Ever wonder what goes on underneath your deer stand while you’re not around? Probably not much anymore thanks to the advancements and accessibility of trail cameras. Trail or game cameras have absolutely become an essential tool for scouting and monitoring wildlife activity while you’re not around. If you’re not using them, you’re missing out.
Fortunately, like anything in the tech space, trail camera technology has improved and continues to improve very rapidly. Along with improvements in technology comes better pricing structure and considerably lower barriers to entry into the market. Of course, like any tech segment, the bleeding-edge category is alive and well with plenty of high-end cameras for those with an unlimited budget.
Advancements like higher megapixels (resolution), greater storage, longer battery life and HD video recording are always on the list. Companies that want to differentiate themselves now must innovate to stay ahead of the competition. Cameras with onboard cellular data service that allows instantaneous sending of pictures right to your phone are becoming more and more popular, along with a list of new features constantly streaming into the marketplace.
With new models being released at a rapid pace, it can be difficult to navigate the waters of purchasing a new trail camera. Finding the right combination of features, utility and value can be a challenge without the proper information. Fortunately for you, we’ve taken a look at a long list of cameras and now we’re going review and tell you about some of our favorite cameras out on the market. We’ll examine them in categories based on price, highlighting the key features of each individual camera. If you’re searching for your first or your next trail camera, please read on as you will surely find it below.
What To Look For When Buying A Trail Camera
Before we dive into the individual cameras, let’s take a look at some of the things to pay attention to when browsing game cameras.
- Megapixels (MP) – Perhaps the most highlighted feature on trail cameras today. Megapixels are a unit of graphic resolution. As far as trail cameras are concerned, the higher the megapixels the better the resolution in the pictures the camera takes. That being said, megapixels are not always the best direct comparison from camera to camera. Each manufacturer tends to measure them a bit differently so it’s not always apples to apples. What you should know: if you’re comparing two cameras, one with 12MP and one with 10MP but you like the features of the 10MP camera better, don’t be afraid to go with the 10MP camera. It’s likely you won’t give up much, if any, in resolution.
- Flash Range – This range is simply the manufacturer’s stated limit of how far away the camera can illuminate subjects and take pictures at night. This is normally done with infrared LEDs that create very little, if any flash that is visible to the human or animal eye.
- Trigger Speed – Trigger speed is a critical component to the image capture system of any trail camera. Trigger speed represents the amount of time it takes after the camera has detected motion to snap a picture.
- Battery Life – Ok, this one is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s one to pay attention to. Battery life is very important when considering cameras especially if the camera will be placed somewhere that you are unable to check often such as a remote hunting location. Battery life will range anywhere from a month to over a year depending on the camera so be sure the camera you are purchasing suits your needs.
Megapixels, detection range, trigger speed and battery life make up the basic functionality in every trail camera. The right combination of said features will produce high quality and consistent images a high percentage of the time.
While the above features cover the basics of trail camera specifications, when doing your research you’ll read about a host of other features and benefits specific to individual cameras. Things like storage capacity, video mode, wireless connectivity, security and viewing screens.
With respect to storage capacity, most trail cameras these days provide you the option of adding an external memory card to store and save your pictures. This memory card also facilitates image viewing by allowing you to remove the memory card and insert it into a computer or other capable device in order to upload and view your photos. The majority of trail cameras on the market today are now capable of accepting up to 32GB memory cards. These memory cards are generally inexpensive and hold plenty of photos and video.
Video capture mode certainly has its pros and cons. In theory, video sounds great, who wouldn’t want to watch a video of that monster buck strolling past a trail camera? In reality however, it’s not always the best option. Video mode tends to eat up a lot of battery and the files take up a large amount of memory on your SD card. For many applications, still-photos are still the way to go. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to have the video capability on your camera for the right scenario.
Wireless connectivity is perhaps the most exciting new feature in the trail camera world. With cellular networks and data capabilities improving every day, this has become a more realistic option for many trail camera users. While the price of current models with this feature remains on the high end, it is available for those that want it.
The wireless technology allows the camera itself to text the pictures it captures to your smartphone utilizing cellular data. Most manufacturers that provide the technology also make data plans available to you. If you’re scouting a remote location and do not have the chance to physically check the camera often, this feature allows you to literally scout a hunting spot from anywhere you have cellular data service.
When manufacturers talk about security, they are typically referring to steel cable locks or boxes that the camera can be placed in to prevent theft. In the trail camera world, these applications tend to be more of a deterrent than a full-blown solution. Cameras for scouting wildlife are often placed in rural or unpopulated areas so if a thief wants the camera he or she will likely have the opportunity to take it. Cables can always be cut and trees can be taken down allowing the thief to remove the camera.
