The 3 Best Trail Cameras of 2024

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Best Overall Trail Camera

Bushnell Core DS No Glow

Image Quality: 8-30MP | Trigger Speed: 0.2s

While the Bushnell Core DS No Glow didn’t win any of our individual metrics, it posted respectable results across the board and stood out in our performance tests. We were able to trigger its passive infrared sensor (PIR) while walking and running at 100 feet during the day and at 40 feet at night, which is one of the best results in the test. And with a trigger speed of 0.2 seconds, it often captures the action early. This trail cam also offers features like a field scan and dynamic video, which will record video as long as it senses movement. We also found that 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 without having to remove the the memory card.

The Bushnell Core DS No Glow is expensive and doesn’t produce the highest quality photos of the cameras we tested, particularly at night. Despite the fact that the Core DS will take photos with resolutions up to 30MP, the field of view is narrow, and any animal moving faster than a slow walk is often blurry. The video quality, however, is awesome, shooting up to 1080P at 60 frames per second. The camera also has a slower recovery rate, meaning that you only get one capture or just a few of any animal walking through the frame (depending on your settings). And even with the PIR sensor in its highest settings, the camera takes a lot of photos of swaying branches. Despite these tradeoffs, we still think the Core DS No Glow offers the most-balanced performance of any camera we tested and is the best option for most folks.

Best Bang for Your Buck and Best Nighttime Detection

GardePro A3S

Image Quality: 2-48MP | Trigger Speed: 0.1 to 0.6s

The GardePro A3S earned two awards: it is an excellent option for anyone looking for a trail camera on a budget, and offers best-of-class nighttime detection. In our controlled range tests, it was also the only camera that sensed movement at 100 feet during the day and at night. It has one of the largest detection zones of any model we’ve tested, which makes it a great candidate for nocturnal wildlife detection at longer ranges. With photo resolution options up to 48MP, this camera offers stunning image quality. During our backyard tests, it captured crisp photos of our testers sprinting by at close range (10 feet). The high-definition 1296P videos are also among some of the best in the test, capturing some of the highest-quality audio by far. A hybrid mode will capture both photos and video, so you don’t have to choose. The camera also offers a timelapse option, allowing you to schedule photo captures without an animal passing close enough to trigger the camera (100 feet in our tests).

Unfortunately, the camera did not consistently stop motion, and many of our wildlife images are blurred. The camera’s wide-angle lens excels at capturing close-up images. But when the subject is far away, they appear quite small and can be lost by the impressive detail of the images, which have a shallow depth of field. GardePro advertises a trigger speed of 0.1 to 0.6 seconds. But in practice, we found it to perform below average in our tests, with the subject appearing suddenly mid-screen. The claimed 0.5-second recovery time also left large gaps in movement, often only giving us one or two images of an animal as it crossed the screen. The housing body and plastic cam strap buckle are less robust than most other options in the test. For the price, though, we are very impressed with this camera’s performance.

Best for Remote Monitoring

Bushnell CelluCore 20

Image Quality: 2-20MP | Trigger Speed: 0.1s

One of our favorite reasons to pick up our phones, by far, is an update from a wireless trail camera app. A cheerful notification will alert you to the latest captures made by cellular trail cameras like Bushnell Cellucore 20. It’s hard to overstate how handy it is to know the daily habits of your local deer population or when a bear is moving through without having to hike out to retrieve a memory card. The Cellucore camera itself doesn’t have an interface to speak of, just an on-off button and slots for batteries and an SD memory card. You control it using the free Bushnell Trail Camera App. You can change settings, like changing image quality or switching from photo to video, and sort your images by metrics like date, time, or moon phase on the app.

Setting up the app is a bit of a hassle, and you have to be sure there is a Verizon or AT&T signal — the two supported providers — where you set up the camera. (But you don’t need to have these services for your phone to communicate with the Cellucore. That happens through the app.) After the initial setup, though, it’s pretty smooth sailing. Unfortunately, this camera’s image and video quality are nothing to write home about. So much so that it can take time to identify the species that wandered by. A fox, a rabbit, and an opossum had us scratching our heads. The deer, coyotes, and bears are easier, though you may have trouble counting those points. Still, this trail cam is the way to go if you want the ease of daily updates.

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Why You Should Trust Us

We tested these cameras side-by-side for months to highlight their relative strengths and weaknesses. We spent over 140 hours with these cameras, had them set up in the field for seven weeks, and sifted through over 10,000 photos and videos. We evaluated how well each camera performed day and night and during inclement weather, and considered how their features affected our user experience. Then we analyzed and evaluated each one with a critical eye to deliver you an honest review based on our hands-on experience.

