2011 Moultrie Plot Stalker Camera Review - January 31, 2011

2011 Moultrie Plot Stalker

2011Moultrie Plot Stalker MFH-DGS-PS 8MP Time lapse Camera Review

After last year and our review of this cameras predecessor the plant cam I was pleasantly surprised that Moultrie has openly jumped into the time lapse exclusive and selectable function camera market with both feet. My preliminary list of vendors to purchase from this year included Wing Supply for several cameras. Well I will have to say that the term several has now dwindled to a single camera after the purchase of this camera.

I will probably have this camera a full two months or so before the actual review gets into progress due to our failure to complete the 2010 schedule which still has cameras waiting to be completed. So for the time being I will only get the initial findings out and posted on this camera at this time.

Arriving in the same case as last years plant camera, this camera is now a flat black instead of the green case. It appears that this camera has a 5 MP sensor that is interpolated to 8 MPs for the top resolution. Advertized as having HD video and can be uploaded to Eyes In The Woods and You Tube easily. It has a simple setup with time date on every picture displayed. Delay interval is down to 10 seconds and up to 1 day. These delay cycles can be arranged in a selectable up to a 4 window option. This means that the duty cycles can be selected to operate during the highest activity times (up to 4) of the area that it is viewing. This unit is very easy to program and operate. Operating on 4 AA cells or can be used with the external battery system from Moultrie or your own home brew setup.

Out of the box there is a strap, USB cable and software CD. The CD has an 8X speed and a motion selection frame feature plus zoom. This camera can take up to a 32 gig card so as long as power is applied it should last a good long time in the field.

The question is ...

Did Moultrie pay attention and tune this camera to where it takes good clear pictures?

Lets hope that is the case because they sure had somewhat of a problem in that area last year. The time lapse feature is a hot item this year and competition is very high. The price on this camera makes it fit very well in the market place because it is 1/3rd the cost of the competition.

02-01-2011 update: Now that I have had some time to play and evaluate the basic idea of this camera, here is my first impression. This is a well designed and well thought out camera. The 4 windows of operation is a very nice touch and should fill just about any need that you could put at it for a pure TL operation. The external power option and up to 32 gig card size could allow the camera to be afield for some good extended periods. If you are looking to be able to read any degree of detail even on the higher (8 MP) settings on distant subjects, forget it. The picture quality is just not there. Animals out past 150 feet with horns would be very hard to evaluate other than travel routes and times. I cannot tell if the reason for this is a focus issue or just a plain old cheap image sensor. My feelings it is the later because of the reasonable price on this little camera. Should Moultrie clean up the picture quality, this camera would be very hard to beat by units costing three times more. We are now on hold until we clean up our back log and have time to get back on schedule looking at the 2011 offerings.

02-14-2011 update: Some very strange things appear to be happening and I cannot figure the reason for what I am finding. First off was the amount of attention that was paid to time lapse cameras during the recent past. Since this camera hit the shelves and I bought one, there has not been a single mention of it or anyone saying that they had the slightest interest. It is as if it does not exist. Because of this total lack of interest I just pulled the batteries and shelved it. I had even sent Anthony the disk to evaluate the software and heshowed some interest and has had no comment as to its functionality. This will just open up space to maybe get me going on another camera that maybe will be something that we can report on that is of interest. We will leave it there until we start to see maybe the interest re generated later on when the catalogs start to appear.

02-19-2011 update: I took the time to do another search to see if this camera had gained any interest and created a following and the answer is no. I did see where there were questions asked on other forums but after a quick look it appears that it was the same individual that frequents other forums. As mentioned at the first of this review, it may take some time before we really get into doing more work on this because of what is still ahead of it but we will get to it as soon as we can develop a hole.

02-27-2011 update: This camera with its partner the 12v SLA and cable hit the woods and died a death 26 pictures later??? Everything checked fine when checked today one week later and we do not know the reason.

03-01-2010 update: The fact that this camera quit and we did not realize it until we returned that long distance and checked the card, it was a kick in the shins to go ahead and head back south using some more of that $3 plus gasoline. Anyway I did go ahead and retrieve the camera and brought it back. The camera was locked up again and had not taken any more pictures after the card change. I returned the camera to default and re entered the program and did a two hour test outside the lab. It took a couple hundred pictures and seemed to be fine. I reprogrammed it for a two window capture with one period in the morning and one in the afternoon and we have it now deployed on our local testing area where we can watch it a little closer without any travel time or gasoline. We will pull this camera again this evening after the second capture window has expired and see if it entered the second window or locked up as it did before.

My search showed that the availability of this camera is now in several places and all of which I have dealt with before. So I recommend that you seek out somewhere else to purchase other than where we acquired this one. They will follow shipping instructions and will not be so hard to call back.

03-02-2010 update: We did an early morning setup and set for two capture windows and went ahead and waited until the 2nd window expired and checked the card. The camera seemed to now advance through the capture windows as normal. Returning to default and reprogramming the capture windows seemed to correct the problem. We are now in the process of evaluating picture quality from other units to see if maybe all cameras have our same issue or if it is just our camera with the problem. We stuck a new card in the cam to get a few more pictures until we hear from those that also have this same camera.

03-17-2011 update: This camera has caused us one problem after another. We have never had the camera operate a full 48 hours yet. It has locked up normally within the first 24 hours. Clearing all data and reprogramming now with only a single window capture at 30 seconds has proved to work a full day without incident. A half dozen bags of corn and a couple hundred dollars worth of different SD cards have been put into this test and maybe we will get a three day period of time with some sample pictures with animals in them. The picture quality on this particular camera is just not very good. I made a special trip back to the camera with the thought that maybe somehow the lens had got fogged up but it was bright and clear. The goal has been to at least to get some publishable samples with animals in them so I can just pull this creature of funk and return it to its little garage for a total rework and evaluation by its source. The function on the external battery has worked like a charm and it still registers 99%. On a positive note, the programming function has been done very well and setup is a breeze. If it would just take that effort and run with it I would be happy.

