildlife when operating in the dark, yet still manages up to a very respectable 120ft range.
A further bonus is 4K resolution video and a 32-megapixel image resolution, which is a step up from Bushnell’s alternative 30-megapixel single sensor version of this trail camera, sitting just below this one in its range.
Whereas some competitors allow the whole camera module to be retrieved from the innards of the trail cam’s carcass, that element is here resolutely fixed. The battery tray is ejected via a button on the backplate, located at the base, so the six standard or rechargeable AA cells can be replaced as required. We shouldn’t have to do this too often, as the manufacturer suggests power can last up to a year maximum.
No batteries are provided out of the box, but the same is true for its rivals. Ditto most competitors – but not all – will not provide the removable SD media card required for storing the camera’s results. Here there’s an unprotected card slot provided that, like the battery compartment, we only get access to once we’ve slipped a latch on the outer casing, thus offering an extra layer of simple and straightforward protection. Thankfully, removable memory can be inserted up to a higher capacity than many less well-specified trail cameras offer – here Bushnell can accommodate up to a generous 512GB SD card.
Given the above, we feel paying the slight premium this particular model commands is fair. Sure we can pay less, but we’ll be compromising on features if we do so.
Bushnell CORE DS-4K No Glow trail camera review: Performance
Given the set-up described above, we found it easy enough to insert and retrieve batteries and media card. The menu systems the control panel offered via the LCD screen and attendant buttons are simple and straightforward, including the ability to pick one of a range of pre-sets – Feeder, Trail, Food Plot or ‘Advanced’ – along with the ability to format the card in use and manually input coordinates, in terms of latitude and longitude.
It’s here that we might have wished for some sort of automatic GPS functionality. We can also set time and date – although there seems to be no option to change it from the non-UK option of ‘month first, day second, year third’.
Incidentally, selecting ‘Advanced’ lets us switch between photo and video modes or select a hybrid of the two, as well as choosing image size and adjusting illumination mode to either low, fast motion or long-range options.
Video resolution can further be adjusted, from standard 1280x720 pixels up to a Full HD 1920x1080 pixels or 4K 3840x2160, dependent on how much card capacity we have left. Video duration can be tweaked too, downwards or upwards from a default 10-second clip as required. Thus there is a reasonable amount of versatility built-in.
Upon the retrieval of images, we found that they are not only stamped with date and time along the border at the bottom of each 16:9 widescreen or 4:3 ratio frame, but also, excitingly, the temperature at the time.
A 0.15 second trigger ability ensures that we’re more likely to capture skittish wildlife than not – or ourselves, backing off from the camera once we’ve set it up, as there is a 10-second delay before it starts taking pictures after we’ve slid the power switch to ‘on’.
If we’ve a slight grumble, purely from a photographic perspective stills can resemble video grabs rather than sharply defined images. To get the optimum picture quality, the manufacturer suggests the camera should be mounted about 16-17ft away from the place being monitored.
For mounting, there is either the provided belt strap in the box, that is looped through the two lugs on the backplate, or a second option is to tripod mount the trail camera, via the standard screw thread provided at the base of the Bushnell Core DS-4K No Glow.
Bushnell CORE DS-4K No Glow trail camera review: Verdict
Like with any device where the actual user is deliberately hands-off once initial settings have been chosen and implemented, there is a degree of trial and error involved, with practice and indeed persistence helping to make, if not quite a perfect outcome, then one that is closer to satisfactory at least. A limited two-year warranty provides extra peace of mind for anyone seeking to purchase the Bushnell Core DS-4K No Glow.
That being said, unlike many others, this trail camera features dual sensors which means it can be used both during the day and at night, for around-the-clock observation and surveillance. On top of this, we get up to a high 32-megapixel image count, up to 4K resolution video, plus a small internal backscreen for adjustment of these settings
We not too keen on the plastic-y build, or the fact that the 6x AAs required for power plus SD memory card, are additional expenses.