Best Cellular Trail Cameras in 2022

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Best Cellular Trail Cameras in 2022

Published Sep 11, 2022 9:00 AM Let’s get this part out of the way first: Trail cameras are a pain in the as


Published Sep 11, 2022 9:00 AM

Let’s get this part out of the way first: Trail cameras are a pain in the ass. Batteries die, SD cards get corrupted, settings get messed up, and squirrels trigger thousands of useless images. So why would you make your trail camera strategy more complicated by throwing in cellular cameras, which require network connection and pairing with apps? Simple, it’s because when you finally have the best cellular trail cameras linked up and set properly, they provide you with constant, realtime scouting information that will help you pattern deer. 

With that in mind three diehard deer hunters spent the last year testing the top cellular trail cams. We ran them in the field and conducted a standardized backyard walkthrough test. Our results will help you pick the best cellular camera for your hunting style and area. 

How Cellular Trail Cameras Work

All the cell cams in this test have a similar basic setup process. First you download an app from the company. Then you set up a plan, load the camera with batteries, a sim card, and an SD card, pair the camera with the app (by scanning a QR code with your phone) and then establish your camera settings. When set in an area with cell service, the camera will send photos (or videos) to the app. Plans for each company are structured differently, but there are usually monthly or annual options ranging from about $5 per month to more than $20 per month. 

How We Tested the Best Cellular Trail Cams

How we tested the best budget trail cameras
Our setup for testing trail cameras. Scott Einsmann

Each cellular trail camera was set to its fastest shooting mode and highest sensitivity. Markers were placed at 10 feet, 60 feet, and 110 feet. Then the tester walked past the camera (left to right and then right to left) at a medium pace at each given distance. The walkthrough test was then repeated at night. The test is meant to measure the camera’s detection range, trigger speed, shutter speed, and flash range. We looked for blank photos, failures to trigger, blurry images, and overall photo quality. 

From there, we set each camera in the field to see how it performed in real world conditions. We set cameras in areas that had reasonable cell service. In the field, we evaluated the camera’s photo quality, reliability, and ease of setup. This included the ability to use each camera’s app to review and sort photos. 

The Test Team and Locations

Scott Einsmann, gear editor, Virginia
Drew Palmer, contributor, Kansas
Alex Robinson, editor-in-chief, Minnesota and Wisconsin

The Reconyx Hyperfire 2 Celluar is the best overall cellular trail camera.

Why It Made the Cut
This high-performance camera has a super-fast trigger speed, impressive night vision, and a five-year warranty.

Key Features

  • 12 AA lithium batteries
  • 0.2 second trigger speed
  • Advertised detection range: 100 feet
  • Made in the USA
  • Five-year warranty

Pros

  • High quality photos and performance
  • Excellent warranty and durability
  • Fast trigger speed

Cons

  • App crashed
  • Records video, but doesn’t transmit through cellular
  • Expensive
reconyx buck photo
The Reconyx cam captured this buck sneaking through tall grass. Alex Robinson

Product Description
There’s a reason why most professional wildlife researchers who use trail cameras rely on Reconyx: Their cameras reliably deliver high quality images and run without fail. Hardcore hunters who want that same type of performance should consider the Hyperfire 2. This camera performed well in the walk through test, triggering out to 60 feet day and night and also catching me at close range. Importantly, it was the only camera that truly stopped motion at close range at night (you can see that image below). If you’ve reviewed nighttime photos during the rut, you know this is important. Often a buck that runs right by the camera is captured in a photo as a white blur, making it impossible to count points. That won’t be as much of problem with the Reconyx. 

Reconyx camera test.
Left, the Reconyx captured the camera captured the author at 60 feet. Right: The camera stopped motion at 10 feet.

The Hyperfire 2 also performed well in the field, capturing a series of buck photos as he slunk through tall green grass on a property in Wisconsin. Nighttime field photos were excellent. It’s also worth noting that the camera was essentially silent in the walkthrough test. At close range, I could hear other cameras firing, and at night I could see a bright red flash at 60 feet. This was not the case with the Reconyx. There was no visible flash and there was no trigger noise whatsoever. 

Reconyx camera
The Reconyx Hyperfire 2 takes excellent nighttime photos. Alex Robinson

I have only two small quibbles with the camera. First, the app crashed several times when I started using it. I had to delete the app and reload it three different times. In the app store, I saw several reviews with users complaining about the same issue. Happily, all my photos were saved in my profile and Reconyx seems have to solved the issue. I’ve been running the app for about a month now without issue. Second, the camera did fog up for a few days. I received a few foggy pictures, and when my buddy went to check on the camera, there was a condensation spot inside the housing. This didn’t stop the camera from running and photos are now clear, but we did record a few days of foggy pictures. If price is no object, this is the best cellular trail camera you can buy. —A.R.

