Effective conservation and management require reliable monitoring methods and estimates of abundance to prioritize human and financial investments. Camera trapping is a non-invasive sampling method allowing the use of capture–recapture (CR) models to estimate abundance while accounting for the difficulty of detecting individuals in the wild. We investigated the relative performance of standard closed CR models and spatially explicit CR models (SECR) that incorporate spatial information in the data. Using simulations, we considered 4 scenarios comparing low versus high detection probability and small versus large populations and contrasted abundance estimates obtained from both approaches. Standard CR and SECR models both provided minimally biased abundance estimates, but precision was improved when using SECR models. The associated confidence intervals also provided better coverage than their non-spatial counterpart. We concluded SECR models exhibit better statistical performance than standard closed CR models and allow for sound management strategies based on density maps of activity centers. To illustrate the comparison, we considered the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) as a case study that provided the first abundance estimates of a local population in France. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.