Comparing trail cameras – Night time

As the days get shorter I rely on my trail camera more and more to find out what is going on around my local patch.

I often get asked which is the best trail camera to use. It is a hard question to answer as it depends on how much money you want to spend, what you are hoping to film and what you want the footage for.

I did a review nearly two years ago of a Little Acorn versus a Nature View Bushnell. Now I thought I’d look at it a bit deeper, adding a couple more models in. I think the footage speaks for itself.

I placed 4 different models of trail cameras out in the same part of the wood over one night, as the best way to compare models is to compare the film footage they take.

All 4 trail cameras

Of course, it isn’t just about putting a trail camera out and hoping for the best, it is about knowing what animal you want to film, where that animal is likely to appear, and knowing where to point the camera.

All 4 cameras take still and film, they all can record sound, as well as time and date stamp the footage. Each camera can film in colour during the day, and at night in black and white using infrared. All the cameras use PIR sensors and each camera is programmable to film particular lengths and have set gaps before it starts filming again.

I secure each camera using an elasticated luggage strap and a chain and padlock.IMG_3137

I’ve made a short film with each camera to show the difference in quality.

The first camera is The Little Acorn 5210A. Little Acorn

I placed this camera on a well used deer path on the top of a bank by a stream. I’ve seen foxes, deers, badgers and a polecat use this path.

  • Retails around £110
  • Takes 4 AA batteries
  • Photo size 12MP
  • Film size 640 x 480
  • IR flash up to 20m
  • PIR sensing distance 20m
  • Trigger time is 0.8 seconds

I really like this camera, it’s easy to set up, films really well at night, it is small and light enough to fit in a coat pocket.

Downside is the LED IR flash shines red which the animals notice, the battery cover is quite flimsy and breaks easily. When I padlock the Little Acorn, the front could still be stolen as it is completely detachable.

The second camera is the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Model 119676

Bushnell trophyThis camera was placed in an open patch behind the badger sett. I’m not sure who is the first badger, the second one is Pirate, notice the damaged left eye. This is the first time I’ve seen Pirate in months. The fox, I think is one of the cubs and is really not sure about the two Roe deer.

  • Retails around £230
  • Takes 8 AA batteries
  • Photo size 5MP, 8MP
  • Film size 1280 x 720
  • IR flash up to 18M
  • PIR sensing distance 18M
  • Trigger time is 0.2 seconds

This camera has a no glow black LED’s, it is a very sturdy camera. The closing lock is very robust.

The actual film is a lot more grainy than the Little Acorn, although it has black LED’s you can hear a slight humming while it is filming, which close up the badgers and foxes can also hear.

The third camera is the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD wireless Model 119598 Bushnell trophy wireless

I placed this camera at the other side of the badger sett. The badger is the one I filmed a couple of weeks ago with the broken tail and damaged right ear. The two foxes are possibly two of this years cubs. Again one of the foxes with one of the deers.

  • Retails around £320
  • Takes 12 AA batteries
  • Photo size 5MP, 8PM
  • Film size 1920 x 1080
  • IR flash up to 18M
  • PIR sensing distance 18M
  • Tigger time is 0.6 seconds

Very similar to the last camera except slightly bigger. Again no glow LED’s but with this one there is no humming. The picture is marginally better.

This camera is wireless but I have not yet used this facility.

The last camera is The Bushnell Nature View HD model 119740 Bushnell Nature View HD

Unfortunately I put this camera in the least busiest spot on this particular night, but straight away you can see the quality of the footage.

  • Retails at £350.
  • Takes 12 AA batteries
  • Photo size 14MP
  • Film size 1920 x 1080
  • IR flash up to 18M
  • PIR sensing distance 18M
  • Tigger time 0.2 seconds.
  • Size 15cm x 11cm x 6 cm

This trail camera comes with different lenses to focus at different lengths, it also comes with a view finder. The quality of the film is so much better, in my clip you can really see the difference to the previous 3 clips. Look at the detail of the nettles.

Although this camera doesn’t make a sound and has no glow LED as you can see in the film the fox knows it is there. I’m not sure whether it can smell it or perhaps the fox can hear it.

This is my favourite trail camera but I do worry about it when I leave it out incase it gets stolen, and it is large and heavy.