The Moultrie Edge is the best cellular trail camera.

Why It Made the Cut
The Moultrie Edge brings incredible features and solid performance, for a fraction of the price of the most expensive cameras.

Key Features

  • 16 AA
  • 0.85 trigger speed
  • Advertised detection range: 80 feet
  • Free unlimited cloud storage
  • Internal memory (no SD card)
  • SmartTags for species and buck recognition 

Pros

  • Awesome features
  • Easy setup
  • Affordable for a cell cam

Cons

Product Description
The Moultrie Mobile Edge is a functional, capable camera and costs only $100, which is impressive. But what’s truly remarkable about this cellular trail camera is all of the features it brings to the table through its Moultrie Mobile app. The camera automatically connects to the strongest network in the area (without requiring you to switch sim cards) and promptly sends photos. Here’s the cool part: The Moultrie Mobile app is designed with image recognition, so it identifies deer (including bucks vs. does), turkeys, vehicles, and humans in photos. From there, you can sort your photos based on species. Say, for example, you set the camera in the summertime and by November you have a few thousand photos, including some shooter bucks, does, squirrels, coyotes, and that damn neighbor who keeps riding by on his ATV. The app allows you to filter images so you’ll only see the buck photos. What’s more, it gives you activity data, showing when bucks are passing by the camera most frequently.

The Moultrie edge is the best budget cellular trail camera
The Moultrie Mobile Edge performed reliably in the field. Alex Robinson

I hung my test camera on a cornfield edge in a core area of our hunting property. According to the app, the highest buck activity for this site is 6 a.m. (I looked through the photos manually to confirm that the app was correct, and it was). Besides time of day, the activity data also accounts for temperature and moon phase. If you’re a serious deer hunter, I’m sure you already see the incredible possibilities for this technology. With a few cameras running on a hunting property over the course of several seasons, you’d have a powerful data set showing when bucks are moving based on time of season, time of day, temperature, and moon phase. This camera will do more than just pattern a specific buck, it will help you pattern deer activity in your area for a lifetime of good hunting

Moultrie mobile edge
Left: Nightime photo at 60 feet. Right: The slower trigger speed had trouble capturing the author at 10 feet. Alex Robinson

The only downside of the Moultrie Edge is its slightly slower trigger speed. It had a hard time catching me at the 10 foot walkthrough (I was almost out of frame). It also missed me at the 60-foot range during the daytime. The camera did perform well in the night walkthrough capturing me at the 60-foot range and producing solid nighttime images. Also, the slower trigger speed didn’t seem to hurt the camera in the field; it captures multiple photos every time a deer walks by. —A.R.

The Tactacam XB has the best picture quality.

Why It Made the Cut
The Tactacam XB bring impressive photo and video quality for a reasonable price.

Key Features

  • 12 AA Batteries
  • Less than 0.5 second trigger speed
  • Flash range: 80 feet 
  • Advertised detection range: 96 feet
  • LTE/4G wireless module
  • 12 AA Batteries
  • IP66 waterproof certified
  • External port for solar panel
The Tactacam Reveal XB is one of the best budget trail cameras
The Tactacam XB takes excellent daytime images (check out the big boy on the right). Alex Robinson

Pros

  • Reliable
  • Simple to set up
  • Excellent photo quality

Cons

  • Cell data plans are expensive per camera 
  • Requires a class 10 U3 SD Card 
  • Limited HD downloads on the app
Tactacam night photos
The Tactacam also captured solid nighttime photos. Alex Robinson

Product Description
We tested both the Tactacam X and Tactacam XB but we’ll focus on the XB because it brings a few more features to the party. For this camera, the story is all about photo quality. Over the thousands of images we scoured, only extreme fog defeated this camera. The XB took beautiful daytime photos on a property in Wisconsin, and the X recorded thousands of quality photos in Kansas. Even though the XB is a “no glow” camera, it’s nighttime photos on par with other cameras in its price range. 

Tactacam walkthrough
The Tactacam captured the author at 60 feet, night and day. Alex Robinson

During the walkthrough test, the camera captured me at 10 feet and 60 feet both day and night. The app is easy to use though I’d like to see a few more tagging and filtering options for organizing photos. The camera does have a built in GPS so you can see where it’s located on the app. —A.R.

The Bushnell Cellucore takes 20 MP photos.

Why It Made the Cut
At around $100 this camera offers good features, an easy to use app, and long battery life. 

