Gear Test: 6 Budget Trail Cameras

You don't have to shell out for quality trail cam pics

trail camera test
Trail cameras have become such a ubiquitous piece of hunting gear that it’s difficult to remember what life was like before them. They’re incredibly useful tools that continue to improve in quality while declining in price. We tested six cameras that sell for less than $300—some far below that mark—and found each unit to be a solid option. However, a couple of them would be standouts at any price. Click through for evaluations plus daytime and nighttime photos from each camera.Cliff Gardiner & John Keller
trail camera test
Browning Recon Force HD
Editor's Choice
$160; browningtrailcameras.com If you’re into video, this is the cam for you. The redesigned Recon Force offers full 1,080p HD video—a trail-camera-industry first. And with a max setting of 10 megapixels, the photo quality isn’t too shabby either. Daytime images were excellent, and nighttime shots captured activity beyond the 45-foot marker (see “How We Test,” below).
Cliff Gardiner & John Keller
trail camera test

Daytime - Browning Recon Force HD

The Recon Force was also one of the simplest cameras to deploy: Turn it on and it’s ready to capture images. Setting the date/time stamp, choosing modes, setting delays—it was all very straightforward. As you’d expect, the video captured at 1,920x1,080 resolution was rich and vivid on my retina-display Mac Book.Tony Hansen
trail camera test

Nighttime - Browning Recon Force HD

The trigger speed was very good. The unit took roughly 1,000 images in one 24-hour period and didn’t seem to miss any opportunity to capture game. This is an excellent camera and just an incredible bargain.Tony Hansen
trail camera test

Comanche Kodiak Series

$260; kodiakcamera.com Featuring a built-in Wi-Fi modem, the Kodiak allows for the remote transfer of images without the need for a SIM card or data plan.Cliff Gardiner & John Keller
trail camera test

Daytime - Comanche Kodiak Series

That feature alone makes the Kodiak one of the most innovative cameras of 2015, and makes it an excellent value despite its being the most expensive cam in our test. The Kodiak captures still images with a max resolution of 12 megapixels. Daytime images were outstanding, with good color and clarity. Nighttime images and flash range were on par with the top units.Tony Hansen
trail camera test

Nighttime - Comanche Kodiak Series

The camera boasts 1,280x720 HD video with audio, multi-shot capabilities, and an SD-card cycle option. The Wi-Fi system works with a free app for iOS and Android. Get to within Wi-Fi range of the camera (50 feet with my iPhone 6; Comanche says the range will be “hundreds of feet” once the kinks are worked out) and you can view and download images.Tony Hansen
trail camera test

Bushnell Trophy Cam HD 8MP

$230; bushnell.com This latest unit in the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD line is arguably the best Trophy Cam yet.Cliff Gardiner & John Keller
Daytime Bushnell

Daytime - Bushnell Trophy Cam HD 8MP

Technically, this is a 2014 model, but it remains available in 2015. It offers an insanely fast trigger speed of 0.2 seconds, along with recovery times of less than a second. Combine that with a revamped passive infrared (PIR) sensor that improves the unit’s coverage area, and you have a camera that recorded a staggering 1,804 images in a 24-hour period—all but five of which included game.Tony Hansen
bushnell trail camera test

Nighttime - Bushnell Trophy Cam HD 8MP

The list of features is long and varied: 720p HD video, a redesigned latch system, a time-lapse capture mode, and a super-long battery life are among the most notable. The daytime image quality was very good, though the 8-megapixel max image resolution couldn’t compete with others’ in the test. Nighttime images were just average. An exposed wire when the unit is opened causes some durability concerns.Tony Hansen
minox trail cam test

Minox DTC 400 SLIM

$249; minox.com The German company Minox has earned a reputation as a maker of high-quality, reasonably priced sporting optics. Their first foray in the trail-cam game is the DTC 400 SLIM.Cliff Gardiner & John Keller
minox trail camera test

Daytime - Minox DTC 400 SLIM

As you might infer, the unit separates itself from the pack with its physical dimensions—it measures just over an inch in thickness, and the back of the unit is concave to fit snugly against a tree trunk. The unit maxes out at 8 megapixels and captures 720p video.Tony Hansen
trail cam test

Nighttime - Minox DTC 400 SLIM

Its trigger speed was decent but not great. The unit can be set to take nine photos per burst. Daytime image quality was good; however, nighttime images were grainy, and the flash range was among the weakest in the test.Tony Hansen
trail cam test

[**Wildgame Innovations Crush Illusion 6 **](http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Game-Innovations-Illusion-Camera/dp/B00TP8I4JC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1463512871&sr=8-1&keywords=Wildgame+Innovations+Crush+Ill

$99; wildgameinnovations.com Given its low price and just-6-megapixel camera, I was expecting this unit to be a clunker; but it held its own.Cliff Gardiner & John Keller
trail cam test

Daytime - Wildgame Innovations Crush Illusion 6

Its advertised one-­second trigger speed seemed to hold true. Images were captured as deer began to enter the frame and continued as expected with the delay set to 20 seconds. The daytime image quality was solid, and after-dark images were acceptable as well.Tony Hansen
trail cam test

Nighttime - Wildgame Innovations Crush Illusion 6

The flash range was very good. The overall build quality is improved, but the short bungee cords that ship with the unit are useless for mounting on any tree trunk thicker than your lower leg.Tony Hansen
trail cam test

Moultrie M-990i Gen 2

$200; moultriefeeders.com Recording the fewest number of photos of all units in the test, the M-990i Gen 2 tallied just 57 images over a 24-hour period—nearly 1,300 fewer than the Bushnell. To be fair, the camera was set to delay 30 seconds between images, while most others were set to 20 seconds, but that alone doesn’t explain the performance.Cliff Gardiner & John Keller
trail cam test

Daytime - Moultrie M-990i Gen 2

The M-990i’s trigger speed was sap-slow, failing to photograph deer until they had been in front of the camera for nearly a minute. It also went for long periods (10 to 20 minutes) with deer feeding in front of it without triggering.Tony Hansen
trail camera test

Nighttime - Moultrie M-990i Gen 2

Solid features include multi-shot settings, 1,280p video with sound, and good battery life.Tony Hansen
trail camera test

How We Test

Our evaluation took place in southern Michigan late last winter. Daytime temperatures never topped 14 degrees, and overnight readings were well below zero. The cameras were positioned over a food plot that had been baited in compliance with state recreational feeding laws. Secured to a double-trunked tree, each unit was placed in a nearly identical location to ensure accurate results for judging flash range, trigger speed, and overall image quality. Cameras were set to record images at the highest available resolution, with a single image recorded per activation and a 20-second delay (except for the Moultrie unit, which was set to fire after a 30-second delay; its only other sub-minute options were 5 and 10 seconds). Image quality was judged by enlarging each image to examine fine detail. A marker stake was set at 45 feet to evaluate flash range. A Day 6 Outdoors PlotWatcher Pro time-lapse unit ($229; day6outdoors­.com) was used to confirm all game activity and evaluate trigger speeds.Cliff Gardiner & John Keller
budget trail cam test

Test Results

Scores and prices, at a glance.Outdoor Life