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 2016-2017 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.
Detection Range – How far away the camera detects movement and triggers a photo or video.
Trigger Speed – How fast does the camera takes a photograph after detecting the animal.
Recovery Time – After the camera takes a picture, how fast can it take another, most commonly when a flash is involved.
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.
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.
TV and USB Connections – These allow you to connect to a computer or TV to view pictures and video.
10 Best Budget Trail Cameras (Under $100)
Our Top 10 Cheap Trail Cameras have been updated for the 2015 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 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 know 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 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 best selling budget camera from popular game camera 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. 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.
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.
Browning trail cameras are pretty underrated in our opinion, and the Range Ops XR is among their best budget cameras.
The Range Ops XR has a blistering fast trigger speed of 0.7 seconds, with a detection range out to a respectable 60 feet. In addition to high resolution 8MP images, the game cam takes HD videos up to 2 minutes in length.
Like all the Browning cameras, they run on standard AA batteries, and have an excellent case design. The camo is understated, the LED’s are broken up by camo ridges, and the latches have a solid, secure feel to them. When you throw in the “Browning Buck Watch” software it comes with, you have a real winner.
The Spypoint BF-6 is an affordable black flash game camera with lots of functions and options.
One unique feature of the BF-6 is its 5 zone detection sensor. This improves the trigger speed, helps center the animal in your images, and ensures you don’t miss many animals. Also on this camera is the option to take videos from 10 seconds up to 90 seconds in length.
You can use up to 32 GB memory cards, and only requires 6 AA batteries which is nice when you run half a dozen cameras at a time. If you are looking for a reliable game camera without the telltale red light that can spook an animal, this could be the one for you.
The Primos Truth Cam Ultra 46 HD is a close second for a high performing low cost camera choice.
It looks great with its leaf camo skins, and features a large 7MP sensor, 1280×720 HD video, and PIR sensors for excellent night vision. The bank of 46 LED’s, and a 45 degree sensing cone provides clear and sharp night photographs.
The Ultra 46 HD takes great still pictures as well as video with a massive active sensor range of 80 feet. You will capture just about any moving creature with its super fast 0.7 second trigger.
The Primos Truth Cam is powered by 4 D cell batteries and will last for up to 4 months in the field. My favorite feature on this low cost game camera is the burst mode. You can set the camera to take up to a 9 photo burst whenever the camera is triggered, making it great for all kinds of game scouting. See my review here.
10 Best Trail Cameras under $250-200
Our Top 10 Trail Cameras for 2015 have been updated for this hunting season. We replaced some older models with better or newer ones. These scores are based on customer ratings from several online stores, combined with our own personal experiences and reviews.
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.
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 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.
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.
While the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD may lack a sexy camo housing, it makes up for it with its high quality camera lens. The HD Max can take both 8MP high resolution photographs and full HD color videos. There is even an option to record up to 60 seconds of audio with each video.
Bushnell has implemented a new feature called Hybrid Capture Mode, which allows you to set the camera to record a video immediately after an image is taken. This is a fantastic feature for trophy buck hunters, or people who just like to watch videos of wildlife on their property.
The infrared motion detection sensors are advertised as having a 60 foot detection range, and people who have bought this camera generally agree. We have seen the actual in use range to be in the 20 to 60 foot range, largely dependent on where and how high you place the camera.
By redesigning the popular original M-880i, Moultrie has raised the bar for mid-range motion detection cameras. The M-880 Gen 2 features an 8.0MP high resolution sensor with an excellent 60-80 foot sensing range. This camera takes 8 AA batteries, and will perform for 6-8 weeks between battery charges.
Like other Moultrie Gen 2 game cams, this one has the four main operation modes of time lapse, night infrared mode, daytime motion detection, and day or night HD video. The Gen 2 cameras all now feature the easy quick set slider.
Motion Freeze is one added feature that the other camera’s we’ve talked about does not have. This is a feature in the camera sensor to reduce blur on the IR triggered night vision pictures.
