Trail cameras are equipped either with regular flash units, familiar from normal SLR cameras, or with Infrared flash units. Majority of the camera models nowadays are infrared trail cameras.
Features of regular flash include:
- you get full color images also at nighttime
- nighttime picture quality is generally better
- uses more energy, thus decreasing battery lifetime
- trigger recovery time is slower due to time required for flash charging
- usually spooks the game
- can attract attention of humans to camera location and thus not suitable to be used as a security camera
Features of IR flash include:
- nighttime pictures are black and white
- nighttime picture quality is generally less than with regular flash
- pictures can be blurry
- requires very little power, increased battery life
- faster trigger recovery time
- doesn’t spook game
- doesn’t reveal the camera location to other humans
In general, if you are going to use your trail camera for scouting, hunting or for surveillance purposes the IR flash should be your preferred option. However if you are after good quality pictures also during nighttime, and you don’t mind lower battery lifetime and spooking the game, then you should consider regular flash option.
As mentioned, most of the trail cameras on the market today are equipped with IR flash. The IR flash typically consists of dozen or (usually) more IR LEDs. IR LED Flash can be a standard type one, where there is visible red glow when the flash is activated, Low Glow type that is barely visible to human eye, or No Glow type where the flash is not visible to human eye.
A typical flash range of a trail camera is somewhere around 50-ft. In older camera models the flash range can be very modest, 30 feet or so. On the other hand newer models can feature flash range up to 100-ft. What’s important is not to stare blindly the flash range figures, but check the sample night time photos taken on the model you are planning to buy. Optimally you should have both good flash range and coverage from left to right. Also you want to avoid a flash that easily “washes out” the animals.
Example of a washed out picture. A powerful flash can wash out the animal if it is standing close to camera.
Image credit: Moultrie