We took 11 trail cameras and put them side-by-side for an overall comparison to determine which camera is best for you.
First thing's first: comparing some trail cameras to others can be like comparing a diesel pickup truck to a hybrid sedan.
Most trail camera tests focus on trigger speed, recovery speed, battery life, image, and video quality. That is great, if the cameras all did one specific thing or served one purpose.
But we understand that some cameras and manufacturers focus on the consumer. Not every trail camera can perform and do the things you want them to do. What I mean by that is there is no ultimate diesel-hybrid pickup truck that has an amazing towing capacity, the best gas mileage, an outstanding warranty, and is marked to sell.
Trail cameras are very similar in that aspect, so we tested each of the 11 trail cameras in different scenarios, comparing everything from their warranty to their video-audio quality.
What we found is that each camera has its own perks and of course some out performed others, but overall each camera stood out amongst the others in one way or another.
The Bushnell Trophy Cam HD was a leading competitor in many areas. Its trigger speed tied at number one, capturing clear image photos up to 25mph. That combined with image and video quality put this at the top of the list. It set the pace for distance captured, as it went out to 125 feet. However other cameras did reach the same distance as well.
It lost a few points mostly for nighttime operation. With No-Glow technology, the cameras are completely undetectable, however not without some sacrifice. Overall this camera would be great for any and all operations, from video to still photos, bait piles to game trails, but it doesn't come without a price.
Pros: Trigger Speed, Detection Distance, Recovery Speed, Color Viewer, No-Glow, Quality Images
This camera was one of the most impressive cameras of the group. Its photo and video quality from such a compact sized camera was outstanding. It had the best video quality of all the cameras combined, and records audio as well. The SpecOps also includes a 2" color display to view images in the field or to ensure you have the camera set up in the right spot. Overall, this trail camera is marked at a great price and offers great quality. The only gripe is the SD card and the fact that it's tough to remove at times.
Pros: Trigger Speed, Detection Distance, Recovery Speed, Color Viewer, No-Glow, Quality Images, Crisp Video Images
Cons: SD card extraction
When we think of trail cameras, we don't really think that a big box store camera could keep up with the pack. Not only did the Cabela's Outfitter Plus keep up, it lead the pack in many senses. This camera had by far the best audio quality of any of the other cameras and was above average on all the tests.
Its affordability will make this a favorite for many. It includes a 2" color display to review your photos right in the field and also captured photos out to 125 feet.
Pros: Audio Quality, Affordability, No Glow IR, Color Display, Distance Detection
Cons: Battery life
The Exodus Lift II comes in at a tie for fourth place in performance but also a tie for overall fastest trigger speed. This camera is built to last and has a lot of cool options. The Exodus Lift II had solid quality in photo and video both day and night. What separates this camera from the others is its warranty. This is the only camera on the market, that we are aware of, that has a theft warranty.
It also is a consumer direct camera, meaning it ships directly from the warehouse to the consumer. There is no mark up and no middleman, which helps several companies keep the costs down and competitive. Although that is not included in the performance numbers, it surely does help when deciding on a purchase.
Pros: Trigger Speed, Warranty, Color View Screen, Plenty of Customizations and Options
Cons: New and overall unproven
An outstanding camera and tied at fourth in the overall performance and quality, the Browning Defender is very unique in that it comes built completely different from other cameras. It has a rubber outer shell and it slides into a box that attaches to the tree. A really cool feature with this and the other Browning cameras is its ability to adjust vertically, which replaces any wedges or sticks you may previously used.
This trail camera stands out in that it can connect via Wi-Fi as well as Bluetooth. Some get confused thinking this camera is a wireless camera that sends photos remotely to your phone or email, however that is not the case. This camera connects directly to your phone with a Wi-Fi range of 60 yards. That allows you the ability to check your camera without actually touching it, which can help in many ways.
