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Best trail cameras in 2021: Top camera traps for wildlife

Best trail cameras
(Image credit: Pexels/Jason Parnell-Brookes)

The best trail cameras can capture stunning candid shots of animals and other wildlife. Also known as game cameras or remote cameras, these devices are specifically designed to be used remotely to allow photographers to avoid disturbing wildlife.

Some people also use trail cams for security since the best trail cameras are typically waterproof, durable and shoot both video and still images. Cameras are usually camouflaged or finished in a plain earth tone, allowing them to blend into a natural background and go unseen by potential subjects. There are many additional features to look out for when deciding which of the best trail cameras suits your needs. The cameras offer different lighting ranges and image qualities, and some offer solar power to reduce the need for battery changes and cellular connection for remote viewing. 

If you're looking for other types of cameras, check our guide to the best camera for creatives, and if you're just starting out, see our roundup of the best cameras for beginners. Meanwhile, read on for our guide to the best trail cameras available now.

The best trail cameras available

Best trail cameras: Stealthcam DS4KCB

(Image credit: Stealthcam)

01. Stealth Cam DS4K

The best high-end trail camera

Still resolution: 30MP | Video resolution: 4K (3840x2160 pixels) | Video length: Up to 180 seconds | Data storage: SD or SDHC up to 32GB | Night vision: Yes (via infrared) | Audio recording: Yes | LCD: Yes | Power: 12x AA batteries

30MP stills
4K Video
Expensive
Runs on 12 AA batteries

The Stealth Cam DS4K is one trail camera that doesn't compromise on image quality. It's the first to offer 4K video recording resolution and 30MP stills, capturing more detail than ever. It's a hybrid shooter, capturing video footage and still photos simultaneously when desired, and it works well in low light thanks to its Retina Low Light sensitivity. The built-in No Glo infrared lights offer a 100ft flash range. At 0.4 seconds, the trigger time is reasonably fast too, making this a great trail camera for capturing difficult subjects.

Best trail cameras: Bushnell Low GlowCB endorsed

(Image credit: Bushnell)

02. Bushnell Core DS Low Glow

A more affordable Bushnell Core DS that still packs a punch

Still resolution: 30MP | Video resolution: 1080p at 60fps | Video length: Up to 60 seconds | Data storage: SD or SDHC up to 32GB | Night vision: Yes (up to 80ft) | Audio recording: Yes | LCD: Yes | Power: 8x AA batteries

High resolution stills
Long night vision
Not wireless
Only AA battery power

The Bushnell Core DS Low Glow Trail Camera is virtually identical to the No Glow model (see number 4) in specs for video and stills, but comes at a cheaper price. It has all the same tech offered by its big brother, including dual image sensor technology and high-resolution stills with full HD video. 

The difference is all in the lighting. The Low Glow's lighting is brighter than the more expensive No Glow, so the camera is more likely to be noticed by some wildlife and by any people passing by. However, a lower cost for the same quality of photography and video means this is still one of the best trail cameras around.

Best trail cameras: Spypoint Link S

(Image credit: Spypoint)

The best trail camera with cellular connection

Still resolution: 12MP | Video resolution: 1280x720p | Video length: Up to 90 seconds | Data storage: SD or SDHC up to 32GB | Night vision: Yes (using low-glow LEDs) | Audio recording: Yes | LCD: 2-inch color LCD | Power: Solar, rechargeable lithium ion, or 8x AA batteries

Transmits photos over 4G LTE mobile network
Solar powered
Rechargeable Li-ion battery
Monthly cost for cellular use

The Spypoint Link-S trail camera adds another welcome feature for anyone who wants to review footage remotely on their phone or another device. Its cellular technology allows the camera to connect straight to the Skypoint app on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. 

With a rechargeable lithium-ion battery offering potentially unlimited battery time and no need to visit the camera to download stills and videos from the memory card, this is one of the best trail cameras to set up in remote locations or areas where you want to avoid disturbing timid wildlife. It also has distance detection of up to 100ft. It shoots colour in the day and infrared at night.

Best trail cameras: Bushnell No GlowCB

(Image credit: Bushnell)

04. Bushnell Core DS No Glow

The best Trail Camera overall

Still resolution: 30MP | Video resolution: 1080p at 60fps | Video length: Up to 60 seconds | Data storage: SD or SDHC up to 32GB | Night vision: Yes (up to 80ft) | Audio recording: Yes | LCD: Yes | Power: 8x AA batteries

Waterproof body
Two image sensors 
Nearly invisible lighting
Only AA battery power
No wireless connection

With remote trail cam recording, it can be a challenge to capture decent footage in both bright daylight and at night. The Bushnell Core DS No Glow Trail Camera helps resolve that issue by giving this trail camera two image sensors rather than one. The first is optimised for daytime use and the other for night. Together with the camera's 'nearly invisible' LED lights, this makes it easier to capture shots of even the most camera-shy wildlife.

