In this guide we compare specs, prices, and ratings of the newest and best trail cameras on the market to help you choose the best camera for your dollar. Every Advanced Hunter knows that a good trail camera is a critical tool to their success in locating wildlife for upcoming 2017-2018 hunting seasons.
By now you probably realize that game cameras will have different strengths and weaknesses, and that you only need to choose the best camera for the job. After reading this guide, you will have all the information you need to choose the best trail camera for hunting, for your budget, and be confident about your investment.
First you need to understand the technical jargon and specs that game cam manufacturers like to put out there. Use this list of technical features to help you choose the right scouting camera for your needs. As you go up ladder in price, you start to see more powerful features and capabilities. Consider what you plan to do with the camera, and if you don’t need certain high end features, you can save money by getting a lower end model.
MP (Megapixels) – This is the number of pixels the cameras sensor has. The higher MP it has, the higher quality photograph it’s capable of. Megapixels are not everything when it comes to image quality. Some camera manufacturers increase the MP rating by interpolating the images to make them larger.
Detection Range – How far away the camera detects movement and triggers a photo or video. The angle of detection differs between brands and models. A wider angle will catch more movement, sooner.
Trigger Speed – How fast does the camera takes a photograph after detecting the animal. Choose a camera with fast trigger speed to capture animals moving quickly across the camera detection zone.
Recovery Time – After the camera takes a picture, how fast can it take another, most commonly when a flash is involved. An IR flash sucks a lot of juice, which is why Lithium batteries are highly recommended.
Flash Range – Useful range of the flash. A short range means the target must be closer at night to get a good picture.
No Glow – This means the camera uses an infrared flash that cannot be seen by people or animals, so as not to spook them away. The drawback is that in order for no glow to work, it will only take black and white images.
Low Glow (Red Glow) – The cameras infrared emitters put off a low “glow”, many times red in color. The glow can be visible to wildlife, but does not usually bother them at all. The result is brighter and clearer night images, thanks to the higher light output.
LCD Viewing Screen – High end cameras will have a screen to look at photos out in the field rather than bringing it back home to a computer. An SD card viewer is a cheap alternative to buying trail cams with viewers.
TV and USB Connections – These allow you to connect to a computer or TV to view pictures and video. Bluetooth hasn’t made its way into many cameras yet, but it’s only a matter of time before the market demands it.
10 Best Budget Trail Cameras (Under $100)
Our list of 10 Best Cheap Trail Cameras have been updated for the upcoming hunting season. We removed some older models, and replaced them with better or newer ones. The scores are based on customer reviews across multiple stores, combined with our own personal experiences.
There are quite a few cheap trail cameras available for under $100. While you usually get what you pay for with electronics, we feel these 10 options can be reliable game cameras for serious and casual hunters alike.
The Trophy Cam HD Essential E2 came out in 2016, but it’s still a worthy buy. As the “Essential” name implies this is no tech fancy trail camera, but what it does it does very well. The 12MP sensor has proven to be a dependable performer for photos.
Perhaps it’s strongest feature is the night photo performance. Trail Cam Pro even said the E2 “had possibly the best night pictures we had ever seen”. If you struggle to get good night shots, this is the cam to try. What’s interesting is as good as night photos are, the camera struggles with night video. Go figure.
One other interesting feature on the E2 is the “Field Scan 2X”. It’s basically a wide-angle time lapse mode. It uses the entire image sensor over the full field of view. You set a time slot and interval, like every minute during the hour before and hour after sunset. This way you more are coverage during the critical times, and still get motion trigged images in between time lapse.
The A-30i is the lowest priced invisible IR trail cam from Moultrie this year. The camera is outfitted with the 940-nanometer infrared flash to illuminate animals without spooking them. It also boasts a sub 0.7 second trigger that snaps pictures at a crisp 12MP. Even Trail Cam Pro is calling this camera one of the best $100 trail cameras of the year.
There are plenty of modes packed into the A-30i. You have a Low and High resolution photo setting, one for best battery life, and the other for better detail. The camo pattern on the case this year looks very good. It doesn’t go over the top trying to be clever looking, it just looks like it blends in well with the woods. If you’ve always wanted a wireless trail camera, the A-30i is compatible with the Moultrie Field Modem. The modem converts any compatible camera into a cellular one, sending you pics in real time.
The G42NG is another winner in the Stealth Cam lineup. For a little more than its little brother, the G30, you get an upgraded 10MP image sensor, and a no glow (black flash) IR night sensor.
What else is great about the G42NG? For starters, its extremely easy and intuitive to get started using, with the sliders and simple arrow keys that Stealth Cam is known for.
