LAST UPDATED: October 10, 2019
Best Trail Cameras: Capture Animal Movements on Film
Get great images day or night with these trail cameras
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON October 10, 2019
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 top trail cameras to consider.
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Benefits of Trail Cameras
- Time tracking. Most trail and game cameras keep an accurate timestamp of events. This is useful when you want detailed documentation. It gives you accurate data that can be used for pinpoint analysis.
- Safety. Most animals are nocturnal and can pose a risk if you gather live footage at night. Trail cameras have amazing night vision and can record night activities on their own, keeping you safe.
- Stealth. Animals are easily startled by sudden lights and noise. Trail cameras (stealth cams) are designed to stay concealed, and they operate in silence. They allow you to take pictures and videos with ease.
- Easy to protect. Due to their size, protecting trail cameras is not very costly. Steel boxes and extra camouflage can protect the cameras from theft or tampering.
- Home use. Once you are done with your outdoor assignment, you can use a trail camera as a home-monitoring device (a security camera). Set it up outside your house to keep track of any suspicious activity.
Types of Trail Cameras
Motion-Activated Trail Cameras
These are some of the best cameras for exploring the outdoors. A top-shelf, motion-activated trail camera has a wide detection range and can sense motion from a distance, thanks to built-in motion sensors. Since movement in the wild is unpredictable, some motion-activated cameras have high sensitivity to quickly track movement and take videos.
Cellular Trail Cameras
As the name implies, a cellular camera uses a SIM card to connect to another cellular device. It captures footage and transmits it to your device through a cellular network, allowing you to remotely access real-time coverage. However, its key limiting factor is poor coverage in a low-network area. While it may still capture footage, you have to manually extract it if it can’t be transmitted.
Wireless Trail Cameras
In theory, these are the best trail cameras, as they can transfer footage over a Wi-Fi network. A wireless trail camera has transmitters that allow it to connect to a range of devices in an area. However, in a place with no Wi-Fi access, its functionality is severely affected. You may have to take extra measures—like getting a concealed, portable Wi-Fi kit—to make sure there’s coverage.
Infrared Trail Cameras
Infrared trail cameras are best suited for night coverage. They emit a low glow to take footage and capture images in dark places. The image quality is usually above par; although, the images are not in color. In most cases, a good infrared trail camera has infrared LEDs and automatic on/off capability.
Bushnell Corporation is a brand best known for innovative outdoor optics gear, such as sports cameras and spotting scopes. The company was founded in Japan in 1948 by David P. Bushnell. Today, it continues to delight trail enthusiasts with trail cameras such as the Bushnell Trophy Cam Trail Camera.
Browning is better known for its firearms and fishing gear but boasts an impressive range of trail cameras that complement the brand’s signature products. It has a long history dating back to 1878 in Ogden, Utah. Hunting enthusiasts will benefit from its full range of products that include footwear, hunting rifles, and trail cameras like the well-received Browning Strike Force Extreme Trail Camera.
Wildgame Innovation was founded in the early 2000s after the owner, Ryan Busbice, sold his previous company, Ace Transportation, an oil and gas company. With headquarters in Los Angeles, California, Wildgame Innovations has made a name for itself in the hunting gear space. One of its top cameras is the Wildgame Innovations Wraith 14 Megapixel Lightsout Trubark Trail Camera.
Trail Camera Pricing
- $30-$60: There are a wide range of options in this price range. The cameras can take basic pictures and videos and have image resolutions reaching up to eight megapixels. Their detection range usually varies but can reach 50 feet. The cameras here have trigger speeds of around one second.
- $70-$100: The trail cameras found here are considered mid-range; although, they offer impressive results. Their trigger speeds range between 0.7 and 0.9 seconds. Their image sensors can reach up to 16MP, and they take clear photos and acceptable videos, even in low light. If you’re looking to upgrade your trail camera, this is a great place to start. The biggest drawback of cameras in this range is poor audio quality.
- $200-$300: Cameras in this price bracket are for the outdoor trackers and hunters who don’t mind spending more for high-quality products. They have fast trigger speeds and are able to sense movement from a distance of 80 feet. They offer wide-angle coverage and have zero blur for clear videos. They also have long-lasting batteries or back-up power sources.
One of the key features to check in a trail camera is the resolution of the images and video. Basic cameras have 2MP-8MP image sensors and can take videos with 720p resolution. If you want amazing picture quality and high-quality videos at night, get a trail camera with at least a 12MP sensor and 1080p video resolution.
Decide whether you’d like LED flash or infrared flash. LED flash provides powerful light that enables you to get illuminated pictures. However, its downside is that bright light is not recommended at night, as you risk scaring animals away. Infrared light, on the other hand, is great for nighttime coverage, as it emits invisible flashes that do not frighten animals.