While this camera does not have a viewing screen, you can simply remove the SD card and view the images on a normal digital camera that you bring with. Then you can delete whatever you want and put the card back in until you come back again. I really think the Gen 2 M-880i is one of the best values out there.
6. Simmons Whitetail Night Vision Trail Camera (6MP)
The Simmons Whitetail cameras have a reputation for reliability and can be had at a great value.
It has all the basic features an outdoorsman would want in a budget friendly game camera. The simplicity of operation and reliability has made this a bestselling camera.
This camera can take 5MP and 6MP images and has a basic 640×480 video mode. It is powered by only 4 AA batteries, although I recommend using lithium batteries for getting the longest life.
The infrared flash and 20 – 30 foot trigger range makes the Simmons Whitetail camera a solid nighttime performer. Once triggered by motion, this camera can be set to take single images, multiple shots, or even videos.
The Panoramic 150 is an innovative scouting camera design by Moultrie Feeders. It boasts 3 infrared sensors that form a 150 degree wide by 50 foot deep field of motion detection.
When one of the sensors detects motion, the camera moves silently inside its housing to take the pictures and videos. This innovation effectively triples the area your game camera can cover. The moving camera lens allows you to do things other game cameras can’t.
The Moultrie 150 will let you take panoramic photos of your plot, and it also can follow animals as it moves across its field of view. As that big whitetail deer steps across the trail, the Panoramic 150 can follow it, snapping pictures according to your settings. You can also check out my full review of the Moultrie Panoramic 150.
8. Day 6 Plotwatcher Pro HD Game Surveillance System
The Day 6 Plotwatcher is a unique scouting camera. Rather than having complicated infrared motion sensors, Day 6 has opted for simplicity. The Plotwatcher Pro instead is a time lapse only image and video camera. They took out the sensors to give you a compact body with massive storage capabilities, and extremely high quality HD video and pictures.
The advantages to this approach are that rather than rely on motion sensing, which can be touchy and difficult to set correctly, the Plotwatcher is a set it and forget it type of camera. You set the image interval, point it in the desired direction, and then let it go to work. You won’t have to deal with hundreds of battery draining false positive images of grass and branches blowing in the wind.
The Day 6 camera takes high quality images of an area no matter how far the subject is from the camera. If an animal is in front of your camera, you’ll get a good image capture of it. Just come back in a few days and review the images before your hunt.
9. Cuddeback Attack IR 5MP Game Camera
The Cuddeback Attack is one fine scouting camera. While the Attack IR boasts an average 5MP camera resolution, it makes up for it with excellent day and night images and video.
While many cheaper game cameras also have IR detection and flash to capture animals at night, the results are too often a grainy, blurry, black and white picture. The Cuddeback Attack IR has solved this by using an ultra fast ¼ second trigger and a high powered bank of 36 IR LED’s. Combined, these features capture crisp images of deer and wild game, no matter if they are standing still, or running past your camera.
In addition to stellar night photos, the Attack IR has a unique tree shaped outer case that helps it blend into the brush. This Cuddeback also has all the features you’ve come to expect in a high end camera. It has time lapse mode, video mode, 60M of internal memory, free Trophy Room image management software, and a 4 D Cell battery capacity that can actually last up to a full year out in the field.
10. Wildgame Innovations Crush 12 MP Touch Trail Camera
The Crush 12MP is the king of high performance game cameras. It has a monster 12MP resolution camera, a 50 foot range, and anti-blurring technology to capture stunningly clear shots of deer and game.
The touch screen on the front of the camera is what puts this camera to the top of our list. We love how easy it makes setup and operation, especially during the fall when fingers can get cold and clumsy.
The Wildgame Crush has a slender housing design that is very easy to attach to objects, and can even fit in larger pants pockets.
The video mode is excellent, and runs silently so you can be sure you won’t spook the deer with this camera. The battery life is above average, with most customers reporting several months of service or more on one battery pack. You cannot go wrong with this game camera, it will be money well spent come hunting season.
Top Uses for Trail Cameras
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.
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?
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.
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!