Key Features

  • 12 AA
  • Less than one second trigger speed
  • Advertised detection range: 80 feet
  • Accepts up to 32 GB SD card
  • Low glow 
  • 20 MP photo and HD video 

Pros

  • Easy-to-use app
  • Triggered at 60 feet at night
  • Customizable flash
  • Solar compatible 

Cons

  • Inconsistent triggering at far distances 
Bushnell nighttime photos
The Bushnell took decent night photos. Scott Einsmann

Product Description
One of the best buys in cell cams is the Bushnell Cellucore 20 with its 20 MP photos, customizable low glow flash, and easy-to-use app for around $100. 

During the walk-through test, the Cellucore triggered at 10 feet with a perfectly centered photo—day and night. The camera didn’t capture me at 60 or 100 feet during the day, but at night it captured a series of five photos of me walking at 60 feet. 

The Best Cellular Trail Cameras of 2022
The nighttime walkthrough test at 60 feet.

The Cellucore has three flash settings: short range, fast motion, and long range. I used the long-range flash setting during the walk-through test and it illuminated out to 43 yards. The downside of the long-range flash is that close objects will be over exposed. For my in-the-field test, I used the fast-motion flash and it produced evenly illuminated photos with good detail from 5 to 15 yards. It also captured several deer walking without much movement blur.—S.E.

Spypoint Flex

Why It Made the Cut
The Flex uses a dual SIM card to connect to the carrier with the strongest signal and it takes quality photos. 

Key Features 

  • 8 AA batteries
  • 0.5 second trigger speed
  • Flash range: 100 feet
  • Advertised detection range: 100 feet
  • 0.3 second trigger speed
  • 33 Megapixels
  • 1080p video with sound
  • 2 SIM cards included

Pros

  • Good videos
  • Good night photos
  • Easy to use
  • GPS enabled

Cons

  • Receiving full HD video costs extra

Product Description 
I’ve had a SpyPoint Flex for one month and moved it between travel corridors, mock scrapes, and feeding areas. While it’s nearly twice the price of some of the cheaper options in the best budget trail cameras test, it brings plenty of performance to justify the price. It took excellent photos day and night as well as some very cool video with audio. I’ve had very few blank photos with it too. 

The SpyPoint Flex was one of the best budget trail cameras
Walk-through test at 60 feet. Scott Einsmann

Like many hunters, my cameras are in places with one or two bars of service and the Flex still reliably sent photos. The latest trend in cell cams is the ability to automatically choose the network with the strongest signal. It’s a feature you’ll find on expensive cameras, but it’s cool to see it in the Flex, which retails around $130. 

In my walkthrough test the Flex triggered at 10 and 60 feet, but it wasn’t reliable at 60 only triggering once. It did capture photos with me completely in frame and with no motion blur. —S.E.

The Covert 2021 Blackhawk LTE takes 20 MP photos.

Why it Made the Cut

The Covert 2021 Blackhawk LTE is a versatile user-friendly cellular trail camera that boasts great battery life. The Covert app allows customization with camera “working” times.

Key Features 

  • 12 AA batteries 
  • 0.65 second trigger speed
  • 60 no glow LED’s
  • 2-inch color viewer
  • 100-foot flash range
  • GPS function

Pros

  • Battery life is very good with high quality image mode and lithium AA batteries
  • Custom “Working” operating times in Covert App
  • True no glow IR

Cons

  • 100-foot flash range is closer to 60 feet with average clarity
  • Video mode trigger speed is extremely slow 
  • False triggers in detection at night
Covert camera.
The Covert captured photos of this big Kansas buck. Drew Palmer

Product Description 
One of the main reasons we picked the Covert 2021 Blackhawk LTE as one of the best cell cameras was the operational customization within the app. You can set custom working times for when the camera is operational and taking photos. This can tremendously extend the already great battery life even longer. There is no question you can get a set of lithium AA batteries to last 12+ months with custom work times on this camera. Covert offers a great line of accessories for this camera. If you have a deer hunting property that you run feeders on, you can set this camera to instant trigger or hourly transfer times and run it via solar and rechargeable batteries. The camera has a 2-inch color viewer in the body, which allows you to get your angles right during set up. 

Covert camera
The Covert had solid photo quality. Drew Palmer

The unlimited plan on the Covert online management page, is only $20 a month per camera. Which in today’s economy, is highly budgeable considering gas to and from to check the camera once a month is most likely going to result in more than $20 plus your time. —D.P.

The Stealth Cam DS4K Transmit takes 32 MP photos.

Why It Made the Cut
This camera shoots 4K video, offers a wide variety of photo settings and offers a free 30-day plan.

Key Features

  • 12 AA batteries
  • 0.2 trigger speed
  • Advertised detection range: 100 feet
  • Burst mode of 1 to 9 images
  • Solar power pack compatible
  • App monitors activity by day and weather data

Pros

  • Wide variety of photo and video options
  • Lots of customization through the app

Cons

  • App failed to pair with camera during setup
  • Mediocre nighttime photos
stealth camera
The Stealth camera offers a ton of photo and video options.

