Choosing The Best Trail Cameras For You in 2021 (Review and Buying Guide)
Ah, trail cameras: the unsung hero of home security. Of course, they have other uses. Their roots are based in hunting and nature-watching - and many still use them for this purpose to this day. Increasingly though, trail security cameras are becoming more popular. Whether you’re looking for a high quality trail security camera, or you’re just after the best trail cameras for your foray into nature - this guide will equip you with all the knowledge you need.
The Trail Camera in 2021
Step aside, digital cameras. If you’re looking for reliable trail security cameras, or simply the perfect companion for the wilderness, you will want to do your research on the best trail cameras in 2020.
Trail cameras are activated by movement and body heat. That means no draining battery by keeping your camcorder running for hours on end - and it also means no human is physically needed at the scene to get your shot. Of course, this is ideal when we are talking about delicate situations - in the wild, at the office, or at home.
What’s more? If you invest in one of the best trail cameras or trail security cameras of 2020, you will experience crystal clear vision - day or night.
Top Ten Things to Look For when Buying a Trail Camera
When you begin your hunt (pardon the pun) for the best trail camera, you will want to look for a few non-negotiables to ensure high-quality, crisp imagery and videography, and the longevity and durability of the camera itself.
However, there are so many other things to consider when looking for the best trail cameras in 2020. A sophisticated device, the trail camera - specifically trail security cameras - need to be in perfect working shape to ensure your home, office, or leisurely needs are being met. There are many things to consider, depending on what is important to you.
Is high-quality image your non-negotiable - or is ease of use most important? Are you going to be using your trail camera in the wild, or for security purposes? Will your trail camera be used mostly during the day or during the night? Do you want to watch your footage in real time, or just have it available for download? How camouflaged do you want your trial security camera to be?
As you can see, we’ve just touched the surface of a plethora of variables when it comes to choosing the best trail cameras for you. Below, we go into a little more depth on the ten things you should consider when purchasing a trail camera.
When you’re shopping for the best trail cameras, one of the first things you should look for is the pixel count. Pixels are the things that, depending on how many of them there are, make an image high-quality. Is really high-quality, crisp image and video important to you? Then you will want to look for a higher-pixel camera. If it’s not so important, you can save some money and start with a lower-pixel trail security camera.
The most basic trail cameras start at 2-megapixels and go up in increments to 20-megapixels. Most trail camera enthusiasts agree that for decent pictures, at least 7-megapixels is recommended. Depending on whether you are planning on shooting at night or during the day, you will want to take into account a higher megapixel rate.
The higher the megapixel rate, often the more expensive the trail camera - and for good reason. You can read more about megapixel types below.
Okay - so if you’re looking for a trail security camera, you may not be a digital camera aficionado: you’re probably just looking for something to get the job done. You don’t need to be well-versed in all things digital cameras to know that trigger speed is a very important aspect of regular digital cameras and trail cameras alike.
When you enter the market for a trail security camera, you should look for trigger time. This is essentially the time it takes for your trail security camera to detect movement, and then to capture the image. There is huge variability in trigger time in trail cameras on the market. The best trail cameras can feature a trigger speed of as little as 0.14 seconds - and the slower ones, up to a few seconds lag time.
This is where your use for the camera will be of the utmost important. If you’re using it in wilderness, for hunting or nature-watching, you will want a very fast trigger time, so you don’t miss any important creatures flitting or running past. If you are in the market for a trial security camera for home or office use, trigger time is less of an important consideration.
Just like trigger times, recovery times on your future trail camera can seriously impact the quality of your experience.
Beyond just the time lapsed between the camera detecting movement and then capturing your shot, there are even more steps in the process that could potentially slow you down when it comes to recovery time.
Recovery time includes the trigger time - so how long it takes to detect motion and then capture an image - and then how long it takes to store the image, and get ready to capture the next one. A total recovery time of five seconds is considered very good in the best trail cameras, but often cheaper models can lag up to 15 seconds. Essentially this means, you lose 15 seconds of potential footage.
Just like with trigger times, it depends on how you plan to use your trail camera to decide how important of a factor this is.
More often than not, trail cameras are used at night - either to capture wildlife activity, or for home and office security purposes. Therefore, the best trail cameras offer one of three types of flash.
Classically, trail cameras will use a bright white flash (an LED or incandescent) to capture pictures of high-quality, even in dark surroundings. The quality of flash imagery is great however, you seriously risk losing your surreptitiousness in the process. The flash will go off just like one on your digital camera or phone. In short: an LED or incandescent flash makes it very clear that you have a trail camera hiding somewhere. There are options for a lower level flash, or a ‘low glow’ security trail camera, that retain quality while staying discrete.
The other type of flash is called an “invisible flash” - or infrared flash. Infrared flash is favoured by hunters and wildlife enthusiasts because of its discretion at night. It doesn’t set off any obvious lights, and therefore doesn’t disrupt the surrounding you are capturing. The overall quality of the image suffers, but in the best trail cameras, infrared flash is available at an impressive standard.
You might understand by now that when choosing the best trail cameras, it’s really all about speed. From trigger speed to recovery speed, you want to make sure you’re capturing your footage effectively while not missing out on anything else important in the meantime. Enter: a trail camera’s memory.
