Best Trail Camera Reviews 2016
Trail cameras today are available in a wide variety of styles and are used for equally as many different reasons. When you set out to choose the best trail cam, and as you read these game camera reviews, you should ask yourself a few questions:
- What is my budget?
- Infrared flash or incandescent flash?
- Slow trigger or fast trigger?
- Slow recovery or fast recovery?
- How long should the batteries last?
- Narrow detection or wide detection?[toc]
Best Trail Camera Comparison Chart 2016
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The best way to be able to decide which trail camera best suits your needs is to compare them side by side. I have put some of my favorite choices into a trail camera comparison chart for your convenience. Whatever you are looking for a solution to monitoring a food plot or field, a trail intersection or even for security you are sure to find something here in our game camera comparisons!
The table is just a quick reference guide to some of the available features. I chose to include resolution, flash type and range, battery type, trigger speed, maximum storage capacity, price and then average Amazon rating. If you require any further information, you can click on the link in the first column to be taken to the in-depth trail camera reviews. Hope this has made your research easy!
Best Game Camera Reviews
Moultrie M-880 Review
This is an excellent choice at a relatively low entry cost. The detection zone is really wide and the trigger and recovery speeds are exceptionally fast. They say in their specs that the detection zone goes out 40 feet, but I think it is considerably more than that. I think they were conservative in their estimations because they want to be sure you will detect 100% of motion in the field they claim.
Programming is as easy as it gets. I have been saying this over and over with these Moultrie wildlife camera reviews, but they have done such a good job over the past few years over delivering. The Moultrie M-880 trail camera is not only easy to use, but amongst the most durable out there and they are at the top of their class for the money you will spend. You would be happy if you paid $50 more!
Moultrie A5 Review
No game camera reviews list would be complete without a Moultrie A5 review. It is a best seller every year. Mainly I think it is so attractive because of the price. Especially if you are planning on outfitting your property with a few (or more) cameras. For the money, it is a fine camera. The pictures, in my opinion, are a bit blurrier and even more “washed out” than some of my other cameras. On the plus side though, it is very easy to set up and use.
It tends to be triggered by nothing a lot too. That could be more of a placement issue. My tests don’t really get too scientific. I set them up the same way every time though. Just remember that you get what you pay for and if you go into it not expecting a ton…you really shouldn’t be disappointed. If I had to buy 6 or more in one shot, I might go with this option too. But you would get more return on your investment if you went up even one notch.
Moultrie M-990i Review
Reviews are the most fun to do when you love a particular product. That is the case for me and this Moultrie M-990i review! It is my favorite camera on the market right now. The battery life is outstanding. I get about 2 months from rechargeable batteries. I would think you could double that with lithium batteries. This camera has a lightning quick trigger time and the recovery time is almost unbeatable. It can take 24 pictures in the same time one of my older models takes 1!
It has a no glow infrared “flash” that is invisible to the human eye. You wouldn’t know it was taking your picture if you didn’t know it was there. (Neither will the animals!) The viewing screen is an awesome feature. It is manufactured well and durable, but also pretty easy to use. The “Live Preview” mode allows you to hang and aim the camera in a matter of a few seconds. I think the Moultrie M-990i is better than some cameras that cost twice as much. The quality vs. the price is simply amazing.
Moultrie Panoramic 150 Review
As expected, the Moultrie Panoramic 150 reviews really well. When you first take it out of the box your first thought is “This thing is really cool!” Striking to put it lightly. You have 3 times the field of view when compared to a standard device. It will detect motion out to 60 feet too! This is the first gamecam model that offers a panoramic photo. There is no doubt you will be seeing many more of these in the future.
The only downside that may surface is the fact that it has more moving parts. Traditionally, the more you add the more can break. I have heard nothing of this as of yet, but I am curious to see how it will play out over the long run. Ultimately, you have an amazing camera on your hands. The quality is the top tier and the range is unbeatable. Imagine the things you’d have seen if your other cameras had 3x the view!
Bushnell 8MP Trophy Cam Standard Edition Review
This is the Bushnell 8MP Trophy Cam Standard Edition. It has a respectable trigger time. Nothing spectacular, but there are certainly many slower models out there. The recovery time lies somewhere in the middle as well. This is one of the smallest cams available on the market today. Smaller can definitely be better in the world of trail cameras as it is less noticeable to all. The picture quality is overall, very good. The night pictures can be a bit dark and sometimes have a bit of a glow around the edges.
