Do you struggle with getting quality trail camera photos? Going on a hunting trip and want to capture the best information you can to ensure you target the right locations?
Getting the Right Camera first
Game cameras, deer cameras, or trail cameras, whatever term you prefer have come a long way, even in the last 5 years. They are continuously getting better image quality, highly preferred settings, and now can directly send the pictures to your cell phone!
Before setting up trail cameras this summer take a serious look at your inventory. Does your trail camera pile look like a rag tag group of rebels defying their limited lifespan? Meaning, if your trail cameras barely work, are questionable if they will even turn on, and have about a 25% chance of taking a picture…it might be time to upgrade.
Trail cameras provide the best way to achieve the desired goal. But, like any technology, choosing a trail camera without the right features will mean capturing poor-quality photos and missing what you want to see.
Today we will introduce some little-known but key trail camera features that affect photo quality.
As always, If you have any questions after reading, or if you’d like to get in touch to learn more about trail cameras, please contact us here. You can also visit our official website to message us directly.
1. Image Sensor
When the light from the scene enters the camera, how do I convert it into an image we can view, and then, if necessary, print it out? Here we dive into the core of the trail camera, the image sensor.
Let’s take a closer look at how image sensors work. There is no in-depth knowledge, but enough to help you understand which image sensor to use.
How image sensors work?
The light in the scene we are trying to capture hits the image sensor, and that light is converted into digital data, which is then used to create the image. But image sensors are more than just a surface. It consists of millions of tiny parts called megapixels (MP), all of which absorb tiny “light spots” and then convert them into millions of “data points”.
Now, we all want our cameras to capture images as close to what’s really there in the scenes as possible, which means the image sensor absorbing as much light as possible. Let’s see how this relates to megapixels, using mirrors as an analogy…
Say you have two 1m x 1m mirrors on the walls of your home. Using the marker, you can divide the left rearview mirror into 10 cm intervals horizontally and vertically, that is, 10 by 10 parts, so the total is 100. The correct one divides you into 5 cm intervals, 20 by 20 parts, so that’s a total of 400.
You look at the two mirrors and they reflect the same amount of light because they are exactly the same size. However, because the right mirror is four times as large as the left mirror, the light spots it reflects are four times smaller, although their reflection points are four times smaller. The light spot reflected by the left mirror is four times larger than the right mirror, but the light spot reflected is four times smaller than the right mirror.
More megapixels, less blurriness
So how does this relate to image sensors?
An image sensor with more megapixel collects more points of light, and so data, than the same-sized image sensor with fewer megapixels. What this means is that if you want to print out the photo and make a poster from it, for example, you can ‘blow it up’ to a larger size without the image looking blurry.
However, collecting more data points is not always a good thing. There is another factor to consider…
Mirror analogy cont.
Let’s go back to our mirrors.
Now say that your home is right next to the train track so that a train vibrates as it passes through your home, including two mirrors on the wall. Just as we see that a 400-part mirror reflects four times as many light points as a 100-part mirror, it also absorbs four times as many vibration points as a train passes.
More megapixels, more noise
So, having more parts doesn’t just mean collecting more points of ‘good’ data, i.e. light, it also means collecting more points of ‘bad’ data, i.e. vibration. In trail cameras this unwanted data is called ‘noise’ and it comes from the electrical workings of the camera itself.
We know that blurriness comes from taking a photo from an image sensor with fewer megapixels and blowing it up too large. But when you take a photo using an image sensor with more, smaller megapixels, you get more of that other major feature of bad quality photos, graininess.
Blurriness vs graininess
When choosing which type of image sensor, the difficulty seems to be:
• Larger and smaller megapixels: The image is less blurred when it explodes, but more grainy.
• Smaller, larger megapixels: less granular, but blurry if the image explodes too much.
Solving the dilemma
Thankfully, unless you plan to print pictures larger than 12.9 x 9.7 inches, a 5MP image sensor is enough to avoid blurring. At this resolution, the pixels will also be large enough to avoid excessive graininess.
The good news is that almost all off-road cameras on the market today have a 5MP image sensor resolution.
High-megapixel image sensors
“Hang on! How about the 14MP image sensor trail camera I’ve just been looking at??”
The fact is that if the 14MP is indeed squeezed onto an image sensor of the size used in a trail camera, the picture taken cannot be grainy because the pixels are too small. So while many backward cameras advertise this high-resolution image sensor, they actually use the same 5MP image sensor as all other backward cameras.
But companies cannot just lie to consumers. Instead of doing this, they came up with a very neat trick called …
So, we know that image sensors work by converting a point of light into a data point at each individual megapixel, and then gathering all those millions of points together to create the image. But what if each point of light wasn’t converted into just one data point, what if it was converted into multiple data points, all of the same type?
This is interpolation. This means that although the image sensor can create images at a resolution of 14MP, most pixels are actually artificially created by the internal image processor of the trail camera.
In fact, you can get the same resolution as an image taken by a 5MP image sensor. Like we said before, it can only be exploded to an image size of 12.9 x 9.7 inches
None of this brings us closer to knowing what to look for in a trail camera image sensor. What if there are no megapixels? This is really very simple: the only way to get more and larger megapixels is to add more pixels.
Image Sensor Size
Now, because they need to be lightweight and portable, you won’t find a tracking camera with an image sensor that you might see in a professional DSLR camera. Fortunately, even a slight increase in the size of an image sensor can make a big difference. meaning is…
Avoiding bad quality trail camera photos you need choose a trail camera with an image sensor size of 1/2.5 inches.
In layman’s terms, this means 0.4 inches, which is about the largest image sensor found in tracking cameras on the market today.
Now, let’s move on to the next key feature that affects trail camera photos quality…
2. Field of view
What the FOV?
‘Field of view’, or FOV, refers to how much of the scene the trail camera can capture, and you’ll see it written as an angle in a trail cameras specs, e.g.
So, the greater the FOV angle, the more of the scene the camera can capture.
What FOV should we choose?
It seems obvious that a trail camera with a higher FOV can provide better photos. The more we can capture, the better, right?
That’s right, if all we want to do is collect as much information as possible in the photo. If you are a hunter and want to know how many deer are in a certain location, then you will definitely agree.
But the truth is, the more information we get, the less information we get. As you can see, in the photo on the left, we can see more clearly what is happening in a specific part of the scene. So it comes down to the old dilemma …
Quality vs quantity
Obtaining high-quality trail camera photos is absolutely the key to wildlife viewing and surveillance. But this is also important for hunting: if you can’t tell the size of them, or even what type of animal they are, there is no need to catch many animals.
Obviously, we want to achieve both quantity and quality, information and details. For this, we need to avoid extremes of FOV, not too narrow or too wide. This gives us …
Choose a trail camera with a FOV between 50 and 110 degrees.
Below 50 degrees, you don’t actually capture a lot of useful information. Above 110 degrees, it will start to become difficult to identify details in the photo.
So now you know the two rules for avoiding bad quality trail camera photos. To recap, choose a trail camera with…
1. An FOV of between 50 and 110 degrees
2. An image sensor size of 1/2.5 inches
Here is the latest and greatest from our friends over at WildGuarder, it offers a trail camera which has 70 degrees and 110 degrees two FOV options for customers, if you are interested, please take a look at Watcher1-4G.