Among the unquestionable greatest evolutions in the outdoor industry over the last two decades has been the trail camera. Days of struggling to get a 35mm roll of film to start in the film feed, and then rushing to Rite Aid to get the previous roll printed have been replaced by alerts on my phone, taking me to pictures of a deer 600 miles away traversing the well-beaten trail a mere seconds prior.
While nothing can replace those moments and memories afield, the extended season and treestand-like anticipation of the next photo make trail camera scouting extremely fun.
Where are the Reviews?
I’ve been dabbling in the world of cellular trail cameras for the last seven seasons. I won a pair of Bushnell Wireless Trophy Cam cameras and loved the technology – even those very early iterations. While extremely costly in upfront cost, I didn’t mind paying the monthly fee of $9.99 to check on hunting properties in two different states. It was extremely fun.
As the technology has advanced, with many manufacturers entering the market with their own versions of the wireless technology, the reliable research on the fresh products seems limited. I purchased two SpyPoint cellular cameras before the 2019 season and had decent success with them, but decided to add to the repertoire this offseason.
Simply put, figuring out which camera to get proved to be a taxing exercise.
I decided to create a review post on the different cameras that I have personally used. There are many others out there, but this post is to provide an initial reaction of the multiple cameras that are currently being used on properties I hunt.
I purchased all of the cameras and not one of them comes with any partnership with the manufacturer. I did try to research as much as I could before purchasing and will provide further detail on why I decided on the cameras I did as part of the review.
While I get into some of the specifications, this post is designed to give you the layman’s terms and feelings. I’ve learned that just because one camera has a massive MP image size, doesn’t mean it’s taking high-quality photos than a version that might be half as large images.
All of the photos included in this post are of the lower-resolution photos transmitted from the camera. All of them take higher-resolution photos that are stored on their SD cards.
Oh, and lastly, I’m going to review in the order that I started using them for no other reason than to help me keep up with all those that I’ve tried.
Bushnell Wireless Trophy Cam (the original!)
This baby was expensive for those who purchased it when they first came out.
If I recall, the camera alone ran $399 on the shelf and, like the lion’s share of cellular cameras, you purchased the monthly package to transmit your photos.
Here’s where it gets interesting. I have not purchased any of the later versions of the Bushnell wireless cameras.
The reason is directly pinned to the poor reviews it gets on multiple trail camera sites. I almost made the purchase of a couple more in the last two seasons, but couldn’t pull myself to do so based solely on those reviews.
With respect to battery life, I never seemed to have an issue with the longevity with Lithium batteries being used in the camera. They easily outlasted the season of use.
What I can say is the old version, which can still be found on auction sites from time to time, was a winner.
SpyPoint Micro Link (Verizon / AT&T)
I use two of these (one Verizon service, one AT&T service) and have very similar service between the two. Operationally, they are identical. My experience over two seasons has been hit/miss. I can have the same camera on the same tree, and have different experiences from one month to the next. I attribute a lot of that to the cell coverage on our farm, but also hear similar experiences from hunting buddies who own this camera.
The cost of this camera has trended down a bit over the last year as other cameras have entered the market. You can find them for $99 easily now. As far as setup goes, this is among the easiest to use. You essentially toggle a switch to setup and allow it to get service, then move it to “on”. That’s it. The user interface online is very straightforward. Among the qualms I have with this camera, and more so now that there are so many other options at this price point, are the lack of functions the camera has.
I did have some questions and minor issues when first setting up the camera and needed to work with SpyPoint customer service. This was in the summer of 2019 and I found it extremely tough to work with customer service representatives who had little/no experience afield with the cameras. They worked directly from a FAQ sheet and gave only the answers that were predetermined by the question(s) I asked. I’m not sure if SpyPoint has corrected that.
The battery life with each of the SpyPoints has been average. I started with Alkaline batteries that didn’t last an entire month with roughly 500-600 pictures. After switching to Lithium, I was able to more than double that use to almost three months.
I’m not a fan of any cellular camera plan that will not allow you to link your cameras together (essentially pay one fee for a set number of photos across all your cameras). For every SpyPoint camera purchased, you have to add a new camera to the plan and pay the transmission fees again. It’s a common gripe from a majority of the cameras available.
SpyPoint does have a free plan for all of its cameras, which provides 100 free photos a month. For a lot of hunters, this could be a fantastic and ideal option. It does allow you to turn the plan on/off.
I will say that, for the price point, I was pleased overall with the performance of the camera. Would it be my first choice today? Absolutely not. Was it a great option for around $100 in 2019? Yes.
Moultrie XV 7000i
The Moultrie 7000 became part of the repertoire following recommendations from two hunting buddies. Both have used this model for over a year and liked the quality of pictures and the user interface that Moultrie provided.
I have the trigger set for the low sensitivity but I will tell you that this camera has a lot of false triggers. Whereas, I would venture more than 20 percent of the photos it takes have no wildlife in them. I would expect false triggers in a field edge or someplace where there is more movement, but I have this camera on a well-used trail within the woods.