One of the most interesting features to note on this unit is that the video has audio with it. Personally, I don’t really have any use for that, but it’s still pretty neat and may be an attractive feature to some. With the great battery life, small design and video with audio, this is a great choice for the money. If you are looking for something a bit faster with better night pictures, you could upgrade to the Bushnell HD Trail Camera. It’s actually the same camera, just with higher end features.
Simmons Whitetail Trail Camera (4 MP) with Night Vision
This is the ultimate hunting partner the world has been waiting for! It comes complete with seven months of amazing battery life. The Simmons Trail Camera with Night Vision (4MP) blends dependability and value in an innovative manner. Simmons must have put years of research and experience in the optical field into this camera.
The budget depends on the model; there are three models to choose from each having a different price. You can comfortably take video and images in the dark up to a range of 45 feet. This is made possible by the motion-activated sensor and the infrared (IR) night vision LEDs. Because of its ease in setting up, you literally do not need to open the manual. Find out more by reading the full review…
Moultrie D-555i Wide Angle Game Camera Review
The Moultrie 555i is yet another quality trail camera being offered by Moultrie trail cameras. It is an aging model, but the wide angle view and the price may make it well worth the purchase for some! All its features are relevant and still compete with the models being released now. 8 MP is higher than the industry standard and it also has an HD video option. The biggest drawback is the slow recovery time, in my opinion. However, if you are using it for monitoring food plots this may not be as big of an issue. Overall, this is a nice, quality camera and well worth a further look…
Best Trail Camera Reviews Buying Guide
You can read all of the reviews and statistics about trail cameras all day long. But if you are new to game cams, or just haven’t bought one for a couple of years it is worth reviewing the different options available to you. There has been a ton of changes even from just last year. Game camera reviews can be a great learning tool!
I have put together this Guide as an ultimate resource to everything you will find available in the best game cameras. I tried to leave no stone unturned in an effort to provide you with all the information you will need to be confident in your decision. Or even to just narrow down what you want vs. what is available. You can even check out some sample photos, the kind you can expect to be taking soon!
What is available is really something for everyone. You can find a camera that is really easy to operate all the way to one that would take a week just to memorize all of the different functions. The price range is equally as broad, and you obviously will pay more for the feature-rich models. You can see some of the options side by side in our best trail camera reviews Trail Camera Comparison Chart too!
What Flash Options Are the Best?
You have a couple of choices here. This may be the single most important choice of this entire process, so don’t be afraid to take some time on it.
I tend to think the best game camera option for flash is infrared.
Incandescent and white LED flash models do provide superior photos, however. Hands down.
The most important aspect of any picture is light. Those damn flashes can brighten up the darkest of nights.
We’ve all had someone surprise us with a camera flash. It takes 5 minutes until you can see clearly again. The same thing happens to the game too. Talk about being spooked!
Keep in mind that the same flash that spooks the game may attract a thief as well. Or even a couple of crazy kids with nothing to do. You never know. Infrared light is not visible to humans or animals. You may be able to make out a dim red “glow”, but that’s about it. Negligible at most.
Infrared flashes don’t have to charge before each picture either. You get a couple of benefits from this as well. Faster trigger time and longer battery life are the two most important and the ones that jump out to me first. Some incandescent cameras can be almost an entire second slower in the dark because of the lag from the flash “warm up”. You’ve seen those deer move! A second is a big difference.
The questions to ask about infrared are:
- How bright will my nighttime pictures be?
- Is this a red glow or no glow unit?
- Can I deal with inferior pictures for the other benefits?
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If you are looking for the best game camera for hunting, I would say infrared is your choice because it is quicker, uses less battery life and won’t scare the animals. If you want one just to see what kind of wildlife is in your backyard, or otherwise only care for quality pictures, you should go with incandescent or LED.
If the whole idea of infrared picture taking is completely foreign to you, check out this video. I think it explains it really well, even though he isn’t using a trailcam in the example.
The detection circuit is made up of three parts. They are the detection zone (or range), trigger speed and the recovery time.
The detection zone is the area in front of your trail cam that it is watching, that will “trip” the photo. You could consider this to be the guts of the device. The best lens and flash in the world are meaningless without something to “tell” them to take a picture. Trailcams of today are sometimes equipped with PIR sensors. (That’s Passive Infrared, and you can get an explanation here, if you want to).
Width and range are the important measurements here. Too many cameras have a narrow detection range. This means that your game has to practically tap on the lens and ask it to take a picture!
You should check trail camera reviews to ensure you will have a wide detection range. Unless you are putting it in a spot that has a narrow field of view. (Example – over a feeder or a bait station).
