Three Things To Consider When Buying A Trail Camera

A good trail camera is the perfect tool to let you know when a big buck has moved into your hunting area.

trail camera
A good trail camera is a fun tool for figuring out what kinds of wildlife lives in your area.Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

A good trail camera can alert you to the fact that a big 12-pointers is hanging around your favorite hunting area or a potential burglar is loitering behind your garage—both good pieces of information to have. Many trail cams will shoot both still photographs and videos, and new advancements over the past few years have made most fairly simple to operate. All trail cameras are not created equal, though. To make a good selection, explore these three factors that vary from camera to camera—the camera’s photo capabilities, video capabilities and speed.

Photo Capabilities

Campark Trail Game Camera
This trail camera captures 14 megapixel still images and full HD 1080P video.Campark

Hunters have different photo quality requirements for their trail cams. While you might want a high-quality photo suitable for printing and framing, your hunting partner might just want to be able to count the number of points on a buck's antlers. Fortunately, there's a trail camera for each of you. On the photo side, a few things to consider are photo resolution (the more megapixels, the sharper the image), burst mode (will allow your camera to take several photos very quickly), and time-lapse mode (allows the camera to automatically take a picture at a certain interval regardless of whether the sensor is tripped). Make sure your camera also puts time and date stamps on each picture so you'll know exactly when that big buck passed by.

Video Capabilities

Moultrie A-30 12MP 60' HD Video
This compact trail cam shoots 15-second HD videos.Moultrie

Fifteen years ago, videos taken by trail cameras were nearly always sub-par and disappointing to watch. But that has changed drastically in recent years. Some important video considerations include resolution (the higher the resolution, the better the video), duration (how long of video clip the camera will shoot), time-lapse (records video at certain time intervals), and hybrid mode (takes both a photo and short video when sensor is tripped). You should also consider audio when making your purchase decision. Most models with video also take audio at the same time, but some don't, which could leave you disappointed. In the end, decide what features are important to you and choose your trail cam accordingly.

Speed & Recovery

Spypoint Link Micro-V 4G Cellular Trail Camera
This trail cam, which features cellular capabilities, has a .05-second trigger speed.Spypoint Link

If you have a really slow trail camera, a big buck can pass by without a photo being taken—or you just get a photo of his butt. The same can happen with someone sneaking through your backyard at night. That's why the speed of a trail cam and the related feature of recovery time are critical to your decision. Trigger speed is how fast a camera takes a photo once it detects motion. Speeds above about 1/2 second shouldn't even be considered. Recovery time is how long it takes the camera to reset for another shot after taking a picture. Slower recovery times mean less chance of getting a second pic of the buck you've been hoping will visit your hunting area.