Trigger speed is the rate at which your camera detects movements and performs an action. The faster the trigger speed, the better images or footage you will get. Trigger speeds vary between 0.14 seconds and four seconds.
The detection range is the distance from which a trail camera can detect motion. The best trail cameras are those that can detect motion from as far as 80 feet and have wide-angle coverage. They cover wider areas, allowing you to take better videos or more photos.
- Power: Trail cameras are usually left unattended for long periods. During this time, you need to know whether the camera is running as it should. Most cameras can be used with batteries. Some premium ones, however, can draw power from the sun. It is also worth noting that extra features drain batteries faster.
- Sensitivity Adjustment: Sensitivity adjustment makes a difference in what cameras cover. Cameras with high sensitivity adjustment are able to record even small movements by smaller animals. Those with low sensitivity adjustment may fail to capture smaller animals and only capture bigger ones.
- Memory: Memory is a sensitive issue, as it determines how much footage and images a camera can store. Most cameras don’t have built-in memory; however, they have slots for memory cards. Some premium models are compatible with 256GB memory cards, while most utilize 32GB cards.
Best Trail Camera Reviews & Recommendations 2020
One of the best hunting cameras, the Moultrie A-25i packs many cutting-edge features into one device. It has a 12MP sensor that’s complemented by infrared lenses that can illuminate as far as 50 feet. The invisible infrared light makes for crisp nighttime images and footage. The camera has a long battery life and a 0.9-second trigger speed.
You can use SD or SDHC Class 4 memory cards (up to 32GB) to increase its storage options. You can also make use of the easy-to-load battery tray to add the eight lithium batteries that are recommended if you want to capture up to 17,000 images. If you’re keen on video footage, this camera gives you 720p footage.
The trail camera has two standout features: it can send wireless images to Moultrie mobile devices and can be powered by solar power. However, if you’re looking for a camera that is compatible with high-speed memory cards, you may want to look at other options. Its nighttime shutter speed could also do with some improvements.
The Campark trail camera is perfect for tracking game and capturing footage. It is powered by four AA batteries that you have to purchase separately. Despite being one of the smallest cameras in its range, it can detect movements as far as 65 feet away and has a 0.5-second trigger speed. It takes high-quality pictures at night and captures multiple images with minimal delays.
Its 120-degree lens is able to capture high-quality color photos and 1080p HD video footage. The lens allows the camera to cover more areas and has a high resolution of 12MP. The small trail game camera stores images and videos in a 32GB SD card that can hold more than an hour of high-quality video footage.
You can easily conceal the camera once you mount it using the mounting rope provided. It is great for the outdoors because it has an IP56 waterproof rating. However, it falls short in some areas. Its detection is erratic, and sometimes water gets inside it. It is also incompatible with some SD cards and takes low-quality nighttime pictures.
The Strike Force Trail Camera is made of steel to withstand the elements in the wild. It’s one of the top wildlife cameras and has an impressive detection range of 80 feet. Its flash range is 120 feet. These two great features are complemented by a 0.4-second trigger time and a 0.8-second recovery time that enables it to take up to eight rapid-fire photos.
The 16MP resolution is responsible for its clear 1280 x 720 full HD video. The camera also utilizes Smart IR technology to take videos during the daytime. Its inbuilt sound is very helpful in tracking animals. The camera has a programmable picture delay feature and only needs six AA batteries to run. Its time-lapse mode allows it to capture images at preset intervals.
The Strike Force Trail Camera comes with a 16GB memory card that stores footage and photos. Setting up and configuring it is easy, thanks to its picture information bar. But it has two major drawbacks: it lacks a preview pane (an LCD screen) for checking the alignment of the field images, and its visible infrared flash could possibly spook wildlife at night.
This trail camera comes with a 20MP high resolution camera. It also has 1080P video capabilities. There are 42 low-glow LEDs for a better view at night. It has a 0.3-second trigger speed as soon as movement is detected. It has a 130-degree motion detection range. The camera comes pre-programmed and with the necessary mounting hardware for easy installation.
You’ll be able to achieve crystal clear videos with sound during the day and night. During night photography, it will emit a fully automatic IR filter light that won’t scare the animals. The wildlife doesn’t even have to get very close to the camera, as it has a range of 75 feet for capturing images.
Unfortunately, you may find it difficult to get the sensitivity correct. This may result in it failing to take pictures of wildlife. When it does take pictures, they can look grainy or washed out, no matter what the current lighting conditions are. You also can’t remove the memory card without taking the camera down completely.
