Trail Camera Buyer's Guide



What Features are Important to you?

           Below you will find an explanation of scouting camera features listed in our comparison grid (see below).  I strongly recommend reviewing the statistics of all the trail cameras listed.  In many cases, you'll discover a feature you didn't know existed.  If nothing else, you'll be confident in your decision to purchase a scouting camera.

           Some of these figures are black and white. For example: a scouting camera either comes with a built in viewer, or it doesn't.  However, some are much harder to evaluate.  A perfect example is resolution.  Many manufacturers will list a trail camera's mega pixel rating, but will not disclose if this is achieved through software-aided interpolation.  If you purchase a scouting camera based only on the manufacturer's claimed mega pixel rating there's a good chance you'll be mislead.  You might also miss out on a great trail camera whose manufacturer was honest about the true resolution of their product.

           I will always try to point out these examples in the detailed product description of each model.  I also encourage you to closely examine and compare the actual photos taken by each scouting camera provided on this site.  Finally, I am always available to provide in-depth information via email or telephone.

Have fun crunch'n numbers,

Rich

 

Resolution

           The number displayed in this column is the trail camera's claimed rating by the manufacturer.  Be aware that this can be extremely misleading.  I would always fall back on close examination of the comparison photos provided byTrailcampro.  Every picture you see on this site was taken using one of our cameras and has not been retouched.  We never use manufacturer-supplied photos for comparison sake, and any pictures not taken by us will be noted accordingly.


Good Quality
Poor Quality


Multiple shot/Burst Mode

          This column lists the models capable of capturing multiple shots in a very short period of time. The purpose of this feature is to try to capture any activity that might occur during the time-out period.  The classic example of this is the Buck chasing a Doe scenario.  Please note that not all models use the same technology to achieve this.  Some simply take three evenly spaced shots after the first triggering.  Other models disable the time-out function and allow multiple triggers with no time out period.


Reconyx in Rapidfire Mode

 

Mounting

          This column identifies how each scouting camera is attached to the tree with the materials supplied in the box.  Many models offer optional methods of attachment at an additional price.  They are not listed here.


Security

           This column identifies any anti-theft provisions that come included in the base price of the camera.


Padlock Tab

          A "D" shaped section of the trail camera enclosure where a padlock is attached to keep a would-be thief from opening the camera enclosure.  Alone, the padlock tab is not very useful.  However, the addition of a cable wrapped around the tree and then threaded onto the lock prevents easy theft.  Unfortunately, a motivated thief could easily saw the plastic tab without destroying the camera.  If you are concerned about theft you should consider something more secure.


Security Case/Locking Bracket

          There are several varieties of these.  Very few are offered as standard equipment.  Most also require the purchase of an additional Python cable lock.  In general, the bracket is either screwed to the tree or secured to the tree using the aforementioned Python lock.  The camera is then secured to the bracket via a padlock.  This is the best form of theft deterrent for a scouting camera.


Security Case


Password Protection

          Some models force you to enter a password before the unit will operate.  Some models even allow you to program your name into the unit, which is then printed on every picture and cannot be changed unless you know the password.  Unfortunately, both of these only annoy the thief after he has stolen your game camera


Built in viewer

           The info in the column either says "NO" if the model is not equipped with a viewer, or it lists the size of the display. 

At face value, this seems pretty self-explanatory.  However, here are some things to consider:
* Most viewers are too small to pick out any useful detail
* Most displays drain batteries rapidly
* Do you and your human scent want to spend anymore time than is absolutely necessary viewing pictures in the deer woods?


          Before putting too much emphasis on whether a camera has a viewer or not, I'd think about whether it's a feature you'll actually use.  I spend the least amount of time possible retrieving my pictures.  Usually I either swap cards or download to my laptop.


Flash

          This column identifies the type of flash each model uses: Infrared or Incandescent Flash.  When contemplating what type of flash you might like consider the following:
* Infrared flashes use considerably less energy than incandescent flashes
* Infrared flashes are able to fire much quicker than incandescent flashes
* Infrared flashes generally don't spook animals and can't be seen unless looking directly at them
* The picture quality of incandescent is far superior to infrared
           I recommend comparing the night pictures of all cameras you might purchase, you may view those at the Flash Range Test.  You'll find examples on our comparison pages.