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Our trail camera testing is divided into five rating metrics:

  • Performance (25% of overall score weighting)
  • Image Quality (25% weighting)
  • Ease of Operation (20% weighting)
  • Features (15% weighting)
  • Durability (15% weighting)

Veteran review editors Carissa Stanz, Ross Patton, and Clark Tate 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. Ross is GearLab’s go-to for technological innovations in the world of digital photos and video.

Clark has a master’s degree in environmental science from the University of Virginia and spent years creating study designs and conducting fieldwork. Clark is a senior review editor with GearLab and has significant experience testing everything from handheld GPS units to remote office gear.

Analysis and Test Results

Our process began with thorough market research to identify the best trail cameras available on the market. We then purchased the top options — just like you — to include in our side-by-side comparison testing. To design our test plan, we considered the most pressing needs of trail camera users and structured our examination accordingly. We scored each product’s performance, image quality, ease of operation, features, and durability, and comparatively ranked each product relative to the competition.

Value

As people who spend a lot of time thinking about and testing tech products, we find that you often get what you pay for. However, in the realm of trail cameras, this generalization rings less true. Depending on your needs, you can spend a lot less than top-dollar and be completely satisfied with your purchase.

Take the GardePro A3S, for example. It costs less than half of the most expensive models yet is feature-rich, with impressive image quality and admirable performance. With a wide-angle lens and one of the longest ranges during the day and night, it has one of the largest detection zones of any camera in the test. While it didn’t deliver our favorite photos, many of its captures are stunning. It is important to point out that this model does seem less durable, with a plastic buckle on the mounting strap and a lighter-duty housing body. But if you take care of it, you’ll likely get your money’s worth.

The Bushnell Trophy E3 Essential is another attractive option. Though its field of view is narrow, it offers a wide-ranging focus area and took some of the best stop-motion wildlife photos of the test. Its trigger speed, detection range, and recovery rate aren’t as good as the top options, but it’s not far behind.

The Vikeri 1520P Wide-Angle camera is another impressive performer at a lower price point. Unfortunately, water accumulated in the housing during our seven-week test period. In all fairness, it was a wet spring in the rainy Blue Ridge Mountains. But this model obviously offers less of a bargain if you have to replace it. If you live in a dry climate or can place this model under an additional shelter, it’s worth considering for its incredible image quality and wide lens perspective.

Performance

To judge each camera’s overall performance, we tested their trigger speed, detection range, image recovery time, battery life, and the clarity of their video sound capture (i.e., bird song and deer snorts). We tested the first three points by placing the cameras in their highest quality settings, securing them to a 3.5-foot tall pole, and walking, then running in front of each camera at 10-foot intervals out to 100 feet. We repeated this at night — which is tricky, sprinting in the pitch black! We also used the same setup to test their video capability.

The Vikeri cam posted impressive results in all the performance tests, with the fastest trigger speed picking up our test runners quicker than the rest. With a large detection zone and wide-angle lens, it regularly picked up movement at distances up to 90 feet during the day and 50 feet at night. It also had one of the best recovery times, allowing us to play back our photos like a film in ten-photo bursts.

In contrast, the Browning Strike Force Pro suffered in particular ways that affected its overall score in this metric. While this camera has one of the best recovery rates in the test (8 seamless photos with a small gap to the next set of rapid-fire images), it has one of the smallest ranges of detection, dropping out of the backyard tests at 30 feet during the day and 10 feet at night. Its performance in our wildlife tests was better — extending to 40-50 feet during the day and 30-40 feet at night — but even that improvement didn’t stack up to the better options.

The Bushnell Core DS and Trophy E3 both offer an admirable range of 100 feet during the day and 40 feet at night. They also feature some of the fastest trigger speeds but have slower recovery rates. Animals move about a foot in between each photo, so when you scroll through quickly, they look like a film in fast forward instead of the real-time impression of movement that options like the Strike Force Pro offer.

The GardePro A3S actually suffers in two areas, with middle-of-the-road trigger speed and recovery rate. That means you get fewer photos of every animal that passes by. Yet, it has the most impressive detection range; the only option in the test to trigger a photo at 100 feet while walking and running day and night.

The Reconyx HyperFire 2 has one of the slower trigger speeds in the test and a limited range: 40 feet during the day and 10 feet at night in our yard tests, with only slightly better results with wildlife. But it offers top-notch recovery speeds. When in its fastest recovery setting, you’ll see ten seamless images before noticing a break, and then another ten.

