With so many brands and models available, shopping for your first trail camera can be intimidating. In fact, the sheer number of choices may overwhelm even the most experienced trail camera owners. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of the best trail cameras available as of October 2021.
What is a Trail Camera?
Trail cameras, also known as game cameras, are a special type of remote camera designed for long-term outdoor use. Popular with hunters and wildlife photographers, they allow you to capture motion or movement in remote or rarely accessed locations on your property.
There are two types of trail camera: standard and cellular. Both types record footage onto a removable SD card, however, they allow you to access the footage in different ways.
Standard vs Cellular Trail Cameras
Standard trail cameras typically require you to remove the SD card from the camera to access the footage they’ve recorded. If your computer doesn’t have a SD card slot, you may need to invest in an SD card reader, which are inexpensive and readily available.
There are also some standard trail cameras capable of wirelessly transmitting their footage to another camera or receiver, which can be stored inside your home or in a more accessible location. This allows you to more easily review the footage. It’s particularly convenient if you’re using multiple cameras.
Cellular trail cameras operate in a similar way. However, instead of transmitting to a receiver, they send the footage to you directly using a third-party cellular network, typically provided by AT&T or Verizon. This allows you to access the footage whenever and wherever you like. Usually through a smartphone app or by email.
While more convenient, cellular trail cameras incur additional costs. Like a smartphone, you need to pay a monthly fee to use the cellular network. The cost for a plan can start as low as $5 per month, but is often more depending on the number of cameras you’re using and how many photos or videos you capture per month. Cellular trail cameras also generally require an active plan in order to function. You cannot use them like standard trail cameras.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the best trail cameras currently available.
Standard Trail Cameras
Stealth Cam DS4K Ultimate
Released in 2017, the original Stealth Cam DS4K was marketed as the first trail camera capable of shooting 4K video. The 30MP dual sensor camera was an instant success, offering – at the time – unmatched visuals and a reliable performance.
Announced at the start of 2021, the Stealth Cam DS4K Ultimate is a powerful upgrade of the previous model. Equipped with an enhanced 32MP sensor, the new camera captures 4K video at up to 30fps with sound, during the day and night.
Speaking of night shooting, the camera is equipped with six 850nm Power LEDs for a reliable, low glow infrared flash with a 100-foot range. This matches the detection range. Additionally, the camera has a fast 0.2 second trigger speed, and is capable of recording at multiple resolutions for both stills and video.
The camera also supports PIR Combo mode (simultaneous video and still image recording), burst mode (1-9 images per triggering), and has a 1-59 sec/1-59 minute recovery time.
The DS4K Ultimate has weather-resistant casing with matte PIR and IR array covers. These help reduce glare and ensure the camera blends into natural surroundings. The camera uses 12 AA batteries, but it also has an external power jack that allows it to use a Stealth Cam 3,0000mAh SOL-PAK solar battery pack. The memory slot holds SD cards up to 128GB.
If you’re looking for a reliable trail camera that offers outstanding, high quality visuals, you won’t be disappointed in the DS4K Ultimate. The camera currently costs $249.99.
Browning Trail Cameras Strike Force Pro XD
Browning Trail Cameras is one of the most popular brands on the market today. While they offer a wide variety of high-performing standard and cellular trail cameras, our top pick for 2021 is the Strike Force Pro XD.
The 24MP trail camera uses two separate lenses, with each one optimized for day and night capturing respectively. The dedicated lens and an automatically adjusting IR flash range (Power Save, Long Range, Fast Motion) up to 120-feet ensures excellent nighttime recording. The camera has an 80-foot detection range, a 0.15 second trigger speed, and can record 1080p Full HD video at 60fps with sound. However, that’s not all the camera has to offer.
The Pro XD boasts more features than any other camera in the Strike Force product line. The camera can capture up to 8 multi shot images, 8 rapid fire images, and supports time-lapse capabilities. Additionally, the camera has a 1.5-inch color viewing screen, and comes with a steel tree mounting bracket and a compact case that measures 4.25 x 3.25 x 2.5 inches.
