Staff Notes, Observations & Surprises
Prior to this year's testing if you would have asked any TCP staff member who might win the shootout, the hands down favorite would have been Spypoint. They have attended numerous trail camera detection range shootouts with a full staff of engineers and every year their cameras get faster & faster. So much so, they occupied the top 5 spots in the last pre-COVID shootout. 2019 Spypoint cameras were so fast, they were capturing 40-50 photos on each pass where other brands might get 4-6. These cameras were like machine guns and literally produced an overwhelming amount of data. We passed that sentiment along and they backed off a bit. I mention this just to make note they are capable of capturing more data than any other camera we've tested. Having said that, the Force Pro S we tested didn’t have the final production firmware installed. Accordingly, it didn’t test as well as new production models. SPYPOINT engineers confirmed the new Force Pro S firmware will be included on all new production models.
We field calls from clients with every imaginable scouting scenario. If there is one suggestion we would have for the industry as a whole, it would be to offer more programming options for recovery time (some manufacturers call this detection/PIR interval). Getting 40-50 photos of the same doe walking toward a feeder is absolute information overkill. However, getting machine gun like photos of a monster buck walking through a narrow trail during the rut could be priceless. My personal recommendation would be interval programming options of: as fast as possible followed by a user selectable time frame of 1-60 seconds and 1-60 minutes.
#1 Spartan Eclipse - None of us saw this coming! With a 1/3 second trigger and 1.1 second recovery, the Eclipse is fast, but not machine gun fast. We all scratched our heads for a minute and then it became obvious. The Eclipse has a 71.3 degree detection angle which is 70% wider than the average detection zone. Additionally, the Eclipse was one of the few cameras that reached out to 100'. This combination allowed it to win the Shootout by a substantial margin. However, there are a few aspects of this camera a potential buyer should evaluate before purchasing. In order to cover the same width as its detection zone, the Eclipse has to use a wide view fisheye lens. This lens produces distorted photos with objects appearing further away than they actually are (sample photos posted on the TCP review). It is also one of the few trail cameras which uses a Micro SD memory card.
#2 Stealth Cam Deceptor - Stealth cam has produced some really solid cameras the last few years, but nothing we would expect to win the shootout..... until this year. The Deceptor was the only model to detect motion out to 120'. It captured images of the test subject the instant he came into view and it did so without any empty frames. If you examine the graph of the cellular results you'll see nothing else was even close. We're excited to see how this unit performs in the field.
Method for Non-Cellular Models
For years the Trailcampro Trail Camera Shootout has been designed to test the combination of a camera's trigger speed, recovery time and detection range. In this test, each camera is awarded a point for each full picture (greater than 60% of the body) of the test subject captured on each pass. When completing the trail camera shootout comparison, we also record empty and partial pictures to compute an efficiency rating for each camera.
Overall Score: The total number of pictures the camera took with the person completely inside the field of view.
Efficiency Rating: The efficiency rating is simply the percentage of pictures a camera captured with a valid image (60% or greater of the subject). While this has no bearing on a camera's ranking, the efficiency rating quantifies how many empty photos you might have to click through if you purchase a particular model. We prefer models that only take photos of animals. False triggers waste memory space, eat batteries and cost the user extra time clicking through empty frames.
Detection Range: The attached spreadsheet shows the max distance each camera was able to detect motion and capture an image. Cameras that detect motion at greater distances generally score better. Why is this important? In this test several cameras only captured images out to 50' while other cameras detected motion out past 100'. Conventional thinking would suggest a camera that detects twice as far would capture twice as many photos, Right? It's so much more. Most trail cameras have a detection angle of roughly 42 degrees. This means as a camera detects at longer distances, it also detects over a wider area. In this case a camera which detects out to 100' doesn't just cover twice the area, it covers 4X the area:
50' range @ 42 degrees = 915 sq ft
100' range @ 42 degrees = 3663 sq ft
As a camera's detection range increases, its ability to capture activity increases exponentially. Cameras with longer detection ranges cover more area and offer better value.
Recovery time is the amount of time required for a trail camera to detect motion, capture a photo, re-arm itself and trigger a second time. Cameras with faster recovery times capture more photos every time an animal visits a camera site. Benefits include multiple angles of each animal including several perspectives to estimate size or identify a particular animal. Before recovery time became a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) early models were only capable of capturing 1 photo every 60 seconds. The classic missed opportunity created by this limitation was a buck chasing a doe. The doe triggers the camera and the buck walks by undetected while the camera is rearming. Fortunately, the industry has evolved and most cameras have recovery times suitable for any situation. The number of photos captured on each pass is directly related to a camera's recovery time. Cameras with fast recovery times perform well in the shootout. Cameras with fast recovery times and long detection ranges win the shootout. Incidentally, cameras with both these attributes also capture more data and offer better value.
2023 Non-Cellular Results
New Method For testing Cellular Trail Cameras
It doesn't matter whether a trail camera is storing images on an SD card or transmitting them over a cellular network, trigger speed and detection range are not affected by either method. Recovery time is another story. Measuring recovery time on a cellular trail camera doesn't just include the amount of time required for a trail camera to detect motion, capture a photo, re-arm itself and trigger a second time. It also includes the amount of time required to send the image over a cellular network. Since cell signals vary and different camera brands use different cell carriers, we found it very difficult to create a level playing field using our existing test methods. So, we created a separate test for cellular models. The test is similar, but differs in one key area - only one photo on each pass is graded. If a camera captures a photo of the test subject immediately as he enters the field of view, the highest score (8 points) is awarded. If a camera captures a photo of the subject as he is making his way across the field of view, a progressively lower score is awarded until he completely leaves the field of view. In which case, the camera receives 0 points. Photo opportunities exist from both the left and the right at 10' increments all the way out to 120'. 8 points possible at 24 passes offers a max score of 192 (24X8).
2023 Cellular Trail Camera Results
Cellular Transmission Shootout
As mentioned previously, cell signal at our testing site prevented a level playing field from which to judge cellular recovery time. However, the speed at which a camera alerts a user of activity can be important, especially if the unit is used in a security setting. With that in mind, we tested the transmission speed of all relevant Cellular Trail Cameras. The test was conducted in a large metropolitan area with 5 bars of both Verizon and AT&T service. An average of three (3) transmission times is listed in seconds below and the cameras are ranked accordingly
- The Detection Shootout is the ultimate test of a camera's ability to detect and record activity. However, this is not the only consideration you should make when buying a camera. This test does not account for picture quality, battery life, video detection, case design, programming, etc. For an overall ranking of cameras, we urge you to visit our Trail Camera Reviews. This page has all cameras ranked from the highest overall score to the lowest.
- The Shootout has many variables, the most obvious is the ambient temperature on the day of testing (For this year it was 60° F.). This is why it is imperative we test the cameras on the same day, at the same time.
- Every year we have folks ask us why certain cameras didn't make it into the Shootout. At the end of the day, we want to have as comprehensive a list as possible. If a certain camera didn't make it into testing, it either wasn't available at the time, didn't work on day of testing, was inadvertently left out (we are human and forget things), was a duplicate of another model being tested, or the company didn't show interest in participating in our tests. If you are reading this and are a trailcam manufacturer that wants your cameras in our test next year, just email us (email@example.com) or call us (1-800-791-0660) and we will include any models you wish.
We started at 0600 on the morning of the test. The temperature was in the high 50s and low 60's (Fahrenheit) and the skies were cloudy.
Trail Cameras purchased from us come with: