Trail cameras are a helpful tool for any hunter, providing an extra set of eyes in the woods. But with so many new features and types of trail cameras on the market, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. One of the newer features available on some trail cameras is WiFi capability. But what are WiFi trail cameras and do you really need this feature?
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What Is a WiFi Trail Camera?
A WiFi trail camera is a type of trail camera that has its own WiFi signal. However, instead of connecting to the internet, the camera emits a WiFi signal that you can connect to with a smartphone or other mobile device. Once your device is connected to the trail camera, you can view and download pictures and videos, check the camera’s status, and update its settings.
Do Trail Cameras Need WiFi to capture pictures and videos?
No, trail cameras do not need WiFi to capture pictures and videos. They are equipped with everything they need to detect and capture activity in the area they are monitoring. After pictures and videos are captured, trail cameras store them on a memory card that you can remove and view at your convenience.
Having WiFi on a trail camera is more of a convenience feature. So a better question might be, “How do you plan on using a trail camera.?” Depending on how you answer that question having a trail camera with WiFi could be extremely helpful.
So When You Would Use or Want a WiFi Trail Camera?
Whether they are using trail cameras for monitoring game animals or for security purposes, people might be interested in WiFi trail cameras for any number of reasons, but there are a couple of scenarios where they are especially useful.
The first situation is when you want to mount the camera from an elevated position so you can get pictures and videos of something that is higher up or if you want to angle the camera down at the area it is monitoring. Having a WiFi camera can help you put an end to the days of having to lug a ladder around to check on your camera or see the pictures and videos it has captured.
The other situation where WiFi trail cameras can come in real handy is when you place them in a hard-to-reach location. Using a WiFi trail camera can help keep you from having to travel through thick brush or walk on treacherous terrain with poor footing in order to retrieve its SD card.
How Does a Trail Camera With WiFi Work?
Trail cameras with WiFi work just like traditional trail cameras that don’t have WiFi. They come equipped with a passive infrared (PIR) sensor. The PIR sensor is sensitive to changes in infrared radiation levels, which occur when an animal, person, or other object moves in front of the camera. When the sensor detects activity in its detection area it triggers the camera to take pictures or to begin recording a video. These pictures and videos get saved to a memory card that is inserted into the camera’s memory card slot.
Just like these traditional/regular trail cameras, WiFi trail cameras will come equipped with a flash, typically low-glow or no-glow IR LEDs, that allows the camera to capture activity both day and night.
Trail cameras with WiFi differ from traditional trail cameras in only one way: their WiFi signal. This gives the camera owner the ability to check on the camera without needing to physically get to or touch it.
How to Connect to a WiFi Trail Camera?
Most trail cameras that come with WiFi also have Bluetooth. The Bluetooth signal is always on, whereas the WiFi is only on when you’re using it. So, before you can connect to the camera’s WiFi signal, you will first need to connect to the camera via Bluetooth and turn the camera’s WiFi on.
With earlier WiFi trail cameras they came with a device that reminded me of a remote garage door opener. After clicking on the button it would turn on the camera’s WiFi signal so you could connect to it. Later models would allow you to do this through the camera’s free app that you install on your smartphone.
Once the WiFi signal is turned on you can use the smartphone app to connect to the camera via its WiFi signal. Once connected to the camera’s WiFi signal, the smartphone app will allow you to view and download the pictures and videos the camera has captured, as well as have additional control over the camera as you check its status and update its settings. With some cameras, the app will also allow you to use your smartphone as a viewfinder to see what the camera is seeing in real-time.
What Are the Benefits of Using a WiFi Trail Camera?
There are several benefits that come with using a WiFi trail camera over a traditional one.
- Makes the camera more versatile
- Allows you to place the camera where you can keep its location more easily hidden
- Can help make the camera harder to steal
- Helps you avoid having to use ladders to reach a camera in an elevated position
- Helps you avoid falls from having to walk through thick brush and uneven terrain
- It can save you time when checking the camera
- Helps you minimize the disturbance to wildlife when checking the camera
What Are the Disadvantages of Using a Trail Camera With WiFi?
