Not only are there more trail cameras from major manufacturers, but also a huge amount of generic, very similar cameras available, all promising every feature you can imagine, on large online marketplaces named after rainforests.
It’s probably no surprise that those wildlife cameras are in the main dreadful – using fake, stock images to demonstrate their features, with highly dubious reviews, no customer support and prices that are too good to be true. We get a lot of emails every week from people who have chosen those cameras…!
To confuse things further, there are now a chunk of articles that purport to advise on the ‘best trail cameras of 2022’ or similar – running down features and prices, and ranking them. The big problem is that the vast majority of these articles – from publishers large and small – are doing so because they earn commission when someone clicks on a link and buys a camera. We see time and again ‘reputable’ blogs or ‘tech experts’ linking to cameras that we know are dreadful, or where there are much better options for the price. Most of these sites purely exist to give ‘reviews’ of tech and generate income from the clicks this generates, or only include links to retailers that have paid them to list certain camera models.
Obviously, NatureSpy sell the trail cameras mentioned here – though we are also a non-profit social enterprise, with all proceeds going back into the projects we work with globally.
So – this article provides a real, experience-led rundown of the actual best trail cameras available in 2022, using our trail camera expertise.
Rather than just list a ‘top 10’ as other articles do, we instead always break things down into features. All trail cameras generally do a few things better than others – i.e. the best trail camera for video quality may not be the best for photo quality or trigger speed – it depends on what features are most important to you. We’ve also added our overall favourite from our staff at the end.
Before we get into it, one last note is that the component / supply chain shortages post-pandemic have inevitably impacted the number of new releases on the market this year.
Best of the rest: Bushnell Core DS-4K
This is the main feature we get asked about – its all about that video quality. It’s the most popular feature in our inbox – whether it’s for hedgehog watching in the back-garden or counting the spots on African leopards.
Because of its swaying power with potential customers its definitely one feature to do your homework on. One big area at the moment is 4K trail cameras – but they are far from 4K quality, with low frame rates and extremely poor resolution, artificially boosting videos to resolutions that end up looking terrible. Trouble is, every trail camera manufacturer says their camera has great video quality, be it 1080p HD or 4K. But how to separate the wheat from the chaff?
We test, test, test everything, and then show you the results – its the only way to get a real idea of how the trail cameras perform in varying circumstances. It also means we can dive into the data – looking at frame rates, data rates, compression types – all the stuff that most people don’t understand or shouldn’t need to pick out but make a huge difference to the end result – so we can just serve up the good trail cameras and avoid the bad eggs.
So what is the best trail camera in 2022 for video quality? It has to be the Browning Recon Force HP5.
Browning’s Recon series has often been the lead in this category since 2017. Released in April 2022, the Elite HP5 continues in that vain, using higher-quality components, a more advanced lens and importantly the best in class iCatch processor. If you want to read more on whats under the hood you can check that out here.
The HP5 cameras offer crisp, smooth 1080p HD footage, with h.264 compression in mp4 format at 60 frames per second, day and night. It can also do all these on rechargeable batteries, which few other cameras truly support (Eneloop Pro recommended).
The Browning Recon series are the trail cameras we use in the vast majority of our own projects both in the UK and globally at the moment, in no small part due to the video quality – we have over 150 of them out globally.
It’s also popular outside of NatureSpy; the Elite HP5 is the most popular camera at the NatureSpy Shop, and the previous versions of this trail camera have been used on BBC’s Winterwatch & Springwatch as well as in a host of other TV productions. We also see them used by large organisations such as ZSL, WWF, Chester Zoo etc to name a few.
The Recon Force Elite HP5 is a low-glow trail camera, so the LEDs will glow a faint red when the camera trap triggers at night – a little like the standby lights on a TV. We always recommend low-glow camera traps as they give much better quality at night, as they have 30% more IR light than no-glow cameras. Also important is that the majority of wildlife see no-glow and low-glow in the same way – so it makes little difference to them. The no-glow version of this camera is the Spec Ops Elite HP5.
These also offer 30 and 60fps footage, and the DS-4K has 2 lenses – one tuned to daytime, and one night time imagery. This means crisper footage at night.
However, in testing, we see the 4K options struggling in low-light conditions – which is pretty much when wildlife is at its busiest. The camera’s fair much better when turned down to 1080p 60fps.
Best of the rest: Bushnell Core S-4K
Always a tricky category as light conditions and other factors play a significant role. However, two standout candidates this year…
For the first time ever, we are putting a Browning camera on top – and it’s the same camera as above, the Recon Force Elite HP5.