- What Is a Trail Camera?
- How Does a Trail Camera Work?
- Why Are the Pictures Taken Differently When Hunting During the Day and Night?
- What Are the Types of IR Flash?
- Which One Is Best for You?
Uncover how trail cameras work for optimal wildlife photography! Learn about PIR sensors, shooting settings, memory cards, filters, and flashes. Understand the different types of flash available: white, red (850nm), and black (940nm). Choose between low-glow or non-glow cameras based on image quality, concealment, and cost. Use our guide to make an informed decision on selecting the best flash mode for your off-road camera needs.
What Is a Trail Camera?
A trail or game camera is placed in the field by a photographer to observe or detect animals in an area with minimal disturbance.
How Does a Trail Camera Work?
A trail camera contains a power source, a trigger sensor, and a video recording system.
The camera contains 1 or more passive infrared sensors or PIR. They work by monitoring the temperature in front of the device. The sensor can trigger the camera when a temperature change is detected. Once triggered by the PIR sensor, the camera generates a series of photos or short videos according to the shooting settings. Finally, these resulting pictures or videos are saved on a micro memory card (usually SDCard, but sometimes MicroSD) for later viewing. When you remove the memory card, you can explore everything the camera has captured since the last time you checked.
Because it is triggered by temperature sensing, PIR technology is suitable for 24/7 detection, which is very suitable for detecting animals and tracking cameras. During the day, the camera can capture full-color images, just like a mobile phone. And at night, the camera switches to infrared or IR mode, and it still records enough detail to produce interesting and useful images. But the only difference is that the image is black and white instead of full color.
Taken by campark TC07 non-glow trail camera
Why Are the Pictures Taken Differently When Hunting During the Day and Night?
A sensor that detects the light level at the sensor and determines if an IR flash should be used. Since infrared rays can interfere with color images, most cameras have an IR cut filter to block infrared rays during daylight hours. The filter sits between the camera lens and the sensor, allowing visible light to pass through during the day while blocking infrared wavelengths. Once light levels drop to a certain point, the filter moves to allow infrared light, sometimes called true day and night (TDN).
Most trail cameras have an array of infrared LEDs, and in situations with little to no ambient light, the camera emits an IR flash, or infrared wavelength, that allows the camera to see in the dark. This is why it provides true color images during the day and black and white or night vision images at night.
The example below shows that the IR-enabled camera on the left keeps illuminating the face, while the non-IR-enabled camera on the right captures nothing. Explain that without infrared, the field of view will eventually go black.
What Are the Types of IR Flash?
There are 3 types of flash in off-road cameras, white, red, and black.
The white flash is the same technology conventional camera uses in low-light conditions, emitting a harsh white light when used. This form of flashing is easily seen, and it can be quite sudden and usually startle an unsuspecting animal. Most hunters and animal photographers don't like this feature, resulting in very few trail cameras using white flash.
But the white flash camera is the only camera that can take full-color night photos. It also has the longest flash distance of over 100 feet, a long detection distance, and its best photo quality. While white flash is the least likely option for most hunters and wildlife photographers, it does have a place for those doing animal research. Field biologists often use a white flash camera to identify markings on animals that allow them to remember specific animals.
refer: Infrared – 850nm VS 940nm
850nm red flashlight
Red flashes are also known as IR flashes. The human eye can see light wavelengths from approximately 380nm to 700nm and cannot see light above 700nm in the infrared spectrum. The most commonly used infrared wavelength for hunting lighting is 850nm, just outside the visible spectrum of the human eye. Infrared flashes are less likely to disturb wary nocturnal animals. Although the image quality of 850nm is not as high as that of white light, it can still generate good-quality images without disturbing animals and provides the balance and concealment of the camera to the greatest extent, so it is the first choice for most trail cameras.
940 nm black flash
While 850nm infrared is invisible "light" to the human eye, it does produce a slightly red glow at LED light sources. The red light is usually faint but can be seen directly at the camera. Sensitive animals can also see, judging by experience. It is, therefore, possible to use LEDs using LED emitters that transmit infrared light above 900 nm in the spectrum. The 940nm flash is called non-glow, invisible flash, or black light. Most animals cannot see wavelengths above 900 nm. Only amphibians and reptiles can see this light. No Glow IR camera shows no light when taking pictures at night, making the flash on the camera almost invisible to animals.
In the market, you will see some brands selling dual-lens trail cameras, which are specially equipped with special night sensors and lenses to capture these wavelengths of light, so they are called dual-lens cameras.
850nm and 940nm
The 850nm infrared light spectrum is closer to visible light, and the camera can more easily spot wild animals at a greater distance. Compared with a 940nm camera, it can provide about 30% extra infrared light. Low-light tracking cameras generally have faster shutter speeds in photo mode, and nighttime video has better clarity. But because it emits visible red light, it is easy to arouse the alertness of animals, which also means that it is easy to be discovered by humans and increases the risk of theft.
940nm Invisible Light cameras emit a faint red light when triggered at night, meaning they are almost completely invisible to humans or most mammals. However, it loses about 30% more infrared light than the 850nm low-light camera. And the average distance with no-glow flash was only about 50 feet, compared to 80 feet with low-glow flash. Due to the lack of light from the flash, night photos will always be black and white and often be darker and grainier than their low-light counterparts, resulting in less detail in the image, so you'll lose video clarity as well. Hunting cams also vary in IR sensitivity, with some not as sensitive at 940nm as they are at 850nm.
Which One Is Best for You?
Low glow trail camera: If your requirements for image quality are high, or you use it to inspect the back garden or your land without worrying about the risk of the camera being stolen, it is very suitable for you. And from economic considerations, the cost of a low-glow trail camera is one-third of that of a non-glow camera.
Non-glow trail camera: They are ideal for photographing sensitive animals because they emit no visible light. It may be your first choice if it is used to detect and study animal activity areas or tracks in the wild. And its concealment is better than that of a low-light trail camera. If you install the camera with good camouflage, it can effectively reduce the risk of theft. But again, it will be much more expensive than a low-light camera.
Ultimately, choosing a flash mode for your off-road camera comes down to personal preference. Weighing all the options, if taking high-quality nighttime photos at a lower cost is more important than total stealth, I'd lean toward a low-light trail camera. If you are using your camera as a hunting tool and need to ensure you don't disturb the animals, I recommend the matte trail camera.