While WiFi trail cameras offer some advantages, there are also some potential disadvantages to consider.
- They can cost more than traditional trail cameras.
- WiFi trail cameras consume more power, which results in shorter battery life and more frequent battery changes.
- Their Bluetooth and WiFi signals could give away their location.
How to Choose the Right WiFi Trail Camera
If you want to use your trail camera in hard-to-reach places like underneath the eave of a building, higher up on a tree, or in a location where you have to go through places with thick brush and treacherous footing getting a WiFi trail camera is a no brainer. Even if you just want a camera that gives you the option to do those things, a WiFi trail camera is the way to go, but which one should you get?
Most trail cameras that have WiFi have very similar functionality. So I probably wouldn’t let any differences in the WiFi itself play a big part in the camera I buy. Instead, I would look at all the other features the camera has to offer and make sure that those features that I like best or fit my situation the most are on whichever camera I purchase.
You should also think about how, where, and what you are planning on using the camera for when making your decision. Considering these things will help guide you in knowing what features or specs the camera should have.
Things that I would think about before buying a WiFi trail camera would include:
- What type of flash do I need (low glow or no glow)
- Camera dimensions
- Detection range
- Flash range
- Does it have an input for an external power supply?
- Does it have a built-in solar panel? (Note: There aren’t very many cameras out there with solar panels built-in.)
After you understand what your needs are, you can begin to narrow down your choices and find the best camera for you.
Tips for Using a WiFi Trail Camera
A lot of people who use WiFi trail cameras like to put them in elevated positions. If this is what you plan on doing too, here are a couple of tips to help you get the most out of it.
First, remember to think about both its detection and flash range. Mounting the camera in a higher location increases the distance to the area you want it to monitor. You need to remember to take this increased distance into account and make sure that the camera’s detection and flash ranges are long enough to perform well at this increased distance.
The second thing you should consider doing is to use an external power source. Most WiFi-enabled trail cameras will have an input for an external power source like a solar panel. Using an external power source will help to extend the life of the camera’s batteries, allowing the camera to take more pictures over a longer period of time without having to worry about climbing up to the camera to change its batteries.
Cellular Trail Cameras vs. WiFi (Wireless) Cameras: What’s the Difference?
Cellular game cameras and WiFi trail cameras are two popular types of trail cameras, but they work in different ways. Cellular trail cameras use a SIM card to connect to a cellular network allowing you to connect to the camera anywhere there is a strong enough cellular signal. Meanwhile, WiFi trail cameras create their own WiFi signal that you can use to connect to and interact with the camera when you are standing within range of its WiFi signal. Both types of cameras have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Cellular Trail Cameras
- They send photos and videos directly to your phone or email.
- You can view images from anywhere you have a cellular signal.
- You don’t need to physically visit the camera location in order to change its settings.
- They are great for situations where you need pictures sent to you immediately.
- It can save you time and money if you have to travel a long way to get to the camera.
- There is a monthly cost for cellular data plans.
- They are typically more expensive than similarly equipped WiFi trail cameras.
- It is also difficult to find a camera that works with all four major US cell providers.
- Some remote areas where you might want to place the camera don’t have a cell signal.
- Some cameras can record or transmit videos. Those cameras that do transmit videos often limit video length to short clips.
WiFi Trail Cameras
- They are typically less expensive than similarly equipped cellular trail cameras.
- You do not need to pay any additional service fees to connect with the camera.
- You can record longer videos.
- Need to be within WiFi range to view/download pictures and videos and adjust the camera’s settings
- It can be inconvenient if the camera is a long distance away from where you live.
- WiFi and Bluetooth signals could give away the camera’s location.
Do Cellular Trail Cameras Have or Need WiFi?
Most cellular trail cameras don’t have WiFi. Those that do have WiFi don’t need it for their normal operation. Instead, they use it to aid in the camera’s setup like Tactacam does with their REVEAL XB cellular trail camera where they use the WiFi in combination with their app to help ensure that camera is pointing at the exact location you want it to monitor. You can read our review of the Tactacam REVEAL XB if you want to learn more about it.
