Many hunters depend on trail cameras as a valuable aid and there are good reasons for this. With technology being what it is, hunting or game cameras are now much more advanced compared to what we got in the past. This can make choosing the best trail camera an arduous task. It is not just a simple matter of choosing one based on the best night vision or daytime clarity. For many, it may not be purely about buying the best hunting camera, you may be wanting the best surveillance camera for security. Perhaps you you’re only looking for a reasonable critter camera to observe which little animals are darting around your yard at night.
In this comprehensive review of the best trail cameras, I intend to cover all the bases. You will have your own idea of what is essential and it all comes down to finding the best trail camera for the money. You know what features you’re looking for and you know what you’re prepared to pay. By reviewing such a huge selection of game cameras that have made the cut in the view of many discerning consumers, I have no doubt you’ll find the ultimate hunting camera for your needs.
If you’re new to trail cameras, all the specs and features may seem a little a bewildering at first. So if you’ll probably want to know more about what to look for in the best trail camera. If this is the case, keep reading past the review because I’ll also be providing a trail camera buyers guide. Here, I’ll help those who are uncertain of what constitutes the best trail camera. The buyer’s guide should give you a good idea of what to look for. For night pictures, you may be wondering if a regular flash is better than an infrared flash. So we will look at flash cameras vs infrared. What about a no glow camera? Then there’s new and exciting developments in game camera technology like blue tooth, Wi Fi, and hunting cameras that use a SIM, transmitting a GSM signal to your phone. As you can see, there’s a lot to consider and I’ll help with every aspect you need to consider when making the best decision. Whether you’re buying your first trail camera, or simply want to upgrade your existing one and to want to what’s the best option available, this review and buyers guide will help.
Game Cameras – The Full Review
There’s a lot to cover and so we’d better get onto it. Starting with a review of the best trail cameras. In this regard, we have quite a long list of top hunting cameras that have all impressed countless users in some way or another. With so many options available, this shortlist will certainly help narrow your search and simplify things immensely.
1. Browning Strike Force Trail Camera
Browning offer quite a number of options ranging from the relatively inexpensive, quite basic, and easy to use 850 Extreme up to the super advanced PRO XD Dual lens. It appears that the HD Pro is one of the most popular. Second from the top of the range, this game camera is packed with useful features and great technology. As a high-end hunting camera, the Browning Strike Force Trail Camera is more expensive than the majority of options available. While certainly not the cheapest, many consider this to be the best trail camera. Though, I’ll leave you to be the judge of that.
The Browning Strike Force HD Pro has almost the best resolution for a hunting camera – 18 MP. The cheaper Elite HD has a modest 10 MP resolution and the middle of road 850 HD (which is also very popular) has a pretty impressive 16 MP resolution. The result is very clear daytime pictures and nighttime shots that are perfectly visible, with little chance of a blurred image. The infrared flash is great for extended battery time with an excellent range of 120 FT. The more budget-friendly Elite is limited to a 100’ flash range, which is still pretty reasonable.
The models on the higher end have a really great 80’ detection range, with the Elite HD lagging slightly behind at 55’. With a 0.3-second trigger speed and only 0.8-second recovery time, the Browning Strike Force trail camera is not going to miss any of the action. You can program the picture delay anywhere between 5-seconds and 60-minutes. It’s able to capture up to 8 rapid fire or multi shot images.
The video capabilities (with audio) are also amongst the best, giving you an HD 1280 X 720P video image. It’s not always that easy to eliminate wind noise when capturing outdoor video, but the Strike Force does a reasonable job of this. Sound quality is pretty good, but you should expect some degree of unwanted noise. Viewing your photo and video options is made easy, using a 1.5” color screen. The image size is 4.5” X 3.25” X 2.5”. At the bottom of the screen, you have a very handy information bar that provides you with quite a range of useful data. I particularly like the moon phase indicator. When the moon is full and nighttime visibility is at its best, deer will not be as prevalent as on darker nights because it’s easier for predators to see them. So having an instant reading of the lunar conditions at the exact moment of the shot helps give you a better idea of what was going on.