Pros: Detection Distance, Trigger Speed, Recovery Speed, Image Quality, Video Quality
Cons: Camera uses a micro SD card and uses four CR123 batteries. This is not necessarily a con, especially because the batteries are included with the purchase, however it may come as a surprise if you are not prepared.
Moultrie for some has been a hit or miss in the camera game. My first time splurging on a camera was a Moultrie M-80 and I loved that camera. It lasted for years and had great quality images. The Moultrie S-50i is nothing shy of improvement.
This camera failed to keep up with the other cameras in the trigger speed test, but still captured great photos at 10mph. Often when you're running a trail camera over a bait pile, none of that matters much anyway. Where it lacked in trigger speed, it made up for in all other aspects, which earned this camera the sixth spot in performance.
Pros: Detection Distance, Image Quality, Video and Audio Quality, 2 Year Warranty
Cons: Lacks in high speed trigger test however worked fine at 10mph and below.
This camera (for its price) is ultimately one of the better choices. This camera has an outstanding trigger reset and actually captured the pickup truck twice in one passing at 35 feet at 15 miles per hour. The quality of its video is where is loses a few points. Compared to the other cameras the video was not as crisp, however they also are only advertised at 720p and not 1080p like some of the other cameras, therefore it is excusable.
The Browning StrikeForce HD is very simple to set up and has a lot of features. It only takes six batteries and also has a color display built in the camera to view your photos out in the field if you wish. Like the other Browning cameras, this too has an adjustable bracket to pivot the camera downward after it's secured.
Pros: Recovery Speed, Detection Distance, Price, Size, Ease of Use, Image quality
Cons: Video quality
The Covert Red Maverick is another camera featuring the 2" display to be able to view your images in the field. It has a lot of great qualities, however it did not do well in the high speed (15mph and above) test. It did very well at 10mph and below however and was able to capture photos all the way out to 120'.
The image quality is crisp and clean and the video quality was good as well. There audio is very low with the video, so unfortunately it lost a few points because of that. Overall this camera performed well.
Pros: Detection distance, Image Quality, Recovery Speed
Cons: Very low audio, High speed footage
This was the camera that I actually expected to be one of the worst on the list, but it performed surprisingly well. The quality of the images are one of the best cameras on the list and it really does work to capture photos at 360 degrees.
The only issue we really had with this camera was during the field test in the morning, the camera was set up 50 feet off the edge of a bean field and as the sun would rise a few mornings, moisture fogged up the camera lens. Outside of that, this camera captured deer walking by it that we would have never seen if it wasn't a 360 degree camera. A great scouting tool for areas with high numbers of deer or heavy deer traffic.
The WGI 360 Cam can be used like a normal trail camera facing one direction or set up to detect 360 degrees. I did notice in the field test using video where deer walk, it was not a good idea as it does not follow the deer.
So if the deer comes into frame walking right to left and you have your camera set up for a 30 second video, it will get a short clip of the deer walking but as the deer walks by it will not follow the deer. I found it best if you are trying to capture deer on a runway or where they are prone to walk, to just keep it on image capture with a short delay rather than video.
Pros: Detection distance, Image quality, 360 Degree Detection Radius,
Cons: No Audio with Video, Moisture/fogging control
10. Moultrie A-30
This is Moultrie's entry level, all purpose series camera, the Moultrie A-30. This camera replaces the A-5 and A-20 and is our least expensive camera on the list. Like we mentioned, you can't compare apples to oranges, but this camera did exceptionally well for its price. You lose the color display that you have in the Moultrie A-50i camera, but that's no surprise. The camera was simple to set up, however I recommend keeping the users manual close by to understand what each screen reads as some of the words were hard to depict.
Overall this camera has fairly decent image quality. It did lose points in the video test as the video quality is not much to brag about and features no audio. If you are on a budget and want a simple camera for images over a bait pile, this camera will easily get the job done.
