2015 Flash Range Shootout

Flash Range has a tremendous impact on the effectiveness of any trail camera.  If a scouting camera has a lightning fast trigger and a huge detection zone, it is still rendered useless for half the day if its flash is inadequate.  There are many variables which influence the power, range & effectiveness of a camera’s flash.

Below we’ll touch on both the internal & external variables and explain why we test the way we do.  Since the majority of all trail cameras use an infrared flash, the items referenced below will only pertain to IR flash cameras.

Internal Variables

  •  # of infrared LED's– There is a direct correlation with the number of LEDs and flash range.  Cameras which have a larger number of infrared LED's in their flash will almost always have more illumination than cameras with fewer LEDs.
  •  Energy Used – Think of your hand-held flashlight when it’s low on batteries vs. the strength of its beam with a fresh set of batteries.  Flash strength and range of  illumination are directly influenced by the amount of power sent to a flash.  At the expense of battery life, some cameras send more power to their flash than others.  As a result, those cameras can have more illumination than other cameras with the same number of LEDs. 
  •  Exposure time – This is an area many camera manufacturers have manipulated in recent years.  At the expense of clarity, flash range can be extended by increasing exposure time.  Essentially, the longer a shutter is left open, the farther out a flash will illuminate.  Unfortunately, any movement during the time the shutter is open produces blurry photos.  This is why we always provide a photo with a subject moving through the field of view next to each flash range photo.

 External Variables

  •  Moon light – The phase of the moon and the intensity of its light greatly influences flash range and illumination.  A night photo taken under a full moon and clear sky can exhibit twice the flash range and illumination of a photo taken under an overcast sky with a crescent moon.
  •  Cloud cover – Regardless of moon light, cloud cover influences flash range as well.
  •  Tree canopy – A dense tree canopy can completely negate any flash enhancing benefits of a full moon or clear sky.

We always perform our flash range test for all models tested on the same night, under the same moon and sky, in the exact same setting, under the same tree canopy with a fresh set of batteries. Please be very careful when comparing nighttime photos as it is very easy to manipulate results.

 Equipment Issues

The size and type monitor one uses as well as the angle from which it is viewed will influence the perceived flash distance of a camera.  In our evaluation we use our largest and best monitor and tilt it at numerous angles to get the best range for each photo.  We make every attempt to assess photos from their best perspective.

 Criteria we used to rank photos

I want to first say this is one of the few tests we perform where human subjectivity comes into play. Having said this, we ranked photos using the following factors with priority based on the order they appear.

  1. Overall illumination across the entire field of view
  2. Clarity, Contrast & Resolution
  3. Presence of "Hot Spots" or areas of overexposure

In the end, different individuals may value different attributes and characteristics of photos.  If nothing else, we have provided a sampling from most every camera on the market taken under very controlled and fair conditions for you to make your own evaluation.

No Glow Infrared Flash

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 Red Glow Infrared Flash

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 White Flash Trail Cameras

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