Game cameras are tough, motion-activated cameras designed to capture images of wildlife. They take full-color images during the day and use infrared flash technology to capture black and white images at night. If you are a hunter, they take a lot of guesswork out of your blind or stand placements, because you can know exactly what places the animals frequent and when they are there.
These cameras are weatherproof and feature a long battery life, so you can strap them to a tree or leave them for weeks or even months at a time and then return and check on the images they captured. They're also useful as a modified home security system. You can attach a game camera to your porch or a tree near your house and monitor who comes and goes. To learn more about cameras optimized for home security use, check out our articles on cellular trail cameras.
There are many game cameras on the market, and it can be confusing to separate the important features from the features that are only included for marketing reasons. To help you sort through the clutter and make the best decision, we analyzed trail cameras based on the following criteria.
The most important characteristic of a trail camera is the quality of the images it produces. Look for a trail camera with a wide field of view. The field of view measures, in degrees, how wide of an angle the camera lens will capture. Because 50 degrees is the standard field of view for a trail camera, anything above 50 degrees is excellent.
Trail cameras take full-color pictures and videos during the day, but at night, they use infrared flash technology to capture black and white images. To the human or animal eye, an infrared flash looks like a brief red glow.
Look for a camera with an infrared flash range of at least 70 feet. This ensures that your flash will be able to illuminate any animal whose movements trigger the camera. Resolution is also an important factor. Look for a camera with at least an 8-megapixel picture resolution. A high resolution will give you the ability to zoom in on your pictures after you've taken them.
Trail cameras use infrared technology to detect movement and take a picture or video. The detection circuit of a trail camera is defined by three factors: detection zone, trigger speed and recovery time.
Detection zone is the area in which the camera can detect movement. It is made up of the camera's detection range and detection angle. Look for a camera with a detection range of at least 50 feet. A camera with a strong detection range will be able to pick up movement even if it's not in the perfect spot.
Detection angle refers to the width of the detection zone. Most trail cameras' detection angles are identical to their field of view. Just like the field of view, 50 degrees is the standard width of a detection angle, so anything above that is excellent.
Trigger speed is the time between the camera detecting movement and taking the picture or video. This is important because if a deer is running past your camera, you need a quick trigger to capture it while it's in the camera's field of view. Game cameras should have a trigger speed of less than a second so that they get as much of the animal as possible in the shot.
Recovery time is a measurement of how long after it takes a shot the camera will be ready to sense movement again. The best wildlife cameras have a recovery time of under five seconds. Also, look for a camera with a multi-shot mode, which means it can shoot multiple images for every motion trigger. This will give you the maximum number of images for each trigger and raise the odds of you getting a perfect photo of an animal near your camera.
Look for cameras with time-lapse mode. This feature means, regardless of motion, the camera will take a picture at a set time interval. Time-lapse mode is especially useful to get a clear picture of animal movement patterns during the day. If an animal is outside of your detection zone, your camera won't know to trigger a picture or video. Time-lapse mode will trigger a picture or video based on time, not movement, so you may capture images of animals who are outside your cameras detection zone, and thus would not be captured in standard mode.
Another feature that some top trail cameras have is audio recording in video mode. Audio recording is useful because even if the animal passes out of the camera's view, you may still be able to get some sense of its movements through hearing it move. Also, audio mode adds an air of realism to your video clips that will make you want to watch them over and over.
Trail cameras don't differ wildly in size; they're all relatively small electronics. An average trail camera is about 5 inches tall, 4 inches wide and 3 inches deep. A camouflage case is important, because you don't want the animals to notice the camera. Look for a camera with camouflage licensed from a respected manufacturer, such as Realtree or Mossy Oak.
An external power input jack will allow you to plug a solar panel into your trail camera, so you don't have to worry about replacing its batteries every few months. If you get a large capacity memory card, you could leave a solar-powered game camera in the woods for a year or longer without doing any maintenance on it.
Help & Support
A one-year warranty is standard for trail cameras. Most manufacturers offer phone and email support as well. We've contacted the customer service teams for all of the game camera manufactures and scored them based on availability and knowledge.
A good game camera can transform your hunting experience. You'll spend less time shivering in a tree stand and more time aiming at a deer. Be sure to choose the camera with the right set of features for your needs by reading our reviews.