What to Look for in a Trail Camera – Ensure You Get the Best

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What to Look for in a Trail Camera | Hunting Magazine
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When you’re looking for a trail camera, a regular camera just won’t fit the bill. According to Cabela, the specialization of trail cameras makes them a perfect companion for any hunter. Recommended experience levels will change your opinion of each type. Some may prefer the advanced features of Bushnell while others will be attracted to the simplicity of Moultrie.

Whatever your final choice is, make sure that it makes sense. This guide should give you a good overview of what to expect from a great trail camera. After reading, compare notes with brands you already had in mind. The difference in opinion may surprise you!

Styles

Color and style will determine the best placement for a trail camera. Camo is great to stay hidden in a place with a lot of trees. A moss color will work better in a swamp area, while black is perfect for all settings. Your trail camera should always blend in with the environment and never stick out.

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This advice works for animals and human intruders that will run across the camera. Even if an animal is aware of the device, having it stick out like a sore thumb is an easy way to spook them.

Durability

Since the camera will be out in the wild, high durability is a must. This is the main reason that trail cameras come with a hardened case built to withstand the elements. Being 100% waterproof isn’t vital, but it does help when the conditions get out of hand.

Getting knocked out of a tree shouldn’t end in the case splitting open and the camera flying across the ground. With high durability, your data and device integrity are protected against serious wear and tear. If any trail camera makes you doubt its durability, then it is time to return it and find a better model.

Battery Usage

Trail cameras are left in the on position whether it is in hunting season or out of it. In fact, the data collected during the offseason is important to determining current hunting techniques. The ideal setup would involve an outlet. When that isn’t possible, you need brand name batteries and a trail camera that has low power usage. Trail Camera Junkie agrees that battery consumption is one of the most research features of a trail camera.

Even when using the advanced functions, the camera should never suck the battery dry. Intelligent power usage is one of the hallmarks of a great trail camera. It should last multiple months without needing to have fresh battery swapped in.

Best Features

Wireless, trigger speed, color LCD and companion software are the things that make a trail camera stand out. Having all of these features in a single product will guarantee that you’ll at least have an up to date device.

Wireless – The ability to use Wi-Fi or a SIM card is an incredibly useful tool for remote access. Instead of having to take the SD card out to go through photos, you can view the contents of the camera from anywhere in the world.

Data plans have become much cheaper than they used to be, so price gouging is no longer a concern for trail cameras with SIM compatibility. And most plans allow you to stop and start the service without a penalty.

Trigger Speed – A fast trigger speed is important, but so is a consistent trigger speed. When you have all of the advanced functions enable, trigger speed should remain consistent at its advertised value. With everything active, you should still get the pictures needed for any setup.

LCD – A built in LCD prevents you from having to take the SD card out to view camera contents. This is a good alternative to the wireless functionality. When a trail camera has an LCD, make sure that the included case can protect it.

Companion Software – Companion software used to be a rarity for trail cameras. Now they are included with even the most basic sets. The software is used to manipulate the media on the SD card. It’s made to be functional instead of flashy, and can be a real lifesaver for users that aren’t familiar with professional editing products.

Picture Quality

While the megapixels play a minor role in determining picture quality, it isn’t the end all be all. At a certain point, a high MP count will only provide diminishing returns. A good example of this is when you have limited storage space on the camera.

If you want more pictures, then you’ll have to customize the quality level below the trail cameras max value. This is especially true when using burst mode on a high megapixel camera. Sometimes the trigger speed on a high MP trail camera suffers when using max picture quality.

Pay close attention to your personal usage of a trail camera, and it will tell you whether a high MP is a priority or not.

Video Quality

Mainstream cameras have moved on to 4k and 8k video footage. It looks great on a bigger screen, especially in motion. Trail cameras have 4k variants, but are they worth it? Video quality is less hinder by trigger speed than picture quality, but has a huge space disadvantage.

The amount of space an HD video takes can eat away your storage space in a single day. The three main quality presets you should focus on is 480p, 720p and 1080p. The lowest of that tier is standard definition, and looks just fine on a bigger screen.

Both 720p and 1080p qualify as high definition, and should be more than enough quality to see fine details. Combine your picture and video needs to see how much space is required per card.

The benefits of finding the right balance can be explained visually. The linked video has some really good night captures that shows the power of a great trail camera. Notice that in different settings, the quality of the video is barely affected.

Personal Opinion

I find it a bit too easy to get sucked into brand name products during a purchase. There is nothing wrong with sticking to a brand you like, but don’t be blind to the competition. There was a time I wouldn’t touch a Moultrie camera due to expandability issues.

Not only have they sorted that out, but the company has surpassed a lot of expectations. By ignoring other brands, you are missing out on a lot of great features. Being a one-dimensional hunter will get you similar results with prey. Stay varied in your approach and always be on the lookout for the next best hardware innovation.

Wrap Up

A trail camera is your most reliable piece of equipment. It helps you get a general idea of what game is doing in a certain area. And for security, there is nothing better to protect large swaths of land. With a trail camera, you’ll always be better prepared than your prey.

A lot of the features can be confusing to first-time users. Just take it all in, and remember that the product is meant to help your hunting experience. There is a ‘perfect’ trail camera for every type of hunter. It just all depends on doing the research to find the best match.

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