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Review: Play House Construction & the Brinno TLC200 Pro HDR Time Lapse Camera

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Some things should be left to the professionals. huo_h

That was the first thought that struck me as the man in the 18 wheeler started to unload the 21 boxes of play house that my wife bought for our kids.  Or, perhaps better stated, that my wife bought for me to assemble for our kids.

Now, I don’t begrudge my children their fun, but this was 21 boxes of two-story play house.  The issue was not my general handiness around the house, I can build a bookcase, table, chairs, and can decipher IKEA directions with the best of them.  The issue was the 21 boxes, the fact that it would have to be done in the evenings and weekends until it was done, and the 21 boxes (that includes the bucket full of bolts, screws, washers, nails, locking nuts, and nails).  I was looking at a lot of time that I could otherwise have been doing something like mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, and generally doing everything else.

Ah, but there was a bright side, I had just gotten the Brinno TLC200 Pro HDR time lapse camera to review.  I could use the camera to record my building of the structure and kill two birds with one stone.

That was not what occurred.  Instead, the two birds, in true Hitchockian style, nearly did me in.  I will cheat a little here by saying the end results for both were fantastic, but the process… oh, the process.

You see, when you buy the sort of play house we bought, it comes as discrete modules.  You buy the crow’s nest, you buy the slide, you buy the trapeze, etc.  Each module (and each subset of many of the modules) comes with its own set of directions, and no set indicates the proper order in which to tackle things; there is no single master set of directions.  It isn’t just bad planning, it is immensely bad planning.

Sure, you can sort most of it out, but you regularly find yourself finishing a nearly impossible task only to find out, six steps later, that you can’t find a piece you need.  So, you move on to something else and finish that.  Then you move on to something else, and then yet another thing.  Eventually you get to the module that says “remove part x” and, shockingly, it was part x that you needed and couldn’t find earlier, thinking you had run out because you, properly, followed the directions.

To be more specific, let’s say you install dozens of arch braces which sit between the uprights, provide support, and space everything out appropriately.  Genius, because that allows the main structure to exist.  You then build a module which requires an arch brace but you don’t have any more because they all went into the main structure.  So, you build three other modules and eventually you get to one that says “remove the arch brace in this part of the play house.”

Ta-da!  You now have the arch brace you needed before but which didn’t exist.  You couldn’t have known that was going to happen.  There is no overarching set of directions for what you’ve bought and you didn’t see that one line in the six-inch stack of directions (really) when you checked it out before beginning.

So, that was how the play house went.  More or less, it was also how the camera went.  This could again be a case of some things being better left to the professional (my contractor was able to get the roof 15 feet into the air with ease), but to the average individual, it isn’t terribly easy to operate.

One of the main selling points of the Brinno seems to be that “It is shockingly simple; just start filming with the push of a button!”  You could go that way, but if you do, you’re liable to get disappointing results (see the first video).  It should also be noted that it is because of this statement that I figured I, a pretty tech savvy guy, could work it out.

There are several menus which have to be played with and, honestly, the largest shortcoming with the camera is that they’re incredibly difficult to navigate.  The makers of the camera have gone for a simple look and that means a minimal number of buttons, many of which are dual use but only labeled for one specific purpose.  So, you blithely assume that the “TIME” button adjusts the time.  It also scrolls down on the menu system, with, once you’re in the sub menu system, “MENU” scrolling up.   If, under the main menu you scroll past what you want, hitting the time button to try to cycle back around not only kicks you out of the menu when it gets to the end, but then pushes you into the menu for what the button is actually labeled.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • fflyer165

    Great review… the menu is tricky, but once I learned it, things were easy. I did upload the new firmware for the PRO from Brinnos site so now I can set a start – stop time and use the EYE Fi card to connect with the PRO across a network. Very cool.

    • markus

      Hi fflyer,
      I’m thinking about getting the TLC200 Pro + EyeFi, but I’m hoping you can clear this up for me: If I set a timer from 08:00-12:00, will it record a small video daily, which I can then download via EyeFi on a daily basis? Or will it record just 4 hours once and then reset?