Pros: Detection Distance, Image Quality, Reset Speed, Trigger Speed
Cons: Video quality, No/Low Audio with Video, No color display
Don't let this camera being at the end of the list fool you, this camera is packed full with quality and there is no specific order. Some points were lost during the test as it failed to keep up with the other cameras in the distance detection. After 55' the camera only triggered photos going from left to right, however still managed to detect photos out to 100'.
If you are looking for simplicity, this is your best choice. If you are thinking Dad or Grandpa wants a camera but won't know how to use it, this is a great gift for them. The slide action buttons inside the camera make this fool proof and is probably the easiest camera to run on the market. The image quality is great and was a top contender for quality night time photos. Overall it's a camera that lost points for distance detection but makes up for it everywhere else.
Pros: Trigger Speed, Video Quality, Audio Quality, Image Quality
Cons: Distance Detection
So now that we have taken a quick look at the cameras we used during this test, let's see how they performed overall. We will break it down and show you photos from the field, discuss the distance detection test, compare video and audio quality, as well as show some night time photos.
Image Comparison: Day & Night (Click Image to View Full Size)
1. Bushnell 24MP Trophy Cam HD - No Glow
2. Browning SpecOps Extreme
3. Cabela's Outfitter Plus 20MP
4. Exodus Lift II
5. Browning Defender 850
6. Moultrie S-50i
7. Browning StrikeForce HD Pro
8. Covert Red Maverick
9. Wildgame Innovations 360
10. Moultrie A-30
11. Primos Proof Gen 2-02
Video And Audio Comparison
See below as Dustin compares the video and audio quality of each camera.
Trigger Speed Test
So it may sound very redneck, but we took to trigger speed at just below what a deer's top speed is. We drove at intervals of 25, 20, 15, and 10 miles per hour in front of the camera at 35 feet. We chose 35 feet because after our distance detection test, we felt that 35 feet from the cameras were optimal for all.
We used the front of the truck as the reference to judge the trigger speed. If the camera was able to capture the full truck from front to back it received a max score of 1. Anytime the camera would capture just the front of the truck we also gave it a max score of 1.
Based on the photo, we used a percentage of the truck that it did capture. Therefore if the truck drove from right to left and the front of the truck is already out of frame but fifty percent of the truck remains captured, we gave the camera a half of a point. On a scale of zero to one, depending on the percentage of the truck that the image captured, determined the score that camera received for that particular speed.
Below are the results:
KEEP IN MIND this is for comparison purposes only. Often times you won't find a deer running twenty-five miles per hour parallel to your camera, although it is possible. This was designed for comparison purposes only. All cameras performed very well at ten miles per hour and below, and most performed well even at fifteen miles per hour.
Distance Detection Comparison
This test consisted of counting the cameras consistency to take a full photo of the "deer" as well as measure how far it was capable of detecting motion. To get this as real as possible we used a lawn mower, with a shoulder mount of a deer attached to the front. The mower traveled at the same pace for the entire test, which was roughly three miles per hour, the pace of the average walking deer. We wanted this to be as realistic as possible so our independent variable was our distances. The controlled variables were the speed at which we traveled. The only dependent variable was that of the camera to detect motion and capture the deer in a full photo.
A couple cameras at five feet only captured the back end of the lawn mower, which we gave them half credit. Most of us want to see the deers body and most importantly it's head to get a judge of the deer. With this in mind, if the camera failed to take a photo at all or had a blank, it received a zero. Anytime the camera was able to capture the deer enough to justify what deer it was (full image) we would give it a one. The only in between scores were at five feet.
Below are the results:
This test was in no way intended to direct you to purchase any specific camera. Often times we want "the best" camera but as mentioned before, it would be like comparing a pick up truck to a sports car. Some of these cameras performed very well and surprised us with their performance.
This was conducted as a comparison test only to help you decide which camera best fits your needs. We hope this helps you in your decision and we look forward to seeing which camera you choose. Be sure to tag us on social media using the hashtag #MyWideOpenSpaces so we can see your trail camera photos.