Looking for the best trail camera? Our outdoor experts researched over 50 models before purchasing 8 of today's best to test side-by-side. We set each up outdoors for hours, collecting photos and data. We monitored how well each product performed during calm weather and torrential downpours — during the day and night. After field time, we spent over 100 hours looking through hundreds of photos from each device; we then compared the image quality. We help highlight which options are the best on the market; whether you're just getting started or have been doing this for years, we have a trail cam for you.
If photograph and video quality are a selling point for you, look no further than the Bushnell Core DS No Glow 30MP. Offering an industry-leading 30MP still camera combined with a 1080P video camera that shoots up to 60 frames per second, it's hard to top the images produced by the Core DS. One of our favorite features of this model is that it can be set to hybrid mode, which shoots a photograph before it begins recording video. The "No Glow" technology hardly emits enough light to be seen by the human eye, making it ideal for wildlife monitoring and security purposes. The Core DS is easy to set up and operate, and the integrated LCD screen allows you to review photos and videos on the device rather than having to take the memory card home or lug a computer into the wilderness. For those looking to take their camera settings to the next level, the Core DS No Glow offers "pro mode" settings in which you can adjust the white balance and lock the exposure value.
There's no getting around the fact that the Bushnell Core DS No Glow is expensive. At this price, you could afford two or even three cameras from a competing manufacturer. Our testing team found that taking screenshots of night videos ended up being a higher quality final product than the photos taken by the camera rendering the night photos nearly useless. We noticed a substantial blunder in the setup process; after adjusting the settings on the device, it is critical that you turn the main switch to the "off" position before the "on" position or the camera won't save settings or activate. We found this step to be counterintuitive and easily forgotten and could lead to weeks of your trail camera sitting in the forest doing nothing. Despite this short list of flaws, we still think the Core DS No Glow is the absolute best model for photo and video quality.
Excellent Value for Monitoring Wildlife at a Distance
When it comes to wildlife monitoring, the Browning Strike Force Extreme is at the top of its class. The tough camera body can withstand some serious abuse while blending into a forest setting with a non-cheesy camo pattern. The 80-foot detection range, paired with the 0.6 second recovery time, enables you to pick up more movement at a greater distance. This is a huge plus when it comes to wildlife detection. Whether the camera is in photo or video mode, the images come out crisp and clear.
The one feature we wish the Strike Force Extreme offered was a viewing screen. The only way to know what you're taking a picture of is to attach the camera via a USB cable or insert the SD card into an additional device. Despite this detail, the Strike Force Extreme is an outstanding option for hunters and wildlife researchers.
The GardePro A3 is an excellent place to start for those looking to capture nocturnal activity. The Sony Starlight sensor is sensitive enough to capture a scurrying mouse. Meanwhile, the 0.5 second recovery time enabled us to capture multiple images of a raccoon sneaking around. Additionally, we found video mode to be on par with the photo mode as we captured a bobcat as soon as it entered the frame.
As much as we dig the nighttime detection, the GardePro A3 is one of the more challenging options to set up. This is mostly due to the slick, flat backside of the camera, which lacked resistance. In addition, the short and flimsy strap limited options for camera placement. However, if you can find the right surface or set up a post, this should not be a problem.
Why You Should Trust Us
We conducted an in-depth side-by-side test to highlight the attributes of each trail camera. With over 100 hours of field time, we sifted through hundreds of photos and videos. We evaluated how well each camera performed during inclement weather and considered all features and product specs. Through our rigorous testing, we became well acquainted with each product. This enabled us to analyze and evaluate each one with a critical eye to deliver you an honest review based on hands-on experience.
Our trail camera testing is divided across five rating metrics:
Performance (25% of overall score weighting)
Durability (20% weighting)
Image Quality (20% weighting)
Ease of Setup (20% weighting)
Features (15% weighting)
Veteran review editors Carissa Stanz and Ross Patton spearhead our trail camera review. Carissa has a bachelor's in film production and is currently pursuing her second degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences from Oregon State University. She is no stranger to cameras or conducting field research. Her most recent field study involved monitoring mammal diversity and occupancy for a non-profit with the help of trail cameras. With a formal education in Environmental Science from the University of Nevada, Reno, Ross has spent hundreds of hours studying the flora and fauna of the Sierra Nevada and the Great Basin and is no stranger to remote cameras and sensors of all sorts. In his free time, Ross has spent countless hours behind the lens as well as at the editing bay creating action sports films, toying with drones, and being the GearLab go-to person for technological innovations in the world of digital photo and video.
Analysis and Test Results
We considered the most important attributes and structured our testing appropriately. Each product was analyzed by five distinct metrics, including durability, performance, image quality, ease of use, and features.
In the world of product testing, we often find that you get what you pay for. In the realm of trail cameras, this mantra holds true. If you want the fastest trigger speed, the quickest recovery time, the highest image quality, or rugged durability you are going to have to invest accordingly. If your primary focus is nighttime imaging, we think the GardePro A3 will get the job done. We found that with its variable trigger speed and 80-foot detection range that the Browning Strike Force Extreme is a good budget choice for capturing images of wildlife at a distance. Finally, the Bushnell Core DS No Glow 30MP is the most expensive model in our review. This device is capable of producing magazine-quality photos or film-quality videos and has camera settings that could leave a photographer wondering why they're pushing the trigger button themselves when a motion sensor could be performing the task for them.
