When searching for the best trail cameras for the money, it becomes quickly obvious that there are trail cameras with price points that can meet pretty much any budget! There are models that start at $50 and models that can exceed $500 and beyond.
And while there aren’t many of us who can shell out $500 for one camera, the lowest end of the market, is likewise not very realistic either.Some or pretty much all the cheapest trail cameras are at that price point for a reason! They may or may not work correctly. And if they do work correctly that condition may be short-lived. This article should help when choosing a trail camera to accomplish your goals for many years and leave the kids’ college fund alone at the same time !
What Constitutes a “good camera”?
While everyone doesn’t share the same ideas from top to bottom concerning what constitutes a good camera, here are some variables that can be the difference between a good camera and a not so good one.
I have owned and tested many camera brands and models over the years! Some great some not so much. Most were new and some were used models I purchased from EBay. In the interest of fairness I will omit the used ones from consideration because like anything used they may have already had issues when I received them.
When I’m considering a new camera the considerations are many, so I use a list of 4 criteria that the camera must meet to be in consideration.
- Battery life
- Sensing distance
- Trigger Reliability
- Infrared (Never buy a camera with a flash of any kind! )
While the argument can be made for other aspects, these are the aspects that mean that the camera will actually work and capture images. Others like picture quality and other points of interest come in a distant 5th to the top 4 ! I have had cameras that I purchased at Wal-Mart for $69 that worked just fine. And I have had a couple that were $100 more and had HD quality images and other bells and whistles that didn’t last. One in fact was $199 and went back to Academy for a refund after trying an exchange once. It ate batteries and didn’t trigger consistently. That made it useless to me! I don’t care that it takes HD quality photos if it doesn’t take the picture!
My favorite cameras
My favorite cameras are the ones that have a card full of images when I check it! I have put 2 cameras beside each other and one camera might be as many as 50 images shorter when I pulled the cards !
In my opinion and after a ton of testing, the Browning Strike Force series perform flawlessly! They accomplish the goals as advertised and have a very long battery life ! The picture quality is also HD quality, and that is a bonus. Because if the Brownings passed the big 4 test and the image quality wasn’t perfect, it would still be a major player in my book !
This year my kids’ got me a Browning Spec Ops Full HD Extreme camera and I have been using it at a feeder during the off-season! If it makes it a year and maintains the quality, it will become my new favorite. At $179 it is an affordable and not cheap camera!
The Spec Ops Extreme battery life is out of this world ! I captured over 3000 images in a month on one set of Duracell batteries with the image quality set on the highest setting, HD! While the battery life wasn’t staggeringly better than the Strike Force it was better. I have a solar panel and rechargeable batteries that I will be putting on the Strike force, because I leave my cameras out year round.
Other great cameras
While the 2 Browning offerings are my favorites there are others that come close! And there are some that I will not consider, because I have thrown money away on them before!
Perhaps the best cameras I have ever tested are a couple of Cuddeback models. The Cuddeback 20MP Long Range IR is a great camera that competes with the Browning Strike Force and is only in the $110 range, but I sold mine because it is one of the battery eaters I talked about earlier! And since battery life is one of my top 4 considerations it doesn’t make the cut!
I actually sold my Cuddeback 20MP Long Range IR to buy another Strike Force. The image quality was out of this world so if you are considering a camera specifically to go solar with, it would be a great choice !
The other Cuddeback cameras that compete with the Browning Strike Force and the Spec Ops Full HD are far more expensive, so I haven’t purchased or tested those. I can only go by the testimonials of friends. I can’t see buying a camera that costs $100 more to get the same performance as I get from my Brownings. And according to my friend the battery life is less than the Browning, so it would be out of the running any way!
One of the cheaper cameras that perform very well is the Stealth cam P12,6.0 MP camera. It performs period. The image quality leaves a lot to be desired, but my idea of a good camera is one that takes pictures reliably. And the Stealth Cam P12 does that. I have 1 and likely won’t be buying another. But not because it’s not a good camera at $39, it’s because it’s not as good as the Brownings and I have plenty of cameras.
Cameras to steer clear of.
I have tested all the Tasco cameras on the cheap side, and 2 of the Bushnell cameras. Don’t waste your money! The Bushnells are better than the Tasco cameras, but have proven to not be reliable to say the least !
I can’t say that some bargain basement cameras aren’t “good enough”, because I have not tested all of them. But I have found that the biggest problems with the cheaper range cameras are dependability and battery life. The dependability of these cameras varies to great degrees ! I put 2 identical Tasco cameras on a tree in my back yard. My Chocolate Lab CoCo and Our Beagle Peyton run the yard and investigate everything! The Tasco cameras varied so much,one camera would trigger when the dogs were 10 feet away and one wouldn’t. The next time the results between the cameras would change. And sometimes they wouldn’t trigger and take the photo at all!
I’ve done my best to give you the results of many months and years of testing, in all weather conditions and seasons. We have compared the best of the Cameras in the $150 -$200 range as well as some that are much more expensive.
It is honestly my opinion that the trail cameras offered by Browning exceed anything else out there considering expense and performance.
Thank you for reading this article! If there are any questions or comments please leave them in the comments below and I will get back to you ASAP!