By Pat Lefemine, Founder Bowsite.com
We spent four months testing this new Moultrie 180i trail camera and were simply blown away by the results. We had one minor issue which we will discuss below. Overall results were impressive.
In 2013 I was one of the first to test the new Moultrie Panoramic 150 Trail camera - a revolutionary design that utilized a moving Lens/Sensor/LED assembly that provided a 180 degree coverage area. I really liked that camera and have several in the field to this day. For 2016 Moultrie engineers took the same concept to a dramatically improved level. The trail camera is now part of the GEN2 line for reliability, the image quality is improved (for both photos and video) and most importantly there are no more moving parts. Moultrie has replaced the one, moving assembly with three separate Lens/Sensor/LED zones.
Features & Specs
Photo Resolution - For
Photo Resolution there are four options. The specific JPEG resolutions are:
Low 1920 x 1080
Medium 2688 x 1512
High 4032 x 2268
Enhanced 4992 x 2808*
*We primarily used the enhanced setting for our tests however for everyday use we will use HIGH or MEDIUM to manage the photo volume. The Enhanced resolution settings uses significantly more card capacity – but more importantly, when we are checking 30 trail cams we need to load those chips quickly into a portable viewer and the lower resolution dramatically speeds up that process.
Video Resolution - There are two Video Resolution options as well. *For our test we used the FHD option only.
HD 1280 x 720
FHD (1080p) 1920 x 1080
Trigger Speed – the unit advertises < .5 second trigger speed.
Storage/Memory - Works with SD cards up to 32 GB. Memory cards are sold separately.
Power/Batteries - The unit requires (12) AA batteries (Alkaline or Lithium batteries) with Lithium being the most preferable for cold weather and extended run times.
Other Features – Because of the three lens/sensor/LED assemblies the 180i comes in about a 1/3 larger size than the single lens mini-cam models. Three of them will fit easily in a standard deer hunting day-pack. The 180i mounts with a 1” wide by 4’ long mounting strap and the improved cinching buckle. Alternatively, you can mount the 180i to any bracket which has a 1/4-20 standard tripod mount screw.
MSRP - $299.99
Watch our video review of the Moultrie m-180i Gen2
The 180i comes in three modes of operation. Motion Detect, Time-lapse, and Time-lapse+Motion.
Motion Detect (Standard Photo mode) – this is the standard use for most trail cams and it on the 180i you can chose a resolution from 1920x1080 all the way to an impressive 4992x2808 which is 14 mega-pixels. With this camera you have a second choice between a Standard 16x9 photo or a Panoramic Photo. I almost always use the letterbox size as the Panoramic are hard to review in any volume.
Motion Detect (Video Mode) – The improvement on this camera is the upgrade to a Full HD specification of 1920x1080. This provides very detailed video and ultra-smooth motion. It operates at 30fps in 16:9 frame ratio.
Motion Detect (Both Mode) – My favorite setting which showed up last year in other Moultrie cams is also available on the 180i. This mode takes the first frame after detection as a Photo and then shoots the video.
Time-Lapse Mode – also called “plot mode” this allows you to choose your time intervals in either one or two time blocks. The unit no longer relies on sensors to detect sunrise and sunset, you now have total control over those settings.
Time-Lapse + Motion – Another welcomed feature. This allows you to set the camera to take time lapse photos as described above, but it will also trigger on motion when detected. So you can have the best of both worlds.
Here's a good photo showing the quality of the detail and color. This was taken after sunset.
Here's a Panoramic taken in very tricky lighting. These gobblers are back-lit which makes for a really interesting photo.
Another photo with very tricky lighting and the 180i did very well. This is what I look for in a trail camera image sensor.
Good example of the quality shown in Panoramic Photo Mode. Great detail, color and exposure.
Transitional lighting is often a problem. This doe feeds 50' from the camera at first light. A good balance between the No-Glow's and natural lighting.
Here's an example of the camera pushing the limits of the No-Glow LEDs. This deer is 87' from the camera.
Good all around photo of this Jake walking into sensor range and getting captured immediately.
What better way to test the sensitivity of the 180i than with a crow flying by. Pretty sharp for such a fast moving subject.
Attaching to a tree or mount
The unit is mounted to a tree by the improved cinch strap that was introduced last year on other Moultrie Cams. If you prefer to use a special mounting device, there is a threaded insert at the bottom of the camera which accepts a universal threaded screw.
