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How to Choose a Wildlife Trail Camera

What is a Wildlife Trail Camera?

A wildlife trail camera is a motion-activated camera usually used by professional researchers, nature lovers and birdwatchers for wildlife observation. They can be used not only to observe the living habits of wild animals but also to monitor plant growth and construction site. Game hunters also use trail cameras in hunting seasons to keep track of the animals that frequent the hunting ground. Furthermore, its compact and lightweight design also makes it applicable to surveillance for domestic or public use or other evidence-taking works (e.g. illegal poaching).

Equipped with highly sensitive motion detection, the camera will automatically start recording once the sensor is triggered. Mainly used in outdoor environments, most wildlife cameras are encapsulated in a weatherproof casing so that the camera won’t get damaged by rain, dust or other natural forces. The majority of wildlife cameras are powered by AA standard batteries. The wireless connectivity for power supply makes it an ideal tool to explore the hidden world of wildlife and unravel the mysteries of nature. Also thanks to its flexibility on installation (fastened with a mounting strap or attached to a tripod), users can place it basically anywhere and retrieve the camera to watch recorded images or videos later.

Top Features Needed in Wildlife Cameras

Purchasing a wildlife camera can be difficult with dazzling choices available in the market. Since the products vary considerably in quality, customers may easily get misled by false advertising and purchase a camera that isn’t even compatible with the description. Here is a comprehensive introduction of top features that might be needed in a wildlife camera.

Solid Design (waterproof/camouflage/viewing screen)

Since wildlife trail cameras are mostly used in natural environments like bushes or forests, to ensure long-term use in outdoor settings, it’s better to choose one made out of waterproof and durable materials to avoid damages caused by water leakage or unintentional attacks from wildlife or other outside forces. A wildlife camera covered in camouflaged housing can easily blend into the background environment so as not to draw unnecessary attention and scare the wildlife away, even the sensitive types like birds. Moreover, a well-designed camera should be equipped with a viewing screen to display real-time or recorded files. Moreover, a metallic security lockbox is also required to prevent vandals, thieves and curious animals.

Power Supply (long battery life)

One of the minor limitations when using a wildlife camera is that most cameras are generally powered by batteries, which needs frequent replacement and charging, but its wireless power connection does offer great varieties on installation and application, making it a robust tool not only for wildlife observation but for security monitoring. Choose Nimh rechargeable batteries or ones with long in-field battery life like lithium batteries (better performance in cold temperature) to reduce the frequency of battery changing. If possible, it’s highly suggested to select a wildlife camera that supports both batteries and external power supplies like mains power, motorcycle batteries or solar power, etc.

Multiple Capture Modes (hybrid mode+time lapse)

A wildlife trail camera that supports multiple capture modes is obviously a more cost-effective choice. Some trail cameras only support one shooting mode (either still pictures or videos), but a greater sense of flexibility can be offered via the addition of a hybrid recording to let you experience the best of both worlds. A hybrid camera can simultaneously take both pictures and videos at each trigger time. And time-lapse hunting cameras are also recommended for their programmability to take consecutive photos at first and generate video files later, which is ideal for observing plant growth, bird nesting, housing construction, etc. The timer can be turned on to set the camera to work at specific periods.

PIR Technology (highly-sensitive PIR sensor)

The application of PIR technology has greatly boosted the advancement of wildlife trail cameras in various aspects. Trail cameras with PIR sensors often show their superiority in both sizes and weights. Motion-activated trail cameras often employ highly advanced PIR sensors to detect temperature and motion changes (as compared to the background) so as to capture the images of the most fleeting wildlife. Normally, the faster the movement is, the greater the temperature change will be, and the more likely the PIR sensor is to trigger the camera. Moreover, the PIR sensor is equally sensitive to cold animals.

Additionally, highly sensitive PIR sensors can greatly minimize false triggers by vegetation or natural forces (wind, water, etc.) to lower the occurrences of empty shots or videos. Cameras with a larger PIR angle (the degree of how fast a camera senses a movement) have a quicker response to motion changes. A high-quality trail camera normally carries a PIR angle of 48°, which will start recording the second any moving object enters its field of view. Similarly, cameras with a wider PIR sensing range will capture more images of wild animals with an enlarged detection zone.

