First Time Trailcam Buyers Guide

     Shopping for a trail camera the first time can be overwhelming.  This Trail Camera Buyers Guide gives you the basics of what game cameras do and how they do it.

     Below will be many of the major categories of the cameras.  This is intended to educate you on how to purchase a good trail camera for your needs.

How Do Trail Cameras Work?

  1. Detection Circuit: Trigger speed, recovery time and detection zone.
  2. Batteries: How many batteries does a camera use, how long is the trail camera battery life and what type of battery is preferred
  3. Infrared Emitters:  Is it red glow or no glow.  How bright are the night pictures?
  4. Picture Quality: View sample photos from all the popular camera traps.
  5. Viewing Screen: Some cameras have internal viewers for proper camera setup and picture review.

Trail Camera Picture Quality

     Don't be fooled by high megapixel counts. Companies will try to trick you by advertising a camera with a high mpxl, but in reality, they use a low quality lens which reduces the quality of the picture.

     The best way to judge the picture quality from a camera is to look at the sample photos from our game camera reviews. We judge day pictures by their clarity, color, contrast and resolution.

     These two pictures have unbelievable clarity (and color for that matter). Both animals are perfectly photographed. 

     Trail camera picture quality at night can be tricky.  There are different flash types that affect the night pictures (No glow infrared, red glow infrared, incandescent flash and white LED flash).  Infrared cameras produce black and white photos like the picture on the left, while incandescent or white LED cameras produce color night pictures like the one on the right.


Trail Camera Detection Circuits

The detection circuit of a trail camera is what will actually detect the animal.  Cameras trigger based off of a combination of heat and motion.  Detection circuits consist of:

  • Trigger Time

  • Recovery Time

  • Detection Zone

Trigger & Recovery Time

     Trigger time is the amount of time a camera takes to snap a picture once the object has entered the detection zone.  Recovery is how quickly a camera can store the first picture and be ready for the second picture.  If you would like to view the trigger and recovery times from the different cameras, go the Trigger Speed Showdown.

Detection Zones

     Every camera trap has a Detection Zone.  A Detection Zone is the area in front of the camera that the game camera is "monitoring."  The two factors that determine the detection zone are Detection Width and Detection Range.  For comprehensive data on Detection Zones, please review our Detection Shootout.

     Below is an example of what a detection zone would look like.  The detection zone makes up a rather large portion of the overall trail camera detection circuits.

 Trail Camera Battery Life

 Cameras with long battery life will save you money over the life of the camera.

Advantages of Nimh rechargeable batteries:

  • They save you bushels of money in the long run.
  • They increase your battery life in the cold winter months.
  • Less batteries in the landfills = cleaner environment for you and your kids

Lithium Batteries give you the longest battery life and will be the most reliable.
If you are interested in the current draws of the cameras, read the Battery Consumption Test.

Putting it all Together

     What we have covered in the First Time Trail Camera Buyers Guide so far is just the basics.  Game cameras are incredibly complex and each camera is unique in some way.  Don't feel overwhelmed, we will walk you through the buying process. 

     Some of you have very specialized needs or concerns.  Maybe you are looking for a cellular trail camera, a security camera or any other wide variety of needs.

     If you can't quickly find what you are looking for on our website, it is probably faster to call us (1-800-791-0660, Mon-Fri, 9-5 CT) or email  
We will spend as much time as is needed to make sure you get the right camera.