Best Trail Camera 2018 – Buyer’s Guide
There are literally 100's of different trail cameras on the market.
On top of that there are dozens of brands each with a multitude of models that come with a plethora of features.
How in the world do you actually settle and pick the best trail camera for you?
Well, there is only ONE problem. Finding that "best" game camera isn't an easy task.
Infrared Red Glow
Infrared No Glow
Infrared Red Glow
Infrared Low Glow
Top 6 Best Trail Cameras
First released in 2014, this is one of the top rated trail cameras on the market. It has a motion triggered 10mp camera, with a detection range of up to 100 feet. The camera can also shoot videos of HD quality and sound. The video clips can range between 5 seconds and 2 minutes.
The camera has a trigger speed of 0.67 seconds. It also features an infrared flash for night time photos. The entire unit runs on 8 AA batteries which are long lasting. The device is fitted with time-lapse software. The unit is robust, compact and designed in camouflage.
The Browning Strike Force is priced reasonably well which is also very reasonable and one of the main reasons it is the best trail camera.
Probably one of the fasted trail cameras on the market right now with a trigger speed of 0.2 seconds and a recovery speed of 0.5 sec. Both numbers are absolutely astonishing.
This model also boasts a lot of technology into a relatively small body. Measuring in at just 5.6in x 3.4in.
The Spypoint Force 11D is priced on the low end of trail cameras and you definitely get what you pay for. The picture quality is not the greatest and dfinitely takes a hit on night time pictures. The 11D is also not the most durable game camera.
Credit does go to it's battery life and detection circuit. You should get at least 6 months of straight use in the field and expect longer. The detection circuit is quite honestly amazing. The fasted trail camera by a large margin and has a detection range of 60ft.
This game camera is absolutely packed with features with a relatively low price point.
This camera offers 4 different resolution settings of 2, 4, 8 or 10mp to adjust to how many photos you want. It is capable of video recording in HD from 5 – 180 seconds.
The trigger speed is a lightening quick 0.5 seconds with a detection range of up to 100 feet. Even at night. It is equipped with 42 black IR emitters which create no visible flash. “Burst mode” is also available which will take up to 9 pictures at once.
The SD card slot supports up to 32 GB and can be password protected from unwanted users.
This camera has perhaps the most impressive battery life of any trail camera. It is designed to use either 6 or 12 AA batteries. When fitted with 12 AA batteries, it can run continuously for up to one year.
Battery life aside, this camera also has a lightening fast trigger speed at 0.15 seconds. It captures 1080p HD images at about 2 frames per second. Its picture quality is full color day time and monochrome at night.
The camera’s sensor is sensitive up to 50 feet, and can be set to take pictures on am/pm basis or at preset intervals. The only downside of this camera, aside from the cost, is that it doesn’t record videos. At the same time, as a photographic trail camera, the Reconyx HyperFire HC500 is about as good as it gets.
If you're looking for a low to medium priced camera that still offers great features then the 14mp Trophy Cam Aggressor might be what you're looking for.
Image resolutions come in 14, 8, and 3 megapixels. You will also get 1920 x 1080 video resolution with audio.
The Aggressor has a 0.2 second trigger speed which is definitely upper echelon and won't miss any fast moving objects that pass through the detection zone. Also expect around 1 second for recovery time. Again, this is great for this price point in a trail camera.
On average the detection range is around 80ft which is basically market standard. Some users have reported seeing up to 110ft but is usually a bit lower.
If you're looking for a feature packed game camera that is not gonna break the bank, you definitely need to check out the Bushnell Trophy Cam Aggressor.
Another in a line of great trail cameras is the G30 model from Stealh(GSM). Stealth has included a lot of their high end features in this little beaut, but was able to keep the price down. More from Stealth.
The G30 can be set up for either 2, 4 or 8 mp images and is also able to record HD video from 5-180 seconds.
Full Stealth Cam G30 Review here.
This model also has 30 IR emitters, I guess that's good, with an 80 ft detection range. Both pretty much standard in the industry which shows just how much you're getting in this modestly priced trail camera.
This game camera also has a 0.5 second trigger speed using Stealth's reflex trigger technology along with the advanced blur reduction will enable this gem to pump out quality image after quality image.
Different Types of Trail Cameras
There are two main types of game cameras. These involve the type of flash that the camera uses.
When deciding what type of camera you need, the main feature you need to think about is the flash. What will you be doing with your trail camera? The LED and Infrared flash each has it's own benefits and drawbacks. Be sure to research WHAT exactly you need before making your purchase.
Traditional LED Flash Camera
This type of hunting camera uses LED bulbs for the flash. This type of flash would be ideal for those who want crystal clear images for day and night as well as maintaining a color image for nights.
Keep in mind too that because these cameras use a bright flash that they will use more juice from your batteries. So you get less images using these cameras.
