Shopping for a trail camera the first time can be overwhelming. This First Time Buyers Guide give you the basics of what trail cameras do and how they do it.
Below will be many of the major categories of the cameras. This is intended to educate you on how to purchase the right trail camera for your needs. After reading this guide, we recommend filling out the Trail Camera Selection Guide. Don't get ahead of yourself though! It is most beneficial to read this guide first, so you know what qualities to look for when you start narrowing it down later.
Don't be fooled by high megapixel counts. Companies will try to trick you by advertising a camera with a high mpxl, but in reality, they use a low quality lens which reduces the quality of the picture.
The best way to judge the picture quality from a camera is to look at the sample photos from our game camera reviews. We judge day pictures by their clarity, color, contrast and resolution.
Notice the great color on the picture below? It is actually three pictures in one (from the Moultrie Panoramic 150).
Night photos can be tricky. There are different flash types that affect the night pictures (No glow infrared, red glow infrared, incandescent flash and white LED flash). Infrared cameras produce black and white photos like the picture on the left, while incandescent or white LED cameras produce color night pictures like the one on the right.
The detection circuit of a trail camera is what will actually detect the animal. Cameras trigger based off of a combination of heat and motion. Detection circuits consist of:
Trigger & Recovery Time
Trigger time is the amount of time a camera takes to snap a picture once the object has entered the detection zone. Recovery is how quickly a camera can store the first picture and be ready for the second picture. If you would like to view the trigger and recovery times from the different cameras, go the Trigger Speed Showdown.
Every camera trap has a Detection Zone. A Detection Zone is the area in front of the camera that the game camera is "monitoring." The two factors that determine the detection zone are Detection Width and Detection Range. For comprehensive data on Detection Zones, please review our Detection Zone Test.
Cameras with long battery life will save you money over the life of the camera. We are huge advocates of Nimh Rechargeable batteries. Why?
They save you bushels of money in the long run.
They increase your battery life in the cold winter months.
Less batteries in the landfills = cleaner environment for you and your kids
Lithium batteries give you the longest battery life, but they are a one time shot (and expensive).
Putting it all Together
What we have covered so far is just the basics. Game cameras are incredibly complex and each camera is unique in some way. Don't feel overwhelmed, we will walk you through the buying process.
For most folks, the next step is completing the Trail Camera Selection Guide. This guide takes your wants and needs into account and matches you up with the corresponding game cameras that fit.
Some of you have very specialized needs or concerns. Maybe you are looking for a cellular trail camera, a security camera or any other wide variety of needs.
If you are interested in the current draws of the cameras, read the Battery Consumption Test.
One of the most important decisions in the trail camera buying process is picking between Incandescent (Flash) Cameras and Infrared Cameras. Obviously, the biggest question is do YOU think the flash spooks animals (or intruders)?
The other thing to think about is quality of night photos. With an Incandescent Game Camera, night pictures will remain in color. They also have improved clarity and resolution making the picture much clearer. Infrared Trail Cameras are always black and white. The picture quality also varies between camera brands and night conditions. It is also important to take into consideration the range of the night flash of both cameras.