Best Trail Camera of 2018 – Complete Reviews with Comparison
Over the course of the last few years, choosing a trail camera became more difficult than it once was.
Advancing technology has made finding the right trail camera for you a more involved experience than you might have thought.
For a relatively simple tool that takes pictures when things move past it, there are certainly ample variations of options that can make it difficult to choose what you’re looking for.
Regardless of the trail camera configuration you’re looking for, we’ve narrowed down some of the five best ones to make your life a tad easier.
- 1 Comparison Chart
- 2 Best Trail Camera Reviews
- 2.1 1. TEC.Bean 12MP 1080P Game and Trail Hunting Camera
- 2.2 2. ENKEEO PH730S Trail Camera 1080P 12MP HD Wildlife Game Hunting Cam
- 2.3 3. VENLIFE Trail Camera, 12MP Full HD 1080P 90° PIR Sensor Wildlife Hunting Camera
- 2.4 4. AKASO 14MP Trail Camera Night Vision 1080P Hunting Camera
- 2.5 5. Bushnell 16MP Trophy Cam HD Essential E3 Trail Camera
- 3 BUYER'S GUIDE
- 4 F.A.Q.
- 5 FINAL VERDICT
Best Trail Camera Reviews
1. TEC.Bean 12MP 1080P Game and Trail Hunting Camera
Choosing the TEC.BEAN Game and Trail Camera for our top five was a no-brainer. The camera comes with many features that make it the ideal camera for even extreme hunting. It’s a great addition to your hunting tools and one that offers many features that make the higher price worth it.
This camera is very well known for its rapid trigger speed that ensures you’re not missing any movement, and its high-resolution HD image and video. The camera functions in temperatures ranging from -130°F to 120°F, and is non-condensing.
One of the best features with the TEC.BEAN camera is the password feature, which prevents the theft or misuse of your photos and videos. You can install an additional 32GB with the embedded SD card support, so you can store more footage. The game camera has multiple languages, a 2.0” color LCD, and JPEG photo sizes vary from 12MP to 2MP.
What's to like about the TEC.Bean 12MP 1080P Game and Trail Hunting Camera
One of the things we like the most about this camera is the ability to manage pictures and videos from the camera itself, whereas with other brands, it needs to be done on a computer.
The sound is always clear, as are the videos and images, which also happen to include date and time stamps. Another added benefit is how stable it is in unpredictable weather conditions; the camera didn’t shut down in freezing temperatures. The wide-angle view is a definite benefit, and we like how quickly camouflaged it is.
What's not to like about the TEC.Bean 12MP 1080P Game and Trail Hunting Camera
For the most part, the TEC.BEAN camera is a well-rounded device, but it takes 8AA batteries, and they die within a few days. We find that can be a hassle when the camera is mounted on a different property.
The file sizes are also quite large, and if you don’t move your stored data to a computer, it automatically deletes it and replaces it with new images it needs to make room for. Unfortunately, the internal storage on the camera is rather small so purchasing an additional SD card is necessary.
2. ENKEEO PH730S Trail Camera 1080P 12MP HD Wildlife Game Hunting Cam
The remarkable features and package contents that come with the Enkeeo Trail Camera make it as tough and resilient as a soldier, and just as versatile. Many customers have a strong love for this camera, and we were one of them. Its decent price makes it a must-have for every consumer looking for a hunting cam.
This Enkeeo Trail Camera is an entirely full-featured game camera that has everything you could look for. It offers a 120-degree detection angle, with a trigger speed of 0.2 to 0.6 seconds. It has adjustable functions that let you set timers to take pictures regardless of whether the motion sensor has been activated.
Image resolution ranges from 12MP to 1MP, while video resolution offers four settings. The camera has 11 languages, is IP54 waterproof, and password protected.
What's to like about the ENKEEO PH730S Trail Camera 1080P 12MP HD Wildlife Game Hunting Cam
Outside of the excellent price, we like the resolution on the Enkeeo Trail Camera. We were able to choose between a few options for both our pictures and videos, which made it easy to capture clear images.
