Trail cameras are seriously cool and impressive pieces of technology. To have eyes in the woods at all times truly gives you a massive advantage as a hunter. By setting up an organized array of cameras or even just one or two along a promising looking deer run you can begin to learn the movements of the game within your hunting grounds. It’s an affordable and very effective way to better learn your woods and gain a valuable edge hunting.
On the other end of trail camera applications — they take incredible motion-triggered photos for the wildlife enthusiast who loves to photograph nature. It’s fascinating and exciting to catch a glimpse of what’s lurking around in your local wilderness, and with a nice quality trail camera it’s easy! The photo quality of many available camera models has become stunning — I have personally framed several of my wildlife photos captured on my trail camera because of their high resolution and clarity. Shutter speeds have become so quick you can even capture clear, still images of song birds in flight! If nature photography is a hobby of yours, then you’ll be blown away by how cool using a trail camera can be. It’s essentially the only affordable and effective way to take close up photos of animals behaving naturally in the wild.
As a wildlife scientist, I have taken part in several studies having to do with animal surveys through camera trapping. Here’s a few of my favorite shots captured in various Massachusetts woodlands with my Bushnell 12MP Trophy Camera:
We’ve included some of the best reviewed cameras with the highest photo quality and top performing sensors here. If you’re looking for a budget trail camera for simple security purposes or just as an introduction to motion-sensor photography then check out this highly affordable unit.
Add to your hunting equipment and/or your photography gear with a trail camera from our top five list. You won’t be disappointed by the hunting insights you derive from your well thought out camera traps or by the impressive quality of the wildlife photographs you capture.
1. Best Trail Cam for Long Term Research and Science Applications: Bushnell 16MP HD Trophy Cam
Here’s the series of trail camera I have used for years for both scientific research and for my own pleasure. At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where I studied wildlife conservation every camera trapping study I took part in employed this unit. Bushnell has made a simple, reliable and high performing trail camera with this one. For research purposes it was chosen by the wildlife professionals I studied under as the go-to camera trap. This 16MP unit takes beautiful photos, but there’s also a 12MP version available. There’s also a 14MP version available — here’s a link to a deal on two 14MP units! Perhaps the top unit offered by Bushnell is this 24MP model with a lightening fast recovery speed for around the same cost.
The trigger speed on this unit is an impressive 0.3 seconds — it captures even the quickest flicker of motion so you won’t miss any shots of fast moving animals. There’s both photo and video modes with this camera — you can take up to 60 seconds of video at once. The interval between photos can be set as low as one second and as high as 60 minutes. Sensitivity is adjustable so you don’t get a million photos of vegetation blowing in the wind and of course this camera takes night time photos as well. The PIR sensor is motion activated out to 80 feet, so this unit has some great range. Perhaps the best feature of this camera is that the battery life can last up to 12 months — if you like to set it and forget it for a few months in order to really survey an area then this is a great cam for that. The field stamp feature allows you to view when each photo was taken down to the exact second! All in all, the simplicity of the controls and the quality of this camera’s performance make it an excellent choice for any kind of wildlife photography at a very reasonable cost.
Price: $121.63 & Free Shipping
- Trusted by wildlife scientists everywhere as a reliable and quality camera for use observing and researching animals
- Takes both photos and video
- Sensitivity of the sensor is adjustable
- Excellent battery life
- This camera is not compatible with a cellular device nor can be operated remotely
2. Best General Purpose Trail Camera: Stealth Cam 14.0 Megapixel Trail Camera
Here’s a neat camera by Stealth Cam. This 14MP camera is highly reviewed by hunters and photographers alike. This unit can take both still shots as well as up to 180 seconds of HD video with audio. There’s an awesome and somewhat unique “rapid-fire burst mode” feature with this camera that allows you to take up to 9 quick successive photos on one trigger. The sensor range extends out an impressive 100 feet and the multi-zone detection feature gives the sensor a particularly wide field of view. There’s 45 NO-GLO infrared emitters on this unit with a flash range out to 100 feet for nice quality night time photos. The trigger speed is 0.45 seconds — not the best you can buy but still not bad for a $120 camera. This model is capable of some pretty stunning photos with favorable light and weather conditions — I’m impressed with the quality of some of the shots I have viewed. Check out this crisp image of Blue jays in flight and note the lack of any blur despite the rapid movement of the birds.
This is another affordable trail camera that performs up to par with a lot of other, more expensive models. The images are impressive and the price is right — this unit by Stealth Cam is worth checking out.