Luckily, almost all trail cameras perform with an SD card. An SD card is in-built storage for your trail camera. Once the image is captured, it’s uploaded right then and there to your SD card. Later, you can insert this directly into your computer or into a chip reader to see all that you captured.
It’s up to you to choose the right SD card to get what you want out of your camera. Firstly, we have to look at the class of the SD card. This is simply a carry-on of recovery time: how quickly the image can be transferred from the device to the card. These are measured in megabytes-per-second, and classes cover 2, 4, 6 and 10 megapixels.
Battery and Power
If you’re looking for a trail security camera for your home or office - battery life is something you will certainly want to consider. One of the most impressive features of the best trail cameras is how long it’s battery lasts - often between six months and a year.
This is one part of the buying process where we recommend steering away from some of the bells and whistles of more expensive and modern trail cameras. The more features, the more likely your battery will drain, stat. Look out for a battery indicator, too, so you can keep track of your usage.
When you’re looking for the best trail cameras, rechargeable batteries are the way to go. This means cameras should feature at least eight AA sockets to ensure you can charge up for long periods of time, time and time again.
Did you know that many of the modern best trail cameras feature an inbuilt viewing screen? Perhaps this is important to you if you are planning on surveying footage on the go. If that’s the case, you can view all your captured images and videos right there from your device - and delete on the spot to clear up memory.
If a viewing screen is important to you, keep in mind that it can bulk out the trail security camera slightly, meaning a decrease in the conspicuousness of the device. This is also often a cause for battery drainage more than other no-frills devices.
Detection range is something to seriously consider when searching for the best trail cameras. Whether you want to shoot your footage from a difference, or cover a large surface area, detection range dictates what your camera will pick up on from a certain distance.
There are a few things to consider when deciding whether detection range is of importance to you. Firstly, if you plan to be using your trail security camera mostly at night time, as this can reduce your device’s detection range.
Secondly, where you are planning to use your trail camera - and for what purpose. If you are using a trail security camera for a home or office premise, you can measure the distance that would best fit you, and find a trail camera with an appropriate detection range for your use.
In the daytime, the best trail cameras have a detection range, or distance capability, of around 30 metres. Cheaper or less developed models, however, can seriously differ in detection range.
One of the most important things to consider when making a substantial purchase for a trail security camera, is the security of the camera itself.
Out in the wilderness, you don’t need to worry as much about thieving, but in a home or office environment, you will want to protect your device with a high-quality security box.
Many of the best trail cameras come with one today, so it is worth doing your research into whether you would like to purchase a security box and trail security camera as a duo, or separately. This brings us to our last point...
There is such a huge range of pricing when it comes to purchasing trail security cameras. From a basic $50 purchase, to well into the thousands, it’s not always a case of ‘you get what you pay for’.
As we’ve explored above, some aspects of the best trail cameras are simply superfluous for certain uses. It all comes down to where you plan to use your trail camera, what you hope to capture on your trail camera, and the safety and security surrounding your trail camera.
Once you have weighed up all of these variables, you can find a best-fit on the market for your needs.
Some non-negotiables, according to us...
There is a tonne of wiggle-room when it comes to purchasing the best trail cameras for your needs. However, there are a few non-negotiables that we recommend - the bare minimum you will need for your purchase.
Firstly, no matter what purpose you are using your trail camera for, you want to avoid blurry footage. Whether it’s an animal in the wild or a thief casing your office, you will want clear intel on your subject. We recommend no less than 4-megapixels for your camera. However, you also don’t want to be fooled into thinking that more megapixels is equivalent to better images. Megapixels in a trail camera are interpolated - think of this as computer software ‘adding in’ extra megapixels, rather than the camera itself. Meaning, if a camera boasts 18-megapixels but is using interpolated pixels, it may not be worth the inflated price tag.
Okay - second up, we recommend having pretty decent storage. No matter what you’re using your camera for, you will want to be able to access your images - and a lot of them - easily. Above, we talked about speed classes. Well, it’s not a one-size-fits-all. When you’ve purchased your trail security camera, you first want to look at the minimum requirement of an SD card. Most modern trail security cameras can hold an SD with at least 32-gigabytes - and some of the best trail cameras can hold up to 512-gigabytes. This actually is one of those cases where more gigabytes equals more storage. If you’re looking for months of footage on one card - purchase a trail camera that offers a high class of SD card.
Finally, battery life is something that can not be compromised. No matter what your budget, we believe you should always prioritise battery life. There is nothing worse than losing half of your footage because of a shoddy batter. Just like in price, there is a huge variation of battery lives among the trail camera market. Some have a battery that lasts literal years, where others struggle to get through a month. You must also be aware that battery life for photos versus battery life for video capturing are two separate considerations. If you are planning on only capturing video, you will want one of the higher-performing trail cameras with a battery life to match.
When you purchase your trail security camera, keep the above considerations in mind. So many of these decisions will come down to where and how you plan to use your trail camera. The best trail cameras can be used interchangeably in the wilderness, or for security purposes. However, if you’re looking to stay on a budget, simply weigh up the variables we have gone over in this article. Now go off, and trail blaze with that shiny new trail camera!