Advice for Battery Life Issues

I received a couple of (new) replacement S-50i cameras from Moultrie six months ago, because the M-999i cameras I had began to develop intermittent issues. I found immediately that the replacements were worse, yet, despite a lot of communication with Moultrie support, could not pin down the issue exactly. I spent several weeks testing SD cards, because this is what support told me was the problem. Since I could not replicate any issue involving SD cards, I ruled this out early on.

I continued testing and have now determined one problem definitely, so I decided to share it here. The battery tray on the S-50i is, in my opinion, simply defective. I believe this is the reason that Moultrie recommends certain batteries over others, because the dimensions of those batteries are slightly different, and tend to compensate for this defective battery tray. And I believe this is the primary cause of battery life issues with these cameras.

You can see from the technical data sheets below that the batteries that are not recommended by Moultrie can be up to 0.3mm shorter than the ones that are recommended:

Duracell
Energizer

In practice, they are significantly shorter and other brands may be even worse.

In my testing, this is the crux of the issue. And it specifically has to do with the length of the "tab" on the top of the positive end of the AA batteries. I have been able to mix and match different brands of batteries in order to achieve reliable operation, as long as only long "tabs" are in contact with the Moultrie battery tray terminals and not short ones. When short tabs are in contact with the terminals, the battery tray does not reliably transmit power as verified with a voltmeter. This results in excessive resistance, excessive battery usage and unreliable operation.

In my opinion, this is likely not the only issue effecting poor battery life on recent models. But it definitely is one, and one that is not openly acknowledged by Moultrie, other than via their cryptic recommendation of using one brand of battery over others. So I feel that this should be mentioned here for the benefit of users experiencing similar issues and receiving no help from support.

And, as someone who has been in the technical consulting business for almost twenty years, I just have to point out how bizarre it is for an electronics manufacturer to require of their users, not only specific battery brands, but specific types of memory cards and specific methods of formatting those memory cards. These have been industry standards for decades. Moultrie needs to start designing their products around the existing standards, to work reliably within the specifications of those standards, not impose arbitrary requirements on end users.

Comments

  • Hmm, a lot to think about. I've always thrown Dollar General or Walgreens Alkalines in mine. When I ran an S50i with Mobile. I hooked a 12v and splitter to it. The 2 I've used really didn't have battery issues. Other than it having a light up screen, during opening to check cards. Good detailed info though.

  • edited January 14

    It's an interesting theory-and admittedly, I've never owned a S50i. But I have owned just about every other model since 2016 and I have not had any battery loss issues.

    I've used quite a few different batteries from cheapo dollar store brands to Energizer Lithiums.-and most everything in between. I get basically the same result with all Alkalines (Lithium excluded)

    As for the suggestion to have users use a specific battery, that's not something only Moultrie does. I've been in photography for 25+ years and I've seen quite a few manufactures make recommendations such as this. They're trying to set their customers up for success. Not all batteries are created equal.

    You may be right, but 4+ years of me using probably 10+ different types of batteries in about 10 or 12 different Moultrie cameras without issue, makes me pause on that being the root cause.

  • I have had probably a dozen s50i cameras counting ones that were replaced. i have 4 or 5 at the moment. I use Rayovac batteries that I buy from lowes. The problem with the S50i is they are battery hogs. pure and simple. I really like the pictures and videos I get from them but they like to eat batteries. Solar and external batteries highly recommended.

  • Upon further testing, I have found it is not only the length of the battery "tab" that is an issue, but the width as well. Some brands of AA batteries have significantly wider positive tabs than others. This, along with the length, helps them to make contact with the connectors on Moultrie battery trays.

    As I said previously, this is not the only issue affecting battery life on these cameras. This issue does not affect all cameras. But it is an issue, and one which can be verified by anyone with a metric ruler. The Moultrie battery trays simply do not comport to the AA battery dimensions, which has been an international standard for nearly 60 years.

    Below are links to three photos of a single battery tray in order to demonstrate this width issue. One set of connectors on this tray works fine. The other, as verified with a multimeter, does not make physical connection with standard-sized AA batteries. You can see from the photos that this is due to the gap in the middle of the connector.

    good
    bad
    modified

    Bending these connectors with a screwdriver and pliers, as pictured, not only allowed them to make contact with standard-sized AA batteries, but significantly increased battery life over what I had been able to achieve on this camera previously.

    Furthermore, this issue should be expected to worsen with lower ambient temperatures. The long, coiled wire connectors will contract significantly as the temperature drops, increasing the width of the gap in the middle and potentially disconnecting from the battery, causing unreliable operation.

    I should point out that these are two separate issues. The length issue is caused by plastic obstructions on the Moultrie battery tray. The width issue is caused by wide gaps in the middle of some metal connectors on the battery tray. Any particular brand of battery could trigger one or both issues. And some trays may not have the width issue at all.

  • edited February 9

    I'd just buy a $20 12v 12ah battery and put it in a $7 dollar field box connected to a less than $10 5.5x2.1 cord and bypass the whole internal mess. Charge the battery up again next year. And never buy AA's again.

  • Does anyone know if the battery trays from the S50i are made differently from the other Moultrie models? I don't see a replacement tray offered on the site for the S series.

  • edited February 10

    It's a 12 battery camera tray @RocklockHunter. Everything else was 8 I think. I haven't opened it up in so long I can't remember if it ejected the same or not. My son usually checks on it.

  • @donejones Yeah, I didn't really write that well. I was trying to leave the office and was multi tasking.

    What I was getting at is if they are made by a different manufacturer or assembly process. If so, there may be something to this feedback. If not, it's hard to explain why this isn't happening with any of the other models.
  • The White Flash and S50i use the same battery tray.

  • Another potential issue to be aware of: cold solder on the negative battery terminal.

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