When you’re paying good money for one of the best trail cameras, you want it to hold up to tough outdoor conditions. This can certainly be said for the Strike Force range. They can take some bashing about and aren’t going to be phased by rain or dust. The durable housing has a
camouflage finish which not only looks cool, it hides the camera perfectly in the bush. Browning know what the hunting enthusiast wants and they supply a fantastic array of extra items for these game cameras. The steel security box will ensure that your camera is safe in the field. They also supply a nifty tree mount for the trail camera, making it a very comprehensive tree camera. You also have the option of an external battery pack to give you extended usage for longer time periods.
I understand fully that there are plenty of people who might feel that the Browning Strike Force trail camera range is more expensive than they would like. Then there are those who take their hunting equipment seriously and are prepared to pay extra for the best. The models on the lower end of the range aren’t exorbitantly expensive, but there are much cheaper options available from other brands. As you go higher up the scale, the prices rise quite steeply. If you don’t mind paying for it, you are getting some of the best trail cameras at the high-end of the Browning range.
2. Victure Trail Camera 1080P 12MP Wildlife Camera
It will come as a refreshing thought to many of you that you don’t have to spend a fortune on a good hunting camera. The Victure Trail camera is one of few examples of affordable quality and can easily be seen as one of the best trail cameras for the money. For a very reasonable price, you’ll be getting a durable game camera, capable of withstanding outdoor conditions, and a great selection of useful features.
The 12 MP resolution is not quite up there with the best high-end game cameras. It is, however, perfectly adequate and, in this price range, it’s excellent. In fact, the more expensive Browning Strike Force Elite HD has a lower resolution of only 10 MP. It also has an HD 1080P video camera that captures color images in daylight or black and white at night.
The 24 piece infrared LED array works well to provide good visibility at night, with a range of up to 65-feet. Pictures taken in poor light are enhanced by a fully automatic IR filter. There’s a 2.4” LCD screen, giving you all the information that need. You can download the information onto your computer with a USB 2.0 port.
The optimum range for this camera is about 3’ – 33’ from the subject, which is reasonable for this caliber of hunting camera and it has a 90-degree detection range. Trigger speed is as good as anyone could want (0.5 seconds).
This is a neat package, it’s a very durable wildlife camera with a host of great features. With its IP66 housing, the tough little Victure will withstand a good deal of water and dust. While the picture quality is probably not the best HD resolution, it’s of a standard that one would expect from a trail camera in this class. With time lapse photography and interval recording included amongst the versatile multi-recording modes, there’s a lot you can do with the Victure. It’s easy to use and, best of all, the price is very competitive for a game camera that can achieve so much.
3. Campark Trail Camera 12MP 1080P 2.4" LCD Game Camera
The normal retail price for the Campark Trail camera is a little higher than that of the wonderfully cheap Victure. Though, you could be lucky enough to get it at the roughly the same price. If you do find the Campark at a discounted price, you’re getting an incredible deal. Some of the specifications are similar to that of the Victure but, in most instances, the Campark is superior. So even if you’re paying a few dollars more for this trail camera, you’re getting quite a lot more for your money. It’s a really good deal.
The resolution is the same as the Victure, being 12 MP for still photos and a video resolution of 1080P. Though when we look at all the other specifications, the Campark usually comes up tops. It’s able to capture up to 3 shots each time the sensor is triggered. This is achieved with a good trigger speed of 0.8-seconds.
A 42-piece low glow infrared flash provides excellent night vision up to 75-feet. Pictures taken at night are enhanced using an automatic IR filter. The Campark trail camera has a good field of view and will capture shots of 100-degrres with an even more impressive detection range of 120-degrees. You’re also able to adjust the sensor sensitivity for low, medium or high.
