Last Updated on October 16, 2021
Top Pick: Wildgame Innovations Mirage 18
When you’re looking for a trail camera under $100 that offers excellent value and quality but does not require much research, this is the camera to buy.
The trail cameras are small cameras with photo and video capabilities, which are mounted to trees or other objects. They take pictures and videos when an animal moves within its external range.
In recent years, they have been popular among hunters when they scout out their game, but thanks to advances in technology, they have become more and more affordable, making them more attractive to the general public.
Using trail cameras, you can view wildlife without spending hours on the trail (or in front of your back porch) waiting for wildlife to appear. As well as monitoring farms and land, they can also be used for home security, or just to see what wildlife is in the area.
The top trail cameras under $100
Trail cameras such as the Wildgame Innovations Mirage 18 make a great gift for budding naturalists. The camera has a number of customizable settings, including exposure and trigger speed, and can detect moving objects from up to 40 feet. It also offers the highest resolution among the models under $100, so the photos and videos it produces are clear and crisp. Furthermore, it is much cheaper than a good pair of hiking boots.
Below we have listed an overall winner, runner-up, and budget best trail cameras, as well as special mentions.
Wildgame Innovations Mirage 18
Most people’s favorite trail camera
Despite its low resolution, Wildgame Innovations Mirage 18 still has the most pixels of any camera and offers 18 megapixels. It has the same high-definition (HD) video resolution as the rest of the bunch. The camera could detect movement from 40 feet away during our tests, which is double the performance of some other cameras, like the Wraith 16.
Additionally, the trigger speed of the Mirage 18 is a fraction faster than that of the other models, so it has a higher chance of capturing a shot before an animal trots off.
Wildgame Innovations Wraith 14
Still great even with fewer customizations
While the Mirage 18 may not be available, the Wraith 14 makes a great alternative. A similar-looking model, the Wraith 14, is also from Wildgame Innovations. To the time of this writing, the price is the same as it was for the Mirage 18.
Similar to the previous one, you can choose the date and time, the exposure, and the delay. However, compared with the Mirage 18, you are unable to select the particular period of time it will be active (day, night, or 24 hours) or a wide-angle perspective. Although its pictures and videos are a bit pixelated compared to the Mirage 18, they are still quite good regardless-and much better than some of its rivals, such as the Moultrie.
For still photos, the Wraith has four fewer megapixels than the Mirage 18 but the same 720p video resolution as every other competitor. The trigger speed of this stick is slightly slower than that of the Mirage 18’s (0.7 seconds versus 0.5 seconds), but you won’t really notice a difference. Its detection distance is just 20 feet, so you might miss some shots when creatures are stalking farther away.
Our Budget Pick
Wildgame Innovations Terra Extreme 14
Performance for the price
In the time since this writing, all of the picks we considered cost $100 or less, but we chose the Terra Extreme 14 because it was the cheapest option we considered. This is the least customizable app out of our lineup, allowing you to choose between stills and videos, as well as the date and time. But the setup process goes much more quickly that way.
For still photos, this camera has 14 megapixels and the same 720p video quality as the rest. With distances of up to 40 feet, the Extreme 14 works just like the Mirage 18, and with trigger speed that is on par with the Wraith 16. It produces photos and videos that are a bit overexposed and pixelated, but they still appear more real-life than those produced by some more expensive models, such as the Moultrie.
It’s the only model on this list that has bungee cords instead of straps. The included hardware will be difficult to install in large trees with bungee cords. If you plan to mount this trail camera on a large tree with the included hardware, you ought to use bungee cords instead of straps.
Who is this for
Hunting enthusiasts, scientists, or recreational wildlife watchers are the most common buyers of trail cameras. In this guide, we are primarily interested in those of you who just enjoy seeing animals around your homes. Those of you who are a park ranger, scientist and hunter who doesn’t want to spend money on expensive features like 4K resolution are probably best off choosing from one of our picks as well.
You can also spy on animals with our favorite outdoor security cameras, and they come with other features, such as 24/7 video, two-way talking, and smart-home integration. Nevertheless, they produce relatively low-quality – and occasionally grainy-still images (with a fraction of the resolution found in most trail cameras). They also require access to a wireless network or an outlet, which restricts their placement. If you want to observe wildlife, the best trail camera is one that’s dedicated to that purpose.
The selection process
In today’s market, there are plenty of trail cameras with various capabilities and features. In order to identify a relatively narrow range of brands, we looked at retailers like Amazon, Bass Pro Shop, Gander Mountain, Cabela’s, and Dick’s as well as other smaller ones.