My second favourite is the Little Acorn, for a reasonably small and cheap trail camera it does work really well. I’ve had it around 5 years now and it is still filming some great footage.

For the four trail cameras I have reviewed the prices can vary.

There are now lots of other makes of trail cameras on the market which I have no experience of and would love to hear about if anyone reading this uses other makes/models.

These are just my personal views based on my experiences using my four different cameras. I’m always pleased when any of my cameras show up a new animal, new behaviour or particularly a badger I haven’t seen for a while.

I will soon do another blog comparing the same trail cameras filming in day light.

Update

A few people have mentioned batteries, and which ones are the best for trail cameras and why don’t they last very long.

I only use my camera for short periods of time, for a few hours or over night, rather than leaving them out for days or weeks in the same place, so I can’t comment on how well the batteries do in that situation.

I also don’t take much notice of the length of time the batteries last against how many hours they have been operating for. Perhaps I should do a study in to it over the winter.

Some of the things I have noticed.

• The trail cameras use up alkaline batteries even when it isn’t operating. When my cameras are just sitting on the shelf and I’ve got alkaline batteries in them, I pull one of the batteries out.

• Night time filming uses the batteries up quicker as it has to power the LED’s as well.

• Lithium batteries are more expensive but last much longer

• If I do use alkaline or lithium batteries and they stop working in the trail camera, they will still work perfectly well in something like a Xbox remote control for another few months.

•  I switch between alkaline, lithium and rechargeable batteries, but don’t really have much success with rechargeable batteries.

This article seems to have covered most of the pros and cons of the different batteries. After reading it I think I might save up for a decent set of rechargeable batteries.

https://www.trailcampro.com/pages/game-camera-battery-information

About Alex White - Appletonwild

This is my diary of the wildlife where I live in Oxfordshire, and sometimes the places I visit. My passion is for British wildlife, especially Badgers and Hares. I am a keen amateur photographer using a Canon SX60 HS. All the photographs on this blog are taken by myself unless stated otherwise. I am a member of A Focus on Nature, the network for Young Nature Conservationists, BBOWT, The Oxon Mammal group and The Oxfordshire badger Group. You can also follow me on Twitter @Appletonwild Instagram appletonwild
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9 Responses to Comparing trail cameras – Night time

  1. New Moons For Old says:

    This is very informative and useful. Thank you

    Like

  2. Sarah Davis says:

    I liked my Little Acorn too but the thing that annoyed me most about it you haven’t mentioned here and that was battery life. If I set it to record 1 minute videos the batteries lasted 2 nights only, but if I then switched to pictures only it would go for another 2 nights. Once removed and tested I found the batteries were still almost full power but the camera wouldn’t work. Also the flap at the bottom broke off after a while but didn’t seem to effect use. The camera completely died after about 18 months of use. I’d love a Bushnell but too expensive for me

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve updated the blog with a bit about batteries. I also found they all use batteries really quickly, especially alkaline batteries.
      The flap at the bottom of mine is hanging off too, it isn’t very strong, I have to use a bit of duck tape to hold mine on.
      I’ve heard Spypoint trail cameras are good as well, but I haven’t tried them myself.

      Like

  3. Jenny Renowden says:

    I agree about the Ltl Acorn. I’ve had two bits of plastic broken off. However it’s good for the price, the videos are good quality.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have an Acorn camera and despite updating the firmware and seeking advice it performs really badly. It does not hang on to whatever settings you set ie video, camera or hybrid – you get a random mix of images, if any. The night-time footage is so grainy it’s unusable. In daylight the images are clear and if you set it to time-lapse it usually performs OK so I use it mostly for that. By comparison, my Maginon (cheap) and Bushnell (not cheap) are rock solid and produce useable images, day and night. I reckon my Acorn must be a Monday job!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Miranda Collett says:

    I use the Acorn for various projects in NE Argentina and have had good results. I like the option for wide angle. I do however find that it is badly built and both of the cameras have had the battery compartment broken off. It compares favourably to my other Reconyx cameras which were three times the price at least. These need to be returned every year to the USA for maintenance as they do not seem to cope with the wetland conditions. I would certainly recommend the Acorn.

    Liked by 1 person

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