Best Inexpensive Trail Cameras – Our Top Picks For 2020

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best inexpensive trail camera

Due to popular request we set out on a hunt (pun intended) for the best inexpensive trail camera. In this guide you will learn what we found and some important knowledge about trail cams in general.

Last updated on April 3, 2020 9:09 am

What Are Trail Cameras?

It’s no secret that trail cameras (also known as game cameras) can improve the tactics of ardent hunters. However, these practical devices can serve many other purposes. Besides hunting, the next most popular use is for home security and surveillance, whether indoors or outdoors.

Rather than using them to track wildlife patterns, others use these cameras for amateur and professional photography. Game cameras will help you capture photos of wildlife that are otherwise difficult to obtain in the field.

Ecologists and other scientists benefit greatly from trail cameras as well. They track wildlife patterns like hunters but use their results for research and education rather than survival and sport.

Regardless of what your intentions are with these devices, the best trail cameras will make achieving your goals easier. However, there are several factors to consider when shopping for the perfect one.

Now that you know the basics, let’s look at our choices. If you want a dependable, affordable camera, the reviews below are a good place to start. Browning and Bushnell’s brands have strong reputations as the best trail cameras because they relentlessly strive to improve their products each year – they are big players in the game camera business and for a good reason.

Best Inexpensive Trail Camera 2020

Browning Strike Force HD Pro

Browning BTC-5HDP Strike Force HD Pro
  • 1.5” color LED screen
  • Heavy duty
  • Fits in the palm of your hand
  • Average battery life of 11.2 months
  • Adjustable tree mount
Best Value For Money Badge

Browning Trail Cameras BTC-5HDP Strike Force HD Pro Trail Game Camera w/ 1.5 Inch Color Viewer (18MP)
  • Great for any outdoor enthusiast
  • Made in the United States
  • Very easy to Use

Although relatively new to the market, Browning trail cameras have made a big name for themselves. Each year, they manage to surpass their competitors in compacting their devices. Despite the small sizes, they still manage to include built-in LED screens and infrared options that simplify installation and usage.

Additionally, most new model Browning trail cameras are compatible with Browning’s BuckWatch Timelapse Viewer Software. This program allows hunters and researchers to see patterns and changes over a pre-set period of time during pre-set intervals.

Other cameras might have photo settings to take pictures automatically, but the work to compare photos is manual. Browning trail cameras take away the hassle of studying the wildlife in your area.

The Browning BTC-5HDP Strike Force HD Pro Trail Game Camera reigns the highest picture quality on the list at 18 MP. It utilizes low glow infrared and offers IR settings for night time shots.

In addition to the picture quality, this is an ideal camera for photographers to catch the perfect shot. This browning trail camera can take up to 8 photos in rapid fire mode.

You can also conveniently view your results on your TV or computer. Each photo and video include a data strip with time, date, temperature, moon phase, and camera ID.

Pros
0.3-second trigger speed
80-foot detection range
512GB HDXC SD Card
1280 x 720p video with sound
Uses 6AA batteries or external 12V power source
Cons
There is no way to lock this camera to the tree; theft is easier
Photos can only be deleted from the camera
not a computer
Only a maximum of 20 second night videos
4.5

Browning Strike Force Sub Micro

Browning Strike Force Sub Micro
  • Built-in LED screen
  • Able to record video from 5 seconds to 2 minutes
  • Long battery life
  • Zero blur night photos
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Browning Strike Force Sub Micro 10MP Game Camera
  • Lightning fast 0.67 second trigger time
  • Records HD videos with sound 5 seconds to 2 minutes in length
  • Long battery life from 6 AA batteries, Batteries not included
  • 100 foot flash range
  • Includes Browning Buck Watch time-lapse viewer software

This Browning trail camera is a compact version of the best trail cameras they offer. As it sets comfortably in the palm of your hand, you can browse your results on its built-in LED screen. At 10MP, it’s not ideal for photography but can effortlessly to get the job done for hunting and home surveillance.

Although the trigger speed of this camera is comparatively slower than others on the list, it’s still an impressive measurement. Since it utilizes low glow infrared, you’ll consistently and quickly get quality photos from this device. They can be stored on the 32GB SD card.

