Wildlife Cameras – The Buyers Guide 2019 – 2020

Buyers Guide To Trail Cameras Remote Cameras

Trail/wildlife cameras are an amazing invention traditionally used to capture images and/or videos of animals in their natural habitat. These cameras are popular with nature enthusiasts because they allow us to gain unique insights into the natural world, but there are other reasons why you may want to buy a wildlife/train camera.

Why Buy A Trail/Wildlife Camera?

You can simply leave these remote cameras at a location (e.g. on a tree in a forest or rainforest) and it will capture the nearby movements of any nearby creatures. This will allow the viewer (you) to catch a glimpse of the secret life of animals, but even if you don’t want to become the next David Attenborough you can still use these cameras for a range of other purposes.

  • Trail/wildlife cameras are used for property and land surveillance so you can protect your home, land or neighbourhood from fly tipping, trespassing and robbery.
  • You can use the cameras to protect local wildlife from poachers and animal abuse.
  • If you have livestock you can use these cameras to keep an eye on your animals and protect them against theft.
  • You can use the cameras to keep an eye on important machinery.
  • Wildlife/trail cameras can also be used to keep track of endangered species.
  • Many people also choose to use trail/wildlife cameras for hunting purposes as it makes it a lot easier to track the movement of your prey.

If you are interested in investing in a trail/wildlife camera read on for our buyers guide where you will learn more about your options and what to look out for.

What Do These Cameras Look Like?

Trail cameras normally come in the form of a small, waterproof box with a lens that enables it to take pictures. The boxes can be attached to a tree or other upright objects and they tend to be camouflaged in order to prevent detection. The camera’s controls are hidden inside the box.

The beauty of these cameras is that you don’t need to be there to oprorate them. All you have to do is set the camera up, attach it to a tree or other objects, and leave it to do its job. You are then able to come back at any time to check on your camera.

Technical Aspects

Different cameras will have different features and it can be hard to tell from reading the product descriptions how well the camera will actually hold up in real life. However, there are some things you can look out for to ensure that you get the best possible deal for your money.

Infrared Vs Incandescent Flash

You may well be leaving the camera in a location all night it will need to be able to take pictures at night, and in order to do that, it will need to have some kind of flash system which will enable you to see the images if they are taken in darkness. When you are looking to buy a trail/wildlife camera you will have the choice between cameras which use infrared light and those which use incandescent flash. Both options have their own pros and cons so you will need to base your decision on which pros are most important to you.

Battery Life

Trail/wildlife cameras operate without human intervention. This is great because you can record all night without actually having to be there all night, but the downside is that you won’t know if the camera runs out of battery and dies before it is able to record everything you need.

You will need to look out for the specified battery life to ensure it will last long enough. Infrared light flashes require less power to operate (around 20-40 times less than a camera which uses incandescent flash) and so infrared cameras are likely to have a longer battery life. Incandescent flash cameras can give you brighter and more detailed images, but the downside is that they use more power in order to achieve these results and so may die quicker.

Picture Quality

Cameras need light in order to take a picture and bright flashes light up the surroundings so that the camera is able to produce a clearer and more detailed image. Cameras which use infrared flash can only take black and white images and can offer less resolution and general image quality than incandescent counterparts simply because there is not as much light to work with.

Flash

Incandescent cameras use the same flash system that is featured on most modern cameras. When these cameras take a picture they will flash a very bright light which will light up the area they are photographing. This means that the pictures will be more detailed and offer a higher resolution and better general image quality, but the obvious downside is that this sudden flash of bright light is likely to scare off the animals or humans you were trying to observe.

Infrared light, on the other hand, is barely visible to the naked eye. The images may not be as bright or detailed, but once the camera has taken its first image an infrared flash is far less likely to scare off the subjects that you are trying to photograph or video.

Timing

The trigger time/recovery time listed on the camera refers to how quickly after taking one picture the camera can take another. This is important because, as you are not there in person, you may want the camera to take as many images as possible so you don’t miss out on anything. Infrared cameras have virtually no trigger time difference in the night or in the day, whereas incandescent cameras tend to be slower at night. That means that infrared cameras can give you more frequent images, although those images will naturally be darker and less detailed.

Other Features

Now that you know what types of flash are available we can move on to the other considerations you should keep in mind when buying a trail or wildlife camera.

Detection

If you are hoping to capture images of animals (whether for educational, general interest or hunting purposes) you will need to think about detection distance. This refers to how far away an animal can be from the camera in order for the camera to detect those animals movements and take a picture of them.

Many wildlife cameras have a narrow detection range which means that the animal has to be very close to the camera lens in order for them to be detected. It is a good idea to pick a camera with the widest detection range possible if you are hoping to find more animals, although this would depend on where the camera is and what you are hoping to capture.

Sensitivity

Motion sensors are all well and good, but they are normally unable to differentiate between a person, an animal or a tree blowing in the wind. Many trail cameras will come with an adjustable sensitivity option which will let you control how sensitive the camera’s motion sensors are so you won’t waste precious battery every time a bush moves.

Megapixels

Trail/wildlife cameras measure the image resolution in megapixels just the same as any other digital camera. The more megapixels there is the clearer the image will be, but whilst regular digital cameras tend to have fairly high megapixel ranges (you can now buy phones which come with 20+ megapixels) a trail camera is likely to have 7 megapixels max.

The more megapixels a camera has does suggest that the camera will offer better quality images, but it is not always a guarantee. Before you make a purchase make sure you have checked the sample photographs (if available) and customer reviews to get a good idea of how the camera performs in reality.

Camera Modes

Some trail/wildlife cameras can be used to take videos as well as pictures. This is likely to use more battery, but it is a good choice if you want video footage and more detailed information. Some cameras also allow you to take photo-bursts which will take multiple pictures over a short period of time. This may take up more space, but it will allow you to capture more without having to use the video feature.

The type of camera you buy will depend on what you want to capture. Think about whether a video feature is necessary for your goals and if the photo-burst feature will be necessary.

Security Features

You will be leaving your trail/wildlife camera on its own and therefore it is at risk to theft. You can protect your camera from theft by purchasing a security box which will feature a padlock system and will make it a lot harder for a thief to take the box away. Of course, the camera may well take pictures of the thief, but if you don’t know where the camera is this won’t be much use to you.

You can also set up password protection and buy padlocks to stop anyone else opening the camera, but unfortunately itself other features will not stop anyone actually stealing the box itself. Some cameras have the ability to send a picture to your mobile phone. This is likely to eat into the battery life, but it could prove useful in terms of security if the camera could send you an image of the thief and/or the cameras current whereabouts.

If possible it may be a good idea to insure the camera so you are protected against theft just-in-case (read the small print as not all insurance policies actually protect you against theft)

Memory

When you buy a trail/wildlife camera you may have to choose between internal and external memory. The internal memory means that you won’t have to buy an additional SD memory card, but it is a lot harder and more expensive to upgrade internal memory.

External memory (such as memory cards) can be removed at will and can be easily upgraded by simply buying a card with a larger memory capacity. Memory cards are also a lot easier to use if you want to view your images on a laptop or digital camera.