Best Trail Cameras: Capture Animal Movements on Film

Get the best possible images day or night with these trail cameras

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The best way to make documentaries about animals in their natural habitat or hunt game is to be absent from the scene and let the animals roam freely. This is possible with a high-end trail camera that blends in with the background and takes clear images during the day and night. Here are some of the best-rated trail cameras to consider. 

  • Best Overall
    Reconyx HyperFire Covert IR Camera
    Summary
    Summary
    A low-light IR trail camera with an impressive 80-foot detection range and 720P video quality.
    Pros
    Pros
    Great day color images. It has a battery that can last for more than 15 months. Fast detection speed. Produces high-quality night pictures. Can record high clarity videos and audio. It can take multiple images with minimal delays.
    Cons
    Cons
    Expensive. Average daytime video quality. It has only a 3-megapixel image resolution.
  • Best Value
    Moultrie A-Series Game Camera
    Summary
    Summary
    An affordable game camera that can take clear 12 megapixel images and high-quality 720P videos.
    Pros
    Pros
    Can send wireless images to Moultrie mobile devices. Easy to set up. Long battery life. Solar power enabled. It can capture perfect shots of moving objects. Can support up to 32GB SD cards. It has a fast 0.9-second trigger speed. It has a long detection range of about 60 feet.
    Cons
    Cons
    Not compatible with ultra or high-speed SD cards. Reduced shutter speed at night.
  • Honorable Mention
    Browning Strike Force Trail Camera
    Summary
    Summary
    A 16-megapixel camera with a 120-foot flush range that can take clear images with the minimal power of six AA batteries.
    Pros
    Pros
    Great video quality. Durable all-steel construction. Fast recovery time. Has a programmable picture delay feature. It can take night pictures. Effective IR Flash range and quick trigger speed. Long battery life. Easy to use and set up.
    Cons
    Cons
    The night pictures may have a visible IR flush. It doesn’t offer a way of checking the alignment of the field images.

Tips

  • Trail cameras only give you a fixed perspective in the direction the camera is facing. Consider installing several cameras at different positions to get a diverse view of what’s happening in the field. 
  • It’s easy for an animal to destroy or take down a camera strapped to a tree or branch. To prevent that, buy a camera with a camouflage design and buy more straps to secure it.
  • If possible, set up the camera at a high level above the ground where it can go unnoticed by most animals and humans who might try to steal it. Just be sure not to compromise the camera’s viewing angle. 
  • Do not handle the gadget with your bare hands. Your hands can get sweaty, and the human scent will transfer to the camera. The animals may avoid coming close to the area and some may even destroy it. 

FAQs

Q: What is the best battery for a trail camera?

A: Rechargeable batteries may be an inconvenience if you want to monitor a single activity throughout the month such as plant growth rate. Plus, you have to go back frequently to the shooting scene to charge the batteries. Consider buying non-rechargeable lithium batteries, which have a high voltage output and are more resistant to weather changes compared to alkaline or rechargeable batteries. 

Q: Can a trail camera send images to a phone? 

A: A wireless trail camera can send images to compatible smartphone devices. The best wireless cameras are 4G enabled and have a storage capacity of at least 32GB. You also have to set up the camera to your phone's cellular network provider. It may take about 40 seconds for the camera to send the image to your email or a phone app. 

Q: Where should I set up a trail camera?

A: The best place to set up the camera is on a tree or branches that are located next to food or water sources. The animals are more likely to frequent the location. Also, if it's a wireless camera, ensure that you can get a signal from wherever you place it. Carry your phone with you to test where the signal is strongest. 

Q: How often should I check a trail camera?

A: Checking the camera too often may interfere with animal movements. The animals are sensitive to human activity, so they may avoid such areas. You should check or inspect the camera once a month to reduce your impact on the animal's environment. 

Final Thoughts

Our top pick is the Reconyx HyperFire Covert IR Camera. It captures unparalleled color photographs and has low-light imaging to produce night pictures with great contrast. 

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a camera that you’ll only use for a short project, consider the Moultrie A-Series Game Camera