Lastly, the addition of a viewing screen on the camera is a feature that may or may not be of value to you. Since the number of devices that are capable of reading the SD memory card, such as a smartphone or tablet, is ever increasing, the viewing screen on the camera is often not the most efficient way to view pictures. That being said, if you need the ability to quickly check photos without removing the memory card or camera from the field, the viewing screen can help with that.
Comparison Category Breakdown
In order to break down what the market has to offer, we’ve chosen to look at cameras based on three separate price ranges. With the number of manufacturers and individual SKUs on the market, prices are constantly changing and fluctuating but you’ll find consistency in a given range when it comes to what manufactures are willing to sell you.
We determined that the entry level category is anything under $100 dollars, specifically between $50 and $100 is where you will find a large number of cameras priced. In this category you’ll find cameras that are absolutely capable of withstanding the elements, taking quality pictures and performing reliably.
What you will not find in this category are a ton of extra bells and whistles or anything new or flashy. Rather, these cameras include features that manufacturers have found to withstand the test of time and are easy to produce and manufacture, allowing them to sell at these lower prices.
The next category, or what we’ve labeled mid-tier, consists of the price range between $100 and $150. This category again is home to a large number of cameras. The $100 level is a big hurdle for consumers but there is still a large number of buyers in this price range so manufacturers are happy to meet that demand.
Of course with the increase in price, the consumer can expect an increase in features and image quality. In the cameras we’ve examined below both of these issues are addressed. Cameras in this category are likely going to produce a higher quality image as well as provide additional functionality and customization in the feature set.
Lastly, our premium category consists of any camera over $150. While the dollar range above $150 is high, the space is actually less crowded as there are fewer buyers in this category. The premium category is where most manufacturers do their market testing and experimentation. You’ll find much of the industry innovation occurring in this space.
You’ll also find a few premium manufacturers that strictly design and sell cameras in this category. What happens in this category as far as development and sales go, determines what most consumers see when they purchase cameras in lower categories as a result of the technology trickle-down factor.
With the groundwork in place let’s move on to the camera reviews.
In the entry level category, we’ve highlighted four cameras that rise above the competition and outperform the flood of cheap knock-offs at this price point. These cameras will meet most of your scouting needs without breaking the bank. If you have a large property and need to get multiple cameras out to various feeding and bedding areas this is a great category to purchase from.
Stealth Cam IR STC-G30 Game Camera
First up, we have the Stealth Cam G30. The G30 combines an 8MP camera with HD Video recording capabilities. With 30 infrared emitters illuminating an area of up to 80-feet you can be sure that any game passing by at night will not go unnoticed.
The G30 is set and ready to go right out of the box. With three preset modes and the option for manual setup, you can customize the mode of operation exactly the way you like it. The G30’s trigger speed clocks in at .75 seconds and utilizes multi-zone motion detection to capture game from various angles. With the G30, you also get the ability to customize the image capture to your liking. High-resolution single photos along with rapid-fire burst mode give you the versatility you need to capture the image you’re looking for.
The HD-video capture can also be programmed to record 5 to 180-second video clips accompanied with audio. The G30 also internally optimizes energy efficiency extending the life of your batteries.
The G30 is a great entry level camera that combines quality images with value pricing.
Wildgame Innovations Vision 8 TruBark Game Camera
Next up, we have the Vision 8 TruBark from Wildgame Innovations.
Capturing photos with its 8MP camera, the Vision 8 ensures a high-quality image capture. Keeping up with competitors in this price range, the Vision 8 utilizes 27 infrared LEDs to illuminate a night time range of up to 70-feet. The Vision 8’s trigger speed clocks in at under one second as well.
The Vision 8 utilizes a 16:9 wide angle image to capture a large field of view and accurately record game activity within the camera’s range. Video capability has also been added to the Vision 8, allowing you to capture up to 30-second video clips. With a standard 32GB memory card capacity the Vision 8 provides ample storage for your photo and video captures.
Moultrie A-20 Mini Game Camera
The Moultrie A-20 Mini is an upgraded version of the classic and incredibly popular Moultrie A-5 camera. The Moultrie A-20 takes much of what made the A-5 a great camera and packs it into a sleeker and more compact unit at an incredible price.
The A-20 captures high resolution images with its 12MP camera, capable of recording video as well. The compact size of the A-20 sacrifices some distance in night time range but still allows image capture up to 50-feet utilizing its 12 infrared LEDs. The A-20 meets the industry standard with up to 32GB storage capacity. It’s compact size surrenders nothing in the battery life department. A single set of eight AA batteries can power the A-20 through 16,000 images.