In addition, we visited other sites, such as Field & Stream, The Outdoor Wire, and Outdoor Life, to see which models they recommend.
Following are the criteria we used to narrow our list of options:
- Maximum still photo resolution of 14 megapixels or higher: While this is less than our favorite point-and-shoot camera, it is more than the iPhone 11’s 12-megapixel camera.
- Videos with a resolution of 720p or higher: Anything lower would appear grainy on most devices since that’s the standard for HD video. Some of the more expensive cameras out there extend the resolution up to 1080p or even 4K, but all the ones we examined offer 720p.
- 0.9-second trigger speed is required: Fast-moving animals have a greater chance of getting captured by your camera if it has a faster trigger speed.
- 50-foot detection distance or greater: Most trail cameras can detect movement only within a few dozen feet, while the human eye can detect a candle flickering over a mile away.
- The external memory of at least 32 GB:
- More expensive trail cameras can take advantage of SD cards that store up to 12 G In reality, we think 32 GB will be sufficient for the majority of people since you will be able to save hundreds of still photos and videos.
- Warranty of at least one year: After you get your trail camera working for a while, you should be able to fully test it and ensure it’s functioning properly.
- Prices under $100:
- There are some trail cameras that boast advanced features like 4K resolution and LTE connectivity, so you can retrieve images and videos without having to search for an SD card. The only problem is that they cost hundreds of dollars, plus there are optional monthly charges for cellular data. Despite the fact that cheaper models still have decent image quality and good overall user experiences, most hobbyists won’t need to spend more than $100.
Our pick: Wildgame Innovations Mirage 18
You should get the Wildgame Innovations Mirage 18 trail cam if you are looking for a dependable and easy-to-use trail camera that doesn’t exhaust your budget, and can take high-quality photos and videos. Those are the kind of trail cameras we’d buy ourselves to watch raccoons, deer, possums, and stray cats in your backyard.
With batteries installed, the Mirage weighs about a pound and fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. The shell is made from plastic that looks like the bark of a tree. There is also a strip of nylon webbing (5.9 feet long, or about the same as my wingspan) and a plastic clip with which to attach the unit to a post, tree, or fence.
An SD card and batteries are inserted into the base of the unit after a door on the bottom is opened. It works with SD cards up to 32 GB and utilizes eight AA batteries like the rest of the units we tested. The four buttons on the stick (the orange ones) are user-friendly and comfortable to press. Despite the small size of the screen, the background is backlit with a bright blue light, making reading it easy.
After that, you will be able to enter the time, date, and location. You can then choose whether to use a still or video camera, when the camera should be on (24 hours, day, or night), trigger sensitivity (low, medium, or high), exposure (low, medium, or high), lens angle (wide or regular), resolution ((low, medium, or high), and delay (five seconds, fifteen seconds, thirty seconds, one minute, five minutes, or ten minutes). All of these settings can ensure that you receive more images that match your aesthetic preferences, rather than overloading your memory card or draining your batteries unnecessarily.
You can, for instance, choose night mode if you are only interested in nocturnal animals. You should select a high trigger sensitivity if you want to capture animals like rabbits, squirrels, and birds. A lower setting will capture only larger species.
The camera’s high resolution might exhaust your storage space, so you may want to lower it if you intend to track animals rather than capture nice-looking photos. Similarly, if you don’t want to end up with hundreds of photos or videos from a single snacking session, you can set the delay to several seconds or minutes, so the camera will not fire instantly after each trigger.
Mirage 18 trail cameras capture the sharpest, clearest stills and videos available on the market. In the daytime, the colors look realistic, and at night, the images are well-illuminated and contrasted. It’s possible you’ll notice that the Mirage 18 emits a small dot of red light at night, as it uses infrared to take pictures and videos.
This camera captures still photos at a resolution of 18 MP, the highest of all the models we picked, and it also has 720p video recording capabilities. In addition to the Wildgame Innovations logo, you will find the time, date, moon phase, and image number on each of the still photos, so you can quickly organize them later. The logo, date, and time are all displayed on each video.
Despite the fact that Wildgame Innovations claims it has the ability to detect objects moving up to 90 feet away (partly because lab-tested products are often under ideal conditions), It’s not capable to see the unit beyond 40 feet in my backyard setup. Though it was still the farthest of any camera we tested (tied with the Terra Extreme 14), you should be able to get some good pictures.
Its trigger speed is quicker than any other model on our list, and it has a rating of 0.5 seconds. Wildgame Innovations also backs this camera with a one-year warranty, so you’ll have plenty of time to test it out and make sure it’s not a dud.