Internal Memory

           This column lists the amount of memory available in the camera without using an additional media card.  Cameras that have internal memory allow you to take pictures without purchasing additional cards.  The downside of using internal memory is you must have your camera hooked up to your computer via a usb cable to retrieve your pictures.  This means you must either bring a laptop out in the field, or bring your cameras home to download pictures.  If you don't have a laptop and you rely on internal memory, your cameras will be missing action in the field while your downloading, and you'll have to make two trips to your hunting property.  Since most cameras only allow you to store a dozen or so pictures in internal memory, I believe this along with the information above nullifies internal memory as a determining factor of which camera to purchase.


Memory

           This column identifies the type of media card each camera uses - CF Compact Flash or SD.  SD cards are far more prevalent and much less expensive than Compact Flash cards.


Expandable Capacity

           This column lists the maximum size media card you can put in each camera.  1-2 Gig should be plenty.  If you already own a specific brand of memory card I would make sure that it is compatible with the hunting camera you plan on purchasing.  Not all brands of media cards work in all brands of game cameras.  Here are our memory cards and readers.


Battery type

           This column simply lists the type of batteries each camera uses and how many of each is required.  Note: many of the cameras that require more batteries are designed to last longer in the field.  If you are interested in rechargeable batteries (and you should be), please read our Rechargeable Batteries Information page.

External Battery Jack

           This column lists whether a camera is equipped with a jack to hook up an external battery and if so, lists the voltage required.  I think this is one of the most valuable features a scouting camera can possess.  First of all, most cameras require $5.00 to $8.00 worth of alkaline batteries to operate.  With any amount of activity, IE pictures taken while out in the field, most cameras will only last about 2 weeks on one set of batteries.  Using an external rechargeable lead acid battery can save you anywhere from $120.00 to roughly $200.00 annually.  In addition, the larger external lead acid batteries can last 6 months or more in the field thereby reducing the number of trips needed to replace batteries.  Most of the Stealth and Wildview models incorporate an external battery jack.

Low battery Indicator

          In this column you will find the method each camera uses to inform the user of the status of the batteries.  Options are red light, battery level or actual volts.  Most red light indicators only come on just before the camera is ready to shut down.  The red light helps but is not nearly as useful as the battery level and voltage displays offered by some manufacturers.  The battery level option varies widely from one manufacturer to the next.  Some use a percentage of battery life remaining while others use an icon that is either full, half full or empty.  My experience has been that most battery level indicators are very crude, and while they are definitely an improvement over the red light, they are not nearly as accurate as the actual voltage displays.  The voltage displays tell you the exact amount of power left in the batteries. Each camera has a voltage level at which it will shut down.  Knowing that, you can effectively use the voltage meter like a fuel gauge in a car.  Recon game cameras incorporate an accurate voltage display.

Internal Battery
            
While the title of this column is "Internal Battery", what I'm really referring to is a camera's ability retain any information you have programmed while you are changing batteries.  Some cameras utilize a small replaceable watch battery; others simply store information in flash memory.  Either of these methods prevents you from having to reprogram the time and date and any other settings each and every time you change batteries.  This is a real time saver and while it may not seem like much, it really elevates my satisfaction rating of a camera.


Adjustable Sensitivity

         This column indicates if a camera's detection circuitry has adjustable sensitivity.  Options range from a simple yes/no to advanced or dial.  A model that has a "yes" designation has a simple adjustment setting like low/medium/high.  Models with an "advanced" designation utilize multiple settings and the "dial" designation refers to an infinitely adjustable dial.  I think at first, most people would want as high of sensitivity adjustment as possible.  However, the ability to reduce the sensitivity has definite advantages.  For example, some cameras are capable of sensing well out past where their flashes work.  This produces night pictures with no animals, or just a set of glowing eyes.  With adjustable sensitivity you can decrease the sensitivity to match the range of your flash.  Also, when using a camera set up on a feeder you can reduce the sensitivity to a point where it will only pick up big animals.  This can eliminate hundreds of pictures of the local squirrels eating your deer's corn.

External LCD

          Some models offer a display on the outside of the camera enclosure. Models with this option allow you to approach the camera from behind and check how many pictures have been taken as well as other stats without having to open the enclosure or trigger the camera.  Check each model to see what information is available on the display.

