How do I read my trail camera SD card?


Before buying a trail camera, many of us often wonder: “How do I read my trail camera SD card?” 

In both online and offline trail camera stores, you can find that sellers often introduce other products in addition to the cameras. They call these things “SD card viewers/readers” to view photos and videos from the cards.


Thus, you may get confused if there is any difference between a reader and a viewer. Should you buy one of them or both of them? 

For better understanding, let’s learn more about these products. 

Memory Card Viewer Vs. Reader: Are They The Same Or Two Different Types? 

In terms of meaning, “reader” and “viewer” are two interchangeable terms for common use. We can easily see them on numerous product descriptions as well as product packaging widely on the market. 

Similarly, there is also a misunderstanding between “trail camera” and “game camera.” In fact, they totally have no difference in meaning. You may prefer to use the “trail camera” while others like the “game camera.” Honestly, it does not matter at all. 

However, when it comes to SD card adapters, we find the terms “reader” and “viewer” with two distinctly different products. Two categories include:

  • Smartphone SD card adapter style (reader) 
  • Tablet SD card adapter style (viewer)

Although both can enable you to know what your cards contain, SD card reader and viewer feature differently. Now, our detailed discussion will help you to distinguish them. 

Smartphone Adapter Style (Reader)

We consider it as the most affordable option in a super-compact design. Its price only ranges from $12 to $20. This SD card adapter is so small that you can plug it into smartphones with ease whenever you want. In this digital era, the more powerful the smartphones are, the popular smartphone SD card adapters are. 


This type of SD card adapter can be compatible with various devices in many ways. You should pay attention to some key points when choosing the smartphone SD card adapter style. Hence, for its best use with any trail camera, let’s consider them carefully. 

Card slots

In the past, the trail cameras only accepted SD cards in the standard size. However, the situation has changed these years when users can use both SD cards and micro SD cards for many trail camera models. 

Despite that convenience, you should not forget to check your camera beforehand. It is necessary to ensure which types of cards your cameras can fit.

Device connection

As we mentioned above, besides smartphones, this reader can connect to many different devices as long as they can fit with each other. The readers often work with several connectors, including Lighting, USB Type C, USB, and Micro USB. If there are not any of them, we suggest you search for other products. 


Generally, when you plug the adapter, the smartphone will recognize and let the reader play without any special software. You can view all photos and videos directly from the SD card on your phone. If the software is in need, ensure that the updated version is available with your operating system ( iOS, Android or Windows).

Tablet Style (Viewer)

A tablet-style SD card adapter allows you to view photos and videos from the SD cards. We describe this viewer with the tablet-style since it looks like a typical tablet. It is absolutely an appropriate choice for those who do not have smartphones. Even if you have your smartphones but prefer to see your photos and videos with a larger view, we recommend this adapter.


The tablet-style SD card adapters are available in a wide range of sizes. The small ones are often approximately 4.3 inches. For the wider screen, you can choose the ones of more than 7 inches. In general, the larger the adapter size is, the higher price it costs. Therefore, the selection for sizes may be different and based on your budgets. 

From our point of view, you should choose a viewer with larger screen size. The narrow screen often causes you to zoom in on the pictures to see the details clearly. Adjustments on the screen not only wastes your time but also damages the picture’s quality. It is the reason why we always spend more money purchasing a viewer with a larger screen. 

When Do You Need To Use These Readers/Viewers?

You may know SD card readers/ viewers are the answer to the question “How do I read my trail camera SD card?”. But when do you need to use them? 

Honestly, both SD card readers and viewers do come with a compact design. Thus, it will be totally convenient for you to bring them whenever you use your trail cameras. How annoying will it be if you can not check what the camera has captured during your trail into the woods?

The issue which we mainly want to discuss here is that, depending on what the trail camera has captured, sometimes you need to move your camera. For example, when you use the trail camera for hunting, obviously you want to figure out the animals’ positions. Unfortunately, you have no SD card reader or viewer there. Thus, it is impossible to find targets. 

Another example of the inconvenience of without an SD card may happen when you are interested in photography with your trail camera. When the camera standing in one place cannot produce pictures that cannot satisfy you, it would be better if you moved it to another position. Without an SD card reader or view, how can you know that the new place is perfect enough to have beautiful photos? 

Some people often come back home, check and see that their cameras did capture nothing. It means that they have to go back into the woods to do everything again. Then, they make a disturbance once more. Well, we do not think that it is worth a try. 

Overall, a small SD card reader or viewer does not take up too much space in your hunting backpack. Carrying it with your trail camera will help you avoid inconvenience and frustration. 

What Are The Benefits Of Having An SD Card Reader/Viewer?

Many people believe that it is necessary to have an SD card reader/viewer, while others do not. In different situations, these adapters become or do not become a necessity. 

Thanks to modern technological development, besides readers/reviews, tons of devices allow us to see photos and videos from SD cards. Hence, it is crucial to determine whether you want to read your trail camera SD card at home or on a long-distance trip. 

And here are some great benefits for two different uses. 

Home Use

In terms of home use, there are two common cases. 

Case 1

There is no need to buy an SD card reader or viewer when you place the trail cameras right on your home property. Especially, the convenience will get more perfect if that location is exactly where you walk or drive past many times daily. 

From these situations, you can easily remove the SD cards from your camera and go back to the house to view all photos and videos inside. On some days, you see that there is not much traffic passing by the camera’s position. It can then be better to grab the card next time since nothing is captured to view. 

Case 2

Another case is that you own larger home property, and you tend to place your trail camera in remote areas. A visible strength of these locations is the small number of traffics passing by. Consequently, animals will not see lots of people and smell much human scent. Thus, they will stay long enough for your camera to capture. 

We do not suggest you go to the camera spots many times per day. Your appearance can prevent the targets from being there when the hunting seasons come. At that time, undoubtedly, you need to have a trail camera SD card reader or viewer. These devices enable you to make timely decisions of whether you should use the trail camera location or not. 

While you go home, connect the SD card to your computer to view photos, everything on the hunting places can change a lot. Therefore, unless you place the trail camera near your house, it is a high recommendation to prepare an SD card reader or viewer. 

Use Away From Home 

Is an SD card reader/viewer useful when you go hunting away from your home property? We know for sure that it is YES. 

For some hunters, laptops may be the first idea appearing on their heads instead of an SD card reader/viewer. However, bringing your laptop to the hunting often bears risks. For instance, rough roads can damage the laptop screen. Moreover, due to the rocky terrain, the laptop will bounce a lot in your car when you read the SD card. 

What about hunting on public lands? 

It is not surprising to hear about the problems that bad guys steal or vandalize your trail cameras. Even when you hide your cameras carefully or choose the models with camo patterns, the issue still stays the same. Some people may come around and discover your property. Assuming that your camera gets stolen, the money you lose seems to be much higher than the amount of money you can save due to not buying the card reader/viewer. 

No matter what your solutions are, the potential risks for your trail camera are always there. Hence, you will be better off preparing an SD card reader/viewer with the camera during your hunt. Then, it gets easier for you to check the camera anytime and anywhere. 


Hesitation can take a lot of your precious time. Why don’t you buy SD card readers/viewers? In comparison with the costs for trail cameras and other hunting accessories, an SD card reader/viewer is much cheaper. 

How do I read my trail camera SD card? It is definitely an SD card reader/viewer – a small device that can help a lot to have timely hunting decisions and save your precious time.