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Even in its lower-quality default settings, with the Reconyx, you get at least three to six images of each animal instead of just one. But, to be fair, this is also true of many of its competitors.

In summary, the option for the largest detection zone is the Vikeri. The GardePro provides the longest range of detection (100 feet day and night), though the Bushnell Core DS and Trophy E3 are also excellent. The Vikeri, Bushnell Core DS, and Trophy E3 cameras have the fastest trigger speed. The Reconyx, Browning, and Vikeri all have excellent recovery rates.

We also noted which cameras had a visible flash at night. The Bushnell Trophy E3 emitted a slight glow, but we didn’t notice animals reacting to it. The Bushnell Cellucore 20, Reconyx, and Browning cameras did have a visible red glow that animals — mostly coyotes — reacted to on occasion. We also set up the cameras in the woods for seven weeks in their default settings to test battery life. None of them lost any battery life, so we don’t consider that a defining factor of overall performance.

Image Quality

To judge image quality, we considered the photos’ and videos’ clarity and color, the cameras’ ability to stop motion, and how well they focus on subjects throughout their field of view. We looked at over 10,000 photos to make our determinations. Admittedly, this is a challenging metric to judge since many cameras offer impressive, yet very different photos.

The Browning Strike Force Pro landed on top with a wide range of focus, bright, color-corrected images, and the ability to stop motion for crisp images at a walking pace. You can set its image resolution from 4 to 26MP — we tested it at 10MP in its default mode and at 26MP during the range test and in the field. Both yielded some of our favorite photos. The camera’s 1080P video shot at 60 frames per second didn’t yield our favorite videos, but its quality is solid.

While the narrow field of view and less vibrant colors make the Bushnell Trophy E3 photos a little less exciting than the Strike Force Pro, it often captured clear photos of animals in action. In our field tests, it produced the best photos of running deer. It also offers a large focus area that extends throughout much of its impressive range.

The GardePro offers striking, wide-framed photos and impressive video quality. In our backyard test, it froze our test runner perfectly in place with a crisp image. It also produced the best nighttime photos. Unfortunately, we didn’t see that same stop motion play out during our wildlife testing, and overall we weren’t as impressed with the images of animals running during the day. Admittedly, some of that is due to our camera placement, though. Its wide lens works wonderfully for nearby animals. But when they are further away, they appear very small, and the photo fails to show much depth of field.

The Vikeri game camera offers impressively high-quality photos and video, though it does not excel at stopping motion at night, especially when animals are close to the camera. It tends to overexpose the subject, making it appear ghostly white. Unfortunately, since moisture was able to work its way into the housing during the seven-week field test, many of the daytime wildlife photos are foggy, and there is moisture behind the screen. If you are able to protect this camera from rain, you’ll be rewarded with an excellent, wide-angled view of your local wildlife.

Though the Bushnell Core DS features an excellent range and trigger speed, its image quality doesn’t blow us out of the water. The field of view is narrow, it doesn’t stop motion particularly well, and the images are often a little grainy. Although we still like its photos and videos, it’s just that the competition is fierce.

The Reconyx has a narrow focus range, and photos are often blurry when animals are on the go. Still, it produced some marvelous photos. We also appreciated the Campark T80 for its video and audio quality. We were always delighted to see images from the Bushnell Cellucore pop-up on our phones, but the image quality doesn’t compare to the other models we tested.

Our least favorite performer was the Apeman H55. This trail camera produced the most sasquatch-style images, perhaps fitting the name.

Ease of Operation

To judge the ease — or difficulty — of operating each of these devices. We assessed how useful their manuals are and the ease of initial setup. We noted how well they mounted to trees and how long it took us to find the correct angle and determine each camera’s field of view. Finally, we judged how challenging it was to change their settings and check their batteries in the field.

The GardePro’s simple menu makes it easy to run through the initial setup and change settings on the fly. The short and sweet manual gives you the information you need and little else. Most of the cameras include a textured mounting panel on the back of their housing to increase friction against a tree, but the GardePro does not. This makes attaching to certain tree varieties a bit more challenging, but not by much.

A motion test mode shows you what you’re pointing at by flashing red whenever the sensor sees you. The Bushnell Core DS and Trophy E3 cameras and the Reconyx and Browning cameras also provide this handy setup assistance.

The Bushnell Core DS and Trophy E3 setup process is straightforward, though the Core DS’s manual is clearer and more streamlined. The Core DS’s menu is intuitive, the screen is bright, and the buttons and switches are easy to operate. And unlike the Trophy E3, the Core DS does not require you to open the entire front of the housing to change settings, so the camera still points at your area of interest. This is displayed clearly on the screen for you, so you know exactly what it’s shooting at.