03-20-2011 update: We gave it three days again in the field with the hopes of getting our load of sample pictures and run their software and give you our write up. This did not go as planned, because the camera locked up again at the end of the first day and would not advance to the next program. We did how ever get that days pictures with some deer in them so we are going to use them to give a few samples and go through the supplied time lapse evaluation software from the disk. Please view the pictures and check out the screen shots of the software function.

This camera is on its way back to Moultrie and the review is closed until we determine if they are able to do anything about this concoction.

Plot Stalker Software

After capturing our day+ time lapse photos in the 1920x1080 resolution we loaded the provided software from the CD. The install was smooth and simple from under Windows 7.

It is the owner's responsibility to load the files from the SD card to a folder on the computer. I would strongly recommend against running the software on the files on the SD card as this makes for much slower access. There is no photo import facility. After getting the software installed and running I selected my folder of photos and the software appears as follows:

There are 12 buttons the control a photo slideshow: Start/End, Picture step back/forward, REwind/Pause/Play and a search forward/backwards.

The Settings menu provides a dialog to establish a search sensitivity, search region (a single rectangle) and a search step. Using this search feature seemed to select just about every photo on high as the light created shadows on the forest floor. The search feature left a lot to be desired but when you are in a forested environment with constant light changes the software will have a hard time finding critters in the all the "noise".

The Plot Stalker logo and huge buttons take up a huge amount of screen real estate keeping you from viewing each photo in a very large size. there are however zoom in/out buttons which slows you down a bit. Yes, I wear glass and have some vision challenges but these buttons are too large and take up too much screen space. I would rather have a larger photo on screen and smaller buttons and no logo getting in the way.

Clicking the File menu with photos loaded brings up a dialog which allows for start/end frame selection and the export of a video from a range of frames. The user can choose the the output size and frame rate. The output file has the extension .mp4 which normally means mpeg-4 compression for video.

I used the software to export a 100 frame video that I knew contained deer. This is the original video:

click here to play samples video

The video production took around 20 seconds and was an easy process.

03-31-2011 update: I received a replacement camera back from Moultrie but still have not received any feed back as I assumed I would get by sending it in for that purpose. That fact did not go well with us because we spent a sizable amount of money and time trying to get this camera to operate as advertized. Since starting this project we have had our hands on other Moultrie products that also do time lapse in a much more desirable manner and with much better results. The Picture quality on this replacement camera is better but is not as good as what we have seen on the medium setting on the other Moultrie cameras in our system currently. The cost of these multi purpose other cameras is not that much more than this camera and they give much better results plus additional features like PIR function. Anyway we will go ahead and work this camera back into the system and finish the review as time allows. We do really like the setup but function is somewhat lacking.

04-06-2011 update: This little camera has just about earned an official trip to the 100 yard target mound for its final official function on this earth. We are still experiencing the lock up issue as we did with the original camera. I have studied just about every word that any user has put on the internet and I still have a ton of questions. I understand now that the 32 gig printing in the user manual is some bunk. This camera will only take up to a 16 gig card according to Moultrie and the printing is wrong plus the description just gives the gig size and not the class size. It is now thought that this camera will only take class 2 cards and function as normal. I made several special purchases of higher capacity cards which are the SDHC type but you must look at the little indicator that looks like a C with a number inside to determine the class. Anyway the recent tests we performed this week were with a 16 gig class 4 card and the camera will run and capture just over 2 gigs of memory and then the camera will shut down and lock up. We again ordered some more cards today in the class 2 category. All of our standard cards to date are in the class 2 category and are only in the 2 gig and smaller. In order to operate a week or more and gather quality resolution pictures on a two window setting using the 15 or 30 second setting you will need a high capacity card and a high capacity external battery. The 2 gig cards we have in that class will fill in just a short time so they cannot be used for extended periods. Should all of these problems be related to the lack of proper information in the instruction manual, it will be very up setting. We have spent well over $500 and more time than the law allows getting this camera to work as advertized. I could just set the program on the bottom rez setting and do a short test and pull the plug after a couple days and then move on to the next camera. We want this camera to work but it will be up to Moultrie to publish the proper data after we finally figure it out and prove that it will actually capture more than 2 gigs of data prior to locking up. If this whole issue is due to the class of card it will still blow our mind because it will work as normal all the way up to just over two gigs of storage prior to the lockup. We will also say that the picture quality on the replacement camera is somewhat better but no where close to what we see in the M-100 even in the low settings.

04-16-2011 update: We again went out and managed to find some 16 gig class 2 cards and ran the tests again. This time the camera did work as designed. My suggestion for anyone who is thinking about this camera that you first research a source for good High cap class 2 SD cards and then also put some type of external battery on your list. The Moultrie panel is about the same cost as the camera so you would have less than $200 invested. I will say again I place a lot of the problems on the lack of pre release testing by Moultrie and very poor documentation. The documentation any more should be written and corrected after all the findings of the pre release tests. Closing this review is going to be a pleasure because of all the difficulty it caused and our need to figure it out and get to the bottom of things. If all our reviews went like this one, we would have to go out of business. To date invested on this review is more than the cost of all the other nine reviews that we are either doing presently or have finished so far this year. It is a good thing that we are avid time lapse fans.


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