Looking for the best budget trail camera that takes nice pictures, but without spending a fortune?
In this guide, we’ll walk you through 5 decent options that you can set up on public land, and we’ll explain why they’re worth the money.
Ready? Let’s get started:
Best Budget Trail Cameras Reviews:
1. Spypoint Flex-S Solar Cellular Trail Camera:
Spypoint Flex-S is our pick for the best cellular game camera under $200.
If you want to save your time, money and gas from venturing back and forth from your hunting grounds, you’ve got to try these out.
This cell cam offers a built-in solar panel, strong cell reception, and free plan of 100 photos, all at a reasonable price.
1. Built-in solar panel:
This is the only trail cam featuring a built-in solar panel.
Even if your area doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, it will keep your game camera charging and running without issue.
Why does the built-in solar panel matter?
- Well, you don’t have to worry about the battery dying out in remote areas. The solar panel keeps the camera running for years around without needing to touch it.
- It saves you a few extra bucks by not needing to connect additional solar panels.
- It keeps you worry free from visiting, leaving scent and disturbing your prime hunting areas.
Does it run on cloudy days?
Nope. But in case the internal battery runs low, the system auto switches to a LIT-22 rechargeable lithium battery (sold separately) or a patch of 8 AA battery.
They work as a backup power source for those long stretches of cloudy days.
Without a doubt, this is a reliable trail camera that can run for months without the need for frequent battery changing.
Bear in mind that the built-in solar panel won’t charge the LIT-22 lithium battery.
Throw a pack of AA batteries (x8) in the trail camera if there's a lot of activity in your area.
The heavy traffic will trigger the camera more often, shooting a ton of photos/videos, which burns through your battery more quickly.
2. Strong cell reception:
Like other premium cell cams, the new Spypoint Flex-S comes with a dual sim and strong antenna.
Typically, when using other cheap cellular cameras, you have to measure the signal strength before selecting the appropriate cell service.
This affordable unit requires no guesswork, by auto-detecting the best signal in your area.
No matter what cell service there is available around your hunting grounds: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile… It pairs and runs flawlessly.
Do you have to pay for a monthly plan?
Nope, the free plan offers 100 free pictures per cam per month.
It is a big plus if you’re running a chain of multiple cameras all year round (including outside of hunting season), saving you a fair bit on monthly subscriptions.
However, if you hang this unit in a highly trafficked area, the free plan will burn through that free photo allocation within a matter of days.
The result: you have to pay extra money to access the pictures and videos.
How much does it cost for extra pictures/videos?
Well the single plan is not cheap if you’re running a batch of 10 cameras, for instance.
Here is the monthly pricing for extra images/videos, per unit:
- Basic plan: $5/month for 250 photos
- Standard plan: $10/month for 1000 photos
- Premium plan: $15 for Unlimited photos
You get even more discounts, more photos and lots of advanced features if you upgrade to their Insider Club.
3. Real time pictures (Instant mode):
Instead of setting your photos and videos to send at a fixed time, the instant mode snaps real time pictures and transmits them to your phone within 30 seconds.
It comes in handy in case you need to test out whether your setup works properly while in the field.
Or, if you would like to take an instant in-field picture to preview how things are looking.
Note: the instant mode will “chew up” your battery life quickly if you leave it on all time.
- Remember to turn off instant mode when you don’t need it.
- Or, you can connect the game camera to an additional external power source if you need to run it live throughout the rut season.
Is it sensitive?
Yep, the ultra fast trigger auto activates and snaps any elk passing by your trails, within 0.3 seconds.
Instead of shooting photos of their butts, this allows you to easily identify bulls, cows, bucks or does in your hunting areas.
How good is the picture quality?
For sure, the quality is not as crisp and sharp as premium cell cams.
The 36 MP camera offers a decent photo quality, however, nighttime photos are not usually clear enough to tell you how long a buck’s rack really is.
Is the app user friendly?
Sure. Using the app is pretty easy, even for those who aren’t so techy.
The handy app saves you from constantly needing to hike in and out the woods, by sending the pictures and videos directly through to your phone.
Here’s how cool it is:
Imagine you wake up, open the app at home while sipping morning coffee, checking the overnight trail action, without disturbing any of the wildlife on the property.
Or, getting instantly notified whenever a big buck crosses over the trail.
Just open the app, scroll through the thumbnails and check out the clips of a couple of deer hanging out in front of your feeder.
Pretty sweet, right?
Did you know?
SPYPOINT is one of the top trail camera brands, offering budget and hunter-friendly cameras, setting you up for more efficient hunting since 2004. (Source)
The sensor is so sensitive, triggering at 0.3 seconds. Tree branches blowing in the wind might activate a bunch of false alarms.