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In contrast, the Trophy E3’s control buttons are arranged less intuitively — forcing more frequent missteps — and the video feed swings out with the door. But while the Trophy’s batteries are stored securely inside the housing, the Core DS battery tray ejects from the bottom of the housing using a button we often forget about. The tray has a latch that keeps it from sending your batteries flying, but it’s hard to press and annoying to use.

The Vikeri is nearly as easy to use and set up as the GardePro, although its manual isn’t as clear. And instead of showing you where it’s pointing using a motion test light, you can only take a test photo, which is a little more cumbersome. We liked to just stand behind it and kept the housing propped open just enough to see the screen to know what we’ll capture. It also features a thread-through buckle on its strap instead of a more preferable cam strap.

The Browning Strike Force Pro is built similarly to the Bushnell Core DS except that its buttons light up, which is marvelous in low light. The Strike Force Pro is also the only camera we tested that angles away from its base, making it easy to accommodate the lean of a tree, although the clawed clasp on the tree strap is annoying to use. While we love that the stationary camera and integrated screen make setup straightforward, there are some drawbacks to this model. Namely, the battery pack also ejects from the bottom of the camera. But with no latch, it often falls to the forest floor. It is also important to note that the manual isn’t very handy.

The Bushnell Cellucore operates via a specialized smartphone app. Once you take the step of downloading and setting it up, the camera is simple to use remotely, but it took a hit in the ratings for that extra step. The light-up display on the Reconyx makes it wonderfully easy to see, but the single line of text that it prompts you with can sometimes be hard to decipher.

Features

To judge the usefulness of each camera’s features, we thoroughly researched them to build a comprehensive list. Then we tested their effectiveness in the field similarly to how we assessed ease of operation. All of the cameras include some standard features, like lock-compatible housing for security, but there are still notable differences in their full feature sets.

Only the three Bushnell cameras, the GardePro, Vikeri, and the Reconyx, offer a ‘hybrid mode,’ which will capture both photos and videos at the same time. They will, for example, snap five photos after a sensor trigger before switching to ten seconds of video.

The Bushnell Core DS and Reconyx cameras also offer dynamic video capture. Most of the cameras will only record for a set time once triggered. But the Core DS will continue to record for as long as it senses movement, making it one of the best options if you’re particularly interested in video.

The Bushnell Core DS and Trophy E3 cameras offer a field scan function that extends the camera’s range beyond its PIR sensor by taking photos or videos during set times of day with or without a trigger. The GardePro, Reconyx, Vikeri, and Browning cameras offer a similar time-lapse feature that takes photos throughout the day at adjustable intervals without a trigger. The Reconyx will adjust the timing of the photos as day length changes throughout the season, a nifty feature it calls ‘solar timing.’

The Bushnell Cellucore 20 connects to a cellular network, and the Campark offers WiFi connectivity. As long as the Cellucore has a signal, it will send wildlife photos straight to your cellphone in real-time. If you use the Campark close to home or within reach of WiFi, you can download the photos straight to your phone.

Durability

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 for up to seven weeks at a time.

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 and Browning Strike Force Pro were the strongest models out of the suite of cameras we tested. We’re particular fans of the beefy latches and waterproof housing of these cameras. And it helps that only the bottom half of the housing opens, leaving less room for water to sneak in, especially through the more vulnerable roof where water could leak down into the internal components.

Luckily, most of the cases seem very well made, with excellent-quality clasps to hold the cases closed. The Bushnell options, the Reconyx, and the Browning cameras have tough, metal cam strap clasps that firmly hold the camera in place. Only the Vikeri and GardePro clasps are disappointing, with metal-wire gripping plastic hooks that seem to create a weaker seal.

But only the Vikeri camera housing leaked during our test phase. A noticeable amount of water accumulated at the bottom of the camera, which resulted in moisture fogging the screen and obscuring the lens. We have dried it out, and it still works, but we wouldn’t expect this camera to last very long if you plan to use it in a wet climate. Alternatively, the Bushnell Core DS and Trophy E3, and Reconyx all include a rain shield over the lens to protect them from rain, snow, or frost.

Conclusion

Choosing the right trail camera can be daunting. There are so many product specs, customizable features, and price points to consider. We did the research and field testing to provide the information you need. We hope this helps you find the perfect trail camera for you.

While some folks opt to use trail cameras for security purposes, if you’re more interested in home security specifically, we have a review that highlights our favorite home security cameras.