NatureSpy HQ - 05/09/2022
What are the best trail cameras of 2022?
We get asked 'What are the best trail cameras this year?' a lot - and we understand why. There is a bewildering array of choice now - so many more options than when NatureSpy first started nearly a decade ago.

Best trail cameras of 2022

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…!


Why you can’t always trust ‘best of’ articles!


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.

You may also find our ‘camera trap chooser’ useful – try it here…


Best trail camera for video quality


Best: Browning Recon Force Elite HP5

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.

There were also some new trail cameras from Bushnell in late 2021 which have to be included in this category – Core S-4K and DS-4K.

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 trail camera for photos


Best: Browning Recon Force Elite HP5

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.

The Recon camera series has always had video as the focus – but this year, in part due to the much improved lens, the photo quality has really come on. It freezes motion excellently (check that squirrel picture!) and handles differing light levels very well (note; due to the large image sizes, the above photos are compressed for display here).

For something on a bit more of a budget, the Browning Recon Force Edge is a very consistent performer on photo mode. Whilst night time images can occasionally lack the crispness of the above trail cameras, they’re still good and reliable. Below are some images from this the Edge from our projects around the world (click for larger version);


Best trail camera for detection


Best: Bushnell Core DS-4K

Best of the rest: Browning Recon Force Elite HP5

We’ve combined the trigger speed and detection category this year, as they’re so closely linked. This is obviously really important area and something the main manufacturers of wildlife cameras put a lot of research and development into.

Photo trigger speeds these days are lightning pretty much across the board – speeds of less than a tenth of a second from detection are commonplace with Browning (0.02s), Bushnell (0.15s), Reconyx (0.2s) and SpyPoint (0.18s) cameras.

For the first time in photo mode, Browning top the bill here on the Recon Force and Spec Ops Elite HP5 – its basically an instant trigger speed in photo mode, once detection is made.

For video trigger speed, which always lags behind due to the higher data rates involved, we have Browning at 0.36s, Bushnell at 0.68s, Reconyx at 0.24s and SpyPoint at 0.55s. So the Reconyx HyperFire 2 edges this, just. These speeds are so quick now – just a few years ago, a video trigger speed of under a second was considered good!

When it comes to detection ranges and reliability, it’s a bit of a muddier picture. Detection has so many variables – size of the subject (a hedgehog will have to be closer to the camera to trigger it compared to a red deer!), weather conditions, temperature, speed of the subject, batteries used and power remaining, the settings you use on the trail camera… so its worth bearing in mind that ‘100ft detection range’ is not a definitive statement, on any trail camera.

With that in mind, the best detection ranges this year can be found on the Bushnell Core DS-4K and S-4K (90ft), Browning Elite HP5 and Patriot, (100ft) and SpyPoint Force Pro (100ft).

Trigger reliability is how often the subject will trigger the trail camera if making repeated passes in the same way – i.e. if you have a fox trotting each night past the camera, going from right to left, you want the camera to always capture it.

At most distances useful for camera trapping (usually not more than 50ft away), the above cameras will detect this every time. However, we find that the Bushnell (on High Sensitivity) can detect at bigger distances (+60ft) slightly more reliably that the others here. At those distances, its not going to be a great capture however!


Honourable mentions…


There are a number of wildlife cameras around in 2022 that may not have a feature that is ‘best’, but are pretty damn close and very good units. Some have been around for a little while and are tried and tested, and others are models down from some of those mentioned above.

The Browning Strike Force HD Pro X for example is an extremely versatile, sturdy work-horse of a trail camera. Released in 2019, it is s a great all-rounder – good photo, good video, fast triggers, strong detection, great build quality. It is especially good for ecology / scientific survey work for these reasons, as well as being a slightly lower cost than the other trail cameras mention in this article. It’s also one of Which? Magazines recommended trail cameras (written prior to the HP5 camera was released). There is a no-glow version too – the Dark Ops HD Pro X.

The Bushnell Core S-4K is another – it doesn’t have the dual lens of the Core DS-4K (which in all honesty, doesn’t add that much as with all the dual lens cameras), but the video quality is very solid in 1080p mode especially. It has the same detection circuit as the Core DS-4K too, and is good if you’re a Bushnell loyalist.

The already-mentioned Browning Recon Force Edge is excellent if you want the highest video quality possible but your budget doesn’t allow some of the higher spec models – again its a reliable unit that rarely disappoints, and is actually one of the most popular trail cameras we offer currently. Again, another camera recommended by Which?.


Our overall favourite trail camera…


Best trail camera for 2022

Given the above, it’s probably no big surprise to say that our favourite wildlife trail camera for 2022 is the Browning Recon Force Elite HP5.

It just ticks all the boxes this year, and is the best trail camera from Browning since the Browning Recon Force Advantage in 2018. Great video, photos, detection range, trigger speeds and can run on rechargeable batteries.

If you need a no-glow camera (and again, we recommend sticking with low-glow for better results), then this would be the Spec Ops Elite HP5.

The Bushnell Core cameras are good alternatives, and plenty of lower cost but good quality options available too in the Browning Recon Force Edge and Strike Force HD Pro X.

Here’s to more camera trapping, animal-spotting, wildlife monitoring in 2022, and some more new trail camera models in 2023!

If you want to get your hands on the any of the trail cameras mentioned above, they’re all available at The NatureSpy shop and include free P&P and most include a free 16GB or 32GB branded SD card. All proceeds support our non-profit environmental work.

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