At first glance, the Cuddeback Capture IR digital scouting camera looks almost identical to its cousin, the Cuddeback Capture. In fact, the only visible difference is the presence of 48 small, infrared LEDs at the top of the unit in place of the less technically advanced flash bulb. The Cuddeback Capture  had performed impressively in my product review and I was anxious to see if the IR version would perform as well and solve the problem of spooking game with a nighttime flash.
Many people have the misconception that trail cameras with infrared technology capture images of objects using the "heat" reflected from them. This is called thermography, and although it is a type of infrared photography, it is not the type commonly used in trail cameras. If it was, your nighttime photos would be colorful scenes of varying shades of purple, orange, yellow, blue and green depending on the amount of heat reflected from the source. Instead the black, white and grey photos that you see are a result of trail cameras using LEDs that emit infrared light to illuminate the subject and make it visible to the camera. The emitted light is part of the spectrum that humans, and other mammals, cannot see and is therefore undetectable.
Like the flash version, the Cuddeback Capture IR operates on four D-cell batteries, which provides for a compact housing while still taking an average of 2,000 photos between battery changes.
With a daytime resolution of 5.0 megapixels and a nighttime resolution of 1.3 megapixels, a 2 GB SD card will likely hold this many photos, depending on ratio of daytime to nighttime photos. The setup on the Cuddeback Capture IR is exactly the same as the flash version. Strap it on the tree, turn the dial to "test", walk along the path that you hope the game will take and watch for the red light to illuminate on the unit. If it doesn't pick up movement in the desired area, adjust the height, distance or angle of the unit accordingly. Then if you haven't done so, set the date and time. All that is left is to turn the rotary dial to select your preference of delay from 30 seconds to 30 minutes between photos and then you have 40 seconds to get out of the detection zone before the unit starts capturing images.
To test the Cuddeback Capture IR, I followed paths perpendicular to the camera at two different distances as well as directly away from and toward the camera. Each test was performed during daylight hours and then repeated after dark. The setup of each test and the subsequent photos are described below.
These shots were taken by standing approximately 100 feet distance directly in front of the camera. I then approached in a straight line at a fast walk. During the daytime, the camera fired when I was approximately 10 feet away, while during the nighttime it fired a little faster when I was 20 feet away. In both lighting conditions, the image was captured.
These shots were taken by standing directly behind the camera. I then passed the camera and moved directly away in a straight line at a fast walk. In both lighting conditions, the camera fired when I reached approximately 10 to 15 feet and captured the image.
These shots were taken by standing to the side of the camera. I then passed perpendicular to the camera in a straight line at a distance of about 10 feet. In both lighting conditions, the image was captured.
These shots were taken by standing to the side of the camera. I then passed perpendicular to the camera in a straight line at a distance of about 40 feet, the advertised effective flash range of the IR version. In both lighting conditions, the image was captured.
Since the Cuddeback Capture IR uses virtually the same sensor and camera as its flash-enabled cousin, there is no surprise that the results of this test were equally as impressive during daylight conditions. With its advertised "Hair Trigger" of less than 1/3 of a second, it captures just about anything that passes through the detection zone. Cuddeback recommends that the camera be placed 10- to 15-feet from the trail which should help to ensure adequate detection and capturing of fast moving or running game.
The real test of the Cuddeback Capture IR occurred when the sun set and the nighttime test photos were taken. Most game moves at night and having a camera that will not perform dependably under those conditions will greatly reduce the effectiveness of your scouting. As shown during the testing, the Capture IR detected movement as well in the absence of light as it did during the day. The difference comes in the quality of the image. Although the IR version has a higher daytime resolution (5.0 megapixels) than the flash version (3.0 megapixels), the nighttime resolution or the IR model is lower (1.3 megapixels and 3.0 megapixels respectively). Also, any photographer can tell you that a low light image of a moving object will be blurry. Since the IR version does not use a true flash, the image is not "frozen" when the shutter opens and closes like it is with the flash-enabled model. The two images below show the difference.
The image on the left was taken with the IR model and the image on the right was taken with the flash model. The flash model photo exhibits greater sharpness and detail than the IR model photo. Under most circumstances, both photos would be adequate but if it was necessary to view fine details (scoring the rack of a trotting buck) then the IR version might be a little more challenging.
Despite the slight decrease in nighttime action photo clarity, the IR model does have its own advantages over the flash version. Since there is no flash, there are no deer-in-the-headlights photos. The invisible IR light does not spook game or make them aware of the presence of the camera, which could alter their behavior or change their paths. Subsequently, the animals in the images appear more natural and you have a better chance of them sticking around for additional photos.
It is unfortunate that we must worry about such things but the IR version also has the benefit of keeping itself hidden from a different kind of animal, the human kind. A trespasser or poacher has little respect for the law or personal property. Since it remains undetected at night, the Cuddeback Capture IR could capture an image of someone on your property and provide evidence to take to the authorities. If they happen by your flash-enabled trail camera at night, the bright light could be an invitation for them to take it with them on the way out.
The Cuddeback Capture IR digital scouting camera is available at most large sporting goods stores for an MSRP of $249.99, which is around $50 higher than the flash version. The added benefit of not spooking game and keeping your cameras undetected from others could well be worth the extra cost. No matter which model you choose, Cuddeback has once again proven to build a quality product that is reliable and easy to use.
For more information about the Cuddeback Capture IR trail camera, visit www.cuddeback.com .
Larry R. Beckett Jr. is a full time freelance writer, photographer and videographer. His greatest joy is spending time fishing, hunting and hiking with his wife and son. Larry discovered his enthusiasm for the outdoors at a young age and devotes much of his time trying to instill that same enthusiasm in future generations.