Second, it has the same ultra fast trigger speed of the lower end P12 and G30 cameras, but with an improved recovery time. Lastly, this camera will be power efficient, as users have reported getting up to 6 months of life on 8 AA batteries using the basic camera settings.
One final nice feature about the G42, is the camouflage skin finish on its rugged case, which is something the P12 and G30 cannot offer. I really liked the G42NG, and you can see why in the review I did.
The A-30 is the low glow (840nm) version of the no glow IR A-30i. It has the same speedy 0.7 second trigger, and same 12MP image sensor. The slim case is identical, but lacking the subtle camo found on the A-30i.
The night images are based on a 24 LED array that puts out 70 feet of illumination, well past the 60 foot night detection range. If you like video, this camera takes 15 second HD clips at a time. For best performance, use 8AA lithium batteries and a Class 4 and above SD card.
The Stealth Cam G30 will cost you right around $100 if you buy it online. That puts it at the top of my “budget category” of cameras, but its performance and build quality is what earns its place as my number one choice for low cost game cameras.
The daytime image quality is solid, and the night photos can be very clear and in focus, thanks to the 30 IR low glow emitters. The G30 has a very quick trigger time of half a second, and an excellent detection range approaching 80 feet. It should be said, that although the trigger is fast, the recovery time to take the next shot has been known to lag longer than some hunters prefer.
The battery you can expect on the G30 is well above average. With a fresh pack of 8 AA lithium-ion batteries, most users report getting 4 or more months of continuous use.
The new Moultrie A-20 is an upgraded version of the popular A-5 camera. You can still get the A-5 if you want, it’s still highly rated and on our list. The A-20 offers some upgrades in most of the specs. You go up to 12MP from 5MP, faster trigger, and still get 640×480 video for nearly the same price.
The case has been redesigned as is now more compact. The battery compartment still opens with a single solid latch to reveal an 8AA capacity. The case design looks good this year, and smaller is usually better.
Daytime photos show good color range and saturation, if not a little blur when an animal moves past the image sensor. The night illumination is not as powerful as more expensive cameras, but that is to be expected to an extent. Here is a really good review on Amazon that showcases what this cheap little trail cam is capable of.
The P18 is the third Stealth Cam model in our Top 10, which should not be a surprise, as we feel they produce some of the most reliable trail cameras on the market.
You can get a pretty sweet deal, sometimes if you can find it with a 4GB memory card and an 8 pack of AA batteries bundled with the camera. The P18 is the big brother to the P12, so it has a 7MP image sensor, 10 foot further range, and a slightly faster trigger sensor.
The slightly higher cost for marginal performance increase is why we still rank the P12 ahead of the P18. It should be noted as well, that the P18 has a camo finish, while the P12 is flat grey.
The Stealth Cam P12 is an awesome game camera that also comes in well under $100. The P12 has a good sensor size of 6MP, and a nice 50 foot sensing range to go with it.
The Stealth Cam line is one the easiest on battery usage. You will be extremely happy when you’re not constantly changing out the AA batteries like you do on other cameras.
The P12 takes very good quality photos, and using the 6 shot burst setting is one of my favorite things about the camera. At night it uses an IR flash that is nearly invisible to wildlife, resulting in excellent night shots. The price of the P12 is fantastic, considering the high end features and overall reliability of the camera, making it a best buy for the cheap trail camera segment. Check out my full review of the P12.
This is the popular budget camera from long time manufacturer, Moultrie. I did a full review of the original A5, and the Gen 2 is the updated design that remains an excellent low cost, entry level game camera even as it nears two years old.
It features a 5.0MP camera sensor with a low glow infrared motion sensor. It has an advertised range of 40 feet, but I have found it to be closer to 30 feet in practice. Each photo is time stamped with time and date information as well as the moon phase, which is a nice bonus.
Moultrie listened to their customers and did away with the C cell batteries. The new Moultrie A-5 Gen 2 now operates on 8 standard AA cell batteries and also has a 12V external port if you’d like longer deployments. The AA batteries will last you 6-8 weeks in the field and take 100’s of photographs.
This list of premium trail cameras has been updated for this hunting season. We replaced some older models with better or newer ones. These scores are based on aggregated customer ratings from multiple online stores, and forum conversations, combined with our own field experience.
At the $250-$200 and under mark you can get a much more advanced trail camera with more advanced technical features. These 5 cameras are excellent performers in the field, and yet are still attractively priced for serious hunters and avid outdoorsmen.
Browning has consistently produced some of the most reliable trail cameras over the past 5-6 years. This is a midrange trail camera that provides a lot of bang for the buck. The design is the typical Browning, with the no frills rectangular case and simple one buckle door. This case has proven over the years to be rugged and dependable against the elements.
