Gardens can be a hotbed of activity for local wildlife, but much of this activity happens out of sight. Whether it’s nocturnal creatures such as badgers, foxes or hedgehogs, or elusive creatures like rabbits, we often miss a lot of the goings on in our outdoor spaces.
One way to get a closer look at these, and other wildlife in our gardens, is by using a wildlife camera or trail camera. These are digital cameras designed to be set up outdoors and left to film or photograph.
They are contained in robust, weatherproof, often camouflaged cases, so can be left out in all weathers, often catching footage over several days or even weeks. They are able to last this long as they are powered by battery or solar panel, and the majority work in daylight, low light and complete darkness.
Most have motion sensors or are triggered by heat, so they start filming as soon as something passes by. If you’re curious about investing in a wildlife or trail camera then this list contains some of the best ones on the market. We’ve also got some great advice on how to pick the best one for you and how to set up your wildlife camera.
Want to attract more wildlife to your garden? See our shopping guides to the best hedgehog houses and bird boxes or make your own with our guides to building a hedgehog house and nest box. And if you're looking for tools to help you build a home for your wildlife or fix your camera to a post, see our expert review on the best multi-tools, cordless drills and guide to the best drill bits.
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Buying a wildlife camera- video
- The best wildlife cameras
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- Jargon busting
- Things to look out for
- Kate’s Top Tips
- How to set up a wildlife camera
Crenova 20MP 4K Trail Camera
We love that this camera comes with a 32GB memory card included as standard. It shoots 20MP stills, and up to 4K videos. Thanks to 3 PIR sensors at different angles, it has a 120° detection angle and up to 20m effective detection range, and a good IP66 waterproof rating. With a remarkable 0.2s trigger time, we think this is a fantastic general-use trail camera.
VANBAR 20MP 1080p Wildlife Camera
If you’re after a wildlife camera on a budget, this is hard to beat. It shoots 20MP stills and 1080p video, which isn’t fantastic, but is still HD. That said, it can also take timelapse, and loop record, which means it will record continuously until it runs out of memory, at which point it will delete its oldest image and replace it with new footage.
This is great if you want to go out and check your camera daily. It has an excellent 0.2s trigger speed, though an average 20M trigger distance. It has 3 PIR sensors with a 120° detection range, and an IP65 weatherproof rating. We think this is a good camera for beginners or those on a budget.
Technaxx Full HD Birdcam TX-165
Bird-lovers will appreciate this inventive wildlife camera. It sits inside a bird feeder, so you can attract birds and watch them feed. It also has a water dish, and a hook for hanging suet cakes or seed balls. Shooting in 1920x1080p and taking 20MP photos, it’s rated to IP56 weatherproofing, and comes with a handy mount for fixing it to trees. However, if you want to capture more than birds, bear in mind that this camera has a short PIR range of just 50cm, and its focus is set at 0.15mm for capturing feeding birds up close.
For more on filming birds, check out our guide to the best bird box cameras.
RSPB Nature Camera
The RSPB Nature Camera has a single PIR sensor, with a detection range from 3m to 30m, depending on the angle. Its detection angle is up to 30°, the field of view is 57°, and the focal length is 2.4. It shoots up to 14MP at 1080x720p. Photos are stamped with temperature, time, and the camera location and it can shoot stills, motion detection, time lapse, and a combination of photos and videos.
This lo-glow camera has a good trigger time of under one second, and also captures sound. However, though it has a useful screen, it doesn’t have any WiFi connectivity or its own app, and has only one PIR sensor.
Solognac BG100 12MP 1080p Wildlife Camera
This camera is a good option if budget is a consideration and we think it makes a good entry point camera. It records sound, has a maximum memory of 32GB, and captures stills, video, and hybrid images. Shooting photos in 12MP and footage in 1080x720p, images are stamped with temperature, moon phase, time and date. However, the short detection range of just 10m as well as the limited 45° detection angle and 52° field of view mean this camera is best placed by foxholes, warrens or sets rather than big lawns.
Nexcam Solar Powered Wildlife Camera
Eco-conscious gardeners will like this wildlife camera, which runs on solar power. Controlled by an iOS/Android app, it shoots photos at 46MP, video in 4K, and can shoot and detect up to 20 metres away. Unlike some of the other cameras on this list, it also comes with a tripod, so you’re free to place this camera wherever you need it, not just trees or fence posts.
LTL Acorn 5210A 12MP Wildlife Camera
This trail camera has a short 20m detection range and 52° field of view, but it has three PIR sensors with a total range of 100°, so it’s good for detecting a lot of action over a small area. It only needs 4 AA batteries, but also has capacity for 8 AA batteries in if you need more power. It has an adequate trigger time of 0.8s, and its lo-glow flash is effective to 20 metres.