Last but certainly not least, as a member of the Moultrie family the A-20 is capable of utilizing wireless mobile technology. Perhaps one of the most sought after features in trail cameras today, the ability to send images to the user’s phone via wireless cellular data. As the A-20 falls into the under $100 category, this feature is not included onboard, but is possible with the add-on Moultrie Mobile Modem MV1 (sold separately). The fact that wireless technology is not included with the camera is definitely not a knock on the A-20, as virtually no cameras in this price range are equipped with wireless tech.
Combine all of these features with the A-20’s user-friendly interface and you’ve got a winner in this category.
Spypoint Force 10 HD 10MP Trail Camera
Last but certainly not least in our under $100 category we have the Spypoint Force 10 HD. Compared to the other cameras in this category the Force 10 is a step above the competition in most major spec categories.
The Force 10 captures images utilizing it’s 10MP camera, which is not quite as high-res as the Moultrie A-20. However, as discussed earlier in this article, the advertised MP rating is not always a great direct comparison. When it comes to range and trigger speed, the Force 10 takes the cake in this category. A flash range of 90-feet and a trigger speed of .30-seconds is tops amongst its competitors that we have reviewed.
The Force 10 also uses a curved motion sensor lens to improve the detection distance and angle of its five detection zones. You’ll also find HD video recording on board with the ability to capture 10-90 seconds of video.
In a highly competitive price range for trail cameras, the Force 10 steps up to the plate on key features and specifications making this camera a great value option for lower budgets and multiple camera locations.
$100 – $150
The mid-tier price range for trail cameras falls somewhere between $100 and $150. In this section we’ll highlight three cameras that showcase what manufacturers have on display in this category. As a rule of thumb, you’re going to see higher specs in most of the major features relative to our entry-level sub-$100 price range.
This category is best suited for individuals with a little higher budget or perhaps only in need of a single camera. The higher price tag should translate to higher quality and more consistency in image capture.
Bushnell 14MP Trophy Cam HD Aggressor No Glow Trail Camera
First, we take a look at the Bushnell 14MP Trophy Cam HD Aggressor. Bushnell has solidified itself in the game camera market with the Trophy Cam for quite some time now. It’s their flagship model and they continue to develop and innovate within the product line.
The Aggressor captures images and HD video utilizing its 14MP camera. It also boasts a night time flash range of 80-feet made possible by its internal 48-LED flash system. The LEDs are advertised as “no glow, black” LEDs that do not emit any light. This feature is of course designed to ensure that no game is spooked by the camera. To round out the major specs on this camera, Bushnell claims a lightning fast .20-seconds trigger speed. Clearly this camera has positioned itself as top performer in this category.
In addition to the solid foundation of this camera, Bushnell sweetens the deal by throwing in some bonus features. Along with any trail camera that records video comes the accompanying debate of whether one should set it to take pictures or record video. The Aggressor throws that debate out the window with it’s hybrid mode, allowing you to simultaneously capture pictures and video.
On top of all of that, Bushnell claims a battery life of up to one year on a single set of batteries. Could you imagine being able set this camera up in a remote hunting location and have the confidence that you are scouting all year long? That kind of battery life built into a camera taking quality images gives the serious hunter a serious advantage.
All in all the Bushnell trophy Cam HD Aggressor is a fantastic game camera and is absolutely worth consideration in this price category.
Browning Strike Force HD Camera
Next up, we take a look at the Browning Strike Force HD Elite. Coming in under $150, the Strike Force Elite has made its case as a high-value camera. This camera packs high-end specs into a small package making it a compact scouting superstar.
In the major spec category, the Strike Force Elite utilizes a 10MP camera to capture both pictures and HD video. The onboard 36-LED flash system boasts an incredible 100-foot flash range. At that range you can be sure that very few game animals will be sneaking past your camera. This would be a great camera for the edges of fields and open areas. Paired with a trigger speed of .40-seconds this camera straight-up performs when it’s called upon.
In the bonus features category, the Strike Force offers two that are notable. The first is the Zero Blur feature for night-time shooting. One of the biggest problems in trail camera performance has been night-time images. Because the tendency for manufacturers has been to go with infrared flashes that are not visible to game animals we’ve traditionally had to deal with some motion blur. Thankfully innovation has lessened the effect over time and continues to do so. Browning claims to have largely handled the problem with their Zero Blur feature. The other bonus feature is the option to use the burst mode to capture up to eight images in a single sequence which is great relative to other cameras.
The Strike Force Elite is a quality camera at a very reasonable price point.
Stealth Cam G42 No-Glo Trail Game Camera
Our last camera in the $100 to $150 category is the Stealth Cam G42. At just over $100 the G42 packages a great combination of price with onboard features.
