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In order to be a successful hunter, you must possess patience. Endurance, pinpoint accuracy, knowledge of an animal’s routine, and stealth all naturally come into play, but without patience, the chances of finding your prize basically becomes a game of luck. Luckily, the modern trail camera can be a game-changer. They help hunters hone in on animals’ movements, identify opportune locales for outings, and test out various baiting techniques without startling the animals. Beyond hunting, trail cameras are also a godsend for those who want to observe nature, monitor wildlife activity, or just add some extra security on their property.
Today’s modern trail cameras utilize all that the digital camera revolution has made possible. They can shoot single images, fire bursts of shots, shoot video, and execute time-laps images. Motion sensors will trigger the shutter, and most cameras can be set up to fire at set intervals. You can also use infrared and red light flashes to capture black-and-white images in the dead of night. And, thanks to robust battery lives and the ever-expanding storage capacity of most SD cards, you can capture reams of high-resolution footage for weeks at a time. Better still, you can review them in the field on certain devices, drop the SD card into a reader, or go for a tech-centric model that’ll push the footage wirelessly to your digital device. Below, we explore just a few of the best units available now.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Browning Strike Force HD 850
One of the smallest high-performance trail cameras in the hunting industry, the Browning Strike Force HD 850 does it all—including capturing 16-megapixel images and 1280x720 HD video with sound in lengths that range from five seconds to two minutes. It fires off in 0.4 seconds when its IR sensors are triggered, and it can capture eight images in either multi-shot or rapid-fire modes, while a time-lapse shooting mode will take images at pre-set intervals for a set period of time. Night images are captured via infrared LED illumination, with a “Zero Blur” tech to avoid blurry footage at ranges of up to 120 feet, buoyed by an 80-foot detection range.
An info bar displays the time, date, temp, and moon phase for each image, and it comes with both USB and TV outports, with SD card compatibility that tops out at 512GB (not included). It runs on six AA batteries for hours of reliable use, and also includes a 12-volt external power jack if you’re choice spot is on the grid or you want to use an external battery. The camo finish lets it blend in with its surroundings, whether you strap it to a tree trunk or utilize its tripod socket.
Best Value: Tougard Trail Camera
Despite a retail price well under $100, the Tougard Trail Camera shoots well above its price range. It fires full HD 1080 video and 14MP stills—though you can adjust the image size to stretch your storage capacity. The trigger lag is nominal, measuring at 0.5 seconds after the motion sensor has been tripped, which can also be adjusted for high, low, or medium sensitivity. A wide 120-degree field of vision will assure you capture all the action, and infrared LEDs shoot high-quality, detailed black-and-white night images with a total shot distance of up to 22 meters. The camera itself is wrapped in a secure, waterproof housing to fend off foul weather, and an included mounting plate and straps provide versatility when out in the field. Each image comes with an array of different stats including the temperature, time, and date.
Most Connected: Bushnell Aggressor Wireless
If you want to always know what your trail camera is seeing (and when it’s triggered), go with the Bushnell Aggressor Wireless. As its name implies, the device comes with wireless connectivity to the Bushnell smart app (available for both Apple and Android) via AT&T’s 3G network to transmit the photos and video directly to your smart device. You can also control the camera via the app.
High-quality images are shot at 14MB while videos (with audio) are 720p HD; both fire off at a fast 0.3-seconds thanks to a 60-foot-wide motion trigger, which can be set to high, medium, low, or auto-sensitivity. Both data files also come with accurate GPS coordinates and include data stamps for the date, time, temperature, and phase of the moon. Unlike some trail cameras that shoot up to 10-minute videos, the Aggressor Wireless only captures them in 60-second increments, but 32GBs of internal storage offers plenty of space to store weeks of reliable images, bolstered by the option to use an additional SD card. You can also utilize a time-lapse mode to shoot images at two pre-set intervals, from one minute to one hour, an ideal way to monitor the what happens at dawn and dusk when animals typically hunt for food and water. It runs on 12 AA batteries and offers an average battery life of up to three months.
