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Backyard Wildlife Viewing: a Trail Camera Comparison

Amanda keeps tabs on the wildlife roaming her farm by carefully placing trail cameras around the property.

Wild Turkey, taken with the Henf HC801A Trail Camera.

Wild Turkey, taken with the Henf HC801A Trail Camera.

Have you ever wondered what animals live on your property? I have! When I take a hike in the field or the woods, I often see tracks, scat, or other signs that animals have been there, but I rarely see the animals themselves. I thought that trail cameras would be a good way to see what goes on when I'm not around.

I began to research different models and finally settled on the four you see here. I wanted to try out several different brands to test different features and see which ones held up best over the long haul. After nine months in the field, here are the results.

As a Certified Wildlife Habitat, we do not allow hunting on our property.

As a Certified Wildlife Habitat, we do not allow hunting on our property.

Things to Know About Trail Cameras

  1. My trail cameras are battery operated and store footage on SD cards. They are motion activated and operate independently. I have them set to snap a photo and then take a 10 to 20 second video. Periodically, I hike out to collect the SD cards and then view the footage on my computer.
  2. It is helpful to have an extra set of SD cards. This allows me to place a fresh SD card in the camera when I pick up the used one. After I view and save the footage, I delete it from the card and reuse it.
  3. Three of my cameras take micro SD cards which are tiny and hard to handle. They fit into the bottom of the camera and it is very easy to drop them when inserting or removing them. They are very hard to find on the ground. One of my cameras uses a standard SD card inserted into the side, rather than the bottom of the camera. This is a much better design.
  4. Animals like to urinate on trail cameras. After handling a camera one day, I noticed that my hands smelled like cat pee. This was my first clue that we had a male bobcat on the property. But he is not the only one who has "marked" my cameras. Even the squirrels seem to prefer their own smell to the smell of the plastic camera. Other animals such as deer and raccoons will rub on the camera as well.
  5. All of my cameras have a built in LCD display that allows me to view (and delete) photos and videos in the field (or forest). The display is also useful for changing camera settings without bringing the camera back home.
  6. All of my cameras have a motion detection sensitivity setting. If the sensitivity is set too high, the camera will trigger at the slightest movement. I was frustrated to see that I had 1,500 pictures and videos of nothing. It took a long time to comb through all of that footage to make sure I didn't miss anything. I changed the setting to low sensitivity and now I do not have that problem. Even on the lowest setting, my cameras still pick up mice and even a spider.
  7. Daytime footage is recorded in color. Night time footage is recorded in black and white using infra-red LEDs. Keep reading for tips on proper placement of the camera to prevent bleaching out of night time footage.

Trail Camera Comparison Chart

CameraPurchase PriceBatteriesTrigger SpeedStorageSpecs

Henf HC801A

$55.99

8 AA

0.3s

Micro SD 32GB

16MP 1080P

Toguard H45

$59.99

8 AA

0.3s

Micro SD 32GB

14MP 1080P

Campark T45

$69.99

8 AA

0.3s

Micro SD 32GB

14MP 1080P

Spypoint Solar-W

$144.99

6 AA Solar Backup

0.07s

Standard SD 32GB

12MP HD

Henf HC801A Trail Camera Review

At $55.99, the Henf HC801A was the cheapest camera I tried. In the beginning, I was very impressed with the quality of this camera for the price. Daytime images were very clear and it recorded sound better than any of the other cameras I purchased. However, it was also the most short-lived of the four cameras. In only three months, it stopped recognizing SD cards. I tried several cards that work fine in my other cameras. Eventually, I tried taking the batteries out and leaving them out overnight. I reinstalled them the next day and the camera seemed to work once again. Now, when I try to view recorded images from the camera itself, there appear to be none. However, when I bring the SD card inside and put it into my computer, there the images are! I have made multiple attempts to contact customer support, but have received no response.

Pros:

  • Low cost
  • Excellent daytime footage
  • Picks up sound really well

Cons:

  • Problems reading SD card
  • Night time footage is fuzzy


Henf Videos

Toguard H45 Hunting Camera Review

The Toguard H45 was the second cheapest camera at $59.99. I noticed right away that it seemed to be the exact same camera as the Campark T45, though I noticed some differences in quality. I had trouble inserting batteries in the Toguard, as there were springs on both the positive and negative sides. The spring kept going underneath the battery when I tried to insert it. I also had trouble with the buttons, they just didn't work well. Eventually I got the batteries in and set up the camera.

