A Definitive Guide to Trail Camera Myths

When you are looking to buy a trail camera you should have the right expectations. It would be a great shame to invest time and money into one of these devices only for it to not have the functions and features that you thought it would have. By debunking some of the myths that surround trail cameras it builds a more realistic picture of what you shall receive.

Similarly, once you have purchased your device you should be aware of things that you should not do in order for the trail camera to work to the best of its abilities. Some of the information out there causes people to misuse them causing them to work to their full capacities, or perhaps even damaging them. We created this post to dispel some of the common misconceptions that surround trail cameras.

 

Gazelle under the tree.

Gazelle under the tree.

 

Megapixel myths

There are often myths surrounding how many megapixels your trail camera has. Often when you purchase a camera, the higher level of megapixels often results in a better quality picture. However, this is not necessarily true with regard to trail cameras. Trail cameras produce their image quality through their image sensor. The bigger the image sensor the better quality your pictures will be. 

The image sensors of trail cameras tend to be between 3-5 megapixels. The majority of megapixels on game cameras are interpolated. Interpolation is something that occurs when the standard resolution of an image is improved by the software to a better quality. It is, in layman’s terms, the splitting of each megapixel and saying that every section of a pixel is its own single pixel.

An example of this is a bakery baking a cake and cutting it into six slices. They can then make a claim that each slice is its own cake and sell them separately, making more money than they would if it was sold as a whole cake. This is the same approach that some game camera manufacturers employ. If a megapixel level to you seems really high to you then it’s actually not.

Instead, the company has artificially increased the number of megapixels in the came camera. This means that they can raise the price as it looks like they are selling a higher quality product. It is instead the same as a standard trail camera of having 3-5 megapixels. So if you see a camera that advertises itself as having 25 megapixels it could well be a 5-megapixel camera but that the clever use of the software has interpolated the images. 

If your game camera has a lot of split megapixels it is actually detrimental to the final image. When the image is zoomed in upon it results in it being really blurry. To avoid this it is best to opt for a camera that only has up to 2.5 times the level of megapixels that the image sensor has the ability to make. So when you are browsing through game cameras, do not pay too much attention to the number of megapixels that it has. Instead, look at the size of its image producing capabilities which offer a better gauge as to the quality of the picture that it produces.

 

Infrared trail camera myths

There are also many myths that surround infrared trail cameras. Infrared trail cameras are used when levels of light are low. Because a lot of areas where trail cameras are where there is a lack of light such as in forested areas an infrared trail camera is sometimes necessary. A lot of animals are also a lot more active at dusk and dawn when there is less light.

It is for this reason that they are a great tool. There is a lack of flash from the camera meaning that the animal is less likely to be spooked. This is actually one of the myths about game cameras, that deer can see the infrared light. There is in fact no concrete scientific evidence that points towards this being true and it is instead a myth created through the experience of some hunters.

The way in which we see colors is how we view stands of light on different wavelengths. The colors that the human eye can pick-up go along the scale of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. This is a scale that goes from one end to another with longer wavelengths on one side and shorter ones on the other. 

On this spectrum, there are also colors that humans cannot see as there is infrared further up on the long wavelength end, and ultraviolet on the short wavelength scale. Deer are not able to view long wavelength colors such as red, orange, and yellow and certainly not infrared. They can instead see the short wavelength colors that we can see as well as being able to view ultraviolet. 

So, if you have an infrared trail camera and you see that the deer is looking at the camera, naturally you may think that they can see the infrared light. It is in fact not possible to happen. An explanation for this is that the deer can see the camera itself with the infrared light not being the cause of them starting at it.

The other myth with regards to infrared trail cameras is that there is only one type of them. Instead, there are various ones that you can purchase in closing no glow, low glow, and red glow. There are various benefits to each of these which we shall detail for you so that you can make a more informed decision when you purchase an infrared game camera.

A no glow trail game camera does create an infrared light that is not visible when you look at it as it’s high on the color spectrum. You won’t be aware of it and the deer certainly won’t be either, making it a great stealth cam. Because humans cannot see this light it makes it the perfect trail camera when using it for security purposes. If someone’s going out to damage your hide or cabin then they won’t have a clue that they’ve been picked up on camera and the footage is safe from them destroying the evidence.

A low glow game camera emits extra light which can only be viewed by the human eye if it is examined closely. Nonetheless, it is still not something that wildlife can see. So if you’re using it for security purposes it is very unlikely that it will be picked up upon if it is well hidden. The strong advantage that the low glow game camera holds over the no glow is that it provides a better night vision photo as the photo is brighter, giving you a potentially clearer image. 

The other infrared camera is the red glow trail camera which shows a red light that is more clearly visible to the human eye. Because they show this light they are not as suitable if you want to use it for surveillance purposes unless you wish for the camera to be noticed to deter people. They produce more light which results in better picture quality and higher resolution photos so these are sometimes better than no glow and low glow for picking up animals. The other favourable thing about them is that they’re average price tends to be lower.

A bunch of batteries.

Don’t fall into the game camera trap of letting batteries ruin your footage.

 

The myth that your trail camera needs a large SD card reader

The bigger the better right? Well not necessarily. Most trail cameras offer space for a standard 32GB SD card with some advanced one’s ability to hold 10 times as much. You may be thinking that to go on the higher end of the scale but we shall explain to you that doesn’t always have to be the case.