Photos are stamped with the temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius, the time, date and even the moon phase, which is interesting to see how moonlight affects nocturnal behaviour. It shoots stills, video, timelapse, motion detection, and hybrid footage, and also records sound. One great security feature is password protection, so your footage can’t be seen by anyone who happens upon the camera. However, it has no remote access or app and the IP rating is only 54, which is just about weatherproof but could be better.
If you prioritise high-quality images and remote access to your camera then this camera is a great choice. Its bespoke app for IOS or Android makes setting parameters and accessing your images and videos easy, although the camera does need to be within 10m to connect to WiFi. Plus its sensors cover a large perimeter, with a 20 metre detection range and 120° detection angle, so it’s good at capturing footage of elusive, fast-moving animals.
GardePro A3S Wildlife Camera (2022)
One of this camera’s most useful features is its ability to reduce files, so they're quicker to transfer and SD cards last a long time before they need to be replaced or overwritten. It can also support large SD cards, up to 512GB, so it's ideal for wildlife watchers who want to capture lots of footage without having to constantly clear or transfer files. Beyond its storage, this camera has a very quick 0.1s trigger time, and can take 32MP images at night, making it good for getting images of fast-moving nocturnal creatures.
Campark TC06 4k 60MP
If you’re looking for a camera with a long battery life and high day-and-night picture quality, this wildlife camera is a good choice. It automatically chooses between a UHD daytime lens, and a UHD Starlight lens depending on light levels, meaning it can be set up in dark places, or used to capture nocturnal creatures without losing its 60K image and 4k video quality.
It can also run on standby for up to eight months on eight 1.5V AA batteries, and there's the option of buying and adding a solar panel, which allows it to be set up in remote spots for long periods of time before the batteries need replacing. Finally, this camera’s 120° detection angle and impressive 0.1s trigger time allow it to capture footage of wildlife, no matter how fast it’s moving.
These cameras may seem complex at first, often coming with features and jargon that makes it hard to decipher which camera is right for you. However, it’s often possible to find footage from wildlife cameras online, meaning you can review footage and get an idea of the quality of the cameras in your price range before making a decision.
As with any other product, your own needs and wants should be your first considerations. Your budget and how often you’ll use the camera are two important factors to work out first. You don’t want to splurge on a camera you’ll only use a few times a year, but you shouldn’t shy away from spending on your camera if you have a passion for wildlife photography. With the help of some insight from our colleagues at Radio Times’ terrific tech testing team, we get into the weeds below.
Field of View, or FOV
This term describes the area a camera can film and photograph. Fov is often measured in degrees and while larger FOVs are typically more desirable, an FOV that’s too large risks losing finer details.
Wildlife camera PIR sensors
Passive infrared (PIR) sensors are how wildlife cameras detect animals so they can begin recording. These sensors monitor the background temperature of foliage, and if an animal steps in front of the foliage, the sudden temperature change triggers the camera to activate and begin recording.
The best cameras have multiple PIR sensors at different angles across their field of view, to capture animals at the periphery of the camera. The number of sensors also informs the detection range - the wider the angle on the PIR sensors, the more is detected and therefore recorded.
Lo-glow vs no-glow wildlife cameras
Common terms in wildlife camera jargon are ‘lo-glow’ and ‘no-glow’. Wildlife cameras are often used to capture images of nocturnal animals but they can't illuminate the animals with a bright flash, like a standard camera may do in the dark, as this might stun or scare them. To fix this, ‘lo-glow’ cameras have IR (infrared) LEDs (light emitting diodes), which illuminate the animals with invisible, low-frequency IR light. This achieves a similar effect to a bright camera flash without scaring the animals. However, lo-glow cameras give off a very faint red glow that can warn animals away.
No-glow cameras have a higher infrared frequency than lo-glow cameras. This means their glow is only detectable if you look directly at their LEDs, so no animals are scared away. However, this affects picture quality, and images may appear a little blurry.
Wildlife camera IP Rating
An IP (ingress protection) rating is a measure of weatherproofing in electrical equipment. Usually written as an abbreviation and two numbers, e.g. IP65, the first digit displays how dustproof the equipment is, and the second how waterproof it is. Dustproofing goes from 1-6, with 6 being entirely dustproof. Waterproofing goes from 1-9, with 9 being completely waterproof, and 5 being weatherproof. Wildlife cameras need to work in all sorts of weather, so aim for an IP rating of 55 and above.