Let’s cover the bad news first: During setup the camera failed to sync with the app. I received an error code and called customer service. I spoke with a very nice representative who couldn’t figure out the issue and guessed that I had a bad sim card. After two hours of waiting on hold, I gave up. 

Now, let’s assume the bad sim card was simply bad luck and focus on the good news: this camera offers a motherlode of interesting photo and video settings. It has four video resolution options (including 4K) and four photo resolution options (up to 32MP). It also has a interesting option that allows you to shoot in burst mode and record from 1 to 9 images per triggering. Other cameras often shoot three or maybe five images in burst mode. 

Stealth camera
The Stealth camera triggered at 60 feet day and night. Alex Robinson

In the walkthrough test, the Stealth Cam did a nice job of capturing me at close range and at 60 feet. Though the nighttime photo quality was not as good as other top cameras in this test. It did shoot high quality photos in the field. —A.R.

The Wildgame Terra Cell has an 80-foot range.

Why It Made the Cut
The Terra Cell is an affordable camera that’s easy to set up and use.

Key Features

  • 8 AA batteries
  • 0.7 second trigger speed
  • Advertised detection range: 80 feet
  • Compatible with solar panel

Pros

  • App includes image recognition software
  • Affordable price point

Cons

  • Subpar performance in walkthrough test
  • Subpar nighttime images
  • Antenna didn’t stay up
Wildgame
The Wildgame nighttime walkthrough test at 10 feet. Alex Robinson

Product Description
Wildgame is known for making affordable trail cameras and at $120, the Terra Cell is right on par with other budget cell cams in this test. However the Terra Cell’s performance wasn’t as strong as those competitors. During the walkthrough test, the camera did not trigger at 60 feet, during day or night. At 10 feet, it did a nice job of capturing me in the middle of the frame, though image quality at night was not very strong. 

Wildgame camera
The Wildgame camera performed better during the daytime. Alex Robinson

On a happier note, the HuntSmart app allows you to sort photos by species and time of day (though it doesn’t present the data quite as intuitively as the Moultrie Mobile app). Still, if you’ve been running Wildgame cameras for years and want to step up to the cellular version, this would be a solid option to hang near a feeder, food plot, or key natural food source. —A.R. 

Cellular Trail Cameras and Hunting Ethics

There is some controversy in the hunting community about using cellular trail cameras to hunt big game (make sure to check your local regulations before buying and using a cellular trail camera). Recently, the Boone & Crockett club issued this policy in regards to cell cams: “The use of any technology that delivers real-time location data (including photos) to target or guide a hunter to any animal in a manner that elicits an immediate (real-time) response by the hunter is not permitted. ‘Real time’ is the key concept. Seeing a photo and harvesting an animal a few hours later, or even the same day, uses this technology to assure a kill. It also takes advantage of the animal, which cannot detect impending danger from a camera. Waiting several days, or even until the following season, to pursue an animal captured on camera is different, and would not be deemed an unethical use of a trail camera.”

In reality, I don’t see many hunters using cell cams to capture images of a buck on a food plot or corn pile and then running out there to kill him that moment (though I’m sure it has happened). A more practical, and ethical, way to use this technology is to record consistent data on deer movement and then using those patterns to decide where to hunt. Most of us have limited days to hunt, so picking the prime spot is critical. The best cellular trail cameras help with that.  

FAQs

Q: Are cellular trail cameras worth it?

Hell yes. There’s some extra setup and expense required with cell cams, but once you get them dialed they send photos to you real time. It’s hard to overstate how much fun it is to receive deer pictures all season long. Plus, with a smart trail camera strategy, you can pick the perfect places to hunt at the perfect times. There’s much less risk of spooking deer because there’s no need to hike in and check cameras (read our guide on where to hang trail cameras, here).

Q: Do all cellular trail cameras require a subscription?

All the cameras in this test require a subscription. But setting up the subscription is generally quick and painless. It’s all done through each company’s app, and all you need is your credit card information. Plans usually aren’t too expensive ranging from about $5 per month to a little more than $20 per month. I recommend going with unlimited image plans.

Q: How long do batteries last in a cellular trail camera?

This depends on the type of batteries, the activity in the area, and the setting of the camera. For max battery life, go with lithium, select a lower megapixel image, and opt for more delay time between photos (video kills batteries more quickly). In an area with average deer activity, a cell camera will easily last an entire season or longer. 

Final Thoughts

The best cellular trail cameras are powerful scouting tools. But they are also incredibly fun to use (after you get through the setup proccess). There’s nothing like receiving pictures of shooter bucks all week to get you fired up for a weekend hunt. Even when you’re working, mowing the lawn, or watching your kids’ football game, one simple photo can bring you right back to the woods, if only for a moment.

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