High Definition (megapixels and lenses)

A sound wildlife camera should be one that delivers high-definition photos and videos for satisfactory wildlife observation. Unlike the old-fashioned wildlife cameras whose image is oftentimes blurry, today’s motion-activated trail cameras are equipped with sensitive PIR sensors to automatically take pictures of any moving objects within the detection range. It’s highly suggested to choose one camera with advanced lenses (e.g. CMOS lenses) and higher megapixels to capture a greater amount of details.

Night Vision (no-glow infrared LEDs)

Trail cameras basically use three types of flashes i.e., white flash, low/red-glow flash and no-glow flash. White flashes have a world-renowned reputation of delivering exemplary image quality, but often get severely criticized for its starling flashlight. Cameras built with low-glow flashes, on the other hand, will emit partially visible red glows to light up the whole shooting area (not as frightening as white flash). These cameras also can deliver high-quality pictures and videos both at night and by day as white-flash cameras do.

Compared with traditional wildlife cameras using visible flashlights, wildlife cameras with glow-free infrared LEDs (invisible to humans and wildlife) would guarantee 24/7 continuous shooting even in the dead of night without spooking the wildlife. The trail camera with such advanced night vision is a perfect device for shooting nocturnal birds to provide decent quality pictures, albeit in black and white. Compared with low-glow cameras, cameras that apply no-glow infrared LEDs may suffer slight degradation in image quality, but little difference could be noticed within a distance of 25ft/8m.

Trigger and Recovery Time

Trigger time/speed refers to the amount of time from motion detection to the first picture taken. Cameras with a faster trigger time (0.2-1s) will deliver pictures of considerably higher quality, for the less time it takes to take a snapshot, the more details it’ll reveal in the picture. What’s more, it’s always advisable to choose a camera with a short recovery time (the time for the camera to rebuild itself to take another shot after the first one), for long recovery time always leads to missed opportunities. Well-designed trail cameras nearly have no recovery time and are able to take multiple consecutive shots at every trigger event.

Data Storage (SD card)

High-resolution cameras usually produce high-quality pictures and videos and therefore generate larger files, which will take up more storage space and take a longer time to write to the memory card. Accordingly, a large-capacity SD card is highly recommended to lower the frequencies of memory card changing, but it’s also important to figure out what the maximum capacity is for the chosen camera. To ensure optimum performance of the camera, it’s better to choose a compatible SD card with a suitable speed class, or a false match will slow down the trigger and recovery time and even lead to system breakdown.

What to Choose——Waterproof Wildlife Trail Camera from Green Backyard

Completely waterproof and specially designed for outdoor shooting, this wildlife trail camera is a motion-activated hunting camera equipped with a highly sensitive PIR sensor (50°) with a sensing range of 25m/82ft to detect temperature changes caused by moving subjects. As a battery-powered camera, it guarantees a prolonged operation of up to a year on a single set of 8×AA batteries (in standby mode), plus an alarm flashlight for low-battery indication. It’s equipped with a built-in 2.4″ LCD color screen for birdwatchers to view recorded videos or snapshots plus a control panel for parameter settings like operation mode, PIR interval, etc. It employs an ultra-sensitive detection system with a trigger speed of 0.2 seconds to capture the images of the most fleeting creatures, such as bats and birds.

As a hybrid-mode trail camera, it can capture still images and record videos separately, and it also supports both varieties at the same time to give users the best of both worlds. In the hybrid model, it will capture a number of pictures first (16-megapixel still photos) and then switch to the video mode (high-quality videos of 720P@60FPS) immediately at every trigger event. Moreover, in the “time-lapse” mode, the camera can be programmed to take pictures at predefined intervals and automatically generate the video later. It also can take consecutive photos in accordance with the shooting setting (1/2/3/6). Additionally, the camera can also operate in specified periods via timer setting.

Advanced with the PIR Sleep setting, the wildlife trail camera can automatically avoid shooting the same objects several times. Also, thanks to its infrared technology with no-glow flashes, the camera can ensure 24/7 recording without spooking the wildlife. Applicable to any imaginable outdoor settings, it can flawlessly operate on a vast temperature range (-22°F-158°F/-30°C-70°C). Audio recording is also available. The trail camera supports SD card storage of up to 256 GB. Covered in a camouflaged case, this camera offers great flexibility on installation in outdoor environments without bringing itself into notice. Besides, this trail camera can be fastened with a mounting strap or attached to a tripod to provide great versatility in actual use.

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