FAQs About WiFi Trail Cameras
Now let’s address some of the more frequently asked questions about WiFi. We may have referenced some of these questions earlier, but we will give more complete answers below.
Do Trail Cameras With WiFi Connect to the Internet?
Trail cameras are a great way to get a closer look at the wildlife in your area or use it as a security camera, but many people wonder if they can connect to the internet. The answer is no, trail cameras with WiFi don’t connect to the internet. If you want a trail camera that can connect to the internet and automatically send you pictures as they are captured you will want to look for either a security camera or a cellular trail camera.
If you are using the camera for security purposes and it is located within range of a building that has a WiFi network, then getting a security camera that can connect to existing WiFi networks is the way to go. However, if you need to use a camera in the woods or another location that doesn’t have a WiFi signal to connect to, but still need images sent to you as they are captured, a cellular trail camera is what you should be looking for.
Are WiFi Trail Cameras Expensive?
The more features you add to any product the more it will cost and trail cameras are no exception. So you should expect to pay more for a trail camera that is equipped with WiFi. That said, the difference in price is probably less than you would expect.
The cost difference between two otherwise identically equipped trail cameras, one with WiFi and the other without, is typically in the $20 to $40 dollar range. In 2022 it is very reasonable to expect to find some models of WiFi trail cameras for less than $100.
While WiFi trail cameras also tend to be more expensive than traditional trail cameras, the extra versatility they offer is well worth it for many hunters, wildlife enthusiasts, and property owners.
Are WiFi Trail Cameras Secure?
WiFi trail cameras are very secure. They don’t connect to the internet, so they’re not exposed to the same threats from hackers that other products, like your computer, are.
They also have password protection features that ensure that only authorized users can access the camera’s settings and images. This is true for both people who are trying to connect to the camera through the app on their mobile device as well as for those people who are trying to access the camera settings using the camera’s color LCD screen and input buttons.
What Is the Battery Life of Trail Cameras With WiFi?
The battery life of a trail camera with WiFi can vary depending on the make and model of the camera. However, in general, WiFi-enabled trail cameras tend to have shorter battery lives than their non-WiFi counterparts. That said, the battery life for WiFi is usually pretty good. It is common for manufacturers of these trail cameras to state that they can last for 6 months or more in standby mode.
In reality, the main culprit for shortening battery life on a WiFi trail camera has very little to do with the WiFi at all. Instead, it is the settings people choose for the camera along with the amount of activity that is in the area the camera is monitoring including how much of that activity is at night.
What Is the WiFi Range for a WiFi Trail Camera?
The answer to this question depends on the specific WiFi trail camera that you are using and where you are using it. The WiFi range on most WiFi trail cameras is typically between about 30 to 60 feet. Although, some users say they are able to connect to their camera from 100 feet or more.
One of the main reasons why WiFi ranges can vary so much is because of the environment that the trail camera is in. Things like trees, brush, buildings, and other obstacles can interfere with the WiFi connection and cause the range to be shorter. Additionally, other electronic devices can also cause interference.
Is the WiFi on a WiFi Equipped Trail Camera Always On?
No, the WiFi on a WiFi-equipped trail camera is not always on. In order to conserve power, the WiFi is off when it’s not in use. The WiFi needs to be activated each time you want to use it.
Why Does My WiFi Trail Camera Have Bluetooth?
As we have already discussed, WiFi trail cameras use WiFi to allow your smartphone or other devices to connect to the camera wirelessly, but the WiFi on these cameras is not always on because it would use too much power. To get around this problem most WiFi trail cameras have Bluetooth. Bluetooth uses less power than WiFi, so it is always on. Using Bluetooth you are able to turn on the WiFi from a distance with your smartphone when you need it.
Without Bluetooth, WiFi trail cameras would require you to manually push a button to activate the WiFi, which kind of defeats the purpose of having it in the first place-especially when it is in a hard-to-reach location.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not to get a trail camera with WiFi, consider your needs and how you’ll be using the camera. If you think you would benefit from the extra flexibility and versatility that WiFi trail cameras offer, then it’s worth considering. Otherwise, you may be able to save some money by choosing a camera without this feature.