Not a deal-breaker, but still flaws
As far as setup goes, it takes a bit longer with the Wildgame Innovations Mirage 18 than it does with the Terra Extreme or the Wraith, as there are more settings to configure. You may find this tedious if you’re in a hurry and don’t want location, date, or time to be set.
The flip side, however, is that these features make this camera more customizable than others, as you can adjust settings such as trigger sensitivity and exposure, which may result in better photos. In our opinion, the tradeoff is worth it.
Furthermore, we think that the Mirage’s daytime images tended to be a tad undersaturated in comparison to the other units. However, we believe that this camera’s slightly dulled colors are much more pleasing to the eye than the Moultrie’s psychedelic hues.
- Photo resolution: 18 megapixels
- Video resolution: 720p
- Max detection distance: 40 feet (measured)
- Trigger speed: 0.5 seconds (rated)
Runner-up: Wildgame Innovations Wraith 14
There are a few key differences between the Wildgame Innovations Wraith 14 and the Mirage 18-in particular, the Wraith has a lower resolution, shorter detection distance, and slower trigger speed. Nonetheless, the differences between the Mirage and the Wraith 14 are barely noticeable. If the Mirage is out of stock or you can find a better deal, do not hesitate to purchase the Wraith 14.
Plastic shells on the Wraith are similar to those of the Mirage’s, in that they have a barklike texture. Its pattern is camouflage rather than a solid color. There is a clip on the end of the 5.9-feet strap on the Wraith so you can hang it up, just like the Mirage. In addition, it can store up to 32GB of photos and videos on an SD card, and it is powered by eight AA batteries.
While the process of setting up the Wraith is as straightforward as the Mirage, there are fewer settings to adjust than with the Mirage. Besides setting the date and time, the Wraith lets you choose still or video, exposure (low, medium, or high), as well as a delay (15 seconds, 30 seconds, or one minute), which should provide plenty of flexibility to most users.
It has the third-highest megapixel count (14 megapixels) of any model we tested (the Mirage is four pixels more). Similar to all the other units we tested, the RedGlow Infrared Unit records nighttime video in 720p. In addition, as with other Wildgame Innovations products, the Wraith’s photos are emblazoned with the company logo, time, date, moon phase, and an image number, while the videos are branded with the logo, time, and date.
Daytime photos and videos on the Wraith performed well, with a bit better color than on the Mirage, which turned out somewhat faded. Our judgment was that the objects appearing further away from the camera appeared to be pixelated. It was a bit pixelated for nighttime images and videos, as well, though it was still good.
In comparison with the Mirage, the Wraith’s detection distance is shorter (75 feet). Further, we found that it was only able to detect up to 20 feet – that’s the shortest detection range of the Wildgame Innovations models, and the same for the Moultrie as well.
Wraith still produces excellent images within that range, which is disappointing but not a dealbreaker. In terms of trigger speed, this unit is fractionally slower than the Mirage 18. Nevertheless, we managed to spy quite a bit of wildlife.
- Photo resolution: 14 megapixels
- Video resolution: 720p
- Max detection distance: 20 feet (measured)
- Trigger speed: 0.7 seconds (rated)
Budget pick: Wildgame Innovations Terra Extreme 14
In addition to new trail cameras going on sale, other products we recommend go on sale here and there also, but Wildgame Innovations Terra Extreme 14 is almost half the price of our other picks at the time of this writing. While taking still photographs, the Wraith 16 and Mirage 18 offer a higher resolution and take advanced video.
However, the Terra Extreme is a more affordable alternative to these more expensive models. Both the Mirage and Wraith cannot detect faraway objects as well as it does. You should get this trail camera if your purse strings are tight.
Terra Extreme, like the Moultrie Trailcam, takes still photos at 14 megapixels-an improvement over the Wraith 16 and four over the Mirage 18. The discrepancy was evident during our testing. Daytime images and videos were taken by Terra Extreme were a bit overexposed and pixelated; at nighttime images and videos, they were ok but not great.
The Terra Extreme is powered by eight AA batteries, accepts high-capacity SD cards with storage up to 32 GB, and is powered by eight AA batteries. This recorder is made of gray faux-bark plastic and has a small infrared light that emits an extremely soft light at night when it is recording. There are fewer settings on this camera than any of the other models we tested (you can choose from stills or video, but can’t change the date and time). Nevertheless, it takes only a few seconds for the Terra Extreme to be assembled.
