Batteries are the number one cause of issues in trail cameras and the type and brand of batteries you use will determine how well it performs. Here we’ll explain how and why battery choice is so important including our recommendations for best performance and which ones to avoid (hint… its Duracell).
Trail Cam Issues Caused by Batteries
Many of the issue’s camera traps experience are due to flat, low power or just poor-quality batteries. In fact, the majority of issues that we hear about are resolved when batteries are replaced. If you’re experiencing any of the following issues with your camera just change the batteries:
Camera screen flashing on and off
Shorter videos than you’ve set
Poor detection/missing things
Taking a picture but no video in hybrid mode (Bushnell Core, Spypoint, Ltl Acorn)
Screen not coming on
Not triggering at all
Turning the camera on but the battery percentage or bar going down steadily, then turning off
Dull LEDs or infrared flash brightness
Beware of Unreliable Battery Meters
One of the most common concerns people come to us with is that their camera says the batteries have 2 out of 3 bars or 90% left etc. but has stopped taking videos/photos overnight or is taking shorter videos than set – essentially it just means that it’s time to change the batteries. Unfortunately, the battery meters are not very reliable – what’s important is the load on the batteries.
What’s Load Got to Do With it?
The camera needs very little power to simply just switch on and light up the screen, so when you do this, the batteries will report that they’re happy. However, when it starts recording, especially at night, it needs much more power and the batteries are put under a much higher load and the current they give out can fall – especially if they’re not very good.
That means that although there may be enough power in the batteries to trigger the camera and allow the LEDSs to come on, they will struggle when it comes to actually recording. This will start a cycle of the batteries having just enough juice to trigger and start recording, but not enough power to keep the recording going.
Our #1 Recommendation: Lithium Batteries
We always recommend Lithium AA batteries, and specifically Energizer Ultimate Lithium. We don’t use anything else in any of our own projects and here’s why:
High voltage: The technical bit – trail cameras are either a 6V or more commonly, a 12V system. This means they run off 8 batteries all at once and need at least 1.5V from each battery. When new, Lithium’s are around 1.85V per battery compared to alkaline at 1.7V and rechargeable at 1.2V!
Unaffected by the cold: They don’t care about cold temperatures, performing as normal down to -15C
Longer lasting: They last about 5x longer than alkaline batteries
Higher battery current: The other magic number to look out for is the mAh – or milliamp hours. A camera trap needs a minimum of 2500mAh to power the LEDs at night and Lithium’s have around 2900mAh – much higher than other battery types
More cost effective: Higher voltage and current leads to far better performance and much longer battery life and thus much more cost-effective in the long-term
Better detection: Their extra power also means better detection distances, faster speed and brighter IR LEDs
What About Alkaline Batteries?
Alkaline are of course the most common type of battery available, and whilst they absolutely do power trail cameras, they can also cause issues and have a lot of faults such as:
Lower voltage: 1.7V compared to Lithium’s 1.85V
Don’t work well in cold temperatures: They can only output one fifth of their power below 5C
Unreliable current: One pack might be 1700mAh and the next 2500mA and as mentioned trail cameras need a minimum of 2500mA
Not cost effective: Lasts about one fifth of the time that Lithium’s can last – despite being cheaper they are not as cost effective
Not suited to trail cams: Cheap alkaline cameras may work great in your alarm clock or remote controls, but they are not likely to work well in a trail camera
Our top tip: Even very well-known brands that spend a lot of money on marketing make poor batteries for wildlife cameras
Although nowhere near as good as the Lithium batteries, the Alkaline batteries we recommend are Energizer Industrial Alkaline. These have more power than most other Alkaline batteries and are very affordable.
A Word on Duracell
After ten years’ experience and lots of testing we have found the worst brand of battery to use in a trail camera is Duracell. This is because they have a lower capacity than other brands and are built to cling on to power rather than give it away. This isn’t a great fit for a trail cam which needs to decide when it does and doesn’t need power.
We like them, camera traps don’t.
Ideally, we’d all just use rechargeable batteries in our wildlife cameras. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple and they aren’t recommended by the majority of manufacturers, or NatureSpy. Here’s why:
Lower voltage: As mentioned, they’re only 1.2V per battery so they will significantly underpower a trail camera that needs a minimum of 1.5V
Milliamp hours vary: This varies a lot between different rechargeable batteries but is always printed on the packaging or batteries themselves. If they have 2500mAh as a minimum, it is likely to power a camera trap. However…
…Be aware of false promises: Most rechargeable batteries give numbers that in reality don’t back up with performance
If you want to use rechargeables… The ones to look out for are Panasonic Eneloop Pro and Ikea LADDA 2450 – these, in general, will do the job if you are only interested in rechargeable batteries
… But if you do: Be prepared to lose some performance – using rechargeable batteries can mean a loss of detection range, slower trigger speeds and reduce IR LED brightness
They won’t last as long as you think: Finally – rechargeable batteries lose a bit of capacity every time you charge them. Eventually, they won’t have enough power to operate the camera at night, and usually need replacing after approx. 9-12 months
Use Lithium Batteries: Energizer Ultimate or Varta Professional are best – they don’t care about cold temperatures and have high currents
Don’t use Duracell Batteries: The voltage of these is too low to power camera traps sufficiently and they don’t like the cold!
If you’re experiencing problems – change the batteries: If you are experiencing any issue with you trail camera change the batteries – your problem will probably be instantly resolved!
Please recycle your batteries if and when you can when they are no longer in use. This can be done at most recycling centres and some supermarkets.
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