The major specs are all there with a 10MP camera and 100-foot flash range achieved with its 42-LED system. Snapping images with a trigger speed of .50-seconds, the G42 is a highly capable scouting camera.
The G42 utilizes a multi-zone detection system as most cameras in this price range do. They’ve also included a burst mode that can capture up to nine pictures on a single detection. HD video recording is of course included as well as Matrix Blur Reduction which is Stealth’s attempt at minimizing image blur on night-time shots.
For the price, the Stealth Cam G42 absolutely competes in this category and offers a capable and high-performing camera at a lower price.
Last but not least we examine three cameras at the top end of the spectrum. This category is large in that it encompasses a wide price range. However, competition in this space is limited as manufacturers know that most of their sales fall below this price level.
That being said, for hunters without a budget and/or seeking top-end performance and features not found at lower prices ranges, this is where you’ll want to be.
Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor 14MP Wireless
First up, we look at the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor 14MP Wireless. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it should. We looked at the non-wireless version of this camera in the sub-$150 category and subsequently sung its praises. And therein lies the difference, this version is wireless, which in the trail cam world means it can wirelessly send pictures to you via onboard 3G cellular capability.
While wireless technology has been available for quite some time now, it’s only recently become more available to the everyday user of trail cameras. That being said, you’re still going to pay premium prices for any camera that comes with the capability right out of the box.
The Aggressor HD Wireless is a great camera with high quality image capture specs as well as a diverse feature set. The addition of the wireless feature increases the diversity and functionality of the unit. If wireless tech is important to you, the Bushnell Aggressor HD Wireless is an excellent camera choice.
Covert Special Ops Code Black 3G 60-LED Wireless
In the middle of the premium category, we have the Covert Special Ops Code Black 3G 60-LED Wireless. The name is a bit of a mouthful, but that’s because this camera brings a lot to the table.
Again, the Covert Code Black utilizes an activated SIM card from AT&T enabling the camera to text photos directly to your phone. The wireless capabilities firmly plant this camera in the premium category, but that functionality also sits atop a solid foundation of image capture specs.
With it’s 12MP camera and 60-LED flash system, the Code Black can capture night-time images upwards of 60-feet away. The Code Black also gives you an onboard display to view pictures in the field without having to remove the SD card. The only knock we have on the Code Black is the trigger speed of 1.2 seconds, which is slower than most cameras on the market today.
The code black is an excellent trail camera with wireless capability giving you the option to scout remote areas in real-time.
Reconyx HyperFire HC500 Semi – Covert IR
Finally, we take a look at the highest of high-end cameras, the Reconyx Hyperfire HC500 Semi-Covert IR. The HC500 is not the most expensive camera Reconyx makes, however Reconyx in general has positioned itself at the top of the price spectrum. Think of Reconyx as the Yeti cooler of the camera world. High-performing and high-price cameras that strive to deliver image quality not found in lesser cameras.
The HC500 comes equipped with a full-HD 1080p image capture lens. The low-glow infrared emitters project a flash out to approximately 50-feet for night-time photos. Interestingly, you will not find a video recording option on the HC500. Instead, Reconyx has poured all of the performance and functionality into its still-photo technology aiming to give you the user, the highest quality image possible. That being said, the HC500 is capable of taking up to two images per second so you can be sure you’re not missing any of the action.
On top of the image quality, Reconyx cameras are American engineered and manufactured products and they are built to last. Speaking of lasting, Reconyx has produced some of the most battery-efficient cameras on the market and the HC500 is no exception with potential battery life of well over one year.
If you’re looking for the best of the best in image capture and quality construction, Reconyx cameras are a must-see for consumers with more money to spend.
Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor 14MP Wireless
After reviewing countless cameras from the entire spectrum of prices and feature availability we’ve chosen one camera to give our top honors. This camera represents the most bang for the buck when considering all categories of camera value including price, features and quality.
The Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor 14MP Wireless is our top pick. The wireless capability combined with a high-quality image capture system and versatile feature set makes the HD Aggressor 14MP Wireless an easy choice for consumers looking to get the most out of their camera purchase.
In the current market for trail cameras, consumers are faced with an endless number of decisions regarding, price, features, and manufacturer. Aside from the traditional “name-brand” cameras, a flood of knock-offs and cheap imports are being offered for sale in major online marketplaces. As a result, consumers are forced to do extra due diligence when making purchase decisions.
With all that said, top manufacturers continue to innovate and produce quality gear for the serious outdoorsman or woman. If you’re not currently using trail cameras to scout your hunt area and/or monitor wildlife activity, now is as good a time as any to enter the market and find out what you’ve been missing.
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