The best trail cameras can capture sensational wildlife images. While it's simple to head out with a camera to capture the familiar wildlife subjects like ducks at the park, getting candid photos and videos of other, more secretive wildlife are almost impossible unless you're a seasoned wildlife photographer or hunter. Fortunately, trail cameras (also known as game or remote cameras) are designed specifically to be set and forget in even the most remote locations to capture imagery without disturbing wildlife.
Aside from wildlife photography, the best trail cameras are also adept as security cameras because they're small, easy to mount and hard to detect. Added benefits from trail cams include waterproofing, durability and the option to shoot still photographs and record video footage. They blend into the background thanks to their camouflaging and plain earth tones making them tricky to spot for potential subjects.
Lighting, whether continuous or flash, can be disconcerting for shy subjects such as wildlife, that's why many trail cameras feature hidden lighting that work in the infrared spectrum. That means subjects and the surrounding environment can be lit up in even the darkest of location. More sophisticated models include the ability to link up over cellular networks for remote viewing and recording, high resolution video footage and rechargeable batteries that drink in power remotely from solar panels.
If you're looking for other types of cameras, (like for those ducks in the park) we also have guides on the best camera for creatives, and if you're just starting out, see our roundup of the best cameras for beginners. And if you want to take your photography to the next level (that is, the sky), we've put together the best cameras drones too.
The best trail cameras available now
The best trail camera for the average user, the Browning Defender delivers all-round thanks to its Full HD video resolution and option of capturing detailed 20MP photographs. For the best remote viewing videos and photos can be sent to a computer or smart device using the LTE 4G cellular link-up embedded in the camera.
While clear video, high resolutions stills, and cellular link-up is pretty comprehensive for a trail cam, unfortunately that also draws a lot of power, so you'll need to replenish the 16 x AA batteries, but that's because this trail camera is designed for remote use where access is difficult. It's fully waterproof too, and comes with a low glow infrared flash, or completely undetectable using the Invisible IR mode, perfect for wildlife and security in equal measure.
- Also see: The best low-light cameras in 2022
The Bushnell CelluCORE 20, though a little older, is still a great trail camera from renowned manufacturer Bushnell. Durable and reliable, Bushnell know how to squeeze a whole bunch of features into a trail camera at a surprisingly low price, as they've done here with the CelluCORE 20. Capture Full HD video at 30fps and have ever pixel sing thanks to an integrated infrared light to capture subjects up to 80' away in pitch darkness.
That's not all, the Bushnell CelluCORE 20 also captures 20MP stills images, and remote viewing is possible thanks to its LTE 4G cellular network connection, leaving the camera in its location undisturbed. This makes a lot of sense since the camera has no LCD screen to view media, but at this price it's still a great buy.
The Spypoint Force Pro trail camera would suit anyone who needs high resolution stills images and 4K video footage for identification or inspection purposes. This trail camera also has multiple video resolution and frame rate options, with 4K limited to 10fps but this jumps up to 25fps at 2560x1440 or 30fps at 1080p. It also includes audio recording on all video options to make it feel like you're actually there, on location.
A blisteringly fast 0.2 sec trigger the Force Pro lights up subjects in low light conditions with 54 white, no-glow LEDs that emit InfraRed light at 940nm to remain inconspicuous to flighty subjects. The LEDs have a flash range of 27.4m (90 feet) and all recordings come with a date and time stamp. The Passive InfraRed (PIR) motion detector detects at up to 33.5m (110 feet) away.
One of the main issues that trail cameras have when it comes to recording clear, well exposed stills and videos is being able to adjust their camera settings for bright days and also dark nights. Thankfully, the Bushnell Core DS No Glow trail camera cleverly solves this problem by using two image sensors rather than one. One image sensor is carefully balanced for use in the day time when the sun is shining, and the other is capable of recording in the darkest nights. Powered by the camera's almost invisible LED lighting any wildlife subject at night is easily lit up for clear, well exposed shots.
The Bushnell Core DS No Glow trail camera captures high resolution stills detail at 30MP and shoots smooth Full HD video at 60fps. The trigger time is a speedy 0.2 seconds, which means fast-paced wildlife (or the odd burglar) is unlikely to be missed. This device also boasts a sturdy build designed to withstand both cold nights and boiling hot days. The camera's 'no glow' lighting makes it harder to spot, keeping the device safer from potential thieves as well as wildlife subjects. All in all, this is one of the best trail cameras around for a pretty penny.