Price: $120.89 & Free Shipping (9 percent off MSRP)
- Has a rapid fire burst mode for taking up to 9 photos on one trigger
- The multi-zone detection feature gives the sensor a particularly wide field of view
- Customize settings or keep it simple with the optional pre-programmed settings
- Have the option to secure your camera’s content with a password so only you can view the images
- Trigger speed is not as fast as some other comparably priced units
- This camera cannot be controlled remotely
3. Trail Cam With the Best Time Stamp Information: TEC.BEAN 12MP 1080P Full HD Trail Camera
Here’s a great deal on a trail camera from TEC.BEAN. For $100 this 12MP cam is an awesome value that will work just fine for hunting or photography purposes. This camera takes still images as well as video with audio and like the cameras previously listed also has a time lapse mode. The sensor extends out to 75 feet with this one, so there’s just a bit less range than the other cams previously listed. The battery life is also a bit less than the two prior cameras, coming in at eight months rather than twelve. This camera does however have the ability to take up to nine photos on one trigger within 0.6 — 0.8 seconds. The hardware and software on this model are both well protected — the case is well built for enduring the elements and there’s an option to set a password to your camera’s content. What I like most about this camera is the time stamp feature is very inclusive. You can view the time, date, temperature, pressure, latitude and longitude and even moon phase on every photo. For observing trends in animal movements this camera provides you with a plethora of valuable and insightful information.
Price: $99.49 & Free Shipping (38 percent off MSRP)
- Very affordable
- The time stamp on this cam includes a lot of valuable information (temperature, pressure, moon phase, etc)
- Option to protect the digital content of your camera with a password
- Battery life is not quite as long as some other comparable camera models
- The sensor doesn’t extend as far as some other comparable camera models
4. Best Entry Level Trail Camera: LESHP 12MP 1080P HD Game and Trail Camera
Here’s one more great valued trail camera, this one by LESHP. This 12MP camera can take up to nine photos per detection and has an impressive 0.4 second trigger speed. It takes both photos and video and has adequate night time photo capabilities with no-glo infrared technology. This camera also has a time lapse option and photo/video hybrid mode, so it keeps up with the photography features of other trail cameras. The sensor extends out to 66 feet, but that’s really the only feature on this camera that falls a little short. The battery life is estimated to go for about 6 months, so if you need to set your trail camera for long term research or monitoring there are definitely longer lasting models (see cameras #1 and #2). The sensors on this unit are oriented to ensure a particularly wide field of view — about 120 degrees. This is a very user friendly camera, set up is a breeze and the user manual is well written. If you’re new to camera trapping then this is an easy and affordable unit to start out with that’s still capable of taking great photos.
Price: $99.99 & Free Shipping (17 percent off MSRP)
- Very reasonably priced at $100
- Sensors provide about 120 degrees of detection
- Easy set up and operation — great entry level camera
- The sensitivity cannot be adjusted on this camera
- The nighttime sensor range doesn’t extend as far as some other comparable trail cameras
- Battery life is only six months — if you need a camera to monitor an area over the long term then there’s better options
5. Best Cellular/Wireless Trail Camera: Snyper Hunting Wireless 12MP 1080p Commander Trail Camera
This is a highly capable and seriously cool camera by Snyper Hunting. If you want to be able to check your camera’s photos from home, then this is the unit. This camera will compress the photos it takes into a smaller size file and send it directly to your phone as long as it has cellular service (full resolution high quality images are on the SD card when you retrieve the camera). This model will send images to AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon or email and there’s even an AT&T sim card included. There’s also a Snyper app you can download that will receive your images if your carrier is not covered. The data plans available for the Commander Camera are quite reasonable. There’s definitely a bit of set up required with this camera, but it’s not very challenging at all and the idea is to make operating the camera easier once it’s set up! Check out the attached youtube video below for a run through of how you get this camera ready to go. You can even view the battery life with this unit when the camera sends you images so you know when you need to go change batteries. Aside from this camera’s ability to send you photos from the field, it’s a really nice trail camera! The trigger speed is 0.4 seconds and it shoots great quality 12MP photos and 1080p video. The sensor is top notch as well — hunter reviews insist this bad boy will be triggered by motion up to and even past 80 feet. If you want to really learn the movements of the critters in your favorite woodland or hunting grounds this is a great way to do it. Being notified in real time of when an animal is in front of your camera is just downright cool — it really gives you a connection with the space you set up at. The price is a good bit more expensive than non cellular units but for good reason — the capabilities of this camera are pretty advanced.
Price: $249.99 & Free Shipping (17 percent off MSRP)
- View your photos as they’re taken once you pair your phone or email with the camera
- Excellent security device — receive a notification as soon as an intruder sets foot near your camera and notify authorities
- Excellent trigger speed at 0.4 seconds
- Can be used as a regular or cellular trail camera
- This camera won’t be able to send photos to your phone if it’s out of cellular service
- Setting up this camera is a bit involved but once it’s programmed it’s very simple to operate