Trail cameras should be durable enough to handle inclement weather and rugged enough to take some abuse. To test durability, we examined the construction and hardiness of the materials, then left the cameras out in the wind, rain, snow, and heat.
We then examined each one to see how well they stood up to the harsh conditions. While all of them proved to withstand the elements, some defining differences left some cameras to stand out among the rest.
When you're investing in a trail camera, it's likely that part of the plan is to leave the device exposed to whatever Mother Nature will throw at it for days, weeks, or even months at a time. Our team found that the Bushnell Core DS No Glow and Browning Strike Force Extreme were the strongest models for this portion of the review. We are huge fans of the beefy latches and waterproof housing of these models.
The creators of the Bushnell Core DS No Glow most definitely had weather in mind during the design process. The lenses have an integrated protective hood to protect them from rain, snow, or frost.
The Bushnell Core DS No Glow has the beefiest strap clasp that we've used. The same style of clasp could be found securing motorcycles or logs to flatbed pickup — it will most definitely keep your camera in place during just about any type of inclement weather.
The only part of this device that our team found to be truly exposed to the elements is the 12V external power plug. Located on the bottom of the device, with the rubber cover in place we highly doubt that weather would affect performance.
The Campark T80 was the next in line with a well-constructed case.
To determine how well each trail camera performed, we considered trigger speed, range of motion detection, battery life, image recovery time, and video audio clarity. To test this, we conducted a distance detection test by setting up the cameras at a 3-4 foot height, laid out a 100-foot tape measure, and then walked in front of each camera at 20-foot intervals. We conducted an additional field test by placing the cameras on a remote property for over 100 hours.
The Bushnell Core DS No Glow 30MP was the top performer, with an optimum photo recovery time, which gives you a play-by-play photo series of the subject in motion along with long-distance detection.
The Bushnell Core DS No Glow 30MP has a trigger speed of 0.2 seconds. Our testing team was very impressed by the sensor range offered by this model. It recorded images triggered at distances of 100 feet during the day and 80 feet at night. The audio recorded during video shoots is what we would consider to be "top-notch."
The GardePro and Browning Strike Force Extreme both detected motion of up to 80 feet during the day and produced multiple images with minimal lag time. The Extreme's variable trigger speed can really help you to hone in on the perfect settings for the environment in which you are monitoring. We liked how the GardePro performed at night, as it gave us several shots of a raccoon searching around when other options did not. The Victure picked up the motion of a jumping chipmunk but didn't do so well at long distances.
Our favorite model for this section of the review is the Bushnell Core DS No Glow. This trail camera shoots photos at an impressive 30MP, which is the highest resolution of any camera we tested. The Core DS also shoots 1080P video at 60 frames per second. At this framerate, you can slow the video down to 50% and it will still remain smooth and fluid.
At 20MP, the GardePro proved to produce good quality photos both during the day and night. This makes this trail cam a good option for homeowners wanting to get a glimpse into what is happening around their property at night. Meanwhile, we liked the video and audio quality of the Campark T80. Despite its lower megapixel rating, our team found that the Browning Strike Force Extreme produced some of the sharpest images even at 16MP. Our least favorite performer was the APEMAN. This trail camera produced the most sasquatch-style images, which perhaps is fitting given the name.
Ease of Setup
We assessed how easy it was to insert the batteries, pop in the SD card, and navigate the camera menu for ease of setup. Then we determined how much effort it took to set up the camera and achieve the desired angle.
The simple camera menu layout of the GardePro and Meidase are very user-friendly, making these two options great for beginners. We also really liked the operation panel layout of the Campark T80. Additionally, these options include a colorful viewing screen that allows you to see what you are recording. If you value simplicity, it's hard to beat the setup process of the Browning Strike Force Extreme. Although it lacks an LCD, this device is a no-brainer to activate.
Overall, the setup process for the Bushnell Core DS No Glow is straightforward. The menu is intuitive, the screen is bright, and the buttons and switches are easy to operate. That said, we found it necessary to dock this model a point or two for this metric because of a counterintuitive step in the setup process. It is essential that you switch the camera from "setup" mode to "off" before you switch it to "on" or your settings will not be saved and the camera will not be activated.
For features, we scrolled through all the menu options to see what each camera offered and took into account product specifications.
We looked for any bonus features along with how customizable the settings were. For instance, the Campark T80 offers WiFi compatibility. For anyone using this camera close to home or within a WiFi signal, you can benefit from downloading the photos straight to your phone without needing any additional device.
Some options such as the Bushnell Core DS No Glow and Meidase allow you to set up specific time intervals for monitoring. However, our favorite features were a fast trigger speed coupled with minimal recovery photo time. Combining these two features optimizes your chance of capturing all the action.
The Bushnell Core DS No Glow has one feature that no other cameras in our review offer — hybrid mode. With this setting, the device will snap a photo before it begins recording video so you'll have pics and vids for every subject that trips the motion sensor. Other attractive features are an integrated lock loop on the clasp, zoom options for reviewing photos and video on the screen, and the ability to lock white balance and exposure values.
Choosing a trail camera can be an incredibly daunting experience. All the product specs, customizable features, and range in price require a ton of research. This is why we did all the research and field testing to provide you with all the information you need. We hope you find our results and top picks helpful in picking out which one is best for you.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.