Best Trail Camera for your Money in 2021
If you’re trying to capture a candid photo of wildlife, chances are you’ll be researching the best trail camera reviews.
Sometimes known as a remote camera or game camera, the best trail camera will allow you to monitor or photograph an animal from a distance – often entirely automatically.
Trail cameras need to be rugged and waterproof, designed for extended and unsupervised use outdoors. Features like night vision, low glow infrared, HD video, high-quality image resolution, and fast trigger speed technology are essential.
Whether you’re a hunter or a photographer, these game camera reviews will help you in your search.
Being nature lovers and professional photographers, we’ve performed a gauntlet of tests to aid you in your search.
Table of Contents
Top Rated Trail Cameras in 2021
|Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X Covert IR Camera||View Price →|
|Browning Trail Camera Spec Ops XR||View Price →|
|Browning Strike Force Sub Micro 10MP||View Price →|
|Stealth Cam 8MP 30IR Game Camera||View Price →|
|Stealth Cam PX12||View Price →|
1. Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X Covert IR Camera – Best Overall
- Best value for the price
- Excellent flash range
- Outstanding trigger speed
- Easy to set up and use
- Low glow LED
- Video limited to 720p and a max length of 10 seconds
When it comes to trail cameras, one brand you can never go wrong with is Reconyx. They’ve been in this business for 15+ years and are considered industry experts in trail camera manufacturing and design. They take great pride in exquisite customer experience, and we’ve confirmed it numerous times.
The Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X is one of the most game-changing trail cameras we’ve seen in recent years. This model is speedy, robust, and reliable. Hence, it’s no wonder that we’ve decided to crown it the best in the category of trail cameras.
A trail camera is useful only if it’s fast enough to trigger at the right moment. With the HyperFire 2 HF2X, you get super-fast ¼ of a second trigger speed. It can shoot a maximum of 10 frames per trigger.
Apart from the incredible 0 2 second trigger speed, the movement detection of this game camera is highly accurate. It can catch animal activity within a detection range of 100 feet (30 meters).
This means you’ll get very few empty frames with these trail cameras, which will result in prolonged battery duration and efficient utilization of the storage capacity.
The detection angle is at 45 degrees, which almost perfectly matches the lens angle of 38 degrees.
If you’re new to the world of trail cameras, you might have never heard how power-efficient these little things are. The battery of trail cameras doesn’t last hours or days but a year or more. The HyperFire 2 HF2X is no different, with a super long battery life of 16 to 24 months.
It sports 12 AA batteries, and the user has to select the battery type – Lithium-ion or NiMH. However, there is no option for other battery types, such as alkaline.
There’s a pretty good reason for this: there are many issues associated with alkaline batteries, such as swelling and leakage. As such, Reconyx discourages the use of alkaline batteries with their cameras and won’t cover any problems arising from their use under warranty.
In tests with different batteries, we found that lithium batteries provide the best performance with the HyperFire 2.
The HyperFire 2 HF2X comes with a durable tree strap with a metal fastener on the backside. It also has a bracket in the front for the python cable lock.
The added security of a lock will prevent the theft of your camera and SD Card. The HF2X is also equipped with the CodeLoc™ passcode protection.
The 1/4 “-20 sized threaded mount makes it easy to use the Hyperfire 2 with tripods and other tree mounts.
The high-output covert low glow infrared flash on the HF2X can illuminate up to 45 meters (150 feet). Actually, Reconyx claims it to be a no-glow device. However, we noticed a faint light emitting when using the flash at night.
It shoots color pictures during the day and can shoot only infrared monochrome images in the dark.
The 3-megapixel sensor on the HF2X produces sharp images with natural color rendition. It also captures a good amount of detail in the shadow areas.
Night images are well-exposed and produce acceptable contrast.
Reconyx states they receive a tiny number of warranty repair cases for their cameras. This trust in their technology could be the reason they offer a solid five-year warranty.
One thing to note about the HyperFire 2 HF2X is that it shines in the stills but not so much in video specs.
The video is limited to 720p with audio and a maximum of 2 frames per second, and the maximum duration of the recorded clip is restricted to 10 seconds.
