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Weekend Project: Dropcam Surveillance Camera Installation and REVIEW

by Roy Choi | August 17, 2013August 17, 2013 9:00 am PDT

We’ve already installed a pretty robust surveillance camera at the TechnoBuffalo Office, complete with 24 hour recording and the ability to check-in on the office through its mobile app.  The camera kit was filled with what felt like a dozen miles worth of wiring, running out to 8 separate cameras. After you’ve drilled in dozens of screws, attempted to hide the wires through paneling and holes in walls, you have to make sure the networking and ports are working correctly to broadcast remotely. Our existing system is not without its hiccups. The quality of video is dependent on the compression and you have to choose between quality and quantity (more hours of footage on DVR vs. whether or not you can make out people’s faces).

The Dropcam avoids all that. So when the company offered to send us a few Dropcam HD cameras to try out we welcome the opportunity.

Installation

  • First step, plug in the USB plug into the back of the camera, connect the other end to your PC or Mac.  The files are built-in to the camera and you can see the files on your computer once the camera is plugged in.
  • The system will prompt you to either input your Dropcam account information or to create a new account.  A new account simply requires you to enter a username, password, and email. You enter the serial number and Wi-Fi password in to the console to connect. No additional wires are necessary other than the power.
  • Unplug the camera.
  • Determine where you want to place the camera.  Dropcam has a few recommendations, especially if you want to keep thieves from messing with it (out of reach or hidden) and keeping the lens out of direct sunlint. If you decide to mount it on a wall you can do so with a few screws.
  • Plug in USB cord to the camera and in to the wall wart, no network cable.
  • Name the Dropcam.

That’s it. Honestly I think the total set up time was around 3 minutes total.

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Camera

Dropcam Review - Nightvision

The Dropcam records video at 720p resolution and looks really good for just streaming video. However, you may run into broadband issues when broadcasting at 720p. Your connection may not be able to support the rate, you can decrease the quality at which the Dropcam broadcasts. The camera’s settings are all controlled through a console available via browser or through the mobile app (iOS or Android).

You toggle ON/OFF settings (e.g., status light, HD video, night vision, audio, camera scheduling) and make adjustments to sound or camera scheduling. The nighttime quality is really clean too.  Though everything turns black and white, as expected, the quality of the video is really clear.

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Audio Quality

The microphone is really great, though it can be a bit too sensitive. In most cases it would pick up every detail throughout the office. We turned down the sensitivity to the lowest setting, which is probably ideal for most rooms, as it should pick up casual conversation volumes just fine.

The Dropcam also has the ability to broadcast audio through the camera’s embedded speaker via the console or app. You can tell an intruder “GO AWAY!” or “I can see YOU!”

Overall I think the camera quality and audio quality are great.  Some possible improvements may be an added battery source, say for those moments you want to use it away from a power source, such as outside, in the backyard, by the pool or wherever. Not a deal-breaker by any means, but some camera options on the market offer a feature like that, acting more like baby monitors.

DVR

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Everything is stored in the cloud. With every Dropcam, you receive a two-week trial of Dropcam’s DVR service.  The system is pretty responsive and plays back in decent quality. You can even make clips like this one…

https://www.dropcam.com/c/2423d3d330f5476c9515745b9ff84a89.mp4

After the trial period you can pay to have the service extended at a rate of $9.99 for the first camera and $4.99 for the each additional unit. One feature I wished was an available option was to be able to save locally, say on my own hard drive or computer. That being said, I like the cloud DVR service that Dropcam offers: intuitive, quick and ability to easily make clips.

Console / App

The browser-based console is really easy to navigate around. Recording, playback and clipping is easy to use. Up to 3 hours of clips can be stored.

The mobile app too is equally easy to use. The only option not available on the mobile app is the ability to cut/save clips.  But you can always do that on a computer.

The browser-based console plays video in flash, so unless your mobile device supports flash, you won’t be able to play video unless you are running the Dropcam mobile app.

The browser and app both have the ability to alert you in case of sound or movement.  You can choose to receive email alerts or mobile alerts.

BUY

Dropcam has got to be the easiest camera to set up and has amazing video and sound quality.

Overall, the Dropcam has to be the easiest camera to set up and has amazing video and sound quality. All for just under $149. We received so many comments about how great the quality of the video was especially considering the live, streaming nature of the video. We love it.

You may have seen us use the Dropcam at the TechnoBuffalo office shooting all sorts of videos in the TechnoBuffalo Studio.  You can probably attest to the quality of the video. If you’re in the market for an inexpensive, high quality surveillance camera, give the Dropcam a try.

PROS

  • Setup/Installation
  • Video and audio quality
  • Price
  • Cloud services

CONS

  • No local DVR
  • No battery, must be plugged in to power source

Roy Choi

Roy Choi is a Southern California native. He has been infatuated with technology reviews ever since he bought his first crummy laptop in the summer...

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