This trail camera captures incredible stills detail at 30MP and shoots smooth full HD video at 60fps. The trigger time is a stunningly fast 0.2 seconds, so you shouldn't miss the opportunity for a shot when one arises. This device also boasts a solid construction designed to withstand heat and cold, and the camera's 'no glow' lighting makes it harder to find, keeping the device safer from potential thieves. All in all, this is one of the best trail cameras around.

Best trail cameras: Bushnell Prime No GlowCB endorsed

(Image credit: Bushnell)

05. Bushnell Prime Low Glow Trail Camera

Another solid Bushnell trail camera for those on a lower budget

Still resolution: 24MP | Video resolution: 1080p at 60fps | Video length: Up to 60 seconds | Data storage: SD or SDHC up to 32GB | Night vision: Yes (up to 80ft) | Audio recording: Yes | LCD: Yes | Power: 6x AA batteries

High resolution video 
Fast trigger speed
Cheapest of Bushnell line-up
1 sec recovery time
No wireless connectivity

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 model from the same brand. It offers full HD video recording and 24MP stills. With the addition of flash lighting, it can record at distances of up to 80ft. Bushnell has dropped a few features to keep the cost down on this one, but for photographers who want a cheap but reliable trail camera, this is a sound 'no-frills' option that will do the job.

Best trail cameras: Stealthcam G42NG

(Image credit: Stealthcam)

06. Stealth Cam G42NG TRIAD

Full HD video and durable housing at a budget price

Still resolution: 10MP | Video resolution: 1920x1080p | Video length: Up to 180 seconds | Data storage: SD or SDHC up to 32GB | Night vision: Yes (via infrared) | Audio recording: Yes | LCD: Yes | Power: 8x AA batteries

Full HD video 
180 seconds video time
10MP stills

This trail camera offers some impressive specs for the price, allowing it to compete with more expensive products. It captures full HD video and shoots 10MP still images, firing in less than 0.5 seconds. It has a video record time of up to 180 seconds and can trigger up to nine stills photos in burst mode. 

The Stealth Cam G42NG has durable, waterproof housing and it runs on eight AA batteries. The metadata provided on files includes time, date, moon phase, and temperature to allow better accuracy when studying footage.

Best trail cameras: Spypoint Solar Dark

(Image credit: Spypoint)

07. Spypoint Solar Dark

A stellar solar-powered trail camera

Still resolution: 12MP | Video resolution: 1280x720p | Video length: Up to 90 seconds | Data storage: SD or SDHC up to 32GB | Night vision: Yes (up to 80ft) | Audio recording: Yes | LCD: 2-inch color LCD | Power: Solar, rechargeable lithium ion, or 6x AA batteries

Long video record time
Solar powered
Colour screen
Not full HD
Premium cost for solar

If you need a trail camera you can leave out in the field unattended for longer periods, the solar-powered Spypoint Solar-W is an ideal solution. This trail cam runs on its own lithium ion rechargeable battery, which is powered via the solar panel on top of the device, although it can also be powered by six AA batteries. 

It has a decent trigger speed of 0.07 seconds and 42 super-low-glow LEDs to light subjects in the dark. It offers up to a minute and a half of video recording time but, sadly, footage is limited to 720P video recording and 12MP stills. 

best trail cameras: Spypoint Force

(Image credit: Spypoint)

08. Spypoint Force-20 Trail Camera

The best compact budget trail camera

Still resolution: 20MP | Video resolution: 1280x720p | Video length: Up to 60 seconds | Data storage: SD or SDHC up to 32GB | Night vision: Yes (via infrared) | Audio recording: No | LCD: Yes | Power: 8x AA batteries

High resolution stills
Low cost
Video without sound
LCD for configuration only

At only five inches tall, the ultra-compact Spypoint Force-20 Trail has some impressive specs for its size. It captures 20MP stills and triggers at 0.7 seconds. Its illumination range is up to 80 feet and it operates in temperatures between -30 °C and +50 °C. As long as you aren't fussed about audio recording, the Force-20 is ideal if you want something small and compact with an entry-level price tag.

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Jason Parnell-Brookes is an Internationally award-winning photographer, educator and writer. He won Gold in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. Jason is a qualified teacher, Masters graduate and the former technique editor for N-Photo magazine.