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Best cellular trail cameras in 2021: camera traps that transmit images to your phone

Best cellular trail cameras
(Image credit: Bushnell)

Looking for the best cellular trail camera to monitor wildlife remotely? This guide will take you the options, give advice on which to choose, and help find one at the best available price.

We all know the added flexibility a cellular link brings to our camera – most of us now have a connected camera phone in our pockets or purses – but did you know the technology also offered advantages to nature photographers (or anyone tracking game)?

Trail cameras, or camera traps as they’re known, are an ideal solution for grabbing photos of shy creatures which don’t come out to play until humans are out of the picture, prefer to explore their habitat during antisocial hours, or both.

So far, so good, but all this requires a device to be carefully positioned – sensors aligned – waiting for a visitor and, once the shot is recorded, for it to be collected later and downloaded. The process is far from instant.

Pop in a SIM card and things change; a trail camera with access to a cellular network can upload its pictures right away which could lead to more great pictures and less camera re-positioning; excellent stuff in the competitive world of nature photography and for hunters wishing to gather intelligence on the movement of game without disturbing it.

Incidentally there is not always need for loyalty to your phone network – they might well not cover your favorite nature hunting areas. You’ll need a SIM for your camera, sometimes these are bundled with the camera and no-contract plans. You’ll likely need a plan (arranged by the camera company) to move data from the device, too. Different brands bring different costs. 

Best cellular trail cameras in 2021

(Image credit: Skypoint)

Best cellular trail camera for stealth

Specifications
Stills resolution (megapixels): 12MP
Video resolution: 1080p, 1920 x 1080 pixels
Video length: --- secs (---secs with night vision)
Data storage: Via SD or SDHC card, up to 32GB
Night vision: Yes, via infrared
Audio recording: Yes
LCD: 2in color
Power: Solar + 8 AA batteries
Cellular technology: LTE 4G (e.g. US, UK)
Cellular plans: Verizon, no-SIM
Size: 96 x 175 x 99mm
Reasons to buy
+Can be left for extended periods without maintenance++Can be connected to any cellular network+No-glow flash doesn’t frighten deer+100 images per month free on Spypoint plan
Reasons to avoid
-Subscription service isn’t free (but there are options)-Despite solar battery can still run out

This system combines Spypoint’s most popular features: solar charging of an internal lithium battery plus cellular connectivity (and you can also add normal AA batteries where the sun can’t help you). The camera isn’t short of functions too, the system can stamp photos with date, time, temperature, and the lunar phase which makes for fascinating reviewing. Time lapse and multi-shot are also on offer and the 42-LED infrared night light has an effective range of about 30m/100ft, so anything within the camera’s detection range is suitably lit. The two-inch color LCD and menu-driven controls are adequate for setup, even in cold conditions. We also appreciated that the system sent decent quality images allowing us to choose which to download in full resolution via the Spypoint app.

(Image credit: Browning)

2: Browning Defender

Best cellular trail camera for resolution and multi-camera plans

Specifications
Stills resolution (megapixels): 20MP
Video resolution: 1920 x 1080 pixels
Video length: 120 secs
Data storage: Via SD, SDHC or SDXC card, up to 512GB
Night vision: Yes, via infrared
Audio recording: Yes
LCD: 2in color
Power: 16 AA Batteries
Cellular technology: LTE 4G (e.g. US, UK)
Cellular plans: AT&T, Verizon, no-SIM
Reasons to buy
+High-resolution camera+Large battery bay for long life+Data recording includes air pressure
Reasons to avoid
-Videos can’t be downloaded by cellular-Downloading full resolution for every image will push up monthly plan

Once the sixteen batteries have been slotted into the back of this it forms a chunky unit, which means you can be confident that the power-hungry cellular radio circuitry will last a decent while. Open the door and the back-lit 4-way menu button and on-screen menu makes setup straightforward, and of course it also serves as a real viewfinder when positioning – ace. Video enthusiasts will appreciate the system’s ability to monitor and keep recording subjects which keep moving while photographers will love the resolution compared to some of the more game-orientated options. Those operating in busier areas will appreciate the optional security box an 

(Image credit: Bushnell)

3: Bushnell CelluCORE 20

Best cellular trail camera for resolution at low cost

Specifications
Stills resolution (megapixels): 20MP
Video resolution: 1080p, 1920 x 1080 pixels
Video length: 30 secs
Data storage: Via SD or SDHC card, up to 32GB
Night vision: Yes, via infrared
Audio recording: Yes
LCD: No, mono settings display only
Power: 12 x AA
Cellular technology: LTE 4G (e.g. US, UK)
Cellular plans: AT&T, Verizon, no-SIM
Size: 112 x 176 x 98 mm
Reasons to buy
+Relatively high resolution +Shoots HD video clips
Reasons to avoid
-Unsubtle design-Soon to be replaced with more expensive CelluCORE 30 model