Image quality was fair. It does not pick up sound well, unless the sound is very loud and/or very close. After eight months, lines appeared in the LCD display. Then the camera started acting funny. It wouldn't turn off, or on. Then, it started turning itself on and off continuously even when it was turned off. I had to take the batteries out to make it stop.

I contacted customer support and received an answer right away. After I sent a video showing what the camera was doing, they shipped me a new one. I only paid $10 for shipping.

Pros:

  • Low purchase price
  • Decent quality footage
  • Good customer service

Cons:

  • Batteries hard to install
  • Sound quality not good
  • Broke after 8 months

Toguard Videos

Campark T45 Hunting Camera Review

The Campark T45 costs $10 more than the Toguard. For $69.99, it seemed to be built a little better than the Toguard, otherwise it was similar in every way. I used the Campark to monitor wild animals inside an abandoned barn. The camera was protected from the weather, which may have helped it to last longer. Footage is clear in both day and night. It does not record sound well unless the noise is loud and/or close. Overall, it has performed the best over the past 9 months and is still reasonably priced.

Pros:

  • Quality footage day and night
  • Reasonable price

Cons:

  • Sound quality not good


Campark Videos

Spypoint Solar-W Trail Camera Review

The Spypoint Solar-W was by far the most expensive camera I purchased, at $144.99. I was interested to see how much money I would save by not having to buy batteries. So far, I have not had to replace the batteries in any of my cameras. The Spypoint's solar battery seems to stay charged most of the time, even when not in full sun. Then camera is sturdy. Footage is average.

I was very disappointed to find that this camera does not record any sound. For the price, I think it should. Often, when watching a video, nothing will be in the video at first, but I can hear something coming. Sometimes an animal is close enough to trigger the motion sensor, but is outside the view of the camera. If I hear something coming, I wait to see if it appears in view. It is a real bummer that this camera does not record sound at all.

One thing I do like about this camera is that it takes a full size SD card that is inserted into the side of the camera rather than the bottom. This would be good for anyone lacking dexterity in their fingers to manage a micro SD card inserted into the bottom of a camera. I have dropped a few and they are very hard to find amongst the leaves!

Pros:

  • Rugged build
  • Full size SD card
  • Solar powered

Cons:

  • Does not record sound
  • High price


Spypoint Videos

Tips for Placing Trail Cameras to View Wildlife

When I first got my cameras, I had trouble with night shots being bleached out. I needed to reposition my cameras so that the night lighting would not reflect off of the ground or other objects. Here are some tips to get the best shots.

  • If at all possible, cameras should be placed facing north, this avoids direct sun triggering the camera or bleaching out the footage. If the camera cannot be north-facing, consider how lighting will affect the camera throughout the day. Choose a position that will protect the camera from direct light as much as possible.
  • Do not place the camera too close to the ground. Night lighting will reflect off the ground and bleach out the shot. I made this mistake because I wanted to capture animals that are low to the ground. The camera does a fine job catching these animals even if it is placed 3 ft. above the ground, which is about where it should be.
  • Consider hills. I had a camera that was 4 ft. off the ground. Plenty high, thought I. But I didn't consider that the camera was pointed uphill. The night lighting reflected off the hill and bleached out my shot. Lesson learned. Don't point the camera at a hill, wall, or any other obstacle. Make sure that there is open space in front of the camera.
  • Clear the area around the camera of any tall weeds or branches that will trigger the motion sensors. Otherwise the camera will take pictures and videos of nothing, continuously.

Conclusion

I absolutely love collecting the SD cards and seeing what the animals have been up to. I have watched as pregnant Mommas grow plump and eagerly awaited the arrival of their young. I have learned things I never knew about animal behavior. I look forward to seeing what is on my SD cards like it's Christmas! Collecting SD cards encourages me to get out and go for a hike even in the winter. Who knew there would be health benefits to owning trail cameras?

As for the cameras I have tried, the Campark seems to be the best overall for quality and price. If you don't mind not having sound, and like the larger SD card, the Spypoint is a good rugged option. The Henf and the Toguard are still good options as well, for their price. If I did not have issues with mine, I would be very happy with them. Please note that I had to buy batteries and SD cards separately, they were not included with my cameras.

Whether you choose one of the cameras I have mentioned here, or a different brand, I hope that you enjoy seeing what the animals on your property are up to as much as I do.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Amanda Buck