The HF2X also shoots time-lapse videos and offers the ability to choose from 1 to 60 minutes intervals. You can also schedule the time-lapse videos by specifying the stop and the start time in the settings.
The maximum ISO strength available from this model of cameras is 3200.
The data storage types supported are the SD card as well as the faster SDHC and SDXC. It supports an SD card with a storage capacity of up to 512 GB.
Another bonus of the HF2X is that it can operate in moderate to extreme temperatures ranging from -29°C to 50°C (-20° to 120° Fahrenheit).
All in all, this is a sturdy and rugged camera that gives excellent results for still images with a very quick second trigger speed.
If you’re serious about the game and looking for the best trail cameras, the Hyperfire HF2X would certainly be a good investment.
2. Browning Trail Camera Spec Ops XR – Best Video Resolution
- High-quality image resolution
- HD video resolution
- Motion-activated sensor
- Low-glow Infrared night vision
- Recovery time is a bit long (though this shouldn’t be a problem for most of the purposes due to the camera’s trigger speeds)
If you enjoy high-resolution images or watching your wild friends on a large TV screen, the Browning Spec Ops XR trail camera is for you. It’s an excellent tool for surveying game animals or as a security camera for your hunting property.
The Spec Ops XR combines excellent image quality, high-end features, and durability in a compact package.
This camera features a 20-megapixel sensor that produces sharp images with an exceptional dynamic and flash range. The contrast and color are also the best we’ve seen on game cameras.
If you’ve used some trail cameras from other brands, you’ll find the responsive settings of the Spec Ops XR very straightforward and quick to set up.
The lens has the nearest focus distance of 1.8 meters to the farthest of infinity.
The Spec Ops XR features a PIR (passive infrared) motion detection sensor. As for detection range, it can detect movement in a range of up to 80 feet (24 meters).
The second trigger speed on this game camera is 0.4. It shoots multiple exposures until the moving subject is within the frame. However, the number of images is limited to 8 per trigger. This isn’t terrible, but we’ve definitely seen better with some other cameras.
Though we’ve seen faster trigger speed in the Reconyx HF2X, in our tests, we noticed the real-world difference is negligible between the two.
The 1/4 “-20 sized threaded socket makes it easy to mount the camera to a variety of tree mounts and tripods. You can secure it with the provided tree strap and python cable lock.
One of the strengths of the Spec Ops XR is the invisible flash. The infrared night vision unit on this camera has a black coated glass that prevents any faint red glow.
This “invisible night vision” illuminates the area of around 80 feet.
Coming to the video department, the Spec Ops XR offers Full HD video recording with audio at 1920x1080p resolution. The video length it supports is a minimum of 5 seconds to a maximum of 2 minutes.
The footage saves in the .avi format, which makes it easily convertible to other video formats. It also comes with a TV-Out port that allows you to connect to a monitor or TV for quick review.
Like the Reconyx HF2X, the Spec Ops XR shoots color images during the daytime and infrared monochrome at night.
The Spec Ops XR can shoot full HD time-lapse videos. The interval between shots can be pre-set as 5, 10, 15, 30, or 60 seconds or 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes. The included Buckwatch Timelapse Viewer software is needed for viewing videos recorded in Timelapse or Timelapse plus modes.
The camera features a USB port that lets you conveniently transfer your files to a computer.
Trail cameras are meant for long-duration unsupervised operation and need to be power efficient. For that reason, most game cameras do not come with a picture preview feature like a screen.
The Spec Ops XR is unique in that it features a 2-inch color screen without compromising on power efficiency. This is convenient for previewing where your camera is pointing in the field.
This particular model requires eight AA batteries and offers a long 7-month battery life. In our tests, we found the battery life to be shorter when only videos were shot. However, the external power jack of 12 volts provides enough flexibility to add more juice.
The Spec Ops XR supports SD cards up to 512 GB, which is a sufficient amount of data storage for most users. It also comes with Smart Memory Management, a nifty feature that overwrites the oldest videos stored in the card with new files, making sure you always have space.
There’s a nifty option to see data strips below pictures and videos. The strip shows date, time, moon phase, and temperature. The moon phase data can offer insight into which animals are active during which phase.