The picture quality is very good, but the thumbnails it sends are weaker quality than several of the others that I’m currently using. I agree with my hunting buddies that the interface is solid, but we did have a couple days where the service provider was struggling to deliver photos from the camera. To its credit, Moultrie sent multiple alerts and messages informing users of the issue, and when it was resolved.
To this day, though, you can log on to the web hosting site for the Moultrie and your pictures fail to load. You can usually log back in later and find them, but it can be frustrating.
I have alkaline batteries in this camera and through the first month-plus, and while taking a high-volume of photos a day, the battery bar shows 4/5 remaining, but only 61% of its life according to the Moultrie app. Additionally, it shows a weak signal (0%) but has had no problem sending photos. I’m going to switch this camera to transmit at specified times to, hopefully, support the battery life longevity.
Moultrie is among the cameras that offers an unlimited plan that will allow you to link multiple cameras to the same cost plan. That said, I opted for the $10 / 1000 images per month plan. That price point seems to be the industry standard for that volume of photos per camera.
Stealth Cam Fusion
This one happened quickly. While shopping at Sam’s Club, a normal swing through the outdoors section proved valuable when I saw a blister pack of the Fusion that included the camera, batteries, SD card and a free three months of service for Sam’s Club members. I was intrigued. The entire package was priced lower than you could find just the camera for at your national outdoors box store.
After doing a quick review on the camera from my phone, I decided to give it a whirl. So far, I’ve been very pleased with it. I would argue its picture quality is akin to the Moultrie camera and I really like the user interface on the phone app. It shows where the camera is, has the obvious photo uploads, but also has an easy-to-follow photo tracker that shows you the tendencies in animal activity at the camera. I’m eager to see how that adjusts as we get nearer to the run.
Since the blister pack came with alkaline batteries, I’ve used them and after four weeks, the battery life is at 75 percent. I will definitely (similar to the Moultrie) go with Lithium batteries when it’s time to swap with this camera.
With respect to plans, I’m still on the unlimited free plan that came with it (thanks Sam’s Club) but will move to a plan that falls right into the same price point as all the others when it’s time to reup.
I have this camera currently set in a location I’ve struggled to get service in the past. It has worked flawlessly with little signal issue. Clearly the coverage has improved in that area. That said, I did try the SpyPoint this year at this location and could not get it to transmit a photo.
Overall, very pleased with the Stealth Cam but recognize its pros and cons.
Let’s cut to the chase on this one. I am a big fan of this camera. I like the price and it easily outperforms the others when it comes to picture quality. While quite possibly swayed by my initial opinion, I also have a great deal of confidence in the continued updates Tactacam is making to the user interface (an area where this one started out behind the curve).
I read about the camera and wanted to try it out. In early August it was difficult to find any. A quick search just now showed it’s a little easier than it was a month ago, but it’s still on backorder at a number of places.
I think anyone would be hard pressed to find a $99 camera that outperforms this one! In fact, it outperforms the rest of my fleet.
It’s completely understandable that any camera is going to send a lower resolution thumbnail to save on battery life and ease of transmission. That said, even the thumbnails for this camera arrive looking great.
Nighttime photos for most cameras can be a challenge, but this camera might be the best quality nigh pictures I’ve ever encountered, cellular camera or not.
The first thing that impressed me when setting this camera up was the signal strength where I placed one of them. It’s an area that I’ve tried cellular cameras for several years and had zero luck getting photos to transmit. When I set this camera up, it showed full signal strength. In reading some of the reviews prior to purchase, I remain a little bit skeptical about it being true “full” signal strength, but I can tell you that this camera has not missed a beat in sending photos immediately.
While this camera doesn’t have a true “link” plan for multiple cameras, it does provide discounts when you place multiple cameras on the plan.
As previously noted, this camera’s biggest weakness came it the user interface. Toggling between pictures was difficult and if you’re someone who deletes a lot of photos, it can be more challenging than other cameras.
Tactacam Reveal has a passionate community online and they were quick to make updates and they continue to keep users updated with new iterations of the interface. For me, personally, I think it’s very close to everything I need right now. The recent improvements allowing you to swipe between photos was a welcomed update and I don’t need a whole lot beyond your basic needs.
The interface opens with a homepage that aggregates all of your cameras’ photos in a feed timeline. I like that, but recognize not everyone will. If you want to look at an individual camera feed, you traverse to the cameras and do so.
I outfitted both of my Tactacam cameras with lithium batteries and expect both to outlast the 2020 season.
Among the areas I didn’t dive into very far was the setup of each camera. I decided not to as I truly thought each of them was easy to get started. If I had to say which was easiest, it’s hard to beat the SpyPoint for startup, but none was difficult whatsoever. I think anyone with any digital/e-commerce experience can set one of these cameras up.
I think purchase habits are a strong testament to informing others on a recommendation. While I don’t like picking winners/losers and can honestly state that all of my cameras have performed well for me overall, if I had to purchase any camera in the market today, I would opt for the Tactacam Reveal. I think that decision would be the same if the camera were 50 percent higher priced than its current $99.
I hope this post helped you and expect the cellular trail camera market to continue its evolution. What has your experience been? Share your comments below!