The 2.4” LCD screen gives you a good overview and you can download your images via a USB port, compatible with Microsoft OS from XP, up to Windows 8 and Mac 10.02. A USB cable is supplied with the camera and it includes a mounting rope, as well as a tree mount. All these little extras add value to an already great bargain. The durable enclosure (with camouflage detail) has an IP56 rating, meaning that it will tolerate outdoor conditions like rain and dust.
The Campark Trail camera can rival many others that cost considerably more. That makes it a fantastic deal. You can definitely view this as money well-spent.
4. Wildgame Innovations Cloak Pro 12
At a normal retail price that is similar to that of the Campark trail camera, the Wildgame Cloak Pro 12 also offers you a lot for your money. If high resolution video is what you’re after, this one might be a little disappointing. When it comes to getting a bit more for your money, the Cloak Pro 12 is one of the few game cameras that comes complete with a memory card. Okay, it’s not a 32 gig SDHC which is the maximum that the camera can use, the free card that you get with this trail camera is 16 GB. It’s still nice to get a little extra thrown in with your purchase.
As I mentioned, this is not the best video camera for game, with a resolution of only 540 P, considerably lower than most of the others that generally record a 1080 P video image. Though it does offer some other stuff that compensate for this lower spec. The 12 MP photo resolution is pretty much on a par with others in this price range and it also has a great 36-piece IR flash for perfect night vision. This flash has a good range of 65’.
The small, but comprehensive LCD screen provides you with a lot of useful data. This includes the moon phase, picture count, as well as time and date stamp. All contained in a tough unit with a tree bark texture, making beautifully hidden from sight.
The Wildgame Innovations Cloak Pro 2 is a neat and very useful trail camera. So it’s not the best for video capturing with up to 30-seconds of video footage at a time and a resolution that doesn’t match up to most others, it is still a very versatile package. It’s still photo capabilities place it among the best for day and night pictures.
5. Browning Trail Cameras Recon Force Extreme
I think that the Browning Recon Force Extreme is probably the best motion activated, day and night trail camera. In this class, it can easily be considered the best of the best. You’ve probably guessed that it is one of the most expensive, and you’d be right. So, if you’re prepared to look beyond the price and are looking for the top dog of game cameras, this is likely to be your number one choice.
Across the board, Browning trail cameras are widely accepted as being the best which is why they tend to cost more than many others. Amongst their extensive range of high-quality options, this one beats the others. If you start by looking at the resolution, you’ll immediately notice that the Recon Force Extreme is cut above the rest – 20 MP still photo resolution and a very impressive 1920 X 1080 video image with great sound quality.
It will record video during the day for up to 2-minutes and 20-seconds at night. I suppose the shorter nighttime recording has to do with conserving the battery, using the flash for longer would reduce the standby time considerably.
The infrared flash can only be described as superb and can be set for fast motion, power saving, or long range which will enable it capture night shots up 120’. The sensor is also great with an 80’ detection range and it has a super-fast 0.4-second trigger speed.
Naturally, this is one of the toughest game cameras, with an ultra-durable camouflaged housing. Included with your purchase, you get a 16 GB (80MB/S) memory card and you have the option of increasing this to 32 GB for greater data storage.
If you want a game camera with just about the best resolution and sensitivity, be prepared to pay for it. Browning trail cameras are never cheap and this top model is going to cost even more. With that said, you are getting just about the best that money can buy.
6. Day 6 Plotwatcher Game Surveillance System
Trail cameras with a motion sensor have their uses, but you are limited to a range that is seldom more than about 80-feet, some of the more expensive cameras may exceed 100-feet. If you’re serious about recording and analyzing animal movement and behavior, constant time frame images are much more useful. This is what places the Day 6 Plotwatcher in a completely different league to your standard trail camera. You can set the time interval between shots to as low as 2-seconds up to 10-seconds which will prolong its memory and battery time. So it will capture an image at the set interval and play it back as a time lapse video. It has non-stop recording, so it doesn’t just work when a motion sensor is activated. In addition to this, advanced software enables you to play the footage back, either as a continuous time lapse video, or frame by frame and you can fast forward or rewind at any time. All this gives you a detailed picture of exactly what the game are doing throughout the day.