The audio quality is worth mentioning, and there is a setting to turn it off if it’s not something that’s needed. Another feature that we like is the automatic transition from color to black and white for night mode. It also comes with very detailed instructions to adjust the many features.
What's not to like about the ENKEEO PH730S Trail Camera 1080P 12MP HD Wildlife Game Hunting Cam
As Mac users, we found downloading speeds to be a bit slow with the provided USB cable, and there weren’t any Mac instructions available. The included screws seemed to strip easily, and finding an adapter for AC power was challenging because the port is small.
Instances of “white out” made it difficult to see what was recording during the night; however, it didn’t last long. Additionally, the manufacturer seems to have a short return policy that doesn’t benefit consumers.
3. VENLIFE Trail Camera, 12MP Full HD 1080P 90° PIR Sensor Wildlife Hunting Camera
As one of the highest rated trail cameras, we were swept away with the number of features that came packed with this small device. We were even more shocked once we got a look at the price. The VENLIFE 12MP trail cam also has a broad list of extra features such as a wireless remote controller with seven buttons, and it gives the others a run for their money.
The VENLIFE 12MP Trail Camera has everything you need to take detailed colored images. It has a 90° and 65-foot detection circuit, and upgraded imaging sensors to provide better picture and video results in lower lighting. With the built-in red-glow technology, you can capture images at night without the worry of the game getting scared off. Additionally, it has five different capture modes and 1920x1080 video that includes audio.
What's to like about the VENLIFE Trail Camera, 12MP Full HD 1080P 90° PIR Sensor Wildlife Hunting Camera
This camera is one of the best trail cams that we’ve seen for such a low price. The specifications of the camera were better than we had expected, and we like that we can adjust both the video and picture quality to suit our needs.
It’s easily mounted to a trees and doesn’t use a lot of battery power. The remote control makes it a breeze to make changes to any settings on the menu, and it worked well even in the rain.
What's not to like about the VENLIFE Trail Camera, 12MP Full HD 1080P 90° PIR Sensor Wildlife Hunting Camera
There isn’t much to dislike about this trail camera because of the features and the price point, but it is slightly inconvenient to have to make a separate order for batteries and a TF card.
We also found that while outdoor audio was good quality, the indoor sound seemed to be broken up and have some static with it. The instructions were also difficult to comprehend.
4. AKASO 14MP Trail Camera Night Vision 1080P Hunting Camera
This camera is added to the list as one of the newer additions, but it’s affordability, features, and performance ensured that it couldn’t be left out. The camera was put together in one compact design that makes it easy to hide, and carry, not to mention that the 2.4-inch LCD makes viewing high-quality images and video a breeze.
The Akaso 14MP Trail Camera has 14MP photos with 1080P video. The images and video are vividly displayed on a 2.4-inch screen, and the audio is very clear. Additionally, 42 infrared LEDs without white flash capture wildlife and other motion efficiently, while the detection on the trail cam ranges up to 65 feet.
It features an IP66 protected case that makes it waterproof and dust proof, and the trigger speed is a fast 0.4 seconds.
What's to like about the AKASO 14MP Trail Camera Night Vision 1080P Hunting Camera
The affordability of this camera made it hard to pass up, and it was definitely worth the price. We enjoyed being able to view photos and videos without having to remove the SD card, and it was very convenient to be able to adjust the settings to take both photo and video.
The image quality was perfect, and the trail cam was undetectable when mounted to a tree. We also liked being able to fit the camera in the palm of the hand. For everything it offers, it’s small in size.
What's not to like about the AKASO 14MP Trail Camera Night Vision 1080P Hunting Camera
Unfortunately, this trail camera doesn’t work with standard SD cards and only takes micro SD, so other SD cards that we had were useless with it. It doesn’t have GPS geotagging like many other trail cameras have, and we did notice some blank image captures at night during colder weather.
