If you have ever been to Sportsman’s Warehouse or Cabela’s and looked at the wall of trail cams, you know what we are talking about when we say it can get overwhelming.
First off, they all lie about their specs, and so what’s on the box isn’t that helpful in telling you just how well it’s going to perform in the woods. So that why we bought nine trail cams and did over 100 hours of testing, so you don’t have to!
Right out of the gate, we are going to tell you that the Stealthcam is our pick for the best performer. The problem is, though, that the Stealthcam is also the most expensive option on the table. In the end, though, we found that it’s just kind of a “you get what you pay for” type of situation.
So, even though we wanted to see if were any good options that will save you money, it just so happened that the best option for this test was the most expensive one.
To break down the rest of the trail cams, we’ve created several categories! Let’s get into it.
There was quite a bit of variability in build quality. With the cheaper trail cams, we noticed that they don’t have camo, so they will be a lot more likely to stick out on a tree and get stolen. Also, it was much harder to set the settings on them because they have a tiny little LCD panel, and figuring out how to set all of those setting in that control panel is more difficult.
With the better quality trail cams, they featured a nice LCD with a menu structure and it was easier to use the settings. Noticeably, though, the Stealthcam does not have an image preview. This doesn’t matter as much on this model because it has nice presets and it’s still pretty easy to set up.
Ease of Use
With our next category, Ease of Use, that is where the Stealthcam redeemed itself. Even though it didn’t have that image preview, it was still easy to work with. It didn’t have a mile-long line menu that is just impossible to work through like some of the other cameras did.
Stop picking your trail cam based on how many megapixels it says it uses.
That number is extremely irrelevant, and the people who sell trail cams know how to manipulate that number. The way they do it is by taking a sensor with maybe 8 or 16 MP and stretching it out to 32 MP or whatever number they want to put on the packaging. So don’t base your decision on the number of Megapixels that are listed on the box because it most likely is a lie anyway.
We saw some great cameras, that are in every way excellent, and even the Megapixels listed on the box seem perfect. But when you actually see the image it just looked like a picture taken with a 10-year old cellphone.
For our test, we took a super long tape measure and measured how far it was from edge to edge. The Stealthcam was nearly double the amount of width as the other cameras. That number really matters! Looking at the pictures that I personally got up in the mountains after setting a few of these trail cams up, what I caught was mostly some elk noses and one tine of an antler. It mostly just caught close-ups of animals that weren’t that useful to me.
This is because these cameras are used to not only capture evidence of an animal but also attract them with lights, clicking sounds. And they also just naturally smell from when you handle them with your hands.
Animals are naturally going to be curious about the camera, and not know to just pose in front of it. So shooting wide is necessary to be able to actually catch evidence of that animal.
Trigger speed is an aspect of trail cams that is greatly advertised, and also greatly lied about.
We went about testing just how accurate these speeds were in two different ways. One was an in-the-office, scientific test where we moved a robot slider to see how quickly the trigger speed actually was. It wasn’t the best way to test it out, we found, as a natural stimulus can change things easily out in the wild, such as leaves falling from trees.
So we went out into the woods and we would walk at a consistent speed in front of the camera to see just how long it would take for it to start recording. Half of the cameras would only get a picture of your backside after you had walked at least 8-feet across the camera, only capturing about half of you as you exited the frame. We also found that some cameras triggered too early, which can also be a problem.
Seeing as the point of the camera is to be able to see more than just the butt of a deer, not being able to tell whether it is a buck or a doe, it really just defeated the whole purpose of the camera. So if you’re in the market for a trail cam, please take note of the trigger speed as being one of the more important ratings we did in testing these cameras.
Night Photo Quality
Many of these cameras are going to zoom in a bit for the night photos, but the real issue is the visibility. With the Wildgame Innovations, the Primos Autopilot, and the Spypoint Dark Force, we simply just turned them on in a dark room and moved around in front of them.
Some of them lit up like a Christmas tree, despite the fact that they were advertised as having no glow or low glow for their night vision shots.
So, keep in mind the scores below if you know you will be hunting in a fragile environment where the animals are not used to seeing humans and you really need to reduce your footprint in the area. This can be critical when it comes to capturing animals and not scaring them off.
Video quality is also an important factor if you want to be able to show people clips of the footage you get with your trail cam. Something to note with this review is that the Stealthcam came out on top in this category as well. This is because it has a daytime lens and a nighttime lens.
The nighttime lens is zoomed in, so it is more narrow.
Some cams can hold anywhere from 6-12 batteries, which is great for when you need more power that is going to last longer. Do keep in mind it’s going to change the size of your camera, as the difference in sizing between the Browning Strike Force, which holds fewer batteries, and the Stealthcam, which holds more. It’s just better to take the bulk and be better safe than sorry with a dead trail cam.
If there is a setting that allows you to space out the pictures taken, and it still captures images when it is triggered, you’re going to save a ton on battery power. Most trail cam companies tell you that
Something companies don’t mention when stating that their trail cam batteries will last 3,000 pictures, is whether or not the memory card is even able to hold that many images. While it’s great that your trail cam has 12 batteries, you need ask yourself if your memory card is up to the same task.
Several of the cameras we reviewed only had a 32GB memory capacity. If you put a 64GB memory card in there, it will tell you that there has been an error and simply won’t work. Or worse yet, it will say nothing at all.
With memory, I think it’s best to have at least 64GB because, personally, I like to record video. It’s just more fun to see that, so as not fill up your card too easily in the space of two weeks, you need more storage. A few of these cameras go up to 512GB, which is a little bit of an expensive card. But, anything that can go up to 64GB, at least, is going to be reasonable to use long-term.
With the image preview, we are talking about the little screen that shows you what the camera is seeing. Overall, if the camera had one, it had one, and if it didn’t have one, it didn’t.
After looking at so many categories, on paper, the one that did the best was the Browning Strike Force.
There is a LOT to like about this camera. It is small and there is a mechanism that allows you to adjust the angle against the tree, the menu is easy to use, and it triggers consistently. Browning just makes a really nice trail camera. . . on paper. The reason it didn’t get our selection is the image quality.
So overall, the best trail cam was the Stealthcam, the second best was the Browning Strike Force, and the third-best was the Alphacam Premium. If you want to save yourself some money, the Alphacam Premium camera was great (despite a weird design with the image preview.) The menus are really easy to use, and it just does a solid job in all of the other categories.
Be sure to click on the links below, even if you’re not buying one of these cameras today. It really helps support the channel.
Best Overall Trail Cam – Browning Strike Force
Our Favorite Trail Cam – Stealthcam –
Best Bang For Your Buck – Alphacam Premium
Check Us Out on Youtube
If you want to see more visuals of these trail cams and some more examples of exactly how they work, check out our YouTube video below!