PIR Angle/Detection Width

           "PIR" stands for passive infrared and refers to the sensing mechanism of the camera.  Most cameras have a very narrow pir angle of 10 degrees. This means an animal must be in the absolute center of the picture for the camera to trigger.  However, cameras with a wider pir angle (48 degrees) can usually sense activity throughout the full field of view of the camera's lens.  These cameras are able to capture photos of animals that cross anywhere in the field of view of the camera.  In addition, they are better able to capture pictures of faster moving animals.  Leaf river, Stealth and Wildview have wide PIR detection areas.


Event log

          Some cameras keep track of every motion detection, even motion that occurs during the time out period.  In some cases you will have a camera that shows 215 events with only 145 pictures.  This means that an additional 70 motion events were recorded during the timeout period when the camera was disabled from taking a picture.  Options listed in this column are external counter, counter only and file.  Most external counters only indicate the number of pictures taken.  However, some do indicate the number of motion events as well.  The “counter only” designation refers to the cameras that have a display on the inside of the case.  Finally, "File" listed in the column refers to cameras that create a separate event log and then save it as a text file along with the pictures.  These text files usually indicate the number of the event, date and time.


TV Out

          This column indicates whether the camera can be connected directly to a TV to view pictures.

Diagnostics

          Some cameras run a diagnostics program to determine what, if anything is wrong.  This column indicates the cameras capable of this.


Laser Aiming

          This column is pretty self-explanatory.  Those units with lasers are indicated with a "Yes" in the column.  I must say at first, I thought this feature was just a novelty.  However, certain terrain circumstances can be deceiving.  Several times I've set up a camera and used the laser to double check my alignment only to find I was way off.  If there are any grades involved where you will be setting your camera, a laser will come in handy.




Comprehensive Test Results

2008 Models

Model
Price
Trigger Time
Sensing Range
Flash Range
Detection Width
Battery Life
Bushnell Trophy Cam
$199.95
1.2
45 ft.
45 ft.
Wide
4-6 months







Bushnell 11-9305
$174.95
3.0
60 ft.
20 ft.
Narrow
2-3 weeks







Bushnell 11-9204
$94.95
3.0
60 ft.
25 ft.
Narrow
2-3 weeks







Cuddeback Capture
$199.95
0.4
50 ft.
65 ft.
Narrow 1 month







DLC Covert 1
$199.95
1.3
55 ft.
35 ft.
Wide 3-5 months







DLC Covert 2
$249.95
1.3
55 ft.
40 ft.
Wide 3-5 months







Leaf River IR-5
$299.95
1.5
70 ft.
20 ft.
Wide 2 months







Leaf River IR-7
$349.95
1.5
70 ft.
20 ft.
Wide 2 months







Leaf River DV5
$279.95
1.5
70 ft.
50 ft.
Wide 2 months







Leaf River DV7
$329.95
1.5
70 ft.
50 ft.
Wide 2 months







Moultrie I40
$199.95
3.5
60 ft.
60 ft.
Narrow 3-5 months







Moultrie I60
$299.95
3.5
60 ft.
60 ft.
Narrow 3-5 months







Moultrie M40
$167.95
3.5
60 ft.
50 ft.
Narrow 3-5 months







Moultrie M60
$224.95
3.5
60 ft.
50 ft.
Narrow 3-5 months







Predator Xtinction
$479.95
0.5
80 ft.
50 ft.
Narrow 3 weeks







Predator Evolution
$399.95
0.5
80 ft.
30 ft.
Narrow 3 weeks







Reconyx RM45
$449.95
0.1
100 ft.
60 ft.
Wide 2 months







Reconyx RC55
$549.95
0.2
100 ft.
60 ft.
Wide 2 months







Reconyx RC60
$599.95
0.2
100 ft.
35 ft.
Wide 2 months







Reconyx RC60 HO
$649.95
0.2
100 ft.
50 ft.
Wide 2 months







Scoutguard SG550
$199.95
1.3
55 ft.
35 ft.
Wide 3-5 months







Spypoint IR-A
$199.95
1.8
70 ft.
60 ft.
Wide 2 months







Spypoint IR-B
$249.95
1.8
70 ft.
60 ft.
Wide 2 months







Spypoint IR-C
$349.95
1.8
70 ft.
60 ft.
Wide 2 months







Stealth Cam Prowler
$319.95
4.0
60 ft.
60 ft.
Wide 1 month







Stealth Cam I540IR
$117.95
4.0
60 ft.
45 ft.
Wide 1 month







Stealth Cam I430IR
$159.95
4.0
60 ft.
30 ft.
Wide 1 month







Stealth Cam I590
$97.95
4.0
06 ft.
90 ft.
Wide 1 month








 