The Plotwatcher brochure says it will take pictures continuously from dusk to dawn. Though you can set it for a 24-hour mode. Because the camera doesn’t have a flash it will take test shots after dark to determine the light conditions and only capture images when there is sufficient light. If you use a motion sensor light, it will take pictures when the light is activated.
This advanced system for capturing game images is what researchers use to observe animal behavior because it gives you much more usable data that simply capturing images when the animal is within range of a motion sensor. It will save up to a million images onto the SD 32 GB card, the memory card is not included though. This becomes a non-stop video of everything that has occurred during this period. With an optional zoom lens, you’re able to observe game from a much greater distance than any of the regular trail cameras. You also end up with a
great high-resolution image – 1280 X 720 P.
The Plotwatcher is one of the most expensive game cameras in this review. Though it can’t be compared to any of the others, it has a specialized purpose and, if you’re prepared to pay even more, you can get a kit with a multitude of cameras that allows to cover a huge area and gather all the data that you need to plan your hunt. People who have been using this camera for a while say that it gives them the best advantage as they’re able to plot animal movements in detail. This gives you the best way to determine where the animals will be during the season.
7. Moultrie Game Camera
For a very cheap trail camera, the Moultrie range offers you a lot in of value and great features. In my opinion, the Moultrie A-30 is the best deal. It provides a good quality image and you have the option of buying a modem as an extra. The modem is sold separately, but for the extra cost you have long distance access to your game photos and videos via your cell phone
Depending on which model you choose, the Moultrie Game Camera range will give a photo image from a modest 9 MP if you opt for the cheapest option, up to 14 MP for A-35. The Moultrie A-30 has a 14 MP resolution which fantastic for what you’re paying. It can also record up 15-seconds of video footage (resolution: 1280 X 720 P). The infrared flash has a good range of 70-feet, with up to 85-Feet flash range for the top A-35 model. The Moultrie A-30 has a great trigger time of only 0.7-seconds (1-senond for two cheaper models).
It has an LCD screen and can accommodate a memory card up 32 GB, but you’ll have to buy the SD card separately. It includes a 72” mounting strap which allows you a lot of flexibility as to where you mount it. It’s an excellent tree camera with a camouflaged, durable housing. Not all the models have the camouflage, though.
After all is said and done, this range of game cameras offers outstanding value for money. It can certainly compete with many of the more expensive cameras and it has a 2-year warranty.
8. Stealth Cam G42 No-Glo Trail Game Camera
For one of the more reasonably priced trail cameras, the Stealth Cam G42 No-Glo, has one of the best picture quality for night shots. It’s a great little camera with impressive technology packed into a compact unit.
While the 10 MP resolution isn’t as good as many of the best trail cameras, but the advanced Matric Blur Reduction system provides a very crisp image. With a 42-LED infrared flash, it’s great for nighttime shots with flash range of up to 100-feet. The no-glo flash is completely invisible to the human eye, making it one of the best security cameras. It has a fast 0.5-second trigger time and will take up 9 shots in rapid succession with each trigger.
The 1080P HD video with audio is up there with the best of them and will record anything from 5-seconds to 3-minutes of video footage. It has a comprehensive information display on the LCD screen with all sorts of information, including date, time, temperature, and the moon phase. It’s also one of the easiest game cameras to set up and program. It has an automated mode which only requires the operator to switch the camera on and the rest is done for you. Like all of the best trail cameras, this one can accommodate a 32 GB SD card which is sold separately.
They’ve made excellent use of modern technology when developing the Stealth Cam G42. This makes it exceptionally easy to use and gives you one of the best images. A great game camera at a very reasonable price.