I will say that a benefit of the narrow zone is that the pictures you do get are, usually, pretty good ones. But you miss a lot. I prefer wide zone by a HUGE margin!
The time between an animal entering your camera’s detection zone and it taking the picture is called trigger speed. A quick trigger time can be the real difference between pictures of a buck butt or a nicely centered picture.
What is the purpose of a slow trigger? Say you are aiming your remote cam at a food plot or feeder. The animals are going to be moving very slowly around the area and spending a bit of time there. A quick trigger speed is not necessary for this type of application.
The recovery time is the amount of time needed between photos. Obviously then, a quicker recovery time means more photos. As an example: some cameras of a few years ago may have had a 30 sec or 60 sec recovery time. That’s one or two pictures a minute. Today, a 2.5 sec recovery time means 24 pictures in the same time frame! You can see how this would be beneficial.
What About Video?
It seems that just about every model being released now is equipped with a video function. They can range from 5 seconds to a couple of minutes of time and all the way up to HD quality. Some even have the option to include sound. This can be a great time for all! Family and friends will even love to get a look at some of these videos.
The merits of them for hunting purposes are debatable. It can be especially useful if you plan to use your remote cameras to try and catch a thief, or for general security purposes.
The downside of the video option is that it really consumes battery life and takes up quite a bit more memory than still pictures alone. You need to make sure you have an SD card with a lot of memory on it. You are also going to have to check your cameras much more frequently.
If you have high activity levels, you can burn through batteries and memory space pretty quick…so check as often as possible to make sure your camera has enough of both to operate normally.
Batteries and Power Options
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Some cameras can last months on one set of batteries. Others can last a mere 2 weeks! It sounds ridiculous, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes! If you live far away from your hunting location, power is a real concern.
Obviously the cameras consumption is going to affect the life of the batteries. But believe it or not, people actually tend to overlook the batteries themselves!! Just grab whatever is in their drawer, throw them in and head off.
TWO HOURS and not even thinking the batteries came from a sale at some discount store and the wife bought them last year! It’s happened.
Seriously though, batteries are very important and should most certainly not be overlooked. You should buy quality, whichever style you choose to go with. Energizer and Duracell cost more for a reason. You have a few options here.
- Rechargeable batteries (Nimh) are my personal favorite. You can expect to get 3 or 4 years out of each battery if treated properly. Quality is the key here, though.
You can buy cheap rechargeable batteries at your local bargain basement. You will get what you pay for. In fact, if you have had someone tell you how crappy rechargeable batteries are, I would bet my right arm these are what they used.
It is also important to note that rechargeable batteries run at a slightly lower voltage than alkaline and lithium. There are some camera models out there that think a fully charged rechargeable battery is dead.
Most of the newer cameras are fine, as they run on lower voltage anyway…but if you bought your camera before say 2011, you should consider/test this out before investing into rechargeable batteries.
- Lithium Batteries tend to give out the most power. The result is better pictures because the flash can give off more light. They last longer too.
In short, they are a premium choice. With the premium comes the price tag. They are also the most expensive option. If you have 1 or 2 cameras it may not be a big deal. If you have 12, it might become a problem. When these batteries wear out, you throw them away too. Replacement costs can add up over the years.
- Alkaline Batteries are the most well known of all batteries. They spent many years at the top of the list as the gold standard.
Alkaline batteries start to drain the minute they are put into something. At the beginning of their life, you will see excellent nighttime picture quality. The brilliant flash produces stunning photos. Towards the end of the “roll” (or memory card, as it were) you will notice the picture quality has declined significantly. (I.e.- less light from a weaker battery).
External Power Supply
Most scout cameras have an input for either a 6v or 12v external battery supply. If you live far away or are just plain short on time this is an excellent solution. A word of advice though, you should buy the appropriate battery manufactured to go with your exact model device.
Many times I have seen somebody try to modify their tractor or quad batteries to try to power their device by rigging a connector. At best you have 50/50 shot to NOT fry your camera. Weatherproof boxes are really non-negotiable as well.
You may even consider putting it inside of a black trash bag (extra weather protection) and then covering it with some bark or brush or something (extra thieving bastard protection). I would always try to hide it a bit though if at all possible.
Solar Power Panels
This is a technology that has also improved greatly over the past 2 or 3 years. An example: I have a Moultrie Power Panel on my D-55IR camera and haven’t had to change the batteries in almost 2 years!
At an average of $10-$12 a whack to change the batteries (this camera takes 6 C’s), it is a no-brainer for me. I leave my cams up year round. Some of the best game camera photos I’ve ever gotten have come in the off-season.
