Trail Camera Tests
By: The TrailCamPro Staff
• What we test
• Why we test it
• How we test it
Trail Camera Shootout
The Trail Camera Shootout is designed to quantify how quickly a game camera will take a picture when the subject walks into the field of view.
The Shootout is the ultimate test for any trail camera and is invaluable data for you to read before deciding which camera is right for you.
The Shootout puts all the other tests together, it is the cumulative effect of; trigger speed, detection zone, and recovery time.
The grid that you see on the above picture is split into 8 different sections. Each section is given a value (1-8 points). The earlier the picture is taken of the subject, the higher the score (8 being the highest). The test subject will walk left to right and then right to left in ten foot increments for a full 100 feet. Each picture is put under the grid-lines and scored. The scores are then tallied and the cameras are ranked in order from quickest to slowest.
Trail Camera Shootout
Trigger Speed Testing
Trigger speed is defined as the amount of time that elapses between when a camera first detects motion, until it captures a photo of what caused that motion.
A trail camera’s effectiveness is determined by several test criteria, however, if you had to pick just one as the most important, it would definitely be “Trigger Speed”. Plain and simple, if your scouting camera doesn’t have a quick trigger, you’re going to get numerous photos with just half an animal and many blank photos with no animal at all.
Trigger speeds vary from a lethargic 6 seconds to a lightning fast 1/5th of a second. The best performing game cameras have speeds of 0.5 seconds or less.
We test trigger speed with our proprietary, computer controlled testing device – The Triggernator. Most other testing facilities simply wave their hand in front of a camera and haphazardly calculate the time which elapses until a photo is snapped.
The Triggernator swings a heat source across the face of the test camera, triggering a stopwatch at the precise instant the heat source bisects the camera’s PIR detection sensor. A photo is captured, revealing the test camera’s trigger time accurate to 4/1000th of a second. The consistency is incredible.
Trigger Speed Showdown
Detection zone (Range & Width)
A trail camera’s detection zone is the area in which; when movement is detected, triggers the camera to take a picture.
Detection zones vary from short and wide to long and skinny and everything in between. Although you don’t hear much about this in manufacturer's advertising, it is the #1 determinant in how many pictures you capture. After all, no matter how fast your trail camera takes a picture, it really doesn't matter if an animal never enters your camera's detection zone.
If the detection zone matches the field of view, anything the camera can see will be in the detection zone. The instant an animal walks into the camera’s field of view, the triggering process starts.
We test detection zones using a heat source to define the boundaries of the zone. We flag this area and then calculate max width and depth and ultimate square footage of the detection zone.
Detection Zone Test
Recovery time is defined as the minimum amount of time required, for a camera to take the second triggered picture.
Recovery times vary anywhere from as little as 0.5 seconds to a full 60 seconds. Being limited to only 1 picture every 60 seconds, produces some serious gaps in your scouting capabilities.
Imagine the common scenario of a buck chasing a doe. The doe triggers the camera and if the buck passes in the next 60 seconds, he does so undetected. We prefer recovery times of 1 second or less. Scouting cameras with quick recovery times and fast triggers never miss any activity and rarely produce empty frames, if ever. As a result, quick recovering cameras capture multiple images of every animal which visits the camera site.
Recovery time is measured by producing continuous motion in front of the camera and calculating the elapsed time between triggered photos. Note: Recovery time can vary based on user programmed resolution. Larger mpxl pictures use more storage space and require additional time to write to memory. This usually results in a proportional increase in recovery time. Also, recovery time is not to be confused with "burst mode." Burst mode takes a rapid succession of pictures regardless of an animal being present or not.
Night Flash Range
We define flash range as the maximum distance a trail camera is able to project its flash and illuminate an animal for sufficient identification.
Flash range testing has a tremendous margin for error if performed incorrectly and is also subject to manipulation by testers (or advertisers) with fraudulent intentions. It is imperative that testing be done with all the cameras on the same night, under the same conditions.
Moonlight, cloud cover and tree canopy density; all have an incredible influence on flash range. The exact same camera can vary as much as 50’ under different conditions on different evenings.
For instance, a camera placed in an open field on an evening with a full moon and no cloud cover may reach out a full 80’. However, that same camera placed back in the woods on a cloudy night with a crescent moon might only reach out 30’. To fairly compare flash range pictures it is absolutely essential all pictures are taken on the same night under the exact same conditions.
As you might expect, we perform our flash range test for all our cameras on the same night under the same atmospheric conditions. We place full size animal decoys at various ranges from 10’ – 80’ so you can get a good idea of that camera’s potential for identifying game.
Flash Range Test
Battery Consumption Test
Battery life is defined as the number of days a game camera is able to operate in the field on a single set of batteries. We titled this test criteria “Battery Life” because that is how it’s most often described. However, a more accurate title would be energy efficiency. There are simply too many variables which can affect battery life – number of pictures taken each day, ratio of night vs. day pictures, type of batteries used, etc, etc. Energy efficiency, on the other hand, is cut and dry. A trail camera draws a certain amount of amps (current), and this is an inarguable fact. Once calculated, the energy consumption of all cameras can be compared and practical battery life can be extrapolated based on the variables involved. But, for comparison’s sake, different scouting cameras certainly exhibit different levels of efficiency.
At Trailcampro we measure current draw with a sophisticated Fluke amperage meter with accuracy down to the micro amp. Consumption levels for rest, activity, capture mode and recovery are documented.
Battery Consumption Test
Warranty Rate is the final criteria we use to evaluate the durability of game cameras. At Trailcampro we sell thousands of trail cameras and keep detailed records of the number of units which are returned for warranty issues. The figure we list for warranty rate is simply the number of defective units returned to us relative to the number sold of that same brand (# of defective units/# sold=warranty rate)
The best made game cameras have less than a 1% warranty rate.