Each gigabyte on your storage card has the space to save around 300-400 photographs on it. They are not very high-quality photos thus, you can fit more into it. This means that a 32GB SD card can likely hold over 10000 photos which is more than enough for a session lasting a few months in the backcountry. Even if you opt for a 64GB card you will likely never get close to filling up its memory space.

If you are storing video recordings on your trail camera then yes perhaps it could be appropriate to buy a memory card with a high capacity. Low-quality video footage will take up roughly 1GB for 15 minutes of footage. So if you are planning to leave your camera in an area for a longer period of time it could be worth investing in a high storage one as it may record more footage than you expect.

 

Trail camera battery myths

One of the other great myths of game trail cameras is surrounding the batteries. Some of you may think that alkaline batteries may work just fine on your trail camera. They are cheaper and more readily available than alkaline batteries however they do not interact well with your trail camera. 

There are a couple of reasons as to why they do not work well. The first one is that the voltage level, as well as the alkaline battery’s overall power, shall drop every time the trigger goes to take a photo. If you use alkaline batteries then you will notice soon enough that the initial photos taken are of a decent enough standard. However, as the range of photos goes on they start to gradually but significantly lower in quality. 

The flash capacity also diminishes if the photo is taken at night. So much so that you may struggle to make out any detail in some of your later photos, ruining one of your game camera sessions. So be sure to definitely never use them in your infrared camera.

Another reason to not use alkaline batteries is that they have reduced performance when the weather cools down. This is because the chemicals within the alkaline batteries don’t react well to cooler temperatures. If the temperature is below 0 celsius then the water inside may freeze, expand, and burst within the battery which can cause damage to your trail camera. Given that this is the prime time to use your game camera you don’t want to have alkaline batteries ruining the hard efforts you’re putting in to prepare for the open season.

Instead of alkaline batteries, you should stick with the recommended lithium batteries. These batteries have lithium metal, the lightest of all, on the negative end of their circuit. When the lithium battery is running there is no downturn in its performance throughout its life because of its electrolyte parts. Therefore there will always be a power of 1.7 volts running through your camera whilst it is out in the field, meaning that you don’t need to be concerned about your photos being of lower-quality.

Lithium batteries also do not have a water-based discharge as alkaline batteries do. This means that during the winter months there is no chance of your battery freezing and you can expect good quality photos throughout the winter.

 

Trail camera trigger speed myths 

There are also a few myths out there regarding your camera’s trigger speed. One of these common trail camera myths is that a faster trigger speed shall give you more pictures of the animal in a single shooting session. The question to be posed with regards to this one is if a whitetail skips by your camera will a fast trigger speed mean that you get enough photos to get a clear image of the deer?

The answer is not simple as this comes down to the physics of the photograph. A fast trigger speed will help but that does not entirely mean that it is the reason for it. Your trail cameras field of view and the range of the sensor also play a part in this. Your fast trigger speed can often count for little if it is not set up correctly. If a trail camera with a slower trigger is set up in a position with a greater range of view then it can create a better picture than a game camera with a faster trigger yet a poorer range of view.

This means that a fast trigger speed doesn’t automatically make it the best trail camera. Sure it helps, but a trail camera that has a wider range of views yet has a slower trigger is often a better buy. If you set it up correctly then it shouldn’t matter if the trigger speed is that little bit lower. 

Another trigger speed trail camera myth is that a faster trigger speed shall provide you with pictures that are less blurry. When animals go past your game camera they sometimes do so at speed. This leaves you with a blurry image making it hard for you to make out details of the animal – maybe you can’t even work out which animal it is. A fast trigger is not a remedy to this because even though it can get the snap, the image will still be blurry due to the animal going at speed.

The trail camera’s trigger speed is not the same as it’s shutter speed. The trigger speed is the amount of time it takes for the camera’s sensor to register the movement and to make the camera capture an image. Therefore this has no bearing on the quality of the image if the animal is fast-moving. 

The camera’s shutter speed will instead have an influence over this as this is the speed that it takes for the camera’s shutter to open and capture that image. A quick shutter will instead let less light into the image which means that the image is less likely to be blurry. Unfortunately, a trail camera shutter speed is not often mentioned by the manufacturers so you often don’t have much control over this variable. Instead, use this knowledge to know that when you’re looking to buy a wildlife trail camera with a quick trigger speed it does not mean that it will avoid blurry photos.

 

A brown deer on the road.

Your game camera’s trigger speed doesn’t need to have an effect if the deer are running at speed.

 

Final Verdict:

There are a fair few myths floating around that concern trail cameras. If you are a camera user or a potential buyer then it is very important that you receive truthful information. If you don’t, and you’ve bought into some of the myths then you’ve essentially been conned into buying something or spending extra when you didn’t need to. 

Once you have your game camera damage to it and to your photos can also be done. If you think back to where we spoke about batteries you may save yourself a tonne of trouble if you stick to our advice. If you’re deer hunting or a wildlife enthusiast you should be aware of everything about their equipment due to the fact that the slightest change in variables changes everything. We want you to have the best time in nature and for a few silly rumors not to damage your experience or empty your wallet.

 

Bonus tip: Check out this video to see how you can upgrade to a cellular trail camera on your smartphone with this quick video!

 

 

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Riley Draper

Riley Draper

Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.