A full moon can light up a field at night, so the moon info can also be helpful in explaining the brightness or darkness of a scene.
If you enjoy high picture quality and detail in the videos and photos from your trail camera, the Browning Spec Ops XR will serve you well with its high-resolution sensor and exceptional video and stills capabilities.
3. Browning Strike Force Sub Micro 10MP – Best Budget-Friendly
- HD video resolution
- High-quality flash technology
- Broad detection range
- You get free accessories
- Camera is a bit wide angle
- Video limited to 720p
Browning is known for its quality hardware and design choices. The Strike Force Sub Micro camera is no exception, offering a high-performance glow trail camera in an ultra-compact form factor. This trail camera is side-by-side to its sibling, Recon Force (also known as the Patriot), but we found that this one has a better detection distance.
It packs excellent value for the midrange price bracket it falls in.
It comes with a 10-megapixel sensor that shoots sharp color daytime images and monochrome at night time.
The picture quality is excellent, with accurate colors and good contrast. It supports an SD Card with a max capacity of 32 GB, which is enough to record more than 12250 photos in the highest resolution.
Coming to the video, the Strike Force shoots only 720p HD videos with audio. The length can be a minimum of 5 seconds to a maximum of 2 minutes. Despite being low-resolution, the videos are acceptably sharp and look great on a big screen.
If you’re coming from another trail camera brand, you might find navigating the menus a bit complex. But once you get used to it, you’ll find this camera very quick to set up.
The Strike Force Trail Camera offers a trigger speed of 0.67 seconds, which is slightly slower compared to the other game cams we saw above. Given its entry-level price point, however, this is still an acceptable speed. It can shoot up to six frames per trigger and up to eight multi-shot images.
The Strike Force Sub Micro comes in bark finish, which is not high-end like the camo finish of the Spec Ops XR. That said, it does blend well with the trees and is mostly unnoticeable to animals.
It comes with a superb movement detection range of 70 feet. However, the angle of the detection is slightly wider than the camera focal length, which can sometimes trigger the camera a few seconds before the animal enters the frame.
One of the most impressive features of the Strike Force is its vast flash range. The infrared flash unit on this trail camera has a 100-foot range (30 meters).
The flash doesn’t come with a dark coating, which means the red glow is visible when it fires – but unless you’re using it solely for security purposes, this isn’t a big deal.
Unlike the Spec Ops XR, this doesn’t come with a preview screen, which means you can’t check the photos while out in the field. Again, though, it’s an acceptable compromise given the price point.
The Strike Force Sub Micro uses 6 AA batteries, which give it juice for up to 12 months. There’s an inbuilt indicator that shows the remaining power.
It also comes with a 12-volt power jack that makes it easy to use with external power sources.
When it comes to construction quality, this device is above average. It’s durable enough to take a few drops without causing any issues, and also comes shielded with a protective case to minimize any damage.
The Strike Force can also record time-lapse videos at 720p HD. The delay duration options are 5, 10, 15, 30 seconds or 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes. Browning’s Buck Watch software is needed to watch the time-lapse videos on a PC, but you can download it for free on their website.
The mounting options available are a ¼ 20″ sized threaded hole for tree mounts and tripods, and a nylon strap for attaching to a tree. You can add to the security by fastening it with a Python cable lock.
As with the Browning Spec Ops XR, and Browning Patriot, the pictures and videos out of this device have data strips that show useful information like date, time, temperature, and moon phase.
As noted above, the moon phase information can be helpful for understanding light quality and animal movements – though it’s surprising to see this feature in a hunting camera of this price range.
The Strike Force Sub Micro is an ultra-compact camera aimed at entry-level to intermediate users. With its affordable price tag and excellent value, it’s easily counted as one of the best cameras on the market.
4. Stealth Cam G30 8MP 30IR Game Camera – Best Compact Trail Camera
- Convenient LCD
- Motion-activated sensor
- Multiple protection options
- Excellent image quality
- Great range
- No weather sealing
- No preview functionality to check images
Stealth Cam is a brand known for providing immense value at a low price point. The G30 is a perfect example: in a nutshell, it’s a highly customizable trail camera at an attractive price.
