Game cameras are smaller and more feature-packed than ever, and the hottest new models now include black-flash technology at a price that won’t destroy most hunting budgets. Using low- or no-glow infrared flash, these cams can capture nighttime images without the burst of visible light or the glowing red blob of white-flash and standard infrared models, allowing you to get more pictures of ultrawary bucks (as well as spy on trespassers undetected).
I tested four models, all new for 2012, that go for about half of what most black-flash units cost only a few years ago. Here’s how they did.
Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Max
The Lowdown: The new HD Max is loaded, well, to the max with features. Its Hyper Night Vision black-LED flash was the only one in my tests that was undetectable at any range. The unit shoots photos up to 8 megapixels in daytime and records 1280x720p HD video with sound. A new Field Scan 2X mode takes time-lapse images at two preset intervals while simultaneously capturing motion-triggered images. Has a mounting bracket and a 1⁄4 x 20 threaded socket.
Hits: Sensor automatically adjusts to the ambient temperature to better detect game.
Misses: Maximum flash range is only 45 feet; close-range night photos are washed out if flash is set on high; minimum interval in time-lapse is just one minute.
Who Should Buy: Those looking for a totally covert cam with time-lapse, stunning HD video, and high-quality color images.
Eyecon Black Widow
The Lowdown: Big Game Treestands has jumped into the trail-cam market this year with their new Eyecon line. The budget-priced Black Widow takes nighttime photos with InvisiFlash, which was barely visible at extremely close ranges. Two small blinking indicator lights could be seen out to 15 feet. The camera takes color daytime photos up to 5 megapixels and records video. Mounting is easy thanks to the Bark-biter bracket and a 1⁄4 x 20 threaded socket.
Hits: Great detection range and true 50-foot flash; 2-inch backlit LCD screen makes setup a snap.
Misses: The test-unit sensor was too sensitive, producing lots of false triggers; no time-lapse mode; uses size C batteries (lithium AAs would last longer).
Who Should Buy: Hunters who want an affordable black-flash camera that, while not entirely invisible, is a step up from a traditional infrared cam.
Moultrie Outfitter No-Glow C-50
The Lowdown: This Cabela’s exclusive features Black Flash and three operational modes: day and night motion-triggered photos up to 5 megapixels; time-lapse with daytime motion-triggered photos; or time-lapse by day and motion-triggered photos by night. The C-50 also records video with sound. The Illumi-Night sensor captures bright, clear nighttime images. External LCD shows image count and battery life. The C-50’s flash was barely visible but only when viewed from a few feet away.
Hits: Excellent flexibility; flash range up to 60 feet under ideal conditions; laser aiming function.
Misses: Maximum night video length is only 10 seconds; uses size C batteries; can be mounted only with strap (no 1⁄4 x 20 socket).
Who Should Buy: Hunters looking for the ideal combination of quality, versatility, and value in a black-flash camera.
Stealth Cam Sniper Shadow
The Lowdown: The Sniper Shadow has 54 No Glo Night Vision LEDs but to save battery life can be switched to use just 36 for subjects under 20 feet away. The camera records video, time-lapse photos, and daytime images up to 8 megapixels. Burst mode takes up to nine frames. Includes mounting bracket, 1⁄4 x 20 socket, an external LCD that shows image count, and a separate external battery indicator. Flash was barely visible only when viewed from a few feet away. Shop around and you’ll find it as low as $160.
Hits: Most compact unit tested; wide detection zone; test unit easily exceeded the specified 40‑foot detection range; high-quality day and night photos.
Misses: Close-range night photos are washed out if flash is set on high; comparatively slow trigger.
Who Should Buy: Hunters looking for a very small camera with image quality that allows for close evaluation of antler growth.
From the August 2012 issue of Field & Stream magazine.
Photo by Yasu + Junko