The Strike Force HD Elite has only a modest 10MP image capability, but the images tend to be sharp both day and night. Users have reported very little blur in the night photos. The detection range is only 55 feet, but at least it’s a legit specification and not artificially inflated. Combine the good range with a 100ft IR flash and it’s easy to see why the night pics turn out well. For a newer version of this camera, check out our Strike Force HD Pro review.
The Spypoint Solar is the first trail camera to have a built in solar charging panel. It’s a technological advancement for the trail camera industry, and it would be great to see more manufactures follow suit. With good batteries and some decent sunlight, hunters can leave this camera out for months.
The camera body is almost exactly like the Force series of cameras, but has a port for the solar panel to mount and put juice back into the on-board battery pack. The latches are small but solid, and the subtle camo pattern is one of the best I have seen.
The Solar needs an initial charging and fresh set of 6 AA batteries before deployment. For best results, choose a location that will receive at least a little direct sunlight. When the internal battery pack is drawn too low, the AA batteries will kick in until the sun charges again.
In addition to some cool tech, the Spypoint Solar takes excellent images. The .07 second trigger is best in class and captures 12MP images. The daytime photos are excellent, with full color and sharp details. Night time images are pretty average, but acceptable. If you are looking for the latest and greatest in trail camera technology, you owe it to yourself to try a Solar 12MP.
The Strike Force Sub Micro is one awesome mini sized game camera from Browning. The case is so small that it only has one latch, and runs on just 6 AA batteries. To get the longest life, use only Lithium batteries.
At 100 feet, the range on this cam is excellent. Combine that with a sub 0.7 second trigger and it will be tough for an animal to pass by undetected. Blurry photos should be greatly reduced thanks to that quick trigger as well.
The daytime photos are excellent, as are the nighttime shots. The video is pretty good too, you can enjoy up to 2 full minutes per trigger on this camera. If you want a compact game camera that takes high res images at long ranges, as well as good night images, then the Browning Strike Force Sub Micro is an excellent choice.
The Aggressor line of Trail cameras have been extremely popular with hunters and wildlife enthusiasts for many years. The 20MP Low Glow version continues that trend. What makes these cams great? A quality housing design and picture quality that ranges from good to outstanding. The Aggressor runs on 8 AA batteries and SD cards up to 32GB. According to TCP you can expect a battery life up to 8 months on Lithium batteries.
Let’s talk images. The sensor is 20MP, but it’s interpolated, so much closer to 12 or 10MP. If you have a camera location with good ambient lighting, you can expect images rich in colors and depth of focus. On overcast days the camera struggles to match that high level. Night images are acceptable, perhaps due to an average IR flash output. You should see comparable results in video mode.
Years back, Cuddeback was a top trail cam brand but fell victim to a slew of quality issues. First released in 2015, it certainly appears Cudde is making a comeback with the Long-Range 20MP IR. The design is kind of strange looking, with the bark like plastic housings and visible external screws. To be honest, it is a bland looking camera, but the user reviews are numerous and positive.
The main positives of this camera are the daytime pictures and great battery life. Night photos or merely OK, so look elsewhere if you require the best night images. The 20MP rating is an interpolated value, so really is more like 12MP, but the images are colorful and clear.
The detection range is a respectable 50-65 feet, and captures images on a ¼ second trigger. With 8 AA lithium batteries, you can achieve up to 8 months in the field at a time on the basic photo settings. Overall, despite the garage build looks, the Cuddeback Long-Range is a reliable performer for the price.
Cabela’s has 3 new trail camera models this year, part of the Everyday Value product line. The prices put these cameras in the mid-range, but the specs are high end. Each camera features a 14MP image sensor and 100 foot detection range. The nighttime flash mode is where the cameras differentiate. There is a standard IR model, a black flash, and even a white flash model for color night images.
I like that there is a 2” internal LCD viewing screen on the Outfitter cameras. It’s always nice to have when you need to quickly pop in and check your cams. The 85 foot detection range is impressive, and users have reported them to more or less live up to those specs. The image quality appears to be excellent, take a look at this photo for example.
This Trophy Cam was released a year or two ago, which is why it has alower 14MP rating. You can still get this camera most places online, and it’s still a good buy. It has the same case design as the 20MP models, but with a deep brown color (Amazon) or tree bark camo (Cabela’s.
In some ways, this older model is better than the newer Aggressor. The images seem to be consistently brighter and clearer, and night photos have less blur. Trail Cam Pro also says the setup menus are superior on the older Bushnell Aggressors.
