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Tips & Tricks

Trail Camera Buyers Guide

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Trail cameras are an extremely valuable hunting tool that even the most skeptical old timers can appreciate. These cameras provide hunters with key forest intel 24 hours a day that can drastically improve your odds of success.

While they started out as basic motion sensing camera their features and capabilities have grown in power and complexity. This guide will help you understand more about the features available on modern trail cameras and what trail camera is right for you.

Cost

Trail camera prices are all over the map depending on make, model and features. However, the bottom line is you’re going to be spending money on something that you’ll be leaving alone in the bush. Whether you’re concerned about thieves, water damage or harsh weather conditions, cost is something you need to consider.

Bottom Line :

I recommend first figuring out what your needs then go from there. Trail cameras are a great tool but ultimately they’re a luxury that isn’t essential. So spend on a camera you need first and then if you want to invest in those fun features go for it.

Image Quality

I’ve always looked at trail cameras as tools that gather intel on local game, where they travel, and at what dates/times.  Every camera on the market can do this so it’s up to you whether you think the better image quality will be a benefit.

Pros

Zooming In: The higher megapixel trail cameras are a lot better for zooming into an image after the fact so if you’re aiming into a distance they may have some additional value here.

Dark Side: Higher mega pixel count can help you if your trying to brighten up low light images after the fact in order to better see what’s going on.

Cons

Memory: High resolution images require more storage so you may have to check your camera more frequently or invest in larger capacity memory cards that can handle the size.

Expensive: Image quality often comes at a cost but you’re probably not going to get much more intel out of an expensive high resolution trail camera.

Bottom Line :

Image quality can be helpful in some situations but more often than not your going to be paying a premium for something that isn’t really going to add much more to your knowledge of animal activity.

Video Capability

Most modern cameras offers video capability but this feature way or may not be that important to you depending on what you’re after. While it’s definitely fun to watch animals in live action you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons before considering how important this feature is to you.

Pros

Added Intel:  It’s also a fun feature to have and seeing animals on your camera moving around is much more satisfying than still images.

Entertainment: Video can give you additional insight into how the animals are moving around the area, direction they are coming from, and where they ext.

Cons

Storage:  Videos are fun but they take up a lot more storage space which can fill up your memory card. It also makes it a little more tricky to store, share and short images of specific animals.

Battery: Recording videos takes a considerable amount of energy compared to photos so be sure you have lots of battery left before leaving your camera for an extended period and keep an extra set of batteries handy when checking your camera(s).

Bottom Line :

Video is great feature that really brings the woods to life and can add some key insight to how game move around the area but at the same times this will require additional storage and batteries.

Detection Range

When you’re talking about a trail cameras range you’re going to be talking about two things, detection and flash range. Both are important features to pay attention to when trail camera shopping but first let’s focus on detection range.

Detection range refers to trail cameras ability to sense movement. They do this using infrared motion sensors which is often referred to on the packaging as a PIR or passive infrared sensors.

Understanding how PIRs work can be a little complicated but it will help to understand why they are important and how you can better setup your camera.
First off, all animals emit heat energy in the form of radiation. The PIR sensors in modern trail cameras detect changes in the amount of infrared radiation that enter its field of view. For example, your trail camera maybe pointed into the woods and when it is turned on the PIR sensor will look into the woods and recognize that as the base line amount of radiation emitting from its field of view. Now, if a deer which emits a lot of radiant heat walks in front of camera the PIR sensor will notice big change. This change is what effectively trigger the camera to take a picture or video. This change is also referred to as the sensitivity setting on most cameras. When you adjust this from high to low, you’re basically telling our camera to require more or less of a change in radiant heat detected by your PIR sensor. So what do you look for on the detection side when buying a trail camera. Two key capabilities the PIR sensors, the detection angle and detection range.

PIR Angle / Detection Angle

The PIR or detection angle you will see advertised is referring to the width of the sensor. Cameras that have a large PIR/detection angle will be able to sense movement faster and have a better chance of capturing an image of the animal. This is the opposite for cameras with a low PIR/detection angle that maybe 10 degrees for example. These cameras have trouble capturing objects moving through their field faster and this is why you will sometimes see trail camera images with only the back of animal in it. The animal has ran across the cameras field of view but because it didn’t sense it until the animal was directly in front the camera may not have time to capture the animal before it’s off or partially off screen.

Bottom Line :

Detection range is a very important feature as this is the part of your camera that is key to capturing those elusive game animals your after. Cameras with better range are worth spending a couple more dollars on especially if your hunting open areas such as fields.

Flash Range

Trigger speed, also known as trigger time, is the reaction time between when the camera picks up the heat and motion required to trigger a shot and when the actual image is captured.  A faster reaction time may mean the difference between capturing the shot and just missing the animal.  Having a quicker recovery time between shots is also important so you don’t miss any action, especially if there’s more than one animal crossing the path of your camera’s field of view.  A one-second trigger speed and recovery time is fairly mid-range. The higher-end game cameras will have trigger speeds of a fraction of a second with a similarly speedy recovery time for the next shot.

Trigger Speed

A trail cameras trigger speed is the reaction time between when the sensor detects something and when the actual picture is taken. Almost every modern trail camera will have a trigger speed under a second but look for and compare the speeds. We’ve all seen how fast wild game can move and those fractions of a second could be the difference between capturing the animal or missing it all together.

Bottom Line :

Keep an eye on trail camera trigger speed because faster unit can help to catch moving game but don’t let this feature make or break a decision. Most modern cameras have acceptable trigger speeds that can capture game move by at normal pace

Recovery Time:

A trail cameras recovery time or delay is the time between two pictures being taken. This is usually a technical limitation so you will sometimes see older cameras with a set delay time, for example 30 seconds. Other high end cameras will have a quicker recovery time and usually allow you to set your own delay.

Bottom Line:

You don’t won’t a recovery time that is too slow because this could cause you to miss some key pictures but at the same time ultra-fast recovery times aren’t really that necessary because you’ll just will up your memory card if the camera is taking a picture every 5 seconds. I like to set mine at 15 to 30 seconds, so any camera with this recovery time is going to do the trick for most hunters.