The durable cover will last through your roughest adventures.

Pros
100-foot flash range
Durable casing
Simple installation and use
Compact size makes it easy to handle
Cons
720p video
0.67 trigger speed
No mounting equipment included
4

Bushnell Trophy Cam Aggressor Wireless

Bushnell Trophy Cam Aggressor Wireless 14MP
  • Can be connected to your smartphone or computer
  • Solar Panels can be used to increase battery life
  • Able to accommodate a tree lock
Premium Choice Badge

Bushnell 119599C2 Trophy Cam HD Aggressor 14MP Wireless Trail Camera, Brown
  • 14 MP images with a 0.3 second trigger speed and 720p HD video as well as Field Scan 2X
  • Premium command and control via free app or website
  • Comes with an anti-reflective LED shield and an updated easy-to-open latch
  • Expanded AT&T coverage, active GPS and premium command and control via the free app or website
  • Powered by 12 AA batteries (not included) and is solar power compatible

Many regard Bushnell game cameras as the best option for researchers, but their quick trigger and recovery speeds benefit everyone. They’re also favorable among all trail camera users because of their long battery lives and durable cases. You can rely on Bushnell game cameras to endure the test of time and give you satisfactory results.

Bushnell creates a large variety of cameras for different purposes, from bird watching to surveillance. Additionally, if you require remote access and have a strong AT&T signal, Bushnell has several cameras to accommodate.

This is one of the best trail cameras available at an affordable price. You can have all of your videos and pictures sent directly to your phone or computer. This is very ideal for those using their trail camera for security and surveillance.

The pictures have a 14MP resolution and video has 1280 x 720 HD resolution to catch anything that may be lurking. The No Glow infrared makes it even more ideal for surveillance, since it will be unseen by any animal or human.

Although the battery life barely lasts 3 months on lithium batteries, solar panels can solve this. Many owners of this trail camera prefer to use solar power to save money on the 12AA batteries it takes. Unless you are out of AT&T range, the battery life is the only quirk.

Keep your property and belongings safe from anywhere you want to roam with this Bushnell trail camera.

Pros
0.29-second trigger speed
80-foot detection range
1280 x 720 HD video
Field Scan 2X for dusk/dawn movement
Cons
3 Month Battery Life
Must have 4 bars of AT&T service
4.8

Bushnell Trophy Cam Essential E3

Bushnell Trophy Cam Essential E3
  • 100-foot detection range
  • Simple to program and navigate
  • LCD display
budget choice badge

Sale
Bushnell 16MP Trophy Cam HD Essential E3 Trail Camera, Brown
  • Accepts up to a 32GB SD Card (not included) and operates on 8 AA batteries (not included)
  • 0.3 second trigger speed; 16MP maximum image resolution; BandW text LCD display
  • 100 detection and illumination range; Low Glow LED night vision flash
  • Hyper Image Recovery : 1.0 second recovery means the camera takes more images. More images means more information to help you hunt smarter
  • Dynamic Video : 720p video records for up to 30 seconds while the animal is in front of the camera and stops immediately after they leave the frame

A unique feature this easy-to-use camera offers is its field scan technology. Its incredible detection range increases your chances of the perfect shot and makes it easier to conceal from wildlife.

At 16MP, this camera produces high-quality images with the ability to capture one to three images per trigger. Its video settings are capable of recording up to one hour of video as well. When you’re ready to see the results, it can be done conveniently on your TV, computer, or the LED display.

With this astonishing level of durability and quality, it would be beneficial to serious hunters, researchers, and photographers.

Pros
0.17-second trigger speed
Inexpensive
Heavy duty case
Low Glow Infrared
Cons
Only a 5-month battery life
Slow video trigger speed (1.77 seconds)
No option for external power use
3.5

What Features Should You Be Looking For?

When browsing trail cameras, there are tons of different features and options available. Carefully consider what your primary goal for the camera is and determine what features are most important for you.

