Game cameras, also known as trail cameras , have become one of the best tools in a hunter's arsenal. Whether it's before or during hunting season, game cameras can be set up and forgotten, left to collect valuable data about the prey's habits. Infrared and incandescent flash cameras allow for great variation in resolution, quality, and color when snapping pictures at night. Other features, such as battery life and external LCD monitors, can be invaluable or unnecessary depending on a hunter's needs.
Game cameras used to use heat-sensing technology to detect game, but these simple devices gave no information about the size of the game, or even the type of animal; thus, a camera was added. The early models of the 80s and 90s were limited to 35mm film and motion-sensing technology that was just as likely to capture leaves blowing in the wind as they were actual game. The introduction and proliferation of digital cameras instead of film, and the aforementioned heat-sensing technology, have only made the game camera that much more effective.
Infrared or Incandescent Flash
The most important decision that must be made when purchasing a game camera is whether to go with the infrared (and " black " infrared) or incandescent flash, made popular by every camera for the last several decades. Both have pros and cons to be considered. Which is optimal for a given hunter depends on a combination of personal preferences and beliefs (what is most effective, and which trade-offs are the most worthwhile).
Resolution and Quality
Incandescent flashes are essentially the flashes on most modern cameras. An incandescent flash is thus very bright and will light up even a pitch black area. This can be both beneficial and problematic. More light means a better quality photo, but increased power consumption and the potential to spook game cannot be ignored.
Resolution and Quality
Important Features to ConsiderOnce the decision about which type of flash has been made, it's time to look at the differences between the cameras. Buyers should be aware that higher-priced models will contain additional features and greater usability, but some features may not be worth the added cost, or even desirable in some cases.
ResolutionResolution, as measured in megapixels, is no different with game cameras as it is with digital cameras. However, while it's common to find digital cameras with resolutions in the 12-18 megapixel range, game cameras operate more in the 3-7 megapixel range. The higher this number, the more pixels that comprise the image, thus the more clear it will be.
Capture Modes (Video, Bursts, Multiple Shot)Some game cameras now offer the option of shooting video. Another option is taking photos in bursts (pictures taken over a specified period of time) that capture action that a single photo might miss. While this could be a nice feature, it will fill up the memory card that much faster.
SecurityThe most common way to secure a game camera and protect it from damage is with a s ecurity box . These boxes also have built-in holes for running a cable and padlock system. Other security features include password protection and a padlock tab to prevent the case from being opened. Unfortunately, the former doesn't become a problem for the thief until after the unit has been stolen, and the latter can be defeated by any dedicated thief with the proper equipment.
Built-In ViewerSome units have LCD screens that will do anything from tell you how many pictures have been taken to allow you to view the pictures on the memory card right then and there. The image isn't going to be as clear as if you took the memory card home and opened the files on your computer, but if you're looking to get an idea of what's been going on, or simply need to see if the camera has captured anything that would justify it remaining in its present location, this can be a nice feature.
Something to consider, however, is that the LCD screen is going to be drain on the battery. Moreover, every minute a hunter spends in the woods is time that hunter is spreading his or her human scent.
Battery LifeSome hunters live hours away from their hunting location. Some don't have the time to go out every other week to make sure the unit's still got power. The cheaper-end of trail cameras can burn through a half-dozen C batteries in a week (extreme, but it can happen). Other units can lasts months on the same set of batteries.
Trigger Time/SpeedThe trigger time, or trigger speed, is the amount of time that passes between when the animal is detected by the camera's sensors and the camera snaps the picture. A quick trigger time can mean the difference between catching the tail end (literally) of a buck or a perfect snapshot of the animal dead-center in the camera's sights.
Type of MemorySome cameras have internal memory. This sounds great since the purchase of a memory card is unnecessary, but to get the images from the camera, the entire unit must be connected to a computer. With SD cards , a card can be removed and swapped out for a blank one, or perhaps removed and placed into a regular digital camera for quick viewing, then put right back into the game camera.
With external memory, such as an SD card, expanding memory capacity is as simple as purchasing a card with greater capacity. Upgrading a camera's internal memory, if possible, will likely cost more than buying a new camera with greater capacity.
Detection DistanceThis is the distance at which a camera can detect game, thus triggering it to take a picture. The greater the detection distance, the more area the camera can cover, and the further away the animal can be while still getting itself on camera.
Detection WidthMany cameras may have a very narrow range of detection. Meaning, the animal essentially must cross the center of the camera (lens) in order to be detected and the camera be triggered to take a picture. PIR stands for passive infrared, and is the camera's sensing mechanism. Some cameras have much wider detection zones, and can thus be triggered by action in a much greater area. The wider the detection width, the better, depending on the user's needs.
Other FeaturesThere are additional features that may deserve consideration, and could help distinguish between two similar models. They're not the selling points of a specific camera, but like extra cup holders in a car, worth noting.
External Battery JackGame cameras, especially those with incandescent flashes and other power-sucking amenities like LCD screens or mobile capabilities, can run through batteries at a rate higher than is desirable. Having an external, rechargeable battery can save money that is otherwise spent on batteries, and can even last for months, depending on the battery.
Low Battery IndicatorMost low battery indicators are lights that turn on before the camera is about to shut down. If a trail camera gives a specific battery level or even the number of volts left in its battery's tank, it can be extremely helpful.
Mobile/CellularSome cameras are even equipped with the ability to send pictures straight to a cellular phone. This may or may not be of use, but it's certainly going to affect battery life, so make sure to take that into account when purchasing a camera with this feature, or when deciding whether or not to turn it on
Hunting specialty retailers and sporting goods stores are the obvious brick-and-mortar choices for purchasing a game camera. Hunting expos are another physical location where game cameras can be found. However, these obvious choices cannot always compete with the Internet in terms of pricing and availability.
Buying Game Cameras
can make your search for the perfect
simple. Search for game cameras or
to find an abundance of new and used cameras. To narrow down the extensive list of options to find the camera that's best suited for your needs, refine your search by adding the features most important to you, such as
. Instructions for newcomers to eBay can be found
, and can guide you through the process from start to finish.
Buying Game Cameras on eBay
If you're not interested in waiting for an auction to end, look for items with the Buy it Now option.
If you're unsure about a camera, look for a seller who has posted sample photos for that model camera. Also pay attention to feedback ratings and look for sellers who have achieved Top - rated Seller status. For more information on how to improve your search, eBay provides helpful tips to guide you through the process.
If you're still unsure, eBay's Buyer Protection policies ensure that no matter what happens, even in a worst case scenario, you will be able to get a full refund plus the cost of shipping.
Game cameras, or trail cameras, have become an indispensable part of the hunter's arsenal. Don't start your hunting season unprepared and waste hours trying to track game, hoping to be in the right place at the right time. Know where the right place is and when the right time will be by setting up a camera and letting it be your eyes for weeks, or even months, collecting data that will help maximize your hunting experience.
Infrared cameras have the ability to hide their flash and incandescent cameras offer the clearest pictures; each hunter must decide what best suits his or her needs. The type of flash will affect every other feature in terms of how the pictures will turn out at night, but different cameras also carry different features not related to the picture. Detection range, battery life, security options, and even mobile capabilities, to name a few, all provide variation from camera to camera.