5. Bushnell 16MP Trophy Cam HD Essential E3 Trail Camera
Bushnell is very well known for its dependable trail cameras, and the E3 is just that. It might be the last on the comparison list, but it’s certainly not the least. There are plenty of features that make it obvious why it’s one of the more expensive of the five trail cams. However, is it worth the price? Let’s find out.
The Bushnell E3 has a red-glow flash that helps with taking pictures at night, and the interpolated 16MP camera makes way for clear daytime photos. The trail cam has a detection range that runs up to an impressive 80 feet, while picture trigger speed is at 0.17s.
There are multiple settings that you can adjust to meet your specifications, and the programming of the camera is relatively straightforward. The camera takes 8 AA lithium batteries, and while you can use rechargeable ones, it’s not suggested.
What's to like about the Bushnell 16MP Trophy Cam HD Essential E3 Trail Camera
Undoubtedly one of the best features of the Bushnell E3 is the clarity of the daytime pictures. They are bright, have incredible depth, and adjust for different lighting conditions.
The waterproof design is something else that makes it appealing, along with being able to use a standard SD card. The sizes of the files aren’t as large as some other cameras, so we were able to store a couple of thousand photos on an 8GB SD card.
What's not to like about the Bushnell 16MP Trophy Cam HD Essential E3 Trail Camera
Unlike the daytime photos, the night images weren’t nearly as impressive. They are still decent quality, but given the clarity of night-mode pictures from Bushnell’s previous models, we weren’t overwhelmed.
Additionally, the battery life is extremely below average, regardless of the type of batteries used. There’s also an occasional hiccup with the recovery mode that was noticed in every 10th to 20th picture.
Depending on the trail camera that you’re looking at, there are going to be different features that catch your eye. However, all cameras have essential elements included its components, and that’s what we’re looking at today.
While the higher the megapixels, the better the resolution of your photo, it shouldn’t be a deciding factor when purchasing a trail camera because there are factors that need to be considered. Your camera might suggest that it’s shooting at 12MP, but because of interpolation, that’s not the case.
Essentially, interpolation splits the current pixels instead of creating more of them. However, you don’t need to worry; unless you’re hanging your photos on giant billboards, a low megapixel number is fine. The only accurate way to confirm your photo quality is to test your camera at different megapixels. Keep in mind that your night photos should be kept at a low setting.
The detection circuit of your trail camera refers to the distance that the sensors can detect any motion that triggers the camera’s picture capturing or video sequence. Typically, long-range cameras are used in the wild, as the movement from upwards of 100 feet can be detected.
If you have a low range of area that you need covered, then cameras with less than a 60-foot detection range could be acceptable, though the standard range of distance is 60-70 feet.
Trigger Speed and Recovery
By definition, the trigger speed on a trail camera is the amount of time from when a camera first picks up the motion to when it captures the photo of what set off the sensors. The trail cam’s recovery speed is the amount of time it takes the camera to reset itself to take the second triggered photo after the first is captured.
Logically, the faster the trigger and recovery speed, the higher the amount of picture and video surveillance data you get.
When you’re purchasing a trail camera, it’s good to understand the type of flash that it comes with, and whether or not it suits your needs. In most cases, there are three primary types of flash that you can get with your trail cam, and that’s what we are breaking down.
Trail cameras that come with white flash have an effect that’s similar to a digital camera. The flash is a white light that goes off at night to capture the image of what trigged the sensors, but it’s not recommended if you’re taking pictures of anything you don’t want to scare off.
No-glow and low-glow (red-glow) cameras work the same way. They take the photo at night, but instead of white light, the camera gives off a red glow from the IR (infrared) emitters. It’s faint, commonly missed, and the most recommended cam for hunters who don’t wish to scare off the game. No-glow cameras do the same; however, the image quality is slightly lower as it doesn’t emit any light whatsoever.