The small form factor of the camera makes it versatile for any situation, be it security or animal surveillance.
The style option is limited to the tree bark finish. However, this is a neutral style that doesn’t stand out in the field or even at home.
The G30 uses an 8-megapixel sensor. It comes with TRIAD functionality, which allows you to use it in three different resolutions: 8, 4, and 2 megapixels. The lower resolution files require less space, giving you the flexibility to use your storage more efficiently.
The images out of this camera are sharp and have punchy colors.
The G30 shoots color images during the day and monochrome at night. It supports a maximum 32 GB SD Memory Card, which can hold 14,000+ photos in the highest resolution. However, it’s recommended to use class 10 SD cards with it to match the trigger speed.
This model sports a small LCD on the front, which displays the battery status and mode information. The low glow LED lights are excellent for use during any time of the day. That said, there’s no preview functionality available to check photos and videos.
The menu is straightforward, and overall, the camera easy to set up and use.
The G30 uses Matrix Blur Reduction to ensure you always get sharp results. On top of that, the advanced Retina technology makes it sensitive in low light situations, so even early morning and evening shots are well-exposed and crisp.
A Reflex Trigger on the G30 hunting cam covers many zones and angles, resulting in high accuracy. You get fast 0.5-second speed. It can shoot a maximum of 9 images in the burst mode.
The test mode lets you operate the camera manually and take shots that you can review to make sure everything looks as expected.
The G30 offers a multilingual (English, Spanish, French, German), which makes it suitable for an international audience.
You can conveniently transfer photos and videos via the USB port. Geo meta-tagging of the camera is also supported, which can help you keep track of the sites you’re shooting at.
There are 30 IR emitters on both sides of the camera, which can illuminate an area of up to 80 feet (24 meters). However, the flash is not invisible.
The case is well-built and can handle minor drops without causing any problems to the camera, and the rugged construction of the interior makes it durable for long term use. One notable downside of the G30 is that there’s no weather sealing.
The 8-megapixel camera shoots HD videos with audio of 5 seconds to a maximum of 3 minutes. The duration of the video is a whole minute longer than what we’ve seen on the Browning Strike Force.
Like the still images, it also records color videos both day and night.
Time-lapse videos on this device are recorded at HD resolution. However, the time-lapse PID override saves a considerable amount of space on your card by only recording when the subject enters the frame.
The G30 has a battery life of many months. It uses 8 AA batteries, but when you need extra power, you can connect a battery box to its external power jack.
It comes with a tree strap and a ¼ 20″ threaded hole for mounting a tree or tripod. You can secure your camera with password protection and externally using a python cable lock.
With a mid-level price point combined with professional features, the G30 definitely offers value that’s unique in the market.
5. Stealth Cam PX12 – Best for a Beginner
- Great trigger speed & burst mode
- Offers a nice field of view
- Good video resolution
- Low price tag
- Mediocre flash range
- We’ve seen better night vision features with some other cameras
If you’re new to the game trail and looking for the best hunting cameras, you must consider the Stealth Cam PX12. It’s an excellent option for beginners.
The 10-megapixel sensor on this game camera generally produces photos with excellent image quality. The low light sensor is rated to make low-light pictures 20% brighter.
The daytime images out of the PX12 have good contrast and vibrant colors. The nighttime images (which are black and white only) show slight grain, but the overall picture quality is acceptable. It’s suitable for food plots that generally have good visibility.
Unlike the other trail cameras in this list, the PX12 uses the image aspect ratio of 16:9. It gives a pleasing wide-angle view to photos and videos.
Externally, this particular trail cam comes with a plain grey finish. While it doesn’t necessarily camouflage with the surroundings, the grey color is pretty low key and makes the device quite stealthy.
The exteriors are rugged and are built to resist damage.
There are 12 infrared flash emitters on the camera front, which are shielded by FX glass, so they don’t produce any glow when fired. However, the flash range on this trail cam is limited to 45 feet (13 meters) only.
While the flash range is mediocre, the PX12 offers a detection range of 30-40 feet (9-12 meters) with a fast trigger speed. This trigger speed allows you to shoot up to 6 frames per trigger in the burst mode.
