Best Five Cellular Trail Cameras For This Fall
When trail cameras were introduced a few decades ago they were touted as the ultimate tool for remote scouting. The more recent introduction of cellular trail cameras has upped the game, making it possible to scout from the comfort of your easy chair while disturbing the hunting area as little as possible.
There are a wide variety of cellular cameras on the market today. Several manufacturers—Bushnell, Moultrie, Spypoint and Stealth Cam—provided cameras for a review of their features and operations. In this review, we looked at two Spypoint cameras, the Micro S and the Flex, because of the wide availability of the Micro series and the new technology introduced in the Flex (which was released in June 2022).
Features and retail prices of the cameras, which are dropping as new models come out and competition increases, can be found through the story links provided here. Most models provide information such as the temperature when the photo was taken, the moon phase, and a map of where the camera is located. Otherwise, here are a few high points of each model.
Moultrie’s Delta Base has a solid lock that goes the full length of this 12-battery camera and should be problem-free. It has appropriately placed holes for cables or locks. It takes four batteries and has switches for on/ off, format, and connect/status. These buttons and series of four LEDs allow testing the signal and providing battery status. The antenna folds on this camera, which is handy when transporting it.
The Stealth Cam Reactor has an on/off switch, a sync button, and an eject button for the battery compartment. The bottom third of the camera opens to access the control panel and the latch is solid. The antenna does not fold. LEDs indicate the camera status (battery strength and SD card present), signal strength, and if the account isn’t found. Eight batteries are used for power.
Bushnell’s Cellucore is also a 12-battery camera with the entire camera opening for access. LEDs display the camera status, battery life and cellular signal. A wake-up button will display the status if the camera was idle. Two solid locks close the camera. The antenna does not fold.
Spypoint’s Micro series is simple in its controls. There is an on/off switch and one LED that signals the strength of the signal. These cameras take a micro-SD instead of the SD card used by the other cameras, and the Micro- smallest of those tested. It has a lithium battery pack and solar panel in the S format but has eight AAs in the non-solar format. The bottom two-thirds of the camera is closed by a solid latch.
Skypoint’s Flex also uses a micro SD, but it has more controls and unique transmission features that will be discussed later. It has LEDs for signal strength and battery power status. There is a button to format the card and a test button to take a photo, which is unique. The Flex takes eight AA batteries. Both Spypoint cameras have folding antennas.
App Ease of Operation
Moultrie was the only camera where activating it was an issue. A call to customer service resolved the issue. The representative answered the phone quickly and fixed the problem. The app was easy to operate and had a lot of options, including order history and device manuals, that weren’t on the other cameras. Options for how the images were displayed (either single or time taken or uploaded) were available. Filters for the images also provided more options than other apps, including time of day, moon phase and temperature. Notifications also provided more options, including notifications for low batteries or data usage, and these could be received either by text or e-mail. Moultrie’s app did have a GPS map to locate the camera.
The Bushnell app is easy to operate. It features support and help with FAQs and instructional videos in the menu. It sends reminders when the camera hasn’t communicated with the phone in a few days, which is a great feature to have. Filters give a wide variety of choices, including barometric pressure and moon phases. There are also two choices for image viewing, one of which is larger. The app does not have a filter for species though.
The Stealth Cam Command Pro app isn’t as easy to operate but is still feature-packed. It doesn’t have as many choices of filters but does have three options for viewing different styles of viewing photos and a wide variety of species filters. It does have a map though.
Spypoint’s app is simple to operate and has species filters but none for weather-related data. It also has a map for locating the camera. The app has a variety of controls to control the camera.
As noted, most apps offer filters to show photos of bucks only or turkeys only. I didn’t have much luck with consistent results using the filters on any of the cameras but I did get inconsistent success. All the apps froze or glitched occasionally, but were easily fixed by simply closing and reopening the app.
Image Quality Cellular trail cameras have had a reputation of having poor image quality. If the photo was enlarged, pixelization occurred. The good news is there is progress on that front.
With the cameras tested, image quality could be broken down into two categories—those that had the traditional pixelated images and those with better image quality. The Spypoint Micro-S and Bushnell fell into the pixelated class while the Stealth Cam, Spypoint Flex and Moultrie had better image quality. Even the pixelated images were good enough to judge a deer or turkey, though.
The downfall of cellular trail cameras is the cost of the plan. The good news is that this is far less than a phone plan and can be changed, so there is no charge during off months. The ease of changing varies by manufacturer, but all are simple.