Best for Longterm Use: Reconyx Hyper Fire 2 Covert IR Camera
Wisconsin-based Reconyx has earned a loyal following by legions of hunters in large part because they’ll fix your camera if anything goes wrong—even after the warranty expires. That said, the five-year warranty that comes with the Hyper Fire 2 Covert should offer reassurance that the camera is worth the investment. It captures both high-res/HD video and images, working off a 0.25-second trigger delay with a robust image sensor the delivers clear footage every time. Reconyx’s No-Glow High Output Covert IR can capture image up to 150 feet away at night, with a rapid-fire setting that can shoot one to ten images per trigger, or fire off footage every ten seconds. Like others on our list, you can also program set times for time-lapse at both dusk and dawn, programmable at one-, five-, 15-, 30-, or 60-minute intervals. The camera runs off a rechargeable NiMH or Energizer Ultimate Lithium battery, or via 12 AAs, with a total life of up to 40,000 images or two years. It offers support for up to 512GB SD memory cards.
Quickest Trigger: Spypoint Force-11D
With an official 0.07-second lag time (which users report might even be faster), this is the quickest motion-activated trail camera on the market. Of course, the Spypoint Force-11D can do more than just quickly fire the shutter. It captures blur-free HD video and 11MP images with a 100-foot flash range and six different multi-shot options—and it captures IR images and video at night, supplemented with 42 low-glow LEDs and infrared boost. A curved motion sensor lens also amps the detection angle, with a detection distance of up to 80 feet.
The Spypoint Force-11D is a breeze to set up and program, in large part thanks to a two-inch screen that also lets you review images directly in the camera, with an SD compatibility that maxes out to 35GB. Powered by six AA batteries, the camera can last for up to 11 months of regular use, though you can also upgrade to a rechargeable lithium battery pack. A mounting strap, mounting brackets, and a quick-start guide are all included, and Spypoint also has free software available to let you assemble a series of images shot in time-lapse mode into a video.
Best for Night Shots: Stealth Cam G42NG
Unlike some trail cameras which rely on low-level LED flash or red light illumination to help the camera “see” at night, the Stealth Cam G42NG utilizes 42 “black” infrared emitters to help capture quality black-and-white images in the dead of night. In fact, the camera can catch subjects up to 100 feet away, and at resolutions that range from 2 to 10MPs. Purists will love that the 16:9 aspect ratio aligns with the sizes of most of today’s computer monitors and TVs, making detailed review of the images very intuitive. Video is captured in full HD in clips that can range from five to 180 seconds—all with audio. Data captured with each trigger includes the time, date, temp, and phase of the moon.
With eight AA batteries, the camera can run for up to six months depending on conditions—though you can also attach it to a 12-volt battery box via an external power jack. The camera also includes a USB slot and can handle SD cards up to 32GB—all safely housed in a weather-proof casing. Trigger delay isn’t the best, but at 0.5 seconds you should still be able to capture all but the most nimble and fast of animals, especially if you use the burst mode, which can fire up to nine images per trigger.
Easiest Set Up: Primos Proof Cam 02
If you’re looking for a trail camera that simply works without investing hours into minute programming and adjusting camera configurations, the Primos Proof Cam 02 has you covered. Simply drop in the eight AA batteries (which are rated to last for nine months), insert an SD card, set the time and date, choose your setting, attach it to a tree via the included straps, and you're set.
The trail cam captures 12MP still images as well as full HD video with audio and HD time-lapse. An auto-adjusting passive infrared sensor works by default, with a 100-foot range at night supplemented by 48 low-glow LEDs. This isn't the kit you’d use to capture interval dawn and dusk shots, or to capture video, images, and time-lapse. But for plug-and-play simplicity, you get precisely what you need without the other bells and whistles that complicate higher-priced models.
Best Image Quality: Boly MG983G-30M
With a max image resolution of 30MB the Boly MG983G-30M blows away all others on this list in terms of image quality, shooting color day shots at full res, and night images at 14MBs using “black” infrared flash technology. Video is shot at HD 1080p resolution and the camera boasts a 100-foot-long sensor range with an overall responsive trigger lag. The device also utilizes a cellular SIM card to remotely transmit videos to your smart device via the free app or to your dedicated email address; you can also manage the camera settings and check the battery strength remotely via the 3G network over AT&T, T-Mobile, and Cricket Wireless via SMS texting. Video, alas, doesn’t transmit remotely as of this writing due to network data limitations but a three-inch screen on the device lets you review the footage in the field if you don’t want to use an SD reader. It runs on eight AA batteries and also includes a jack to utilize solar and external batteries for additional juice.
Our writers spent 3 hours researching the most popular trail cameras on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 10 different cameras overall, screened options from 12 different brands and manufacturers, and read over 20 user reviews (both positive and negative). All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.