The Pro XD can last for months on six AA lithium batteries. However, it also has a power jack that allows you to use an external power supply like the Browning Trail Cameras Solar Power Pack. The camera uses SDXC cards up to 512GB, and is currently priced $169.99.
Cuddeback CuddeLink G Series Dual Flash
In a buying guide from 2019, we identified Cuddeback as an affordable, reliable, and popular brand of trail cameras. This year, we’re including their CuddeLink G Series Dual Flash model in our list of the best trail cameras.
As you may have figured from the name, the Dual Flash comes with two flash systems for more versatile nighttime recording. You can choose between using the standard low-glow flash that produces better quality images, or a no-glow infrared flash that’s invisible to the eye and less likely to startle any wildlife. The camera has a 100-foot flash range.
However, the biggest benefit of the Dual Flash camera is the CuddeLink wireless mesh network. The network allows you to transmit images from up to fifteen remote cameras to a single home camera or receiver. If you’re using multiple cameras, this is a great benefit. Using CuddeLink allows you to check your footage more often, and helps you avoid regularly visiting each camera and potentially disrupting the wildlife you’re trying to capture.
The 20MP Dual Flash camera has a 0.25 second trigger speed and 1-2 second recovery speed. The camera supports video recording (10, 20, or 30 seconds), time lapse (10 seconds to 24 hours), and burst mode (1 to 5 images). The Dual Flash uses four D Cell batteries for a life up to 12 months, and records on SD cards up to 32GB.
The CuddeLink G Series Dual Flash trail camera costs $279.99 and is compatible with all other CuddeLink models. If you’re planning on investing in a multi-camera setup but want to avoid paying for a monthly cellular plan, the Dual Flash is an excellent choice.
Bushnell Prime Low Glow
Our next pick is the Bushnell Prime Low Glow trail camera. Affordable, reliable, and easy to use, it’s a worthy inclusion in our list of the best trail cameras currently available.
The 24MP camera has a 0.3 second trigger speed and 1 second recovery rate. While it doesn’t support time lapse or burst shooting capabilities, you can record 1080p video at 30fps with audio. Nighttime recording is also strong; the flash uses 36 low-glow LEDs and has an 80-foot range. The camera uses SD cards up to 32GB and six AA batteries for a life up to six months.
The Bushnell Prime Low Glow is available now for $119.99, which includes six batteries and a 16GB SD card. It also comes with 2-year limited warranty. Despite its low price, the camera holds its own against the other models in our list. A great choice for beginners on a budget.
Stealth Cam 2020 G42NG-KPT (Kryptek Camouflage)
The 2020 G42NG-KPT trail camera is the second of three Stealth Cam models in our list. Available exclusively from Focus Camera, the Kryptek Camouflage special edition is a fantastic trail camera for hunters, wildlife photographers, or anyone passionate about home security.
The 24MP trail camera can record still images and full HD video with sound in wide 16:9, with a super-fast trigger speed of 0.8 seconds. The camera also features quick-set programming for fast setup and supports rapid fire burst mode (1-9 photos per triggering) and time lapse capabilities. For nighttime recording, the camera uses 42 no glow infrared emitters for a 100-foot flash range.
At $109.99, the 2020 G42NG-KPT Kryptek Camouflage is the most affordable trail camera on our list. Considering its performance capabilities, this is a great value deal.
Cellular Trail Cameras
Browning Trail Cameras Defender Wireless Pro Scout (Verizon)
Our second Browning Trail Cameras model, and first cellular camera, is the Defender Wireless Pro Scout (Verizon). Offering impressive performance capabilities, and the convenience of a nationwide 4G LTE cellular network, it’s no surprise this is one of the most popular trail cameras on the market today.