14MP images are plenty large enough for good detail, and the detection circuit is typical Bushnell quality. You can expect a fast 0.2 second trigger to go along with the detection range. Unlike newer Aggressors, you can program the videos for 5 to 60 second lengths. The battery life is good, ranging from 3-8 months depending on your settings.
The A-35 is the top model in the A series of cameras. The A class cams are value prices, with the MSRP of this model just over the $100 mark. It features the all new slim case design used on all the A and M class cameras. The case has a nice Smokescreen camo skin and measures
This is an upgraded version of the A-30. For the money, you get an upgraded 14MP image sensor and 32 low glow LEDs for a boost in IR flash output. The rest of the specs are solid for a camera of this price. The detection range of 60 feet is good, with a 0.7 second trigger. The flash range of 80 feet is adequate to illuminate targets.
The Recon Force Extreme is new for 2017. It continues the Browning tradition of quality images and reliable performance. This is a 20MP red glow trail camera that has improved in many aspects over previous Force Recon cameras. Day images have gotten better and the night flash illuminates the full frame.
If videos are your thing, you need to try the Browning Force Recon Extreme. The videos are only 20 seconds long, but the quality is outstanding. Videos are sharp and colorful, with little blurring, while the audio is better than years past. Check out some videos from the field in the playlist below.
The M-40i is an excellent no glow camera, and the top model in the M series. It boasts the best pictures and video of any Moultrie camera for the year. The trigger speed is an excellent 0.3 seconds, and is easy on batteries. Using 8 lithium AA batteries, hunters can expect up to a 9 month life in the picture only mode.
The M-40i takes 16MP images and 1920×1080 HD videos in 10 second clips. The detection range performance is very good, reaching upwards of 90 feet. When an animal is detected, the quick shutter speed is an asset, as is the 1 second recovery time.
The M-40i was cited by Trail Cam Pro as having best in class night pictures and videos. The clips are relatively blur free thanks to the Motion Freeze setting. There are occasional white outs when the subject gets close to the camera, but overall the night pics have great depth and illumination. Check out these clips below.
Pattern Movements – A good camera will help you pattern the movements and determine the population of wild game on your hunting land. This is true for whitetail deer of course, but it also applies to hog, boar, raccoon, turkey, bear, moose and many others. In the wintertime you can use them to scout for deer sheds.
Videos – Everyone knows game cams can take photos of animals on your property, but few people take advantage of the video mode on today’s units. You can get very nice hunting video cameras in the same package. The price for a good HD video capable unit is not that much more expensive than one without.
Security – A quality game camera can also be used as a security measure. If you’ve always wondered what kind of creatures, wild or human, have been on your land, a hunting camera will help you solve that mystery. By placing it on your lands border, or near your property, you can watch for trespassing and other unwanted activities.
Shed Hunting – In the winter season, you’ll have a good chance of catching a buck with one antler left. There’s a pretty good chance the other will drop soon and you can know there may be sheds to collect in that areas.
While most trail cams these days have some level of camouflage, they can still be spotted by an experience eye. Like any other electronic device, they are prime targets for theft. Your job is to make your camera harder to spot, and in the event a bad guy finds it, it will be secured to the tree.
Most manufacturers make a companion security case for each new camera. The downside is they are usually sold separately. A good security case is made of steel, has a padlock hole, and prevents animals from destroying your device, and deterring theft. Many security boxes also have provisions for wrapping a belt or python cable around a tree for an added layer of security.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the Best Time to Deploy a Trail Camera?
A: All seasons of the year have their uses for scouting with cameras, just the locations may change with the seasons.
Q: What are the best types of batteries to use in trail cameras?
A: Generally Lithium, non-rechargeable AA batteries will give you the best life, but are the most expensive. Alkaline batteries will work fine, but in the cold their life gets sucked down quickly. NiMH rechargeable are hit and miss. They are economical, but depending on your camera and the quality on the batteries, your mileage can vary greatly.
Q: Should I get a wireless trail camera instead? Wouldn’t that make it easier to get pictures?
A: Cellular trail cameras have come a long ways since their first introduction. They are easier to setup and much more reliable. Read our Cellular Trail Camera Guide for more information.
Q: Can’t I just view game camera pictures on a digital camera?
A: In most cases digital cameras and game cameras do not play nice together. Sometimes the digital camera can read the images, but most times it will just brick your SD card. Your best bet is to get a viewer or just use your laptop.
The Bottom Line
We hope you have enjoyed and learned something from the Advanced Hunter’s Game Camera Buyers Guide. While we have gone into some detail here, I also have many more trail camera reviews in my archives to help you choose the best trail camera for your upcoming hunting season. Happy Hunting!