A Buyers Guide to Selecting the Best Game or Trail Camera
Having read our review of the best game cameras, you might be wondering how to go about selecting the right one for you. So what is the best trail camera? Or, better still, what is the best trail camera for the money? This buyer’s guide is going to help you determine which game camera is going to work for you and this will also help you decide how much you should be prepared to pay for the features that are important to you.
What is a trail camera?
Trail cameras, or game cameras, have a few distinguishing traits that make them the best cameras for tracking game movement. They are also very popular amongst homeowners who use them as security cameras or critter cameras, recording the movement of animals that frequent our back yards. So they are not just hunting cameras, but can fulfill a number of purposes.
A game camera will be a robust item, able to withstand outdoor conditions for prolonged periods of time. They will also be designed to optimize their battery usage, allowing you to leave it unattended for many days. This gives you the opportunity to analyze the animal movement without having to spend hours hiding in the bush.
They mostly use a sensitive motion sensor that will trigger the camera in less than second every time there is movement. Apart from recording either still photos or video, a game camera will provide other information, like the time and date. Many will also include a lot more useful information like the temperature and phase of the moon at the time that the image was captured. The majority of game cameras have a flash for nighttime use.
What type of trail camera is going to be the best for you?
A good point of departure when seeking out the best hunting camera, would be the type of flash that it uses. Traditional white light flashes will give you a more detailed image when the available light is poor. White light flashes will usually take color pictures at night. However, these flashes are not always the best and most people prefer infrared flashes these days.
A bright white flash, like you find on most cameras, can easily spook the animals and they use much more power than infrared LED flashes. So your battery lasts much longer when using an infrared flash. Infrared flashes will only capture black and white images at night.
Regardless of the type of flash that you choose, they won’t all have the same range. Some flashes are only capable of capturing an image that’s within 50-feet of the camera, whilst others can exceed 100-feet. If night images are important, which they usually are, a flash with the greatest range will be the best. Though these hunting cameras will usually cost more.
Some infrared flashes have a no-glow feature. These flashes emit absolutely no visible light and are excellent for use as a security camera, because they can be used unnoticed by the intruder. Red glow infrared flashes don’t give off much light, but there is a noticeable red glow when the flash is activated.
Sensors, Trigger Time and Recovery Time
The sensor on the camera can be activated by either heat or motion, both can be equally effective and it’s more about the range of the sensor. In other words, how far the animal is from the camera in order for it to be activated. For most hunters, a longer range will be better.
The trigger time is the time that lapses between when the sensor is triggered and the when the actual image is captured. This should be less than a second for a good image. Animals can move very fast and a faster trigger time reduces your chance of getting a partial image.
The recovery time is the amount of time the camera needs to reset between shots. This can be of particular importance when using a flash, some can take quite few seconds to prepare for the next shot and this could mean that valuable information won’t be recorded.
The resolution and quality of the image is vital. For many, this will be the most important aspect to their trail camera. Both still and video images are determined by the amount of pixels (P). Still photos are always more vivid and the spec will be given in mega-pixels (MP). A resolution of about 10 MP is fairly acceptable and this will be on the cheaper end of the price range. Expensive hunting camera can have an image resolution of 18 MP (some may be even better). Naturally, the highest MP spec will give you the best image.
The field of view can also be important. This will be the lens angle. Generally, one should expect a 50-degree angle, though some will be as high as 100-degrees. With a wider angle, you’re obviously going to capture a wider shot. But if your resolution is too low, this won’t be of much benefit. A wide angle lens should be combined with a high pixel resolution.
Video recording with a game camera will seldom exceed 1280-pixels, with some being 720P or lower. There’s a time limit to every video that a game camera will capture. Some may only be a few seconds, with others able to record for several minutes.
Electronic enhancement technology is another valuable feature found on many of the best hunting cameras. Different manufacturers achieves this in their own way. But essentially, the best technology serves to reduce blurring and will give a clearer image.