Things to look out for in a wildlife camera
Things to look out for in a wildlife camera
Wildlife camera trigger time and shutter speed
The trigger time and shutter speed is how long it takes for the sensors to detect an animal and for the camera to start shooting. On trail cameras, this is usually between 0.1 and 1 second. A basic rule of thumb is that the shorter the trigger time, the better the camera - it makes the difference between capturing an animal moving quickly across the camera and not. Trigger time tends to be slower for video, but video has the advantage of capturing more than a camera.
Wildlife camera recovery time
Recovery time is how long it takes for the camera to be ready to shoot again. This is important if the camera can shoot images and video at the same time. If the recovery time is too long, the camera will trigger to shoot an image, then it will take a few seconds to recover and shoot video, by which time the animal will have moved on. Like trigger time, the shorter the recovery time the better.
Wildlife camera field of view
This is how widely or narrowly the camera is focused. There are no set rules with this, and it depends on what kind of footage you’re trying to capture. A bigger field of view captures a wider area, but animals look smaller. A smaller field of view captures less in better definition. For a general overview of a lawn, go for a higher focal length; to focus on one area (e.g. a badger set), go for a smaller focal length.
Wildlife camera megapixels
Just like a TV, phone, or laptop, the higher the megapixels (MP), the clearer the image. However, the higher the MP, the more space your photos and videos will take up on the SD card.
Wildlife camera memory
These cameras record to SD (secure digital) memory cards, which are removable digital storage for photos. SD cards have memory capacity measured in gigabytes (GB), and the golden rule here is that the higher the GB, the more memory, but the more the SD card will cost. It’s always good to check the maximum GB your camera can handle. You don’t want to splash out on a 128GB SD only to find that it’s incompatible with your camera.
Wildlife camera modes
There are various camera modes depending on what you want to see. Wildlife cameras usually shoot still images or motion-detection video. The best cameras also have time-lapse functions. It’s also good to get a camera with a microphone, so you can hear animals too.
Most wildlife cameras run on AA batteries, but they can also run on rechargeable batteries, or solar power. AA batteries are the cheapest and most reliable, but need replacing, and aren’t eco-friendly. Rechargeable batteries save money long term, but they don’t hold charge for as long as AAs, so need taking out and charging. Solar batteries are the most eco-friendly and charge themselves, but if you live somewhere without a lot of sun, these may not work as well.
Some cameras let you see images over 3G, 4G, or WiFi, which means you can monitor what’s happening on your phone, tablet or laptop. However, this drains batteries.
Most trail cameras will be used in secure back gardens but you can also use them to spot animals on a public footpath or in parks, with the obvious risk that your camera might be stolen. If you plan to do this check the camera has a lockable strap, password protection, a hole for a thin chain lock, or fits into a cage.
A camera with a screen makes setup easier and means you can review your images.
- When setting up, consider the angle of the camera. Do you want a wide shot of the garden or a close up of the animals visiting a particular area, such as a feeding station?
- When setting up be careful not to point the camera at a nearby hard surface, such as a wall or raised piece of ground, as the light from the camera can reflect back from it and ruin your video.
- Remove plant debris such as grass or other stems from in front of the camera – there's nothing worse than 26 clips of grass stems swaying in the breeze.
- Avoid putting the camera out when it's really windy or rainy – you'll get few good clips and the camera could be damaged if knocked over.
Setting up a wildlife camera is a simple process that allows you to observe the natural activities of animals in your garden or outdoor space. Here's a quick step-by-step to get you started:
1. Choose a location and set up: Select a spot where wildlife activity is frequent, such as near bird feeders, the centre of your garden, or animal trails. Ensure the camera is positioned so its view is not obstructed. Use a sturdy, stable mount or strap to attach the camera to a tree, post, or fence. Position it at an appropriate height, you usually want this to capture animals at their eye level.
2. Choose the right settings and power: Set the date and time, choose photo or video mode, and select resolution settings based on your camera's capabilities. Depending on the camera, you might use batteries or an external power source. Ensure the camera is powered enough to capture the length of footage you desire.
3. Test: Test the camera before leaving it unattended. Adjust the angle and focus it to ensure the camera captures the right area and isn’t being triggered to film when it shouldn’t be. Then insert a memory card to store your pictures and film. The bigger the memory card the more footage/pictures it can hold.
4. Think about the weather: If your camera isn't weather-resistant, consider using a waterproof casing or covering to shield it from rain and other elements.
5. Check the footage: Regularly check the camera to review the footage and adjust settings if needed. Retrieve the memory card to view the captured wildlife moments on your computer or phone.
This article was last updated in September 2023. We apologise if anything has changed in price or availability.