How to Silence a Noisy Trail Camera

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Many wildlife photographers and hunters worry about the amount of noise their trail cameras make and want to know how to stop a trail camera from making a noise. They hide cameras precisely to take pictures of animals and birds as they are. The information must show them doing what they do most of the time.

Is a trail camera silent? Having pictures of animals looking straight at it might show that they’ve heard something. There is one action that does definitely make some sound…

At night, using infrared light, a trail camera with a single lens makes a sound. This is because it has an infrared filter which drops in front of the lens.

Is It a Mechanical Noise?

Most of the time, a trail camera doesn’t have any mechanical part moving. It isn’t an older camera or a professional’s camera with telescopic lens and physical shutter. All a trail camera needs to do is to use a sensor which is activated.

When the camera is triggered, the sensor comes on and it takes a picture. There is no physical movement or shutter, and so no noise at all.

Returning to the question of whether trail cameras are silent, we mentioned the IR filter. Another feature that can make a sound is the panoramic lens in some models. Let us examine these two, because both are mechanical and involve moving parts.

IR (Infrared) Filters – What Are They For?

What exactly are IR filters? At night, a trail camera uses infrared light that neither we nor game can see. Many models have a so-called “black flash” that’s also invisible to us.

However, the image-sensor needs other light to trigger photo-taking, not the IR. The flash is a flash to the camera, but not to deer, nor the sensor. A filter moves over the lens, stopping IR radiation but allowing other radiation through.

The “black flash” can go through to the sensor in this way. The movement of the IR filter is physical, creating the noise that you might hear. How loud that movement is depends on many factors.

What Types of IR Filter Movements Are There?

Each brand of trail camera is made differently, and that affects the sounds it makes. Some cameras drop the filter at dusk once light fails, and raise it at dawn. This turns out so that it makes a click only twice every 24 hours.

Other manufacturers use a different night strategy, so the filter drops and rises every time. Every nighttime photo will make some noise then, even if it’s soft. There are differences in how often or how loud that sound is between different models.

Different camera makers use different mechanisms, and that, too, affects the sound they make.

Test Your Camera

There’s no need to guess what your camera does in the field: test it! Take it with you, all set, into a dark room or cupboard. Switch on and hold it to your ear, then move to set the sensor off.

What do you hear, how loud is it, and how often does it happen? If it moves the filter each time, then every nighttime photograph will make noise. Try this several times to make sure, and note how loud the noise actually is.

What About So-Called Panoramic Trail Cameras?

It was a great idea, to have a camera lens swiveling around in different directions. You might be able to cover the same field of view as four cameras! One tree and one camera could do the work of three, at the very least.

A panoramic camera has many PIR motion sensors for different directions. The combined detection angle is much greater, and when infrared is triggered, the lens moves. It’s mounted on a “moving eye” that turns quickly to the relevant outlook.

An amazing concept: the major problem is that the movement makes noise! Not only that, but a moving animal sets off photographs in several new sectors. The result is a continuous noise as the camera follows it.

Think Carefully Before Using a Camera with a Moving Lens

Such a camera may be excellent for capturing the sun moving in the Arctic. Or whales spouting randomly in the sea? However, as a trail camera, the panoramic models are likely to frighten your target animals.

Think about what you need trail cameras to do. Several simple, silent cameras will give better results than one noisy panoramic camera. You aren’t saving anything in real life.

Does the Flash Make Noise?

Hunters and trail-followers have tested many types of cameras to find out. The IR filter could be the culprit, but powerful, longer-distance flashes might be. It seems that cameras with these make more noise when turned on and off.

It may be that the electric components make a noise, not the lamp. Again, think about how sensitive to noise the target animal of the camera is.

A Solution: Dual-Lens Cameras

Manufacturers know the problems we’ve been discussing, and now they are using two lenses. It’s quite simple, namely one lens for daylight and another for night photography.

There are a couple of clear advantages here, starting with the lens aperture. Trail-camera apertures can’t move, so depth of field cannot change between day and night. That’s a problem at night when more light is needed, but the opening is fixed.

Having a dedicated nighttime lens means having the correct aperture for dark conditions. It is set for more exposure and less field depth. In consequence, dual-lens cameras take better quality images at night.

Another Advantage of Dual-Lens Models

There is another important reason to choose a dual-lens camera for trails. Not only is the daytime lens simpler for day, the night lens is for night. The night lens has an IR filter, fixed in place, which need not move.

If the IR filter doesn’t move, then it makes no mechanical noise at all.

Is There Any Other Way to Cut Out Camera Noise?

Yes, there’s a possibility for people who want to track certain animals and birds. Turn off night photography! Some creatures simply don’t venture out in the dark.

In this situation, without the dual lens option, how would you do that? Just go into the programming mode on your trail camera and look in the menu. Find the “Start” and “Stop” settings and have the sunset and sunrise times to hand.

Set the time to start shortly after sunrise, and to stop just before sunset. Now there will be no movement of the infrared filter at all, at night. The trail camera will be completely silent.

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