The 18MP camera shoots stills and HD video (1600 x 900) with sound up to 2-minutes in length. The camera can also capture up to 8 multi shot images, 8 rapid fire images, and supports time-lapse capabilities. It has an 80-foot detection range. For nighttime recording, it uses the same automatically adjustable infrared flash as the Strike Force Pro XD.
The Defender Wireless Pro Scout allows you to receive recorded images and clips by email or text, either at a scheduled time or as soon as they’re recorded. Additionally, if you’re within 10 feet of your camera, you can connect to the camera using the Defender mobile app. The app allows you to wirelessly view, delete, or download recorded footage, watch a live feed, or update the camera settings.
The Defender Wireless Pro Scout costs $199.99, with monthly plans starting at $9.99 for one camera. Additional cameras or larger upload requirements require a larger monthly fee. If you’re interested in utilizing a cellular system, you won’t be disappointed by this versatile trail camera.
Cuddeback CuddeLink Cell
Cuddeback’s cellular CuddeLink camera is available with an AT&T or Verizon plan. The camera offers many of the benefits of the CuddeLink G Series Dual Flash standard camera, with the added benefit of having your photos wirelessly emailed to you directly from the camera.
The camera has a 0.25 trigger speed, 1-2 second recovery time, and can capture stills at two resolutions: 5MP or 20MP, and in either HD (16:9) or full-size (4:3). Images captured during the day are full color, while night images are captured in black and white for added clarity.
While it doesn’t offer two flash options like the Dual Flash, the CuddeLink Cell is still effective at nighttime recording. The camera flash uses 24 high-power low-glow infrared LEDs and has a 100-foot range.
The camera also supports burst mode (1-5 images per triggering), time lapse (10 seconds to 24 hours), and video recording (10, 20, or 30 seconds). However, using the CuddeLink network disables video recording.
Unlike other cellular models, the CuddeLink Cell allows you to use up to 16 CuddeLink cameras on a single cellular plan from $10 per month (paid annually). This is because the CuddeLink cameras can already connect using the CuddeLink mesh network. Therefore, you only need one cellular plan to enable your home camera to transmit the images to you by email. The settings for each camera connected to the network can also be updated wirelessly via the Cuddeback website.
It’s worth noting though that each CuddeLink Cell camera requires a plan to operate. So, if you wish to use multiple cameras on a single plan, you should use a CuddeLink Cell as your home camera, with a network of standard CuddeLink cameras such as the Dual Flash.
The Cuddeback CuddeLink Cell costs $199.99. In addition to its pleasing performance capabilities, the camera allows you to use multiple cameras on a low-cost monthly plan. A fantastic cellular trail camera that’s worth your consideration.
Stealth Cam Fusion
Our third and final cellular trail camera recommendation is the Stealth Cam Fusion, available with either an AT&T or Verizon plan. Like its standard Stealth Cam counterparts, the Fusion is affordable, easy to setup, and captures clear images during the day and night. With the added convenience of a cellular network, the Stealth Cam Fusion is a strong choice.
The 26MP camera has a 0.8 second trigger speed, 3-59 sec/1-59 min recovery time, and can shoot in multiple resolutions (16MP/8MP/4MP) at a wide 16:9 image ratio. The camera supports Burst Mode (1-6 images per triggering) but doesn’t record video. Meanwhile, low-light sensitivity technology and 4 low glow infrared emitters ensure clear nighttime recording. The flash has an 80-foot range.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of the Fusion is how easy it is to setup. Simply download the Stealth Cam Command Pro app, scan the QR code that comes with the camera, and the Fusion will be ready to go. Using the app, you can opt to receive your images as they’re captured, in batch, or at scheduled times. The camera uses SD cards up to 32GB and 8 AA batteries.
The AT&T model is currently priced at $149.99 and comes with a 32GB SD card. With plans starting as low as $4 per month (when paid annually), the Stealth Cam Fusion is an affordable, capable, and easy to setup solution.
While there is a variety of options available, we hope this guide to the best standard & cellular trail cameras of 2021 helps you in your search.