In our article, the only model that has bungee cords instead of nylon straps and clips was the Terra Extreme. We found that these were much better for mounting cameras on fences because they allowed us to more easily remove them and move them around. They wouldn’t be practical for mounting the unit on a large tree trunk, however.
For still photos and videos, this unit collects the same information as the other Wildgame Innovations models: the logo, time, date, moon cycle, and image number; and the logo, date, and time for still photos. As with its siblings, it records 15-second videos in 720p without audio.
Cameras like this one have the ability to detect moving objects as far as 40 feet away. The Terra Extreme is rated for detection distances of 60 feet, which is twice as far as the Mirage 18, which has a detection distance of 90 feet. With the Wraith 16, the detection distances were 75 and 90 feet, respectively. It is beneficial to have a longer detection range, as it reduces the likelihood that a bobcat that slinks just out of range will be missed.
Similar to the Wraith, the Terra Extreme features a trigger speed rating of 0.8 seconds, something that is not as noticeable as the Mirages. As with our other picks, Wildgame Innovations offers a one-year warranty for the Terra Extreme.
- Resolution of the photo: 14 megapixels
- The video resolution is: 720p
- The maximum detection range is: 40 feet (measured)
- Speed of trigger: 0.8 seconds (rated)
1. GardePro A3 Trail Camera
The Garde A3 trail camera provides a fantastic night vision range, which makes it a great choice if you want a camera you can use at night. Due to the extra-large aperture, night vision using the Sony Starvis sensor, and infrared night vision, this trail camera produces crystal clear night images and videos.
As a result of its no-glow technology, the camera cannot be detected by animals at any time of day or night. The trigger speed is lightning-fast at 0.1s, so the camera won’t miss a thing. These videos with sound are especially appealing, and that the recording itself can be time-lapsed and looped. Due to the compression, the mp4 files load from the memory card faster.
There is a limit of 30 seconds in videos for the night vision range (daytime videos can last longer). Yet, it’s a good choice for high-quality, candid photos of wildlife.
2. WiMiUS H8 WiFi Trail Camera 24MP 1296P HD Hunting Game Trail Cam
Another great selection, the WiMius H8 trail Camera includes all the accessories and connectivity you’ll need. You can mount it using the provided screws, mounting strap, or tripod thread.
The WiMiUS H8 can immediately connect to your phone and can be controlled by the free app (for both Android and iOS) that allows you to control the camera from your phone, adjust the settings, and even download data.
In addition to an LCD screen that lets you preview photos on the go, the 24MP and 1296p resolutions assure you of incredibly clear photos and videos.
It is satisfying to hear the sound in the video, as well as see such a large area through a 120° angle lens. A tripod mounting bracket is included with this model, which is not included with most others. In addition to the AV cord, this product also comes with a TV stand, so it can be easily hung up on your TV setup for your family to enjoy
3. WOSODA 2 Pack Trail Game Camera
You can get the Wosoda Trail Game Camera in a 2-pack at a very reasonable price if you are searching for more than one camera. With these cameras, you cannot miss any wildlife or your property. Set them up and they will start taking pictures immediately.
Featuring a sealed gasket-sealed housing, the unit prevents dirt, dust, and water from getting inside. It comes with both a photo and a video mode and has a night vision feature. It is particularly convenient that the battery compartment slides out easily.
You should keep in mind that some customers have experienced blurry pictures of moving objects. It’s quite useful for monitoring various aspects of your property.
4. Vikeri E2
Despite being rated as one of the top deer cameras, the Vikeri E2 is an affordable trail camera. The camera supports 20 megapixels and 940nm IR LEDs for excellent image capture. Furthermore, it is capable of capturing videos with a resolution of 1520p and clear audio.
Besides motion sensors, it comes with data recording capabilities. Monitoring your property’s deer population is made easy with this device. Because it is weatherproof, it is suitable for outdoor use in any weather condition.
If you want to use it for a long time, you can use 4 or 8 x 1.5 VAA batteries. To expand its storage capacity, it has a slot for a memory card. When you consider its features and price, you can find a great value in this trail camera.
5. Amcrest ATC-1201 12MP Digital Game Cam Trail Camera
With its 12-megapixel camera and 36 infrared LEDs, the Amcrest ATC-1201 is a powerful surveillance camera. With its 100-degree field-of-view wide-angle lens, it offers a wide range of shooting possibilities. With this motion sensor and infrared flash, it can capture images up to 65 feet.
Videos can be recorded in 1080p HD at a duration of up to 90 seconds. The inbuilt 2″ LCD color display allows you to view the video.