 2007 Models

Model

Price

Trigger Time

Sensing Range

Flash Range

Battery Life

Bushnell TS11-9202

94.95

 1.32

 75'+

 30'

14-21 days 

Wildview TLG5

129.95 

3.19

40'

20'

30-45 days

Wildview Infrared

145.99

 1.14*

50 

 30

 150 days +

Bushnell TS11-9302

169.95

 1.32

75'+ 

 20'-30'

 14-21 days

Moultrie Gamespy M40

179.95

 2.41

 50' - 60'

 60+

150 days 

Recon Talon Basic

194.95

4.02 

 40'

 50'

120-150 days

Stealth I230IR

209.95 

4.15

50'

50'

90-120 days 

Moultrie Gamespy I40

199.95 

 2.61

 50' - 60'

 60+

 150 days 

Moultrie Gamespy M60

244.95 

 2.41

50' - 60'

60+

 150 days

Recon Talon IR

294.95

4.4

 50'

60' 

 120 - 150 days

Cuddeback Excite

299.95

 .89

50' 

 60'

120 - 150 days 

Moultrie Gamespy I60

299.95

 2.61

 50' - 60'

 60+

 150 days 

Predator Evolution

399.95

 .23

 75+

 30' max

30-45 days 

Stealth Prowler

439.95 

 3.7

 50'

 100+

 30-45 days

Reconyx RM45

449.95

 .15

 100'

 60'

 

Reconyx RC55

549.95

 .25

 100'

 60'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 * The Wildview Infrared we tested produced the fastest trigger times  for any Wildview model we've tested  However, 3-4 second trigger times are more typical for these models.
 * The bushnell 11-9302 draws 21 miliamps during periods of inactivity.  However, it draws 90 miliamps for 3 minutes after each motion event.

 2006 Models

 

 Price

Trigger Time 

Sensing Range 

 Flash Range

Battery Life

Wildview TLG1

79.95

3.33

60'

20'

77 days

Bushnell TS11-9000

99.95

.25

90'

20'

13-20 days

Moultrie gamespy 100

99.95

na

na

na

30-45 days

Wildview Extreme 2

109.95

3.33

60'

20'

77 days

Wildview Extreme 3

129.95

3.33

60'

20'

77 days

Bushnell TS11-9200

149.95

.25

90'

20'

13-20 days

Moultrie Gamespy 200      

169.95

.58

50'

30'

30-45 days

Stealth I230

169.95

3.35

60'

60'

127 days

Stealth I390

199.95

na

na

na

na

Stealth V230

219.95

3.35

60'

60'

127 days

Recon Talon Basic

249.95

4.4

50'

60'

120-150 days

Stealth I230IR

249.95

4.15

50'

50'

127 days

Bushnell TS 11-9830

269.95

.62

50'

20'

21-35 days

Leafriver DC-2BU

279.95

2.63

40'

60'

90-120 days

Cuddeback Excite

299.95

.89

50'

60'

120-150 days

Leafriver IR-3BU

299.95

1.96

60'

60'

90-120 days

Stealth V390Z

299.95

na

na

na

na

Leafriver DC-6SS

319.95

na

na

na

90-120 days

Recon Talon

349.95

4.4

50'

60'

120-150 days

Stealth V330MT

349.95

na

na

na

na

Bushnell TS 11-9930

349.95

.46

50'

30'

21-35 days

Stealth V330MTR

369.95

na

na

na

na

Bushnell TS 11-9901

369.95

.46

50'

30'

21-35 days

Cuddeback Expert

399.95

.89

60'

na

120-150 days

Recon Talon Extreme

449.95

4.4

50'

60'

120-150 days

Cuddeback No Flash

449.95

.89

60'

na

120-150 days