Spypoint’s plan is the only one with a free option. There is a free plan, which could be used during the off- season, which provides up to 100 photos per month at no charge. Going to the Basic plan moves the photo count up to 250 for $5 per month. The Standard is for 1,000 photos and costs $10 per month. The unlimited plan is $15 per month. Subscribing annually reduces the costs by $1 to $5 per month.
Stealth Cam’s $5 option provides 600 photos per month and 300 videos. Those counts jump to 2,000 photos and 1,000 videos for $10 per month. For $20, you get unlimited counts, while $50 gives 36,000 photos and 18,000 videos, and it allows three cameras on the plan. Slightly reduced prices are available for annual rates. There is also a data limitation with Stealth Cam’s plan.
Moultrie’s price structure has two options for three different tiers. Standard, which is 1,000 images, is $9.99 per month, and $8.99 if paid upfront for the year. For $16.99, you get unlimited images and 50 videos. Switching to the Pro Series Unlimited, there are options for sharing the images and videos amongst multiple cameras.
Bushnell’s basic plan is $9.99 per month for 2,000 images and no videos. Another $5 gets the user unlimited videos and images.
Transmission in Remote Areas
The ability to find a good cell signal is one of the challenges of placing trail cameras in the woods, and it’s sometimes the case that vegetation further blocks the signal.
Most of these cameras are set up to pick up either of the cell networks (often referred to as AT&T or Verizon in the U.S) and that network only. Spypoint’s old technology will find the strongest signal on either network and then stick with that network until moved or turned off. With the Flex, the camera has the ability to look for the strongest signal on a constant basis and switch networks automatically. When I conducted my test, I turned all the cameras to instantaneous transmission, which means each photo should be uploaded as soon as it is taken. Alert tones were going off for the Spypoint Flex and Stealth Cam as soon as they were turned on.
The others followed as the cameras picked up a signal. It’s my experience that in areas with weak signals, the cameras will lose connection, then reconnect. This is something I am sure everyone has experienced with their cell phone. so that’s not surprising. I noticed over the next few days that as deer walked in front of the camera, a similar pattern followed for photo transmission. It’s worth noting the Bushnell was the closest camera to the ground, which did put it at a disadvantage, and the new technology in the Flex did help. Over the testing period, there was some change in which camera captured photos and transmitted first, with all of them taking the lead on different days.
One important takeaway is that although the cameras were on the same tree, there were times when one camera would pick up a deer and others would not. This situation also switched between cameras over the test period.
“One important takeaway is that although the cameras were on the same tree, there were times when one camera would pick up a deer and others would not. This situation also switched between cameras over the test period.”
Something else that became obvious is that some cameras have a wider field of view than others. For those often hunting in tight woods, this factor might be something to keep a look out for.
Although it hadn’t been released when this article was written, the Moultrie Edge is also available to connect to multiple networks. It also has a built-in memory instead of a card. Also just released this fall, the Bushnell Cellucore 20 Solar has dual sim technology plus a solar panel and rechargeable batteries.
One option with some, but not all manufacturers, is auxiliary antennas. These devices allow the antenna to be strapped to the tree in a higher spot, which is an advantage in many situations. If your are putting up cameras in areas with poor cell coverage, you may want to ensure this option is available before buying a camera.
To test the ability to capture action, I set my English cocker spaniel Molly down outside the test area, walked across the test area, then called her to me. She has only one speed when doing this—full out. The only capture of Molly racing by was by the Bushnell. The Spypoint Micro-S did capture some running deer photos during the pre-test period.
In the interest of full disclosure, some of the test cameras arrived earlier than others, for reasons varying from new models coming out to logistics. I put the Stealthcam, Spypoint Micro-S and Bushnell to work for a month during turkey season, and then conducted the full test. All still showed full battery life with transmission set to instantaneous, which uses the most battery power, even after the full testing. Moultrie and Spypoint Flex were added for the testing only. The Flex did bring down the batteries some.
For a complete test of battery life, a longer time period is needed. Any battery test should also be completed in cooler hunting season, which is tougher on batteries. Bushnell claims six-month battery life, which if it is true, is a real advantage. So too is the Micro-S, with its rechargeable batteries and solar panel, and it is hassle- free in the battery department.
During the pre-test period, all three cameras captured a lot of deer and turkey photos. Then, for an unknown reason, the deer didn’t seem to appear as often. The change could have been crop planting for turkeys, which are known to feed on soybean seeds, and soybeans were planted in one of the adjacent fields. There is no reason I could think of for the deer changing their routes, but the presence of a camera flashing with night photos is one possibility that crossed my mind.
All of these cameras are solid models and good choices. There are a few positives and negatives as noted above for each model that could be a consideration when choosing one.