If so, this will eat up your free plan (100 photos/month) pretty quickly.
In that case, you’d better turn the sensor sensitivity to the lowest setting to eliminate this issue.
Not the best support
If you’re lucky, their non-American support team will attend to any issues you may have.
Otherwise, you might spend 15 mins waiting for customer service, with no call back.
The cell cam uses a MicroSD card that can be hard to handle and easy to lose.
Can’t take both photos and videos simultaneously
Unlike the Tactacam below, the Spypoint can snap a buck photo OR record its movement (video), but can’t run both functions simultaneously.
It limits your options.
- GPS enabled
- Easy to set up for beginners
- User friendly app
- Built-in and reliable solar panel
- Instant mode for real time access
- Strong cell reception
- Nice picture and video quality
- Fast sensitive trigger (0.3 seconds)
- Good detection range (100 feet)
- Lots of false alarms
- Not-so-great support
- Tiny memory card
- Not so cheap photo plans
- Only runs one mode at a time (photo or video)
2. Tactacam’s Reveal X Gen 2.0:
Tactacam’s Reveal X Gen 2.0 is the best trail camera under $150 on our list.
This simple, effective cellular camera gets the job done without breaking the bank.
Compared to the Spypoint, it offers a better battery life, and clearer photo and video quality when you pull out the SD card (to view the original files), but at a 30% cheaper price.
1. Good photo quality:
Compared to the Spypoint Flex-S, the Tactacam Reveal 2 has the same good quality of footage sent to your phone, but at a 30% cheaper price.
Here’s the tricky thing:
The sensor of the Tactacam Reveal 2 has 50% lower resolution than Spypoint Flex-S, snapping at 16 MP only.
However, when you view the original SD card files, the Tactacam has a clearer image quality.
Once mounting it on the tree, it makes hunting prep much more enjoyable, as you can clearly see “what’s out there?”
Also, the low glow IR technology ensures that you will never spook deer with any crazy flashes from the camera.
How much does the photo plan cost?
The Tactacam has the same economy rate as Spypoint Flex-S, starting from $5 for 250 photos per camera.
Also, it comes with no activation fees, and allows you to set up an unlimited number of cameras.
2. Less false triggers:
The Tactacam has a slower trigger speed (0.5s) but is still quick enough to capture a doe crossing through a food plot.
And guess what?
You won’t get a ton of false triggers due to the sun rays or wind blowing the grass in front of the camera.
3. Does more work with less battery life:
The Tactacam has a longer battery life than the Spypoint, lasting up to 6.5 months before needing replacement.
- It uses a 12 battery patch instead of 8
- It features a less sensitive trigger, reducing the number of false alarms
Here’s the thing:
Unlike the Spypoint, whenever there’s movement, the Tactacam takes photos and videos at the same time.
It means it gathers more info and intel for you without burning through the battery any quicker.
Typically, the Tactacam can either send pictures or allow for setting changes once per day (daily mode), or within minutes (instant mode).
In hybrid mode, it takes pictures and videos, and sends them to your phone after 5 minutes.
Once hybrid mode is activated, you get faster photos while also running longer battery life. It offers the best balance between the two.
No auto carrier detection
The Tactaca comes with 2 separate sim cards. You have to pick ẠT&T or Verizon depending on which has the strongest signal in that area.
It means one more step in the setting up process.
No photo burst
It’s a shame that you can't get photo bursts transmitted to your phone, as the recovery time between photos is too long.
How long is the delay interval between photos?
It takes 15 to 30 seconds between photos depending on which photo transmission setting you have your cameras set to.
Pretty long, right? Imagine how many important pictures you can miss during that delay.
No real time access
Unlike the Spypoint Flex-S, you can’t snap photos or videos in real time.
However, retrieving photos once or twice daily is enough for beginner use.
Easy to miss photos
The sensor of the Tactacam Gen 2 is pretty vertically narrow.
Let’s say you hang the camera on the tree and angle it down.
Despite the 96 foot (claimed) detection range, sometimes the sensor won’t activate if a turkey crosses the edge of the detection frame (near the bottom or top of the image frame).
The result: You might get a photo of the back end of a hen walking out of the frame.
Short battery life
Instead of 12 months, the Tactacam battery runs for only 6.5 months.
You’d better pair it with a solar panel or an external power source to extend its battery life.
No GPS tracking
If you forget where you hang your trail cam, you can’t use your app to find it.
It’s not a big deal if you aren’t running a ton of cameras in different locations.
No internal screen
This is the only cellular camera featuring no internal screen.
It means you can only set it up via a phone app.