The Cellucore 20 is a popular product from hunting supply firm Bushnell and it’s priced with accessibility in mind. Despite that, the firm seem to have snuck in a number of good features, including a 20MP sensor and a well-sealed battery tray. The 25m / 80’ night range from low-glow LEDs is as good as most for the money. We also like that it’s compatible with the firm’s trail camera solar panel (though it costs the same again), and we did appreciate that the first 30 days were cost-free for data; a nice touch.

(Image credit: Skypoint)

Best budget cellular trail camera

Specifications
Stills resolution (megapixels): 10MP
Video resolution: No
Data storage: Via SD or SDHC card, up to 32GB
Night vision: Yes, via infrared
Audio recording: No
LCD: 3-color Status light
Power: 8 x AA
Cellular technology: LTE 4G (e.g. US, UK)
Cellular plans: Nationwide (US), no-SIM
Size: 96 x 175 x 99 mm
Reasons to buy
+Modest price, especially for one
Reasons to avoid
-You must buy plan for each camera-First-time setup with no display can be tricky

At a significantly lower price point than others, the Link-Micro-LTE is a device well suited for those who want to get several lenses in the same area and keep an eye on the movements of bigger animals, for research or game management. Spypoint’s app certainly doesn’t neglect location data coming from the cameras, or taking advantage of other available data (like weather services) but ultimately this is just as suited for strapping around trees and sending back images via a 4G LTE network as the Link-S-Dark above. You’ll need to change the batteries more, though.

(Image credit: Skypoint)

Specifications
Data storage: -
LCD: -
Power: 8 x AA
Cellular technology: LTE 4G
Cellular plans: Verizon, AT&T, no-SIM
Size: 35 x 35 x 35mm
Reasons to buy
+Connects to existing devices+Works with virtually all cameras, not just Spypoint trail cams
Reasons to avoid
-The trail camera itself is not included-Difficult to know ID cable will run from SD slot properly-Remote setup options not available on off-brand cameras

This cube-like chunk is big enough to house eight AA cells and the 4G LTE tech to turn any existing trail camera into a cellular one. Naturally the manufacturers would prefer your original was a Spypoint too, but they’re not picky; in theory at least any camera which uses an SD Card – and that seems to be most – should do the trick. An SD-like adapter at the end of a flat cable must be negotiated through the weatherproofing of your original device and inserted into the SD slot 

(Image credit: Reconyx)

6: Reconyx HF2XCv

Best All-American cellular trail camera

Specifications
Stills resolution (megapixels): 1920 x 1080 or 3MP at 4:3
Video resolution: 720p
Video length: 10 secs
Data storage: Via SD, SDHC or SDXC card, up to 512GB
Night vision: Yes, via infrared
Audio recording: Yes
LCD: Backlit mono text for settings
Power: AA (Lithium recommended)
Cellular technology: LTE
Cellular plans: AT&T, Verizon, International
Size: 140 x 114 x 76 mm`
Reasons to buy
+Dual antenna design+5 Year warranty+Long range night vision (45m / 150ft)
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive-Lower resolution than competitors

We know there are some of you out there who love to buy American and, if you have the budget, Reconyx provide options suitable for wildlife scouting, if not high-resolution photography. The HF2XC “Hyperfire 2” certainly has a cool name, and we certainly appreciate the ability to use SD cards up to 512GB and survive a year on lithium batteries. It also has to be said that Reconyx know the hunting market, with dedicated software to help organize collected data called Buckview Advanced for Windows). Whether it’d be better to buy more cheaper cameras and use their apps (or Google Maps and Notes) to track bucks and make a hit list is a decision we must defer to you.

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Adam Juniper

With over 20 years of expertise as a tech journalist, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge across a vast number of product categories, including timelapse cameras, home security cameras, NVR cameras, photography books, webcams, 3D printers and 3D scanners, borescopes, radar detectors… and, above all, drones. 


Adam is our resident expert on all aspects of camera drones and drone photography, from buying guides on the best choices for aerial photographers of all ability levels to the latest rules and regulations on piloting drones. 


He is the author of a number of books including The Complete Guide to Drones, The Smart Smart Home Handbook, 101 Tips for DSLR Video and The Drone Pilot's Handbook