Many variables need to be taken into consideration when seeking the best battery for your trail camera. Things such as your photo and video settings are going to affect the longevity of your camera’s batteries. Under normal circumstances, the two types of batteries that get used in trail cams are lithium, and nickel metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries.
Most trail camera manufacturers don’t recommend using rechargeable batteries, as they aren’t created equally, can be unreliable, and cause the power to drain quickly. If you do use them, you should set realistic expectations and understand that rechargeable batteries have life expectancies that lower after each charge and that they are designed to discharge after being removed from the charging station. While it might cost you a few extra dollars, manufacturers recommend AA lithium batteries from brands such as Energizer and Duracell.
Why is My Trail Camera Not Taking Pictures?
There are a few things that could cause your trail cam to stop taking pictures and video, but the majority of the time it relates to storage or low batteries.
If you are using rechargeables, the battery’s life expectancy shortens with each charge, so it’s best to invest in lithium AA batteries from Duracell or Energizer.
The internal storage on your trail cam isn’t that much. While some cameras automatically delete older data that hasn’t gotten moved to a computer, some simply stop taking pictures.
How do You Use a Moultrie Game Camera?
The first step in using your Moultrie Game Camera is selecting your camera type. If you prefer an infrared lens, go with the I-series, and choose the D and M-series if you like the white flash. You can use the mounting strap that comes with the camera to prep it for taking photos.
Ensure that you use your included owner’s manual to learn how to adjust your camera’s settings to suit all of your needs. That’s where you can set up date and time, as well as change temperature settings. Once you have the trail cam mounted, you turn the switch to the “on” position and make sure “auto” mode is enabled. From there, your Moultrie camera takes pictures based on the settings you selected.
What to Look for in a Trail Camera?
With the range of trail cameras that are on the market, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the selection, especially if you don’t understand what to look for. Consider these important features when buying a trail cam.
- Megapixels: Typically, more megapixels result in higher resolution photos. However, this shouldn’t be a deciding factor unless you require HD images
- Batteries: A significant factor is battery life. Look for cameras with high battery standby time, as well as ones that offer a high number of pictures for each set of batteries. Also, consider the size; four AA batteries are less expensive than 4 D batteries over the course of time
- Settings: Purchasing a trail camera that has multiple photo and video settings is ideal. It gives you the option of taking photos only when motion is detected or taking photo and video at specified times
- LCD Screen: If you want to see your photos without uploading them to your computer, purchase a camera that has an LCD screen
- Advanced Features: Some cameras allow you remote access to your photos. If controlling your camera from your smartphone is ideal, look into the advanced features the trail cam offers
How to Program a Trail Camera?
Programming your trail camera is simple, however, depending on the camera that you have, the setup is going to vary. Typically, once you power on your trail camera, your home screen lights up and gives you the information you need. You should enter the set-up menu through the home screen, or through the mode button.
You can use your camera's buttons to navigate through your settings, while the enter or home button allows you to go into your selected configuration to make changes. It’s best to consult with your owner’s manual before making any changes.
Which Trail Cameras Send Pics to Phones?
Smartphones have become incredibly convenient, and it’s only logical that you’d want your footage transmitted to your cellphone. There are plenty of options available for those who want trail cameras that have the cellular capability.
The best of the best of the mobile game cameras include Reconyx SC950C Cellular, Spypoint Link-S, HCO Spartan 3G NOGLOW, Covert Code Black, Moultrie Wireless Field Modem, Stealth Cam GXW, and others.
After comparing these five trail cameras against one another and matching up specifications, we found one stood out amongst the rest. We looked at components such as added features, user-friendliness, image quality, trigger speed, and battery life to make our decision, and the VENLIFE 12MP Full HD Trail Camera is our choice.
While there were a few cons to the VENLIFE trail camera, there was no way that they beat out the incredible features and add-ons that came with this very affordable trail camera. With it including everything from high definition photo and video to a 65-foot detection circuit and multiple extra features, it’s safe to say that this trail camera has everything that you need.