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IP006N PTZ IP cam. WOW.
on November 6, 2013
After good experiences with three of the less expensive HooToo pan/tilt (PT) IP210F and one of the fixed outdoor IP212F cameras (and a large array of other-brand commercial IP cams installed at work), I decided to try the more expensive pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) IP006N outdoor camera. The Amazon price for each the first two types of IP cams was $70. This more expensive version combines outdoor protection with the pan-tilt capabilities to the first camera, adds zoom, and maintains night vision. Its current Amazon price is $250.
Out of the well-packed box, the camera appears to be solid and of a much higher quality than the other HooToo cameras I've already installed. Much more of the camera is metal and the form factor is pleasing. Another reviewer wrote that the camera is beautiful and I agree.
Unlike the other HooToo cams, which I mounted inside and onto a house, I chose a harsh outdoor environment about 100 feet away from the house, where the camera is exposed to salt-water spray and heavy weather. This required construction of a mounting post, a trench for a buried power cable, and over two months of experimentation with various mounting and wiring configurations.
For those familiar with the HooToo web-based programming interface, the setup is identical for this camera when compared with the other two HooToo's IP cam products I already own (five other cams). Programming any IP camera (whether HooToo or not) requires a fair amount of computer experience and patience. Even with a fair background in network technology, I found the learning curve steep with the first cams. However, having programmed five other cams in the past year (both wired and wireless on a network with bridged extensions), programming was familiar and uncomplicated with this new IP006N camera.
For those unfamiliar with IP camera programming, the basic steps involve accessing the camera via a browser-based interface accessed on a LAN while the camera is plugged into an open Ethernet port on a same-network router. After accessing the camera, a port number must be assigned, wireless access enabled (with network settings and password) and Internet access programmed. Security settings, device names, email notification, and dozens of other settings can be configured as well.
To allow Internet access to the camera, the network router must next be accessed to (1) configure a fixed LAN IP address for the MAC camera identifier and (2) open the router port to allow access to the LAN from the Internet.
To reiterate, all of these steps are shared by other brands and models of IP cameras, so naïve users should not be too quick to criticize HooToo if they have difficulties setting up their IP cams. For the non-tech-oriented user, this technology is complex and is best done by someone with network programming experience.
For what it's worth, one of the reasons I initially chose HooToo over competing brands was its reputation as a company that prizes its customer service support. As other Amazon reviewers have commented, I found this to be completely true, and was more than impressed by HooToo's service accessibility, patience, and willingness to assist me with any question I raised about setting up any of its products. As a typical example, when one of my HooToo cams lost its dedicated web-accessible IP address, customer service sent me a specific personalized protocol to reset the cam, providing me with a new unique IP address for Internet camera access. This obviously took a fair amount of effort and time on their part and is not the kind of service I've ever received from other tech companies unless I was paying for tech support services (Microsoft, Apple, and HP come to mind).
I've now had the camera working and under testing for about two months. No fault of the camera itself, but it took me a month to work out the installation and power kinks to get the camera to stay on and not repeatedly reset itself. Because of this experience and the limited number of reviews thus far (since it's a relatively new HooToo product as of November 2013), I'm going to list my criticisms of the camera before reporting further on its virtues.
First, I found that the nominal operating voltage range for this camera is a bit tighter than the prior HooToo cameras I already installed. For comparison, the IP210F cams operate on 5VDC. In reality, I feed several of these IP210Fs using both the included AC bricks as well as lead-acid batteries off of a PV energy house system. Doing so, I've found the IP210F cam operates from a range of about 4.5-6.5VDC. It may operate at higher voltages too, but I don't want to risk burning out the main board by experimenting. Likewise, I've found the fixed outdoor IP212F operates from a range of about 11.5-14.5VDC.
In contrast, this camera, the IP006N, has a narrower operating voltage range, about 12.0-13.0VDC. Above and below this range, the camera sometimes drops off the network or resets itself.
Second, the wiring bundle (including connectors for Ethernet, microphone, speaker, and power) is not weatherproof and must be enclosed in a box to protect it from water and corrosion. I mounted a box on the pole beneath the camera for this purpose.
Third, it took me several days to figure out that the protective dome unscrews to provide access to the camera itself, and that the reason I couldn't get the camera to fully pan or tilt was because the inner camera (under the dome) had been wrapped in foam to protect it during shipping. Opening the dome and removing the foam easily solved that problem. Incidentally, the camera is set up to be mounted with the dome down. (I originally mounted it dome forward and couldn't figure out why the pan and tilt controls were not intuitive. This was fixed as soon as I remounted it dome down.)
My fourth criticism has to do with the apps that I use to control our cameras and view the images. Our technology is Apple-based, and Safari's interface doesn't allow easy control of any of HooToo's cams. (FireFox on Windows doesn't either.) Based on other Amazon reviews, I tried several iDevice-based apps and found the greatest functionality through the app, IP Cam Viewer Pro. This actually works better than the app suggested by HooToo's customer service. Nevertheless, when the IP006N is accessed over the Internet, any pan or tilt commands result in sending the camera to the extreme edge of its visual range, rather than simply advancing the camera a few degrees at a time. This is not a problem for the IP210F cams or when accessing the IP006N over the LAN.
Fifth, the video recording feature on this (and all HooToo cameras) is not understandable. I can take still shots easily, saving them to a computer or device, or emailing them on the fly. Nevertheless, I am unable to figure out how to access video recordings I take on this or any HooToo camera.
Lastly, at least one other reviewer has commented that the IP006N dome is not entirely waterproof. In two months of use, I've not noted this problem despite having had several major rain and windstorms. However, after reading about this possibility, I did ensure that the dome was fully screwed on after mounting the camera.
For the price, the quality of this camera is unbeatable. Combined with customer support, I absolutely recommend this above the competition. HooToo actually mailed me a replacement IP006N after my initial one dropped off our network and I couldn't figure out how to reset it. (After much troubleshooting, it's possible that that problem was due to voltage fluctuations on our 12VDC buried cable rather than camera itself. Whatever the case, the new camera worked when the initial one did not.)
Image quality is a major improvement over the less expensive indoor and outdoor HooToo cams that I have scattered around the house and porches. The ability to magnify images on the fly is something I always thought might be nice, but after seeing the quality of the IP006N video magnification, optical zoom functionality is something I now consider essential rather than simply optional.
Brightness in day and dusk light settings is good. Night color correction is still a bit lacking, but better than non-corrected images from the other cameras. As other reviewers have noted, the infrared LED night illumination is limited to the area immediately around the camera. (Expecting more illumination is analogous to using a flash on a camera to take a night image of a football field. External lighting is required for such photos.)
Overall, this new HooToo offering provides customers with a high-quality weatherproof, PTZ IP camera at a great price point. After some initial installation and setup issues, I now have wireless access to superb video from over 100 feet from the nearest router in a harsh outdoor environment. HooToo offers excellent support despite the complex technology and setup required. The camera has excellent daytime and good night images, near 360 panning, great zoom features, and an interface accessible with user-friendly apps. Similar offerings by other companies simply fall short.