Some qualities will be less important than others depending on your needs while others are a general need for everyone. For example, a photographer will need a higher number of megapixels while it won’t matter as much for a typical hunter. On the other hand, battery life is something that every trail camera owner should take into consideration.

Once you determine your primary use, read below to see which camera features will be beneficial for you.

Megapixels (MP)

There is a common tendency to place too much emphasis on the number of megapixels. Generally, a higher number of megapixels is equal to a higher picture quality, but this is not as important for basic camera users.

If you’re viewing the pictures for surveillance or wildlife observation, then you can shop within a broad range of megapixels. However, if you plan on using pictures for large prints or competitive photography, megapixels will be more of a concern.

Battery Life

Consider the amount of activity in the area where you’ll be placing the camera. The more pictures the device takes, the quicker the batteries will die.

Also, what size batteries does it use and how many of them? You’ll spend more money on a camera that eats up big batteries quick than one whose design makes less expensive batteries last longer.

Infrared Emitters

There are three ways your camera takes nighttime photos and videos:

White Flash

If you’re an avid hunter tracking the patterns of your next meal, you definitely want to avoid this option. When triggered, white flash is the same as a camera flash and often scares away wildlife. If someone took your picture every time you walked into the kitchen, you would want to keep your food elsewhere.

This type is most often used by researchers who need to see specific markings of animals.

Low Glow (Red Glow)

When this type snaps pictures, it emits a faint red glow rather than a bright, white flash. Unless the wildlife is looking directly at the camera, it is difficult to see, so it rarely scares them off. It’s rational to believe that animals who see the glow react to it in the same they would to a garden predator light.

It’s the most favorable choice for the high-quality photos it produces. You’ll see all the important details without scaring away your dinner.

No Glow

No glow infrared emitters are exactly what they sound like – no light flashes when a photo is taken. Although it negates any chance of spooking animals, the pictures are usually lower quality than their red glow counterparts. It’s possible to see wildlife, but not the fine details.

However, if you hunt in busy areas, the no glow option will decrease chances of camera theft.

TV/USB Connections

Some cameras have the option of hooking your camera up to a TV or computer to view photos and videos. In addition to seeing the photos and videos better, it can be a fun family gathering as well.

Trigger Speed and Recovery Time

If you require more details from your photos and videos, you want to receive as many as possible from one detection.

The trigger speed measures how quick the camera can take the initial photo following detection. If the trigger speed is slow, you might not get a full picture of the subject.

The recovery time measures how long before the next picture is taken. If the recovery time is too slow, you won’t get enough pictures to see important details from different angles.

Detection Range

The detection range determines how far a trail camera is able to detect heat and movement. Trail cameras use the same passive infrared (PIR) technology found in motion sensor lights. The detectable range expands from the camera out into a cone shape.

The sensors work better when there’s a difference between the outside temperature and the animal’s body temperature. This means that larger animals (including humans) with more body heat are easier to detect.

A larger range is necessary if you want to survey a field, parking lot, or otherwise wide area. There’s no reason to fret over a large range if you hunt or survey in a small or enclosed area.

LCD Viewing Screen

Some cameras have a built-in LCD viewing screen to quickly and conveniently browse through pictures. You can see in what direction the wildlife travels that day and adjust your plans accordingly.

This means you can get back out of the field quick before you leave behind a strong scent. It only takes a few seconds while transferring an SD card or USB cord could put you behind schedule.

The screen is also helpful in setting up the camera so you can see at exactly what angle the camera is facing.

Remote Access

Remote access allows you to see your photos and videos without leaving the comfort of your home. You can browse all of it from your phone or computer!

However, cameras with remote access normally operate off of Wi-Fi or a cellular service provider. If the camera is not in range of your internet or the appropriate cell phone tower, it will not work.

The Final Say

Improve your hunting game, aid your research, win that photography competition, even secure your backyard if you will. This is all easy to accomplish with these Browning and Bushnell trail cameras.

While shopping for game cameras, don’t let the fancy bells and whistles distract you. There are plenty of affordable, simple options to satisfy general users and specialists without breaking the bank. Also remember to read our buying guides for spotting scopes and night vision scopes!

Last update on 2020-04-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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