Luckily setting it up is a breeze. The user-friendly app walks you through several simple steps within 5 minutes.
But if you’re not much of a techy guy, it might be a little annoying.
- Best trail camera under $150
- Middle-of-the-road quality
- Most economical data plan
- Good cell reception
- IPP66 Waterproof certified
- Easy to use app
- No auto detect carriers
- No photo burst
- No real time access
- Short battery life
- No internal screen
- More likely to miss photos
- No GPS tracking
3. Bushnell Trophy Trail Camera (20MP):
The Bushnell Trophy is the most reliable non-cellular cam for wildlife observation.
Once set up on private land, it runs flawlessly for years, giving you crisp and clear photo quality.
Also it costs 40% cheaper than the Spypoint Flex-S, making it the best trail camera for under $100 on our list.
1. Crisp image quality:
It snaps any slight wildlife movement, with a blazing fast trigger (0.3s) and provides amazing quality at the same time.
Although it features a 16 MP camera only, the daytime footage is crisp and clear, while nighttime photos can come across a little grainy.
The result: you can see anything from blades of grass, to hogs hanging around your mineral licks.
The photo doesn’t even lose quality when you zoom in, which allows you to clearly see the details of the animal you’re looking at.
How good is the night time sensitivity?
The night time PIR (passive infrared radiating) sensor is outstanding.
It easily detects and captures a cat’s movement out to 100 feet, without spooking them.
- You should click the “format” button on the trail camera to reduce operating issues.
- And, remember to backup all the previous data in SD card first before reformatting old ones.
Is it reliable?
Yep, this is a solid and reliable non-cellular trail camera which works in temperatures below zero without any issue.
The thick hard case protects the unit from rain and snow, ensuring it runs flawlessly for years.
2. Battery efficiency:
This low cost trail camera runs a set of 8 AA for up to 12 months, whilst taking 100-200 pics per day.
However in our in-field tests, it lasts for only 2.5 months if you leave it on video mode (20 second videos).
So, be prepared to add an external power source or solar panel to prolong its operation if you want to utilize video features.
Otherwise, you have to walk back and forth from the spot to change out the battery.
3. Easy to set up:
Setting this unit up is pretty easy.
The “small-old-fashioned LCD” screen and intuitive buttons walk you through the set up settings within minutes.
Besides that, if you need to detach it from the tree, it’s quite easy to do so if you’re having issues or need to swap out the batteries or SD card.
Did you know?
Bushnell partners with Folds of Honor, a charity that provides educational scholarships and support to families of soldiers killed or wounded in battle.
By selecting Bushnell products, you’re contributing in part to the charity foundation.
Small SD card support
The trail camera works with a 32 GB memory card, taking a few thousands photos with no issue.
However it’s not enough for ongoing wildlife observation, since every important activated event is stored, filling up your card quickly.
No hybrid mode
Like the Spypoint, the Bushnell doesn’t shoot video and photo at the same time.
It works on one option only, photo OR video mode. NOT BOTH.
Takes no photo sometimes
Sometimes the low end cameras don’t work, taking no photos when you pull out the SD card to check.
The result: you end up wasting months of scouting.
- Crisp image and video quality
- Weather resistant case
- Easy to use and setup
- Battery efficient
- Good price point under $100
- Small SD card support
- No hybrid mode
- Sometimes doesn’t work
4. Stealth Prevue 26 Trail Camera:
The Stealth Prevue 26 is the best trail camera for beginners. It gets the job done without any of the extra bells and whistles.
And if a bear rips it down, at least it’s not the end of the world.
1. New color screen:
Unlike the Bushnell featuring an old-fashioned LCD display, the Stealth Cam offers a new 2.4" color TFT screen.
You can quickly preview a picture in the field without needing to pull the SD card.
Also, the color screen makes the setup process a lot easier.
Typically after hanging the camera on the tree, you need to leave it running for a while before pulling the SD card out to check if it’s working.
However, with this handy screen, you can easily and quickly confirm if your camera is working.
2. Nice picture quality:
The low priced trail camera takes good day time pictures, but night time photos are dark and grainy.
Although the quality may not be as impressive, you can snap up to 40,000 images with 2 year battery life.
It works well in most temperatures (even down to 10 degrees), while taking thousands of pictures of turkeys, critters and bears. No problem.
3. Budget friendly:
The super simple trail camera doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg if you’re setting up a batch of them.
In fact, it takes pictures well at a 60% cheaper price than the Spypoint Flex-S (above).
It can also give you peace of mind if you wish to leave a few cameras out around public land, since if they manage to get stolen, it’s not leaving too big a hole in your pocket.
Did you know?
