Network IP Cameras

Been looking for a easy to use camera that works on an IP network. This is far harder than it looks. What I’d like is a system that works in Wifi, ow light, is reliable enough for 24/7 monitoring and can monitor remotely (eg outside the house) and can record video streams locally (so you don’t have to pay some gigantic fee). Finally, it needs to be high resolution (at least 1080p) and have audio and at least 15fps.
Here is what i’ve looked at and the issues:

  • Stem Innovations Izon. This $129 camera I got about a year ago and the software has been the flaky part. First, it needs to have a non-hidden SSID (which I really dislike for security reasons and why is that anyway?). It is SD (480p) and takes videos which are a slow 15fps. Image quality is decent in high light, but doesn’t work well in low light. It is super small and cool looking though. The big limitation is that there is no way to get the video out of the it. They have a proprietary recording system that only captues 30 seconds or so and you have to pay $10 or so a month to see them. Why doesn’t this just dump to an FTP server I don’t know. Also, when it doesn’t connect, you are kind of SOL as there is no real debugging interface. Last limitation is that it only works from an Android or iOS device. There is no web (?!!) interface. Finally reliability isn’t super as it sometimes loses connection. It does know how to tunnel from one network to another so you can remote monitor, but this is also reasonably flaky and connection isn’t always made. The events system does work decently well, although again this does tend to hang. Rating C-
  • Real Baby Monitor. For $5, turn a spare iOS device with a camera into an inhouse baby monitor. This is pretty cheap if you have an old iPhone around. The main issues are the older cameras really don’t do well in low light (way worse than Izon). Also, you have to be really careful with the “baby” unit. If you click something then it goes off line. It doesn’t appear that you can just put it into lock mode. And it isn’t super reliable, you can’t leave it on for 8 hours for instance, the connection appears to hang. It doesn’t allow recording not does it work remotely, so just for in house monitoring. So does have a Mac client which is nice and it will notify you if it detects motion. Rating D (although for the lmitied purpose of watching your baby in a pinch at someone elses house for 30 minutes it might be OK).

Here are systems I’ve looked at but haven’t bought because they fail one test or another. There don’t seem to be any decent review sites for this so I’ve mainly been using Amazon and sadly have rejected just about every camera on Amazon because most can’t get to 4/5 stars. But looking at them mainly in the Surveillance Camera section, here are the 4/5 rated ones:

  • Dropcam HD. Like the Izon, this has a beautiful form factor. The main issue is that like the Izon, it is a closed system. You have to buy their montlhy monitoring service to see anything. Doesn’t make much sense to spend $150 and then get locked into a $150 a year proprietary system. I learned that from Tivo!
  • Foscam FI8910W. This is just about the perfect camera because it does pan and tilt and has night vision and really cheap at $85. The main issue is that it is low resolution (480P). Sadly the upgraded high definition version gets just terrible reviews. There are also third party viewers like IP Cam Viewer. The setup is apparently quit funky and you need to understand port forwarding to make it work remotely.
  • Foscam FI9821W. This is the upgraded 720p version costing $155. The main issues are it is only F/2.4 so relatively slow lense and the software has been really immature, although with the recet 1.1.1.11 (I’m not kidding!) releasse, it seems to hae stabilized. Also apparently you can replace the lense for $2 for an F/2 with 100 degree view angle. You still need a third party viewer to see on your phone. It does support 720p30 but note that like most of these products, you have to use a Windows machine (because they use ActiveX!) to view the images.
  • Zavio F3206. From a review on Amazon, he likes this one much better. It is F/1.8 and 1080p, but doesn’t have pan and tilt or IR immumination.
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4 thoughts on “Network IP Cameras

  1. We use the AirSight from X10.com
    We have internet access for multiple users
    We can designate how they can use the camera
    We can have it sense motion and send us pictures or record video
    It has audio capability
    It can be accessed remotely over the internet through many devices
    It costs around $100.00 and is easy to setup
    It can be wireless so you only have to connect it to power

  2. Rich,
    I have a whole box of disappointing IP cameras. Suggest you try Axis Communications (www.axis.com) – they are the best I have found. Have not tried them for HD resolution, but they are unique in that they have good hardware and more importantly software that is both functionally complete and actually works as advertised. I have used their net cams and also their video encoder to put multiple analog cameras onto a network. They are the not cheapest but well worth it to have something that works and support in english.

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