Having reviewed on Amazon for a while, I was pleased to be offered this outdoor security camera in return for an independent and unbiased review. *** What features matter ? *** ------------------------------------- Do skip this section if you know exactly what you’re looking for and just comparing build quality and features. It’s intended for help people looking into the options available. There’s a huge number of outdoor video cameras around, with an array of features. Do you need a system with a 2Tb hard drive, 1080P resolution at 60 frames per second and remote viewing? Should you go wireless or wired? What are your options? * Independent WIFI based cameras. Easiest to install (no wires), but dependent upon the WIFI signal which you’ll also be competing with your smartphones, tablets, computers and set-top boxes for. Great for home use, but consider a device with a built in micro-SD card which records images locally. Has the advantage a system can be added to over time, but be aware, each camera will need to be near a power supply. Great for home use. * An NVR (Network Video Recorder) based system. These may be wired or wireless and record images to a built in hard drive (typically 1-2Tb). Greater initial outlay, and more effort to install, this records images centrally to a hard disk, is more secure, and potentially more reliable than WIFI. Probably the better solution for a business. * A POE (Power Over Ethernet) camera which may be connected to a router, and store images on a computer or cloud based server. Needs a bit more technical knowledge, this can be used with an NVR, and (like wired based NVR systems), avoids a potentially less reliable WIFI network.
Having decided which technology to use, next what features matter? Resolution: Full HD won’t necessarily produce the best quality image as the lens optics and image sensor also play a part - but does it really matter? Consider your needs? You’ll typically need an image quality good enough to recognise a face and vehicle licence plate for evidence purposes. Anything over 720P is a bonus. One downside of full HD, is it’s slower to view on a smartphone as the signal is transmitted over the mobile network. Huge Storage Capacity: A 1Tb hard drive will store 30 days of HD video before overwriting. Do you intend to be away from home/office for more than 30 days? It would take around 40 hours full time even on 2 x speed to scan a 30 day recording. A device which stores to a local SD card is often a good (cheaper) option, but look out for devices that record when movement is detected (rather than continuously) to save space. Night Time Infra-red: Don’t even bother looking for cameras which record in colour in the dark, there’s no point - you won’t get a clear image. Instead look for an Infra-red capability (it will automatically switch from day/night mode), and record in black and white. Expect clarity to be reduced to as little as 20 feet and cats eyes appear to “shine” in the dark - but the image is normally clear enough to detect a person (or fox). In short, IR is a must - but don’t expect miracles. Build Quality: For a small fortune you could buy a “vandal proof” camera, but it may be more sensible to mount the camera 12+ feet off the ground where it’s harder (but not impossible) to damage. Look out for the IP rating (search wikipedia for “IP Rating” for more). An IP rating of 66 is the gold standard. Not for use under-water, but it means the camera is designed to resist dust, and power water jets (tested against 100 litres of water for 3 minutes). Wired or wireless: Similar to the “Security” question below. If you’re protecting a business go for wired (or POE) every time - it’s more reliable as you’re not dependent upon the speed and availability of your WIFI, which is also subject to hacking. Even if you do install a wireless system, you’ll need a power supply to every camera (so look for very long power cables), but for best image quality, reliability and availability - stick with wired. It will both power your cameras and supply a clean signal feed. On the other hand for “home use” the convenience of no wires from the control box to cameras is a huge bonus - but test each camera is within range of your WIFI router before installation. Remote Access: If you have a smartphone this is a killer feature. Imagine it’s 4am and you’ve woken up to a noise outside. Your heart’s racing, and you’re wondering if that heavy torch by the bed will stop a burglar. Instead you can simply reach for your smartphone, tap on an App, and within seconds see next doors cat raiding the bins. This was my experience, and you also have the (potentially false) feeling of security that you can view your home/business while you’re away. Potentially false, because there’s probably little you could realistically do, aside from phoning the police - but it’s good to have the option all the same. Alerts: If you have Remote Access, it’s likely you’ll also get the ability to configure alerts, eMails, text messages or even a ping on your Apple Watch. Personally, I find these give more false alarms which make them a bit useless. On top end cameras you can however define “hot areas” to detect, and even the movement sensitivity and adjust all this based upon the time of day. Be aware however, it’s