Operation and Viewing
You open the unit with this bottom latch and there you can access the card slot, buttons, and the menu screen. The Panoramic cams do not have a Live View. While I prefer the Live View I found the menu easy to operate and intuitive. It is the standard on all cams in the Gen2 line.
Quick Start and Custom Settings
The 180i now has the option of using a Quick Start setting. This allows you to get the unit activated quickly and intuitively. In this setting, the 180i Gen2 Trail Camera defaults to the most common settings with a 3 shot burst and a 30 second interval. In my opinion, the advanced options in this camera make it better suited for using Custom Settings but the good thing is now you have the option of using either setting.
Power & Consumption
The unit requires (12) AA batteries. The previous version of the cam used (6) C-cell batteries. I was VERY happy to see Moultrie change this to AA for consistency and convenience. It was a royal PIA to carry around C-batteries. Also, by replacing the moving parts I imagine the battery consumption to be improved over the previous 150. I took thousands of photos and hundreds of videos and just changed out my batteries for the first time after 4 months. The advertised specs are 16,000 photos.
The unit claims a sub-1/2 second trigger. I think this is accurate judging by the birds I caught in mid flight by my unit. It was impressive!
There are two advances to this camera from the original Panoramic 150 that help make it invisible. The first is that Moultrie replaced the original LEDs with No-Glow LEDs. The second is that the camera no longer has a moving Lens/Sensor/LED assembly which can be detected by sharp eyes. In thousands of photos the only time I had deer looking at the 180i was when it was mounted on a Trail Camera Mount in the middle of the food plot. After I moved that to a tree they never looked at it again.
The image quality of the 180i was outstanding. I used enhanced mode for all photos. Night photos were clear and sharp and acceptable. Day photos were extremely sharp, well contrasted and highly detailed. But the real differentiator was the color balance and exposure, nearly perfect even in some very challenging lighting situations.
While I expected remarkable photo quality, I was not expecting remarkable video quality. That turned out to be an incorrect assumption. Video quality was amazing. I used the Full HD setting at all times and was blown away by the detail, color, exposure, and motion displayed by this camera. Adding the fact that you can record video from any of the 60 degree assemblies makes this 180i on the short-list of anyone looking for a top-shelf video trail camera.
In one sentence - outstanding in all regards.
If you were a fan of the original Moultrie Panoramic camera introduced in 2013 you are going to LOVE the new 180i Panoramic camera. It is a major upgrade to that camera in every way - from the fixed Lens/Sensor/LED's to the AA batteries and most importantly - the reliability provided by the GEN2 line of Moultrie Cams.
Operation was easy and intuitive. Navigating the menus was easy. I would love to see a Live View on this camera but not if it meant a higher price point. The existing menu is more than adequate.
I know a lot of hunters will really like the addition of the Quick Start Setting but I find myself using Custom Setting all the time. Good news is you have a choice.
Now, we did have one issue - and it's a relatively minor one. The No-Glow LED's reach just past the 80' mark on PHOTO mode - this is as advertised and consistent with the sensor 'Trip' range. However, when in VIDEO mode you lose about 1/3 the illumination. In a couple of night shots (where I was using BOTH photo and video) the photo would be clear but the only thing visible in the video was everything up to 50' plus a glowing deer's eyeball. If the deer was between 45-60' the illumination was acceptable and within 45' it was very good. This was the only issue we identified in months of testing.
The 180i demonstrated remarkable image quality. I expected good photos but they were better than I anticipated. I had realistic expectations for the Video - and was blown away when I saw my first clip. Wow! I was amazed at the video quality captured by this camera.
There's really nothing not to love with this camera. I guess some guys would say the price, at $299 retail it's not cheap until you factor in what you've been missing by not being able to watch 180 degrees. If you are like me, where certain strategic trail cam locations called for 2 or 3 trail cameras then the price really gets attractive quickly.
Of all the Moultrie's I've tested in the last four years, this camera has been the most impressive and best performing. My compliments to the Moultrie engineers for listening to their customers and hitting all the right keys with this new Panoramic 180i.
Overall, the 180i Gen2 is an excellent, reliable, trail camera that is priced within reason and offers all of the performance and features hunters are looking for.