Basic Trail Camera for Wildlife Watching
July 8, 2021 10:06 PM   Subscribe

I live on a wildlife corridor, and know we probably see just a fraction of what makes its way through our extended backyard. Have you had a good experience with a particular trail or game cam?

I’m not looking to spend a *ton* of money on this project but am willing to spend a couple hundred bucks. We mostly see bear/moose/lynx but also would be entertained to watch our neighborhood bunnies or fox.

What I know I want:
1) alerts to my phone or email when something is picked up on the camera
2) decent battery life (especially in the cold)
3) reasonable quality photos/video (like, say, comparable to what you’d get from a basic digital camera from 5 or 10 years ago).

I should be able to set it up on the deck close enough to the house that it can pick up the wi-fi (or maybe even Bluetooth from a number of other devices) and would greatly prefer that to required cellular service plans.

Ideas? Basics I should know about that I’m not thinking about?
posted by charmedimsure to Shopping (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Check out the Voskers (Vosker wireless). They're kinda rad. Labeled as worksite/security, but domain cites wildlife as well. Industrious.

And if yours breaks suddenly, they may send an upgraded model immediately :)
posted by firstdaffodils at 11:43 PM on July 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

So.. I recently bought a trail cam and set it up to get an idea what (besides me) was passing along the shared public boardwalk that provides access to my home.

I don't claim to be an expert but I can share my limited experience so far.

I elected to go for a comparatively inexpensive unit -- uses off-the-shelf batteries rather than a built-in rechargeable battery pack, has no wifi, and made by a company I've never heard of. I spent about $55, which is about $12 less than it is currently running.

I haven't had it long enough yet to go through a set of batteries, nor has its weatherproofness been put to the test. That latter will be important in this climate, as outside of summer our weather can be notably wet and windy.

But I can say that motion detection seems to effectively detect animals as small as housecats who enter the field of view of the sensors (it might well detect smaller animals as well but I haven't had an opportunity to test that yet from where it's operating.)

Image quality is quite respectable, though daytime natural-light images work better than nighttime images illuminated by the IR LED array on the unit -- but even the nighttime images are clearly recognizable.

It does seem to trigger on shrubbery being blown on windy days, at least during the daytime.

Overall I'm satisfied with the camera, though I should probably try it in a few extra locations to see how results vary.

sample daytime image
sample nighttime image

both of the sample images were:
  • taken at less than the camera's max resolution
  • further scaled down for posting
If you want full-res images, request them and I'll change the settings on the camera the next time I pull the memory card to check for new images.

I realize your question specifies a preference for a camera with a WiFi connection and this one is definitely lacking that feature. I just wanted to let you know that you can get pretty decent basic functionality (imho) for considerably less than your budget of "a couple hundred bucks", so in your price range I would think you ought to be able to find something quite nice.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:52 AM on July 9, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks, Nerd of the North, that is very detailed and helpful. It was your comment in the Katmai thread that got me thinking about this, as you probably have guessed.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:05 AM on July 9, 2021

I don't love my particular trail cam but I do love the time lapse mode, which wasn't something I was even seeking out while shopping. We've made some zero-effort time lapses of wild-looking mushrooms popping out.
posted by xylothek at 8:17 AM on July 9, 2021

Will this be located anywhere near your home/wifi source? I use a Reolink Argus 2 with a solar panel in a northern US (read: cold) location. It alerts me and sends me video when motion is captured. I have used it to observe wildlife, but now I use it to scare off garden-damaging critters as it also has an alarm -- can record your own sounds too.

Inexpensive and easy to use. No worries about batteries. MeMail me if you want more details.
posted by Hey, Zeus! at 11:59 AM on July 11, 2021

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