By Pat Lefemine
Newly designed for reliability
Last year at ATA I got the first glimpse of the new Gen2 Line of Mini-cams from Moultrie. If you’re familiar with the previous Moultrie Mini-Cams you’ll notice that the overall design has changed quite a bit from their previous line up.
The Gen2 line was designed with reliability as a top priority. To that end they incorporated the sensor, lens, and LED section of the camera within a sealed compartment on top. The areas of the camera that you interface with are located within the bottom half of the Gen2 Line.
Features & Specs
Photo Resolution - For Photo Resolution there are four options. The specific resolutions are:
Low 0.9 MP (1280x720)
Medium 2.0 MP (1920x1080)
High 4.0 MP (2688x1512)
Enhanced 10.0 MP (4224x2376)
We primarily used the Medium setting. The enhanced setting is only chosen on occasions when we need near print-quality shots. The higher 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.
HD with Sound 1080p (1280x720)
For our test we used the HD option only. While 720p is less resolution than the 1100i we tested last year, we found the actual quality to be higher with the 990i Gen2.
Trigger Speed – the unit advertises <1 second trigger speed.
Storage/Memory - Works with SD cards up to 32 GB. Memory cards are sold separately.
Power/Batteries - The unit requires (8) AA batteries (Alkaline, NiMH rechargeable, or Lithium batteries) with Lithium being the most preferable for cold weather and extended run times.
Other Features – The 990i comes in a slightly larger size than the previous mini-cam models, it is lightweight and four of them will fit into the average deer hunters daypack. Finally, the 990i mounts with a 1” wide by 4’ long mounting strap and a greatly improved cinching buckle. Alternatively, you can mount the 990i to any bracket which has a 1/4-20 standard tripod mount screw.
MSRP - $199.99
Watch our video review of the Moultrie m-990i Gen2
The 1100i comes in five modes of operation. Motion Detect-Photo, Motion Detect-Video, Motion Detect-Both, Time-lapse, and Time-lapse+Motion.
Motion Detect Photo mode – this is the standard use for most trail cams and the differentiator between the 1100i and previous models is the expanded size or 12MP enhanced. This shoots a photo at 4608x2592 which provides superior quality for even print applications. The mode I use is the medium setting at 3MP and find that more than sufficent for my uses.
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 – New this year. This mode takes the first frame after detection as a Photo and then shoots the video. We found this to be a useful feature.
Time-Lapse Mode – sometimes referred to as “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.
Photo 1 - daylight photo example
Photo 2 - night photo taken at 75 feet from the camera
Photo 3 - daylight photo showing fast capture
Photo 4 - Close up daylight next to the camera
Attaching to a tree or mount
The unit is mounted to a tree by a newly designed cinch strap that is stronger than the previous plastic buckles used on the original mini-cam series. I can pull this strap very tight without any fear of it snapping or slipping. 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 that is standard across all photo and trail cam applications.
Operation and Viewing
You open the unit with this bottom latch and there you can access the card slot, buttons, and the 2” viewfinder which helps position the camera as well as to playback photos. The larger, 2” display is a nice improvement over prior models with smaller viewfinders. I found the menu easy to operate and more intuitive on the Gen2 line. The only issue I experienced was that it can be difficult retrieving the SD card once it’s inserted. It lies close to the back plate and that makes it difficult to get a grip on the card.
New ‘Quick Start’ setting
The menus and modes are basically the same as last years’ models but new this year is the option of using a Quick Start option. This allows you to get the unit activated quickly and intuitively. In this setting, the 990i Gen2 Trail Camera defaults to the most common settings with a 3 shot burst and a 30 second interval. You simply move the selector to quick start and you are on your way. I found this to be an easy and convenient option for the cams where I needed simple photos and nothing more advanced.
Custom (advanced) Settings
For those who want more control (like me) you’ll want to choose custom settings. Here you have a variety of options including photo, video, both photo and video, time-lapse, time-lapse + motion detect. You can also customize your settings including photo resolution, interval between photos, and the number of photos taken in either single, 3 shot burst, or 3 shot triggered mode. The choices here were comprehensive in this mode, there was nothing more that I really need that’s not available with this camera.
The unit requires (8) AA batteries. As with most trail cams, Lithium batteries are preferred. We ran our units with normal Duracell and Energizer batteries in all but one unit where I ran rechargeables. Battery life was better than I expected. I’ve been using my Gen 2 990i for two months in northern New York and my battery life is averaging about 88% remaining across my photo cams and 75% on video. Very good results. I don’t have long term results yet since I got my cams in October. My expectation is that I’ll get close to a year given the average volume of photos on my property.
I’ve noticed a slightly faster trigger speed than in previous models. This can be seen clearly in one 3-shot succession of a deer bounding away. I’ve only experienced a couple of missed shots when the subject was presumably running close to the camera at high speed.
I’m not getting a lot of photos of deer looking at the camera so the No-Glow LEDs seem to be working as advertised. One of my cameras was placed on an apple tree and the deer are practically bumping into the 990i while they are feeding. I’ve not seen any evidence of any deer being alerted to the LEDs.
Photo Mode – as expected, photos generated by the 990i Gen2 are excellent. Even with the 1920x1080 photo resolution that I prefer (since I am dealing with 30-40,000 photos a year). Photo quality is acceptable in both daylight and nighttime shots.
Video Mode – I always use the HD with Sound mode of 1280x720. Video quality is good and perfectly acceptable for trail camera use. I noticed that colors are improved over the 1100i tests I did in 2014 and motion is perhaps a little better even though the resolution was higher with the 1100i. It is not quite TV quality HD but it’s silly to think a trail cam will produce the saturation and bitrate required by cameras costing thousands of dollars.
Time-Lapse -I’m not doing as many time-lapse surveys as I used to but I did test it out and the camera did well. The time lapse menu has changed a bit and the newer units work off a clock rather than a light sensor. I like this very much – especially by setting a morning and afternoon period separately. Just be careful, as time-lapse can eat up an SD card fast. It’s also a pain to review higher resolution photos so keep your photo resolution big enough to be useful, but not so high that it’s hard to manage the files.
The improved features of Moultrie’s 990i Gen2 are terrific, and the photo and video quality is excellent. But it appears that the top priority for these Gen2 Cams is reliability and that’s commendable. Given the history of trail camera reliability issues (posted by Bowsite visitors) I’m happy to see a trail cam manufacturer making reliability as big of a priority as features and performance. I have several thousand photos captured across the (10) m-990i Gen2 cams I deployed to date and not a single issue on any of them. If there was one criticism it’s a small one - the location of the SD card slot is so close to the back wall that it is difficult to remove the card with gloves (or chubby fingers).
Overall, the 990i Gen2 is an excellent, reliable, trail camera that is priced within reason and offers all of the performance and features hunters are looking for.