- Full color with crystal clear nighttime images
- Typically easy to set up and install
- Very portable with a wide variety of uses.
- The bright flash isn't ideal if you're using the camera for security or scouting a potential hunting location.
- These cameras also make a "shutter" sound when taking a picture which can add to spooking animals.
- Uses more battery compared to infrared scouting cameras
Infrared trail cameras are quickly becoming the industry standard for the most popular type of flash. It's easy to understand why when there are so many different uses for this type of flash. These hunting cameras will provide a very high resolution and the night time photos have tremendous clarity.
These cameras are especially useful for using as security in your home or office as well as for wildlife behavior based on the "No" flash it puts off and having no "shutter" noise.
- Uses less power for the flash so the batteries last longer
- No Glow Infrared cameras emit no light which won't spook animals or alert people to it's location
- Faster trigger time than LED flash trail cameras
- Night time photos are in black and white and may be "grainy"
- Tend to be more costly because of the technology involved
Ruggedness, picture quality, user-friendliness, and price are the major factors that most hunters would look for in trail cameras. And these are the same things that would put game cameras on the top list of the best-selling and most liked cameras according to consumers themselves.
Looking at the top game camera reviews can definitely trim down your options because you will be more wise about which brands and models are preferred and trusted. The following are the best blenders for hunting cameras according to buyers.
Wireless trail cameras are a relatively recent development in the game camera industry. These cameras send the pictures and videos it captures directly to your phone through a Wi-Fi network.
The best way to understand is to think of the wireless trail camera like it's a phone. The camera uses the signals from wireless towers to send/text the pictures and videos it takes to your phone or email.
All current cameras on the market use the GSM network. This is basically a specific type of wireless technology that certain carriers use to transmit wireless signals. Only two carriers currently use the GSM network which include AT&T and T-Mobile. This technology requires a SIM card to be used so your camera will be enabled with one. These usually come with the unit when you purchase.
Important Note: Just because your camera has to get a plan with either AT&T or T-Mobile does NOT mean that your phone has to be with these carriers to receive the texts.
Just like a phone using T-Mobile can call another phone using Verizon. Same concept here.
Top of The Line Trail Camera Brands
The game camera industry has become one of massive competition. There are many brands in this sector all with different technologies that make each camera different and hopefully a little better than the others.
With so many brands out there, I've compiled a list of the higher quality brands with the highest customer satisfaction.
Browning only recently entered the game camera market but has quickly become a favorite for consumers and industry leading professionals. They have earned a reputation for producing quality scouting cameras at very competitive prices.
Their game cameras come with a multitude of options but all models they offer have an infrared flash. They do come in either no glow or red glow flash options.
Bushnell is one of the top brands when it comes to game cameras. They are widely considered the "standard" for affordable trail cameras from industry professionals.
When you purchase a Bushnell trail camera you are getting a quality camera that is rugged and almost guaranteed to last you a very long time.
Cuddeback trail cameras lead the industry with a 1/4 second trigger speed and advanced features. They also boast a 1 second recovery time to get be ready for another image.
These scouting cameras also provide more images with an animal actually captured and provide a lot less blank photos that a lot of other brands capture.
Moultrie brand trail cameras currently have the number 1 selling trail camera on Amazon.com. It's under $100 and has some pretty decent reviews.
This company has a wide range of trail cameras on the market with a lot of different features including infrared no glow models as well as panoramic picture taking models.
They strive for an easy to use and quick to set up unit which is ideal for beginners or those that don't need a lot of different features in the game camera.
Another industry leading trail camera brand, Stealth offers a wide range of excellent technology for their game cameras.
Stealth also like to create scouting cameras that are easy to use like Moultrie but pack a lot more technology into their models. These include; range control, hybrid capture mode, retina for low light conditions, Matrix blur reduction, geo-tagging, quick to set up, burst mode and energy efficient.
Trail Camera Buyers Guide
There are many different features that you need to know about to help you make the best decision when purchasing your game camera. Below I've listed the main features you can expect from your trail camera and how each do different things for your specific needs.
Picture Quality (Mega Pixels)
Most scouting cameras offer resolutions of at least 2 MP with many high-end ones offering resolutions of 10 MP and higher.
However, an important point is that the mega pixel count alone is not an indication of the quality of images captured by a camera. The quality of the camera’s lens and the image sensor are equally important criteria.
I recommend at least 5 mp for any trail camera worth purchasing.
Types of Flash
The type of flash used in game cameras is especially important for night-time and low-light shots. Two types of flash options are available – conventional visible light flash and infrared flash.
Conventional Visible Light Flash
Usually LED – is excellent for capturing high quality and bright images of game with great color during the night. However, these bright conventional incandescent or LED flashes will most likely spook animals and scare them away from the cameras location, thus not only limiting your chances of capturing a good image but also possibly permanently scaring away the animal from that location. Such bright and visible flashes also reveal the location of your camera to any possible thieves or intruders. LED or incandescent flashes also have higher battery consumption and lead to lower trigger-times.
