**Final Update – Both cameras have now been taken down and removed for higher resolution cameras (Axis and Mobotix)**
**Update – Please Scroll To The Bottom To See My 6 Month Update Issues**
**Update 2: It is now March 2012 and both cameras are still in operation. The cool weather makes them more reliable, but every once in a while they have to be powered off and reset. The dead pixel problem has appeared to level off, and has not gotten too much worse yet. They have seen plenty of harsh sun, rain, and 100+ F heat, so they have proven to be fairly robust. SSID’s for the router need to be visible otherwise the cameras will often disconnect.**
**Update 3: It is August 2012 and both cameras are still operational, although they sometimes need resetting to work properly. They have been through many rain and dust storms, and are left on 24/7 but are no longer my primary cameras as they are low resolution. I plan to eventually replace them with higher resolution weather sealed cameras.**
When people search the internet for security cameras, more often than not, they come across the Foscam line of wireless cameras. Foscam is a Chinese company that makes IP cameras that connect to the user’s home network and can be viewed across the internet if setup properly. There are many different models of the Foscam cameras, including bullet, indoor, and PTZ. This review focuses on the Foscam FI8904W Outdoor camera.
How It Works:
I’ll begin the review by explaining how IP cameras work if you have no prior background (if you do skip ahead). IP, or internet protocol, cameras work in the same way that other wireless devices you may own do, such as an iPod Touch, laptop, or any devices that connects to the internet without wires using WiFi. Since the camera is attached to the users home network through the wireless router, any computer attached to that same network can access the camera’s feed simply by opening an internet browser, and typing in the address of the camera (ex. “192.168.10.1“).
After typing these numbers, or address, into the browser, you will see a page with a box, as shown in the photo below. Be sure to choose the correct login, based on which browser you are using (Internet Explorer (top) or FireFox/Google Chrome (bottom)).
After logging in with the correct username and password (both the username and password can be changed by the user), you will be brought to a screen with 3 tabs on the left side; Device Status, Live View, and Device Management. Note that these menu’s may be slightly different depending on which camera model you have. Clicking on the live view opens a window and displays what the camera sees in real time, as shown below. This bring up the first issue with these cameras.
ISSUE 1: Foscam cameras do not have IR (infrared) cut filters, so during the day images will often be very washed out like the image below.
There are ways to make the daytime image darker, by adjusting the brightness and contrast settings in the left hand menu bar, but you will have to readjust them for proper nighttime viewing. I found that settings of 4 for both brightness and contrast provide an acceptable day, and good night image. Below is the video during the day, then at night below.
The 8904W provides a maximum resolution of 640 x 480 pixels at 15 frames per second, and 320 x 240 pixels at 30 frames per second. 15 frames per second shows movement as somewhat “choppy”, whereas 30 frames per second is smooth, like watching a movie.
The main purpose and use for these security cameras is to be able to record intruders or people who walk in view of the camera. To do this there are several options:
1.) FTP Image Upload (continuous/interval or motion detection)
2.) Email Upload (motion detection)
3.) Video Recording (Internet Explorer Only – Computer must remain ON)
4.) NAS (external Network Attached Storage Device – Extra $$)
The first 3 ways are included in the Foscam software and can be setup relatively easily. Images can be uploaded to an FTP server (file transfer protocol) (its like a folder stored on the internet), via email, or using Internet Explorer and keeping you computer ON and connected to the camera continuously.
ISSUE 2: Motion Detection – The built in Foscam motion detection is NOT very good. Most of the time it is too sensitive, detecting changes in light or small bugs, or not sensitive enough.
The motion detection is all or nothing, i.e. you cannot select certain areas of the frame to monitor.
The 4th option is to use a network attached storage device that has it’s own software to record video or images. One of the more affordable devices is the Synology DS211J which can record up to 5 cameras simultaneously.
So bottom line, is this camera worth buying?
Yes, and No. The price point (~$100 USD) is VERY attractive to most buyers, but issues with wireless and lack of an IR cut filter may be a deal breaker for you. I currently have 2 8904w’s that have been running continuously for over a month, and pixels have started to die, leaving red colored specks at night on the image. Would I buy these again knowing all the issues? NO. I would opt for a better, more reliable manufacturer even if it means double, or triple the price. If you want a camera for the inside your home, garage, or to monitor an exterior door, this might fit the bill for an inexpensive security camera.
ISSUE 3: If you buy a Foscam camera be sure to buy an authentic camera. I bought mine from Amazon Seller “DBROTH” and eBay seller “usahitec”.
6 Month Update:
The build quality of the Foscam product line is extremely low, and in just 6 months the number of dead pixels has more than tripled. Click on the image below for a closer look. When I first installed the camera there were a number of dead pixels that showed up as red on the image. Now, just 6 months later the number of affected pixels has grown to more than 18. I do not anticipate the camera will last much longer.
Brands to look into are: ACti, Axis, Vivotek, Sony, Sanyo, and Bosch. For more information take a look at this forum (http://www.networkcamerareviews.com/forums/viewforum.php?f=8) or (http://www.cctvforum.com/viewforum.php?f=19&sid=e84c891f3eb38c3184d0652e1d568086) for images and screenshots.
Quick Tech Specs:
Max Resolution: 640 x 480 (15fps [Recording software informed me I was getting closer to 7fps])
Minimum Illumination: 0.5 Lux
Infrared: 24 IR Leds (20m max)
Have a question/comment? Leave it below!