First Time Trailcam Buyers Guide
If you have been shopping our game cameras for sale, you know 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.
Which Trail Camera to Buy?
How Do Trail Cameras Work?
- Detection Circuit: How well does a game camera detect activity? Trail cameras are triggered by a combination of heat and motion so there must be both present for the camera to take a photo.
- Batteries: How long is the battery life?
- Infrared Emitters: Is it red glow infrared flash or is it an undetectable "No Glow" version?. How bright are the night pictures?
- Picture Quality: View sample photos from all the popular camera traps.
- Setup & Viewing Screen: It's easy to learn how to program a trail camera and use its internal viewing screen.
Do you need a cellular Trail Camera?
1. Cellular trail cameras can provide you with real time notification and send the photo to your phone using an app.
2. Which cellular provider do you need? Most cameras work on the AT&T or Verizon networks. You would just want to choose whichever you get the best service with not necessarily who you have as your provider. In most cases you will pay the manufacturer directly for any data. We recommend at least 3 bars of service for the camera to work properly.
3. Most cellular trail cameras send the photos to your smart phone via an app you will download. You can allow the app to send you notifications so when something triggers the camera it will notify your phone. You can then open the app to see what has triggered the camera. Some cameras even offer live streaming to your phone. In the app you will also be able to make setting changes and look at battery life and data used.
Trail Camera Picture Quality
Don't be fooled by high megapixel counts. Companies will trick you by advertising a camera with a high mpxl. In reality, they use a low-quality lens which reduces the quality of the picture. Read the Top 5 Most Common Trail Camera Myths for more on megapixel ratings.
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.
Different flash types affect night pictures (No glow infrared and red glow infrared). Red glow IR cameras produce a faint red glow when taking a photo or video at night. Conversely, no glow IR cameras are invisible to the human eye when taking pictures and videos. The trade-off is a red glow camera typically takes better (brighter) night pictures/videos than a no glow counterpart.
Trail Camera Detection Circuits
The detection circuit of a trail camera is what actually detects the animal. Trail cameras trigger based on a combination of heat and motion. We judge detection circuits based on:
Trigger & Recovery Time
Trigger time/speed is the amount of time elapsed from when a camera first senses motion until it captures a photo of whatever caused said motion. Recovery is how quickly a camera can store the first picture and be ready for a second photo. If you would like to view the trigger and recovery times for different cameras, go the Trigger Speed Showdown.
The Detection Zone is the area in which a camera is able to sense motion and trigger a photo The two factors which 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.
Trail Camera Battery Life
We test the battery life for each camera to determine how long the camera will last in the field. 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.
- Fewer 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've covered in the First Time Trail Camera Buyers Guide so far is just the beginning. Game cameras are incredibly complex and each camera is unique in some way. Don't stress, let us 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 camera for cabin security, a wildlife camera, or some other variety.
If you can't quickly find what you are looking for, it's probably faster to call us (1-800-791-0660, Mon-Fri, 9-5 ET) or email email@example.com. We will spend as much time as needed to make sure you get the right camera.
For information on Security Cameras be sure to read our page on How to Catch a Thief
Required Reading Material If Purchasing a Trail Camera: