When selecting a trial camera, one of the first decisions you should make is the trail camera flash mode. They come in three options, no glow, low glow, and white flash. These technologies each have their own advantages and disadvantages, that you should weigh carefully. Choosing your trail camera’s flash mode is a decision based on three aspects: quality photographs, least amount of impact on wildlife, and the economic impact it has on your wallet.
No glow cameras are the least intrusive, giving off virtually zero detectable light, while low glow flash modes are the most economic with very little disturbance to an animals natural movements. White flash cameras on the other hand are the only flash on the market that produces color night time photos.
No glow flash which is often referred to as blackout, are flash modes that use non detectable flash to capture night time photos. The LED emitters that are often used, conduct infrared light that is above 900 on the nanometer spectrum.
The nanometer spectrum is simply a range of wave lengths that is visible to the eye. For instance, the human eye is only able to see wavelengths from 400 to 700 on the spectrum. Very few animals have the ability to see above the 900 nm, making the flash on no glow cameras virtually undetectable at night.
The ability to go undetected allows for the camera to be placed in areas that would be sensitive to spooking animals, such as bedding areas, near dens, and around feeding sources. These areas are often sanctuaries for animals, where they feel the most secure from predators. The slightest sign of danger, will force them to vacate the area all together. From a visual perspective to the animal, a camera equipped with no glow flash is the best option in these situations.
With the convenience of a no glow flash, however, you will lose on the quality of photo you are able to take. Due to the lack of light that the flash will emit, night time photos will always be black and white, and most often be darker and a bit grainier than its low glow counter part.
The flash distance will often be hindered as well. The average no glow flash will only reach about 50′ in distance compared to the 80′ of a low glow flash. Figures on the outer end of the flash range, will often appear more as dark shadows, and will be hard to identify.
The ability for stealth seems to out weigh the lack of quality of photographs as the no glow flash is often favored for hunting as well as security cameras. The popularity does come with a price though. Most no glow cameras will be priced starting around $180 and many are considerably more pricey than that.
Low glow trail cameras are the most widely used camera on the market. Often referred to as Infrared or red glow, they emit a slight red light similar to that on your smoke detector inside your home. The red glow allows the trail camera to take clearer night time photos, as well as a 30% longer flash range than the no glow cameras.
The better quality photographs and versatility of a low glow camera do come at a cost though. Many believe that animals can see the red glow, and it often results in them not only becoming aware of the camera, but also spooking them.
This theory is only partly true. The infrared light emitted from a low glow camera is typically around the 850nm on the nanometer spectrum. This means that animals such as deer and fox who are equipped to see closer to 900nm will be able to detect a slight glow if looking directly at the camera.
However, these types of nocturnal animals have an eye sight that is predominately made up of more rods than cones, allowing them to only see colors with shorter wavelengths. On the color spectrum, we often refer to ROY G. BIV, the colors on the left such as Red and Orange, have longer wave lengths, and the colors at the end of the spectrum, Indigo and Violet have shorter wavelengths. Which is why hunters are able to wear orange clothing without being seen.
It is important to understand that this color spectrum that we all grew up understanding, is only the spectrum of colors that we can see with the human eye. There is actually a color with an even shorter wavelength than Violet, that is known as Ultra Violet. Animals with more rods are able to see this color. At the other end of the spectrum there is a color with a longer wavelength than red, which we refer to as infrared.
With low glow infrared, nocturnal animals are able to pick up the light emitted from the cameras, but can not see the color that is associated with it. The ultimate question that arrives is; will it spook animals? In the trail camera industry, that question is as highly contested as the political topic of climate change. There is evidence that can support both sides of the argument, and in the end it comes down to economics, where low glow trail cameras can cost up to one third of the cost of a no glow camera.
When trail cameras were first introduced onto the market, the only available flash mode was white flash. There are very few cameras that are produced that still utilize white flash, but it still has its place in the right circumstances.
White flash is the same technology used in conventional cameras during low light, that use a blinding white light. This form of flash is easily seen, and to the unsuspecting animal, can be very abrupt, often resulting in spooking. The major attraction to white flash cameras however is not their stealth, but their photo quality.
White flash cameras are the only cameras that can produce night time photos in full color. They also have the longest flash distance illuminating past 100′. While white flash is the least likely option for most hunters and wildlife photographers, it does have its place for those who are performing research studies. Field biologists often use white flash cameras in order to determine markings on animals, allowing them to identify specific animals.
For the average consumer, using a white flash around a food source, such as a feeder, or food plot, often has the least impact on animal movements. If you prefer the color night time photos, stick to these areas for your trail camera setup.
In the end, choosing a flash mode on your trail camera, comes down to your personal preference. Weighing all the options, if quality nighttime photographs at a lower cost is more important than complete stealth, I would lean towards either a white flash or a low glow flash. If you are using your camera as a hunting tool and need the insurance that you are not disturbing the movement patterns of an animal, I would recommend taking the precautionary approach and using a no glow flash.
I have used all three flashes, and in the right circumstances they are all extremely effective in capturing night time photos.