- Biggest Advantage: Great colored pictures at night.
- Greatest Disadvantage: Bright flashes at night will scare game away. If you use the camera for security it will give away the cameras location.
This flash is not visible to animals (or people) and allows the capture of pictures and video without disrupting the animals behavior. At the same time, the downside of such flashes is that the camera can only take black and white images and the image quality is much lower than LED flash trail cameras. Infrared is also available in No Glow and Red Glow options.
- No Glow Cameras- The no glow flash does not emit any visible light while taking pictures. Because of their low observability, they are best suited for capturing animal activity without startling them as well as for home security/surveillance applications. The images captured by no glow cameras are less brighter than red glow cameras.
- Red glow Infrared Cameras- These cameras emit a very faint red light while capturing pictures. Though, this red light is not observable unless one is directly looking at the camera, it does make the camera far more detectable when compared to no glow cameras. Red glow cameras offer brighter and higher quality images than no glow cameras.
A game cameras detection zone is the area in front of the camera that is being “monitored.” For an animal or person to be detected, it has to walk into the detection zone. Each trail camera has a detection circuit which is comprised of two facets. The detection width and the detection range.
The detection width is basically the horizontal span of area covered by the camera lens. In most cases, it is determined by the angle of view which the camera has. Most trail cameras have a view of between 40 and 70 degrees. A few wide-angled units have a detection width of 150 degrees.
The detection range is the maximum distance from the camera in which movement can be detected by the camera’s sensors. The further the detection range, the more sensitive the camera is. Most game cameras have a detection range of between 40 and 100 feet.
I’ve found that most trail cameras have a far less range than advertised!
The recovery time is how long it takes for a camera, after taking a shot, to be ready to take another shot. After taking a picture, the game camera usually saves the picture on its internal memory or memory card if you have one installed.
Before the picture is fully saved, the trail camera cannot take another picture. The time it takes to save the picture varies from one camera to another.
Typically, the recovery time of trail camera’s vary between a few microseconds up to a minute. Again, the relevancy of recovery time depends on your particular situation. A faster recovery time is critical when shooting quick moving objects. For capturing slower moving game, a slow recovery time can work fine while saving a bit of your budget.
Battery and Power Options
A trail camera is usually set up outside – sometimes for months at a time. As such, battery life is incredibly important. The longer a camera needs to stay out in the field, the longer the battery needs to last.
Most game cameras are powered by either traditional AA batteries or c-cell batteries. Generally, AA batteries tend to be somewhat less powerful than C-cell batteries. However, their main advantage is that you can acquire rechargeable Nihm or Lithium batteries which last a very long time.
Although C-cell batteries are longer lasting, they only operate best in temperatures of 32F or higher. Under such temperatures, they can last for months. However, once temperatures begin to drop below this threshold they lose power pretty quickly. In freezing temperatures, their battery life can be cut by half.
When choosing trail camera batteries, it is important to consider the conditions in which you will set up the trail camera. In cold or freezing conditions, AA batteries are the best. In warmer conditions, C-cell batteries are the best.
Lithium batteries offer the longest battery life and are also very reliable and only a bit pricier than regular AA Batteries. It’s definitely worth spending the extra money for a better battery.
Almost all of the game cameras that come out now have inputs for 6v or 12v battery supplies. If you plan on leaving your camera in the field for long stretches of time than an external power supply is your best bet.
These units can supply power to your trail camera for many months. When purchasing one of these you need to make sure that your camera will work with the one you're considering.or you may ruin it.
Solar panels are an amazing accessory if you're looking to supply power to your camera for really long stretches of time. These panels will keep juice going to your camera year round.
I know this is obvious but you need to make sure the panel is facing south (in the northern hemisphere).
Also, if your camera is where other hunters are or around your home or business, these may not be the best option for power. You don't want this to get stolen or to tip off others of your cameras location.
Most modern trail cameras use replaceable memory cards (SD or Compact flash cards) and/or internal memory for storing images and video.
Trail cameras with memory cards installed not only enable you to instantly increase the camera’s memory, they also allow you to take the card with you and use it in your smartphone/tablet or laptop for viewing the pictures captured by your game camera.
Bigger memory card capacity in a trail camera implies that it can store hundreds more images and video as well as observe for longer times.
Most hunting cameras support 32GB or 64 GB or even higher capacity memory cards.
Game Cameras are left unattended for long periods of time and therefore are always at a risk of being stolen or vandalized. It is possible that animals could also damage the camera.
Good camouflaging and rugged build-quality are important features that keep the unit undetected and safe.
Many additional security features such as dedicated high-security-boxes with built in holes for running steel cables and padlocks are available for trail cameras and must be considered.