Webcams

Well, trying to find a decent webcam with good picture quality (1080p), low light capability (F/1.8 and fast enough), connection via Wifi, and also easy access (so it dumps the videos somewhere reasonable, like a file server and you can view it with a mobile app or through any browser). this turns out to be pretty much the null set. Here’s what I’ve tried:

  • Stem Innovations Izon. This is pretty low resolution and setup requires an wifi network that is not hidden (yuck!) and the big thing is that it only stores 30 seconds clips in the cloud and the service is expensive. Also the application itself is pretty unstable and there is no viewing from a browser, you can only use a iOS (and maybe Android device). Still at $130, it isn’t too expensive and looks cool. The main feature that is useful is motion and sound detection so you can use it like a IR beam, something goes across and it trips. Low light performance isn’t great, although if you have a night light it isn’t too bad.

The ones I haven’t tried, but have been looking at:

  • Foscam FI9821W. This is a follow on to the very popular 480p camera the FI8910. It is 720p so nearly high definition. It is F/2.4 and is also wifi. The most helpful reviewer gave it a 4/5 for the price ($150) but his current favorite is a Zavio F3206 ($270). The big drawbacks are that it requires Windows to browse (??!, our Axis box is the same way, WTF). Also there are definitely bugs. Like motion detection not working and sound issues and the Foscam mobile app is buggy, although there are third parties that support it. To see outside of the house, you need to make port forwarding work (ugh!). It does automatically pan and tilt remotely but it doesn’t work super well. It does dump to an FTP server. There are also lots of problems reported like intermittent wifi connection, various firmware glitches. Not a good sign.
  • Dropcam HD. This got a lot of play on the web. Like Stem’s Izon, it is nice looking but is also HD. It has its own proprietary back end though and a big charge for storage etc. I really want an open camera and not get locked into a $150/year plan with echoes of being trapped like I was with TiVo.
  • Zavio F3206. This is a fixed camera, but is wider resolution (if you need just the wired version, then get the F3201). Has 2 megapixel 1080p30. It also producs H.264 streams and is 802.11b/g/n. The lense is also fast at F/1.8 and it has two way audio. And it supports Bonjour, has iPhone apps as well. And you can’t record video onto a Mac (??!!), you have to buy a dedicated box called the NUUO Titan NVR (which is one of the few boxes with Mac software). You also can’t hear audio on a Mac as it uses ActiveX in its viewer (?!!). It’s an older camera having shipping in 2011. It doesn’t have IR either. A sister of this unit is the F3210 which is the same but has infrared emitters ($260) while still doing 1080p30 recording but doesn’t have Wifi. This seems like a pretty good choice.
  • Wifi Baby. This is an SD camera that is based on the Y-cam. Good review from TUAW, it is nice because it has IR built in. The youtube demo is pretty amazing.
  • Zavio F7210 has variable focus and auto IR F/1.2, but it is a huge box meant for wireless survelilance. It has a mounting bracket as well. And you can add a dongle for $35 that makes it a wireless camera. It is also variable zoom 3-8mm, so if you don’t need it to look pretty, add good choice. It even has automatic storage to a Samba server. It doesn’t have IR, but it is WDR enhanced, so it takes over and underexposed pictures and combines them. It is larger, but not huge at 115x64x56mm (4.5″x2.5″x2.2″). And synology fully supports it with their surveillance station
  • Y-Cam Cube HD 1080. Seems like a nice design, but their 1080p camera is just about to ship ($350) so probably want to wait a bit.
  • Zavio F1105. 720p resolution, $120 and F/2.4 fixed lens with 67 FOV and wifi enabled. A good price if it works.
  • Zavio P5111. This is a pan and tile (but not zoom) camera with 1280×800 at 30-fps resoution and IR emitters as well and wired ethernet ($340). The D5111 is 1280×800 at 15fps but is varifocus (eg zoom) ($350) while the D5115 is wifi but only 1280×800 at 15fps and fixed focus ($350)
  • Samsung. Actually, they have some of the best reviews on Amazon, so worth a look. Their systems are closed like the SEW-3037. That is, they have a dedicated video monitor and are relatively lower reslution. But a good choice if you don’t need anything fancy (unlike me!)
  • Vivotek PT8133. CCTVCameraPros.com seems to come up as a focused site, they are recommending the PT8133 ($330) with pan and tilte and 1280×800 at 30 fps (so not quite 1080p which is 1920×1080, but close to 720p), it is wired and does patrolling. the best sellers for more professional grade is the Vivoteck-FD8162 which is 1080p, 15M IR range, two way audio ($600 since it is pro grade and in a vandalproof dome) or the Vivotek PZ8111 which is only 720×480 but is PTZ (10x optical zoom) and indoor for $690

As another aside, if you don’t love all this proprietary software, there is iSpy which does open source camera software, like most of this word, it is Windows based, so sounds like getting virtualbox up and running is a must for this. Or using a Raspberry Pi running Windows perhaps.
Look at all of these, the most interesting camera here is the Zavio F7210. It is expensive yes and large, but it does have an amazing capability. Main thing it needs is an IR illuminator

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