One camera does not fit all. We tested 6 trail cams to see what each does best.
It’s tough to pick one best trail cam because we all have different hunting styles and need different features. I hunt in dense woods, so a field-scanning cam isn’t much help.
Along those lines, a cam that gives incredibly high resolution images isn’t my top priority because any shots I get, the game will be within a couple of yards.
But if you hunt on big fields, you might want time-lapse features, or a cam with a high-detection range and high resolution to zoom in on distant tines.
We checked out a handful of the latest cams to see if they excel at certain tasks. You’re likely to find one that fits your needs in this 2017 roundup. —John Geiger
- Reviews by John Geiger, Peter Gross, Terry Jacobs and Tony J. Peterson
The Public-Land Master
Browning is firing on all cylinders with their latest cam, the 20-megapixel Defender 850.
It’s loaded with features, but the most notable is its WiFi and Bluetooth functionality.
Download an app onto your smartphone and you can then remotely download images and manage your camera without contaminating the area.
That’s a big deal for public-land hunters, who need every advantage they can get. This camera’s physical setup is different from others.
Once you figure it out, you will realize it’s tiny, can be mounted at an angle, and can hold its own with the best cameras on the market.
I hung this camera about eight feet off the ground and angled it downward, which I do on public land.
After a week, I had full battery life and high-quality images of summer deer. This camera is a game-changer. $240 — TP
Video capability can change trail camera usage from an inventory tool to something next level.
This is most evident with Stealth Cam’s latest, which is the first camera to offer 4K ultra HD video.
For everything from spring turkey strutting to fall buck-rutting action, the videos this camera captures are incredible.
And if video isn’t your thing, the 30-megapixel camera will produce hi-res stills as well (or both, if you so choose).
If there is a downside to this camera, it’s that it offers too many options.
For most of us, that’s a good thing.
If it’s not, don’t worry because there are standard settings available that are extremely easy to set up.
The results from this camera are so impressive, it makes it hard to use anything else.
If you only buy one camera, the HD DS4K should be in contention for your top pick. $300 — TP
The Woods Filler
Wild game innovation has come a long way in their camera offerings, and that’s clearly evident in the new Mirage 16 LightsOut.
This 16-megapixel camera is capable of recording 720p HD videos and utilizes a 42-piece invisible flash.
It’s reasonably priced, but highly functional, making it ideal for any hunter who wants to saturate the woods with cameras in order to pin down a specific buck’s everyday movements.
I set up this camera on the edge of a food plot.
While navigating the menu is somewhat tedious and not overly user-friendly, the camera performed well — especially for daylight photos.
Some of my nighttime photos were blurry, but that has been the case with every camera I’ve ever used so it’s no big deal.
Overall, for the money, the Mirage 16 LightsOut is a solid choice. $130 — TP
I really liked the custom-start option, aim-detector and photo-resolution options.
But during the setup, I thought, “Man, are these buttons small.”
I do have very large fingers and had a hard time with the control panel. I use a lot of dog-training collars and receivers that excel at making the setup and control buttons accessible.
Cam companies could take a lesson from Garmin’s and Dogtra’s user interface. Originally the cam picked up every little movement of branches and grasses.
You can reduce the sensitivity to low; the factory default is high.
That “high” range would be best suited for an open-field location as opposed to the woods where I set up mine.
I also changed frequency from 3 to 30 seconds. The images were remarkably sharp.
I also experimented with video and multi-shot sequence options and was pleased with the results. $159 — PG
The Easy-Peasy Option
This cam bills itself as one of the easiest of all to set up. In fact, it took me less than 2 minutes to install the SD card, batteries, update time-and-date stamp and start taking photos.
That’s quick! The setup display inside of the camera is color-coded and that helps make it easier to get the right setting.
On a tree, the cam worked as claimed, and picked up every major movement in front of the sensor. Day and evening photos were crisp.
I like to set up my cams to take a single image at the highest possible resolution. The 16MP cam delivered.
I strapped it to a tree, spread out a few bags of attractant and got lots of good photos.
Also, if you set the cam up in a target-rich environment, consider a lower-resolution setting because even a 32-gig card can fill up quickly with a lot of activity. You might say we got too much of a good thing! $149 — TJ
The No-Glo Pro
Bushnell puts time into making sure their cams are easy to set up. There are five preset setup options to choose from, or you could go custom on all the settings.
I like a photo and a video with each trigger and used that pre-set setup option. The images were tack-sharp, especially since this is a super-high-resolution 24MB camera.
The cam also boasts a fast 0.2-second trigger speed, and an oft-overlooked quick reset speed, so it’s quickly ready for the next shot.
We’ve reviewed Bushnell cams in the past, and found them to be durable and reliable.
Expect long battery life from this cam. Another benefit is a free one-month subscription to DeerLab, a web-based system that helps you organize and track deer sightings and bring in various other factors, like weather and wind direction.
It’s a great way to pattern your biggest bucks. $229 — JG