But excellent trigger speed is not where the advantages of this trail camera end.
As far as setup goes, there’s a convenient EZ Dial with Quickset that gets your camera ready to shoot in a breeze.
The PX12 can be installed securely on a tree with the supplied tree strap. Like the others, it also comes with a ¼ 20″ threaded hole to use with tree mounts and tripods.
The maximum data storage size is a 32 GB SD memory card, which is enough for literally thousands of high-quality images.
When it comes to the video department, this camera can record clips of a maximum of 15 seconds in length. The video quality isn’t the best we’ve seen, but it’s a good start for beginners.
The PX12 uses eight AA batteries and provides a battery life of more than a year. That’s pretty impressive for a camera in this price segment.
There’s an LCD menu display inside the door, which is useful for navigating through the menu.
The images and videos have data strips at the bottom, which show date, time, and moon phase information. This helps in understanding animal behavior patterns throughout the year.
As a security measure, you can lock up the Stealth Cam PX12 using a Python cable lock. Unlike the others in this list, there’s no passcode protection available, which explains why it lacks a number pad.
When setting up the trail camera, it’s essential to make sure of the angle and framing. We’ve seen that some buying guides do not mention that this trail camera lacks the LCD screen to preview the images. This isn’t a huge problem, however, because you can still take pictures with the test mode and preview them without the LCD by using the optional card viewer accessory.
The Stealth Cam PX12 features a mini USB port to use with various supported devices. However, you can’t connect it directly to a big screen like a TV.
The auxiliary 12V power socket on the PX12 gives you the freedom to extend the battery life by attaching a battery pack or getting a solar panel.
The Stealth Cam PX12 trail camera is suitable for absolute beginners and those looking for affordable options. It packs a lot of value for a small price.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best trail camera for the money?
The Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X Covert IR camera takes the throne as the best in the category. What makes this trail camera the best for your wildlife endeavors? It produces more realistic footage than some trail cameras that cost twice as much, and the 150-foot range is a feature that can’t go unmentioned. All wildlife photographers scouring the trail camera buying guides on the internet should go for this brilliant camera.
Are Apeman trail cameras any good?
The upgraded Apeman trail camera comes with a high-resolution sensor that produces impressive photos and Full HD videos, even during the night time. The compact form factor and a durable build are plus points of the Apeman, which makes it suitable to use as a hunting camera. It’s an excellent camera for the price and offers a long battery life.
What trail cameras send pics to your phone?
A cellular trail camera uses 4G LTE technology to connect to the internet and enable you to view your photos and videos at any time from your phone. These trail cameras come with a SIM slot and antenna for the 4G LTE signal transmission. The cellular trail camera is the best for unsupervised surveillance.
Can you use a trail camera as a security camera?
Yes, trail cameras are compact and stealthy and can be used as security cameras. They also offer months of battery life, which makes them the best for power failure scenarios. The detection field is more than enough to be used for this purpose, and they are good for night conditions. What is more, some new-age cellular trail cameras can also transmit photos and videos to your smartphone.
What is the best trail camera under $100?
If you’ve been reading the best trail camera buying guides with no luck because all cameras seem too expensive, you’re at the right place! Bushnell Trophy Cam is the best camera if you’ve set a budget of one hundred bucks for hunting cameras. There are some better trail cameras than the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD, but if the low price tag is important, the features that you get are the best for the price. They account for excellent range, decent speed, and quality photo and video material.
There are plenty of game cam options on the market, but choosing the right one requires research. With this comprehensive guide, we’ve researched and listed the best trail camera to save you some time and get you up and running sooner.
The best camera for you might not be the best camera for someone else. But if you’re looking for a game camera for hunting or security purposes, one model from this article will surely suit your needs and budget.
One thing to note: because trail cameras are used outdoors, they do require regular maintenance. Clean your game camera and lens before mounting and regularly check the seals to prevent accidental water leaks. Doing this will ensure a long life for your trail camera.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.
Yatharth Gupta is a seasoned travel and street photographer with eight years of experience. He is also a blogger and loves to explore new places.