An image capture rate of less than 0.7 seconds can be achieved with a quick trigger speed and a multishot feature. Its camouflage green color makes it perfect for deer hunting.
With this trail camera, you’ll get a laser pointer remote control that has a range of about 9 metres. It allows you to control the camera remotely. A standby battery life of up to 3 months can be obtained with optional 4 or 8 AA batteries.
6. Moultrie No Glow Invisible 12 MP Mini A20i Infrared Trail Game Camera
It comes with 940 nm invisible infrared illumination that allows it to operate in the dark. You can track deer both during the day and at night with the 12-megapixel camera and 12 infrared LEDs. The device can capture HD videos with a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. Videos can be viewed on the built-in LCD with a four-to-three aspect ratio.
The A-20i is capable of capturing night vision shots up to 50 feet away thanks to its flash and sensor. An image with a faster trigger speed and a wider field of view will be more efficient.
For the Moulton A-20i, you need 8 AA batteries. Additionally, it supports both AC/DC power supplies to extend the trail camera’s usefulness. Wireless mobile compatibility makes it possible to use the device on the go. Using a mobile device, you can operate the trail camera.
More than 100 models were considered, but only four were tested. In that regard, the Moultrie A-700i was a bit disappointing. The two-year warranty is almost twice as long as our top picks, and it’s almost indistinguishable on paper.
But its photos and videos are oversaturated, and they do not look as crisp as we would like-especially with distant objects. It collects a lot of useful metadata about each photo or video, including the date, moon cycle, temperature, and a corresponding camera number, but this model doesn’t assign a unique number to each image.
A second drawback of the Moultrie is that it’s more complicated to set up than the rest. On the first attempt, if the camera can’t capture any images; you had to examine the manual to discover why.
Lastly, it was only the Moultrie device that did not have a separate plastic door over the battery compartment. While you change the camera settings or swap out the memory card, the batteries are left exposed – which poses a problem in the rain.
What to expect
In a future update, we may evaluate pricier models featuring higher maintenance features, even if the price cap is at $100. In the time since this article was written, we are interested in testing Spec Ops Advantage, Browning’s Recon Force 4K, and Defender Wireless, and Stealth Cam’s DS4K Max, GXW Wireless, and G45NGMAX.
Care and maintenance
All of our favorites can be charged with rechargeable batteries, which is great because they last just as long on a single charge as the best single-use batteries, but will cost you a fraction compared to the best single-use batteries.
Generally, disposable batteries have a more constant voltage before passing (about 1.5 volts), while rechargeables often run at a lower voltage (around 1.5 volts to 1.2 volts) before dying. It is important to check your camera’s user manual to see which batteries are recommended, as some trail cameras (like the Moultrie) tend to stop working if the voltage drops below 5 volts (or just under 1.3 volts per battery).
And also whatever kind of batteries you use, make sure all four are fully charged before putting them in and do not mix brands and types of batteries.
If you’re concerned about your trail camera getting stolen, several companies offer enclosures and locks to protect them. If you place your trail cameras in a remote area, you should also write down their location. There is no point in having trail cameras if they are lost!
Putting your trail camera outside for a few weeks will probably result in an accumulation of cobwebs, bird droppings, and other debris. We suggest wiping it down after each use with a damp cloth to keep it clean. By keeping the plastic exterior out of direct sunlight, you will also reduce the rate of degradation.
More people are able to access affordable trail cameras because of their low budget. Thanks to advances in trigger speed, night vision, and intense resolution, trail cameras have become much more affordable. We think the listed above are a variety of trail cams that can be excellent additions to any hunting or home hobby.
- What is a detection or triggering zone?
The detection zone of a camera is the area in which it is able to detect motion. Depending on the type of camera, some do not sense directly in front of them, while others have sensors on the side that can detect when an animal approaches from the side. The width of this zone indicates how far it will monitor motion side-to-side. A range indicates how far a motion can be detected from the camera. The large width and range of the camera may seem ideal for covering a broader area, but farther away subjects will appear in the photographs, as the animals will not be in the immediate vicinity when the camera is triggered.
- How long do the batteries last?
That’s a good question. It can be determined by many factors, including those that are within your control (photo vs. video mode, number of operating hours) and those that are outside your control, including outside temperature.
- What should you look for in the budget trail camera?
Trail cameras are popular among hunters and homeowners alike. The best trail cameras should have all the following features:
- Excellent image quality
- Time constraint
- A long-lasting battery
- Increased detection range
- Videos with high quality