GSM Outdoors, is a well-known US company that owns many other reputable brands such as: Muddy, TruGlo, Stealth Cam, Ameristep, and Hawk.
So it’s reassuring knowing that their customer service will be second to none.
No sound with video
Unlike the Spypoint, the Stealth Cam records video with NO SOUND. It means that you can’t hear what’s going on at your hunting ground.
Not so durable
Don’t expect a built-to-last trail camera at this budget-friendly price.
The device may stop working after a season or two.
Small SD card support
Like Bushnell, this Stealth trail camera pairs with a 32 GB memory card only.
That amount of storage is pretty small for high traffic areas or ongoing wildlife observation.
- Handy color screen
- Fast trigger speed (0.4s)
- Nice daytime photos
- Budget friendly for entry-level hunters
- Works well in different weather conditions
- Good detection range (80 ft)
- Video recording with no sound
- Not so durable
- Grainy and dark footage at night
- Photo quality decreases as you zoom in
5. Tasco 12mp Tan Low-Glow:
The Tasco 12mp Tan Low-Glow is our best trail camera under $50 on our list.
If you don’t have high expectations, or plan to run a bunch of cameras on public land, this cheap camera will fit your needs without having to spend a fortune.
1. Gets the job done:
This dirt cheap trail camera offers neither the best image quality, nor the fastest trigger.
Pictures of still animals in the daytime are fine enough, however photos of moving animals can be a little blurry.
The nighttime videos are grainy and blurry. They won’t show you clearly what antler size you’re looking at, or whether it’s a doe or buck.
But hey, at least you’ll have some fun seeing what’s out there on the public land, or figuring out how many times the deer use a trail, or whether that spot is getting any action at all.
2. Can’t beat the price:
When it comes to options for public land, you can’t beat this camera for the price.
In fact, deploying a stack of 10 cameras is still not too bad on the wallet.
For the price of just one Spypoint camera, you could buy a batch of 5 Tasco units.
And you know what?
- The cost will pay for itself after 3 months.
- If one of them grows legs and runs away, it won’t hurt too much.
- And, it runs without a monthly subscription
Is it dependable?
In my experience, after 2 years running the cams watching critters around the feeder, it still works without issue.
What I needed to do was swap the SD card every 6 months to see the pictures.
Besides that, the plastic cover was worn out a little bit.
3. Not bad battery:
As long as you don’t get a ton of false alarms and place it in low traffic areas, a pack of 8 AA batteries lasts up to 6 months.
If you put it on high traffic properties, I advise you to connect it with an external power source to give it a longer running duration.
Hit or miss quality
If you deploy a bunch of them, some units might outperform the rest by snapping tons of nice worthwhile photos.
Let's say you purchase 10 cameras from the same store and put them in the same heavily-trafficked areas…
Some of them might capture 4k+ photos, while the others only record 1k+ quality images.
Cheap buckle strap
Tightening and hanging the game camera around the tree isn’t as smooth as with other models. It doesn’t sit so securely and has a habit of flopping around.
The worst part: The device might get dropped and damaged when putting it up or taking it down.
In that case, it might be a better option to rig it up with cable/zip ties.
Noticeable red flash light
There’s a blinking red light that tells you that it’s working. But, it might get noticed by both animal and human eyes.
It’s not a huge issue as animals tend to get used to it after a few weeks.
However, even if you duct tape over them, people can still see it and risk having the camera stolen or damaged.
Sometimes it stops working and leaves you with an image-free SD card.
You get what you pay for…
No battery indicator
This low budget cam features no battery indicator. You don't know if the batteries are sitting at 99% or down to its last 10%.
Can’t view on iPhone
The image format is not compatible with the iPhone.
It means you need an additional card reader or have to swap the SD card and view on PC only.
- Functional game camera under $50
- Cost efficient
- Good day time pictures
- Not bad battery life
- Easy to set up
- Hit or miss quality
- Cheap buckle strap
- Noticeable red flash light
- Not durable
- No locking cable
- No battery indicator
- Can’t view files on iPhone without an additional card reader
Our final choice for the best budget trail camera is “Spypoint Flex-S”.
Here’s why you must give it a try:
- Built-in solar panels keep your cell cam running all year round
- Strong cell reception
- 100 free photos per cam per month
- Real time capturing photo and video
- Sensitive trigger (0.3 seconds)
- Great image/video quality
- Handy and easy to use app
- Allows checking of in-field pictures at remote areas without having to go there
So which budget friendly trail camera do you prefer? Spypoint or Tasco?
Let us know below.
We haven’t had a chance to test all of the good budget trail cams. That’s why we haven’t listed some of the other well-known brands.