You’ll be able to capture the wildlife during the day and night with this no-glow trail camera. It comes in two camo print designs for blending into its surroundings. The video resolution is 480p and has a 12MP camera. The trigger response time is 0.5 seconds. It has a 100-foot infrared range for sensing movement. You can use a 32GB SD card in it. Behind the cover is a backlit screen for programming.
What’s nice about this camera is the burst mode. The camera will take up to nine images per trigger. It also has security features built into it. It has a secure lock password built in. It also comes with a quick-set pre-program option for easy setup.
Unfortunately, you may find that this camera runs the battery out quickly. It also struggles with reliable time lapse image capturing. The viewing angle isn’t very wide or far out, so something has to walk directly in front of the camera for it to trigger.
Mount this game camera on your property and enjoy high resolution images from the 20MP camera and 1080p videos. It has an 82-foot motion detection distance, so wildlife doesn’t have to get close to the camera for the camera to trigger. It captures images at night with the 940nm no-glow IR LEDs. The unit is durable with an IP66 waterproofing rating and works in temperatures from -4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
What’s impressive about this camera is the incredibly fast, one-second trigger speed and 0.5-second recovery time. This ensures you’ll never miss a thing. There are also three sensitivity levels so you can adjust the camera’s performance for your needs. The setup is easy with the user-friendly menu and color screen. Once set up, it’s easy to maintain thanks to the low power consumption that allows the AA batteries to last up to eight months.
The downside of this camera is that the image and video files can get corrupted easily. This makes whatever it captures useless. You may also find that the batteries don’t last as long as claimed.
This gray camouflage trail camera has a 20MP camera and 1080p video capabilities. It has a flash range of 65 feet. The unit is durable and is rated IP66 for being both dust and waterproof. It has a time lapse function. You can operate it from an external power source. Once motion is detected, it has a trigger time of 0.3 to 0.6 seconds. For nighttime use, it has 940nm IR LEDs.
You’ll like this camera because it clearly documents the images it takes. Each photo is stamped with a date, time, and temperature. You’ll also feel secure using this camera thanks to the built-in password feature to prevent unauthorized use.
One downside of this camera is that it doesn’t come with an SD card, external power supply, or batteries. You’ll need to buy at least an SD card and batteries to get the camera to work. The unit can fill with water, which can cause it to stop working.
This game trail camera comes with a 20MP camera and 1296p video capabilities. It has a 65-foot trigger distance. For night capturing, it has an IR flash with 36pc 850nm infrared LEDs. The camera has a solid construction to make it durable with a waterproof rating of IP66.
What makes this camera stand out is its WiFi connectivity. Download the camera’s app to your smartphone, and then you can adjust the settings and check your photos and video. There are several operating modes to choose from, including date/time stamps, moon phase, temperature, timer, real-time replay, and hybrid mode.
Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi feature is misleading. It doesn’t join your current network. Instead, it creates its own hotspot. The distance the hotspot reaches isn’t very far either, so you need to walk out near your camera to connect. You then need to connect your phone to the hotspot. This means the HotSpot feature doesn’t eliminate the chore of trekking out to your cameras to replace the SD cards to retrieve your images. It also doesn’t come with batteries or an SD card.
This wildlife game camera comes in a stealth flat black color. You have the option of choosing the unit with either an 8t or 10 megapixel camera. Both units have a video resolution of 720p. The housing is water resistant, and it comes with bungee cords for easy installation. You can use a 32GB SD card in it.
What makes this unit stand out is the one-second trigger time. This ensures you capture anything that moves in front of the camera. It has a capture range of 60 feet for nighttime image capturing. The regular maintenance on this camera is minimal, with the batteries lasting up to a year.
The downside of this camera is that the video length is limited to 30 seconds, so you’ll have several short videos. The motion sensor can also malfunction, which causes it to fail to take pictures when motion is sensed. There’s also no way to secure the SD card in the camera, which leaves your camera vulnerable.
Mount this camera on your trail and use its 16MP camera and 1080p video capabilities to capture wildlife and game on your property. It’ll capture images during the day and night. It has a no-glow fully automatic PIR sensor and 26 940nm Infrared no-glow LEDs
What makes this camera stand out is the fast trigger speed of less than 0.5s. It also has a fast recovery time of one to three burst shots. You’ll find using this camera easy to use with its 2.4-inch LED screen and easy-to-navigate menu. There are plenty of modes to choose from, including time/date stamp, moon phase, pressure, temperature, timer, real-time replay, hybrid mode, internal recording, and time lapse.
Unfortunately, the backside of this unit is curved, which makes it difficult to attach to anything that’s flat. The night vision may work intermittently. The unit is not watertight, which means it can leak, and this can cause the unit to malfunction or completely fail.
- 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.
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.
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.