If your budget is too tight to stretch to either of the Bushnell cameras above, the Bushnell Prime 24MP Low-Glow Trail Camera is another strong contender from the same brand.
Offering Full HD video recording at 1920 x 1080 at a silky smooth 60fps it sets itself apart from other models at this price point. It even pushes the maximum stills resolution up by outperforming others in its class, capturing 24MP photographs. Thanks to its 80' flash lighting it can capture subjects easily in the dark without issue. Bushnell has purposely missed out a few higher-end features on this camera, presumably to drop the price point and compete with another range of models. But for photographers who want a cheap and reliable trail camera with great video and photo specs, this is a sound 'no-frills' option that will do just the job.
This trail camera offers superb value for money which means it's competing with some of the more expensive models that would otherwise be out of its class. It captures Full HD video and shoots 10MP still images, and can react to subject movement faster than 0.5 seconds. It has a lengthy video record time of up to 180 seconds and can trigger up to nine still images when in burst mode.
The Stealth Cam G42NG can sit out in all weathers and even take a beating due to its waterproofing and durable construction. Running on just eight AA batteries it will cost less to maintain and power compared with competition that runs on far more. Files include metadata such as time, date, moon phase and temperature to help better inform the photographer/hunter, giving better accuracy when studying the subject.
A real set-it-and-forget-it type of trail camera, the Spypoint Solar-W is a device that can be left for long periods because of its own green energy modules. This trail cam is powered by a Lithium-ion battery which is rechargeable, fed by a solar panel on the top of the device. It'll even keep running when the sun's gone behind cloud because it has a second charging option in the form of six AA batteries.
It has a lightning fast trigger speed of 0.07 seconds for speedy wildlife and is studded with 42 super-low-glow LEDs to light subjects in the dark or at night. It can record video for up to 1.5 minutes but only at 720P resolution, this is still detailed enough for most users though. It also offers 12MP stills capture which isn't the best in this round-up but at this price it doesn't pretend to be either.
This tiny trail camera is only five inches in height. Ultra-compact and lightweight, the Spypoint Force-20 Trail Camera boasts some excellent features for its size and price. Though video resolution tops out at 720P it can trigger quickly at 0.7 seconds and captures impressively detailed 20MP stills photographs. It'll light up the foreground at up to 80 feet and can work in temperatures between -30 °C and +50 °C performing well in almost any climate imaginable.
The Force-20 is perfect for photographers or hunters that require something small and compact but at an affordable price, but it should be noted that there is no audio recording to accompany video options.
As you can probably tell by now Spypoint offer a great range of trail cameras. While some are more complex, the Link-Micro-LTE is a no frills cam. Taking its heritage from the previous model it boosts features with the inclusion of a reliable LTE cellular link-up for remote viewing. It should be noted though, that although it's relatively inexpensive it also doesn't shoot video. That means it doesn't have good capacity for tracking subjects' movements in a scene. However, what it doesn't have in moving image capability it more than makes up for in convenience thanks to its cellular connectivity.
Using the Spypoint App owners can manage all camera setting, and use intelligent scouting tools such as the enhanced AI species filters, weather, and mapping integration to refine the tracking process. A quick 0.5 second trigger isn't to be sniffed at for this low price point, either.
Trail cameras: what you need to know
Far from basic point-and-shoot cameras (though there are certainly models that do just this) the more reputable trail camera manufacturers offer devices that come in all shapes and sizes. Making a conscious decision about which features you'll need and others you can live without will stand users in good stead for purchasing the right device. Still image and video resolution (including video frame rate) is important, but so too is cellular connectivity so that you can view or record from remote locations. Good night sight or a dedicated night-time image sensor is essential for capturing subjects in the dark, but some cameras come with an undetectable infrared option, too.
If visiting the location is difficult or likely to disturb shy subjects then solar panels can help prevent the need for battery changes, as they sport rechargeable lithium ions. Strong camouflage or plain earth tones also help trail cameras go undetected by wildlife subjects and security threats if using the camera for this purpose.
Composition can be tricky when setting up a wildlife camera, so if that's important then consider a unit with an LCD built-in so that you can line-up the device before leaving the area. Weather sealing and a durable construction are also important, as are operation temperature ranges if you're planning on using it somewhere extreme.