a significant investment in time and effort to set up, and you may find you simply raise your blood-pressure, only to find the trees are blowing in the wind. Security: Be aware, if you’re using a system with “Remote Access” features, even if you don’t use them, you’re potentially exposing yourself to hacker. Do use a strong password to protect your device, and change it at least once a year. Excellent tip - use a “Password Manager” app like “One Password” or “LastPass” to securely hold all your passwords. You get access from your smartphone, tablet, computer or even web - and you’ll never need to remember a password again. Privacy and the Law: In some countries it’s potentially illegal to record a public space or even your neighbours property, so be sensible, and discuss it with your neighbour first. You may also want to put up some “warning stickers” indicating 24 hour video surveillance in progress. Often not a legal requirement, but a potential deterrence. How does this device stack up? ------------------------------------ * Resolution and image quality: Excellent. Day and night, it’s pretty good at 720p * Storage Capacity: Capacity for a 32Gb Micro-SD card with an 8Gb card included * Night time Infra-Red: Black and white, and very clear * Build quality: Excellent. Full metal jacket, and IP66. Top marks * Wired or Wireless: Wireless - but be aware your camera needs to be near a power socket * Remote Access: Check. Terrific app, works a treat. What’s good about it ------------------------ * Build quality (as you’d expect at this price) is great. Well built camera in tough aluminium. * Works over both wired and WIFI - means it can be installed remotely with only power cables attached * Professional standard device - includes the ability to connect to a burglar alarm system * Compatible with the ONVIF standard which means it works well with cameras from other manufacturers. Search for “You Tube oHtfVhcIJKI” for details. * Image quality is excellent at 720p - even at night using the infra red * Build for the outdoors - it’s certified waterproof * Includes an 8Gb Micro-SD card (to store images locally), and extendable to 32Gb if needed. Useful if you WIFI connection is not good enough to transmit continuous video * Ability to send alerts to your smartphone or by eMail if movement is detected. * System set up and installation was a breeze - it passed the “man test” - setting it up without instruction What’s not so good ---------------------- * The huge number of cables mean you’ll need to drill a 1.5” diameter hole to thread cables through a wall or drill a smaller hole (for power only), and buy a waterproof out-door junction box to connect the power. * You definitely need to connect this first to your router via a cable (not supplied) to set it up, then switch to using the WIFI connection for monitoring. Also true of many other cameras I’ve tested - so just be aware My Thoughts ------------------ The camera itself is a neat design in black metal, and at about 4.5 inches long (plus 3.5 inch stand to fix to a wall), by 2.5 inches diameter - discrete enough to be hidden away so your home doesn’t look like fort knox. In terms of set up I gave it the “man” test - which means (like most men), completely ignored the instructions and tried to set it up. I was quickly able to connect it to the power, and then the router using my own internet cable (none supplied), and download the app from the Apple App store. I’d recommend this for these cameras as otherwise connection and set-up can be a pain. A short while later I was able to watch video on my iPhone directly from the camera. Effectively all you need is an indoor power socket for the transformer within 6-7 feet or so of where you want to place the camera. I plugged the transformer into a socket indoors, then drilled a hole to thread out the wires, protected by a waterproof junction box. (There’s a large number available on Amazon for about £5/$5. Fixing the junction box to the wall both protects the cables from the ravages of the British weather, and secures the connection to the power. The camera itself was then mounted on the study bracket, which can be swivelled around to point the camera in the right direction. Image quality was quite impressive for the price, and certainly clear enough to detect and identify a burglar. The device includes movement detection, and can send you an eMail or SMS if movement detected. Good to see this is also compatible with the ONVIF open standard. This means you can use a wide range of ONVIF compatible apps and software to control this device. Personally, I find I ignore the movement sensor as I was getting so many false alarms. It is however hugely reassuring when you hear a noise outside at night to quickly reach for the smartphone, and see outside - even in complete darkness. Overall - nicely designed security camera. Gets my vote. Disclosure: While I did receive this item at a discount in return for an unbiased review, I was not paid a penny for the review, and no attempt was made to influence my opinion. These are entirely my views, and to misquote Groucho Marx - “These are my opinions, and if you don’t like them, I have some others”. The original quote was “These are my principles, and if you don’t like them, I have some others”.