Pictures and Memory
Just like any digital camera, the resolution is measured in megapixels. But don’t expect to find even the best quality scout cams with as high a resolution as their regular counterparts. They sit somewhere in the 3 MP – 7 MP (Mega Pixel) range typically. You will have manufacturer’s try to reel you in with promises of higher MP cameras.
Don’t listen! Game cameras use cheaper lenses. You aren’t going to find a huge difference from 5 MP to 7 MP. It’s worth paying attention to, just don’t base your entire decision on it.
Bursts and Multiple Shots
There are cameras that offer you shot burst now too. Basically, they will take a bunch of pictures over a set period of time. You may end up catching something that a single shot would have missed, but the trade off is in memory space. It may be worth it to you to purchase a larger SD card for better data. They aren’t too expensive.
I recommend an external memory solution. Every time hands down. Internal memory sucks some people in because they think they will be saving money by not having to buy external memory cards.
If you go that route, you have to remove the whole unit will have to be removed, taken home and hooked up to a computer to see what is in it. With a memory card, you can just have an extra and swap it out. No down time from the gamecam.
Another benefit of external memory is that if you ever want to upgrade, you can just buy a new card with a higher capacity. (The memory capacity is listed on most game camera reviews). To upgrade internal memory you would most likely just end up buying a new camera, as the cost would be similar (if not cheaper!).
With all that said, don’t bother with high-speed SD cards either. These are meant for high-end regular digital cameras. They do not work well with scout cameras. One of the things your trail camera will do to help extend battery is to write to the memory card slower. A “slow” machine with a “fast” card produces strange results.
Other Available Options
You should always make an attempt to protect your investment. Sadly, people as a whole prove to not be trustworthy every day. When finally decide on the best game camera, you must be willing to accept that it may be stolen.
At best, you are only going to be able to minimize the opportunity. Like everywhere in life, nothing is going to stop a determined thief. Period. Cable cutters work. In extreme cases, cable locks just slip off trees that have been cut down! Sounds crazy, but it has happened.
You may be able to hang them a bit higher as a bit of a deterrent. You get better pictures from down lower (about 2-3 feet of the ground), but if you feel that is too risky, thieves rarely look up to find cameras. Even if they do spot it, it will be harder to reach.
The security boxes and anti-theft cables do work as a casual deterrent. But they aren’t 100%. Even if they end up not being able to steal the camera, some of the degenerates will destroy them. The boxes and cables add more cost to the camera as well, so you should weigh that into your decision.
You will find some units with built-in LCD screens. These are nice because they will tell you how many pictures have been taken and even let you view the pictures out in the field.
The quality isn’t going to be as high as if you took them home to view on your computer, but you can at least get an idea. You wouldn’t have to get all the way home and then decide you maybe had the camera in the wrong place. This will have a negative impact on battery life though. But it may be worth it to you.
If you wanted to be super official, you could even get a digital picture viewer. If you already have a digital camera you can use though, it may be overkill.
If you don’t have a viewing screen in your game camera, you can put the SD (or whatever type) into a regular digital camera so you can still view the pictures from the field.
If you take advantage of this last tip, DO NOT erase pictures or alter the SD card in any way from the external camera. It gets a little technical for me, but you might overwrite the file structure the unit needs to be able to save photos to that SD card. Always reformat from the game camera itself to be safe.
Properly equipped wireless cams in 2015 can either transmit signals through local Wi-Fi signals or via radio frequencies. (Sometimes up to a mile away). Some of the more advanced ones can chain units together, allowing you to skip photos from one to another up to many miles away.
Cellular cameras work, in the same way, as texting someone a picture. You need a SIM card to operate these, as well as valid cellular service. Both cost extra.
The biggest pro for the Wi-Fi is that it doesn’t require any monthly subscription, like it’s cellular counterpart. They usually have terrible battery life and very limited range, depending on the terrain where you place it.
Cell cams, like the Covert Special Ops, can be used anywhere there is decent cell service. They can be set to alert you via text or email whenever there is any activity. These make great security cameras as well, because of the instant notification feature. Excellent for cabins that are off the grid, boat docks or even storage sheds.
Which Did You Like The Best?
You have heard all about what is important in a trail camera to me. We have gone over many of the popular features available on models today. We even checked out some of the best trail cameras side by side.
Now it is time for you to decide what you want included in your ideal game camera. Remember to consider what you are going to be using it for, where you will be mounting it (ie- weather, etc) and what kind of flash you think is going to work best for your needs.
You are now armed with all the information you need to make a decision and are well on your way to scouting 24/7.