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170 of 177 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Only docking a star for camera quality - easy to setup/use/monitor
I have been using this system now for over 6 months. It has never crashed, and has actually saved me in a legal matter. A major delivery company delivered 3 laptops to my home, leaving them on my porch - except they really only delivered 2! Caught on tape! BAM, no problem getting that claim paid extremely quickly.

The set up of the dvr is not entirely...
Published 19 months ago by Candace Strickler

versus
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent System for Price Minor Security Problem
I bought this system mainly because of its price and the decent reviews across the web of the company. It is not a high end system but it will do for regular home surveillance. I tested the product out of the box and everything I tested worked fine. The cameras came on and the DVR was functional. (did not test the system over the internet) The IR is not the best...
Published 21 months ago by theguardianii


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170 of 177 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Only docking a star for camera quality - easy to setup/use/monitor, February 9, 2013
By 
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This review is from: Night Owl Security STA-168 Night Owl Security 16 Channel STA DVR with 8 Night Vision Cameras 500 GB HD and Smartphone Viewing, 30-Feet (Electronics)
I have been using this system now for over 6 months. It has never crashed, and has actually saved me in a legal matter. A major delivery company delivered 3 laptops to my home, leaving them on my porch - except they really only delivered 2! Caught on tape! BAM, no problem getting that claim paid extremely quickly.

The set up of the dvr is not entirely intuitive. It does include a helpful CD/DVD installation media; which includes a full manual, and software for most every platform for controlling and viewing the cameras. The best resource is the company's website. They have a very robust website, with video links to every imaginable question answered and demonstrated on film.

You could just stick up the cameras, plug them in, and everything would work. No doubt, most will want to delve in a bit to customize some of the settings.

I will break this into 2 sections. The DVR itself including software, and the cameras.

The DVR:

It is black in color, light weight, and housed in a metal case. The are multiple ports on the back for up to 16 bnc connectors, Video out: vga (dsub) and BNC (includes adapter BNC to RCA plug), usb mouse, ethernet, pan tilt and zoom, and DC power supply input.

You should know that if you are putting this near your entertainment stack, there is an annoying red light that will incessantly blink when motion is detected and the unit is recording. You can obviously fix this with a bit of tape.

The interface is a bit quirky, but you can figure it out fairly quickly. Mostly, left click selects, and right click takes you back. Somehow the network autoconfigure, automatically opened all of the necessary ports on my Verizon FIOS router. I am capable of accomplishing this task, but it was nice not to have to worry about it. The main port that need to be opened is 9000 (media) and port 80 (web) on your network. You will also need your IP address. (this is the ip for your router, not your computer) visit ipchicken . com to find it quickly.

!!!!!<<<<< note >>>>> !!!!!
I do not recall seeing it anywhere in the manual - but you MUST set a user name AND password for any of the network stuff to work.

You will need to adjust the color for your cameras. None of my cameras had good color by default. I was able to achieve pretty good results by fooling around with the color options in the camera control submenu.

Other than setting the motion areas (accomplished by clicking and dragging) - and color - recording time slots, if you choose that -- there is not much else use for the dvr's menus. Most everything else you will do through the web interface.

I did not use the DNS web address that is offered. I used the nightowl dvr software (NETVIEWER) that is available from the website or off of the cd. It is very robust, and allows for a multitude of options. From the nightowl dvr software menu you can designate cameras to send you digital snaps when motion is detected (you need a gmail address). To use NETVIEWER you need to have port 9000 open on your router. Then input your ip address (ip chicken - remember) the user name (you pick) and password (no restrictions here).

From netviewer you can play back captured footage. Simply select a date, and a channel (camera), you will then be presented with a time-stamped list of all the recordings for that date. As you play back these files, they are automatically saved to your computer. The default path is under "Local Settings". Once these files have been downloaded, you can really easily convert them to standard *.avi file using the converter that is on the included dvd (or download from website). it takes mere seconds and I used it to give to the police, and the delivery company.

There are Pan/Tilt/Zoom features available in the Netviewer console as well, however - none of the included cameras have this feature.

You can also playback LIVE video only, using an iPad or iPhone. The Nightowl app is available in the app store. It is a drag that you can only view live video, but their support team has assured me that you will have that ability in an upcoming release.

One GREAT use for this is checking to see if your amazon delivery has been left on your porch yet or not!

Overall the DVR does exactly what it claims. I have a 500gb drive, and I still don't think I have begun to overwrite yet (another feature you can set from the DVR interface). The playback is clear, and reliable. The motion capture record works very well. You can have it capture june bugs flying around, up to squirrels, or only catch the delivery driver stealing your laptops.

THE CAMERAS:

They are a step up from total crap. They do not fogup, so far none have failed, and if they do get a little rain on them, it tends to roll off quickly. I did treat mine with rain-x so they work even better now, but it was never a problem before through rain, sleet, AND snow.

You get 8 with the STA186. They are all the same. A hooded full metal body, and painted metal base. The cameras are connected to the dvr via the included BNC+DC combo cables that are included. I think they are all 60ft long. I needed 2 cables of 100ft, which I found here on amazon for a very reasonable price. The power is provided by 2 included DC power supplies (some people call them transformers). Each power supply powers 4 cameras (there is a sort of Hydra connector that turns the single plug into 4). Be sure to note the 'sex' of your cables before you run them. It matters which way the power plug goes! I was in some pretty inhospitable spots with my install and would never want to have to go back. I used a 5/8" speed bore for my cable runs to get through. This is a fairly tight squeeze that requires you to first push through the BNC connector, then power connector. A little expanding foam or caulk will fix the hole.

The camera mount is secured by 3 screws. The included screws are total crap - you will likely want to use your own. You will want to the have the cameras removed from the base while mounting the bases. The camera is easily removed from the base by unscrewing the set screw that allows the camera to rotate around a recessed collar. The further adjustment of the camera is accomplished by a ball-socket connection that can be secured using the finger adjustment nuts.

A helpful hint I used was to have the iPad on the ladder with me as I adjusted the cameras.

One issue with the cameras is the night-vision feature sometimes creates some distortion in medium-low light. When the camera is getting confused as to whether to run in night mode or full color. Speaking of Night mode - they shine here. The night vision feature is excellent, and in some ways more clear than the full color.

My overall impression is very good on the system as a whole. The biggest complaint is the camera quality. The DVR interface is a little less than intuitive - but the NetViewer software is excellent. iOS APP works great on the iPhone and the iPad.
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73 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Super happy with this purchase, December 6, 2012
By 
C Graham (Pleasant Hill, ca United States) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I have owned camera systems in the past, and recently purchased this Night Owl system and am pleasantly surprised by the level of customer support I have received from them. I was able to reach their 24/7 tech support via phone after I got home from work. 2 things of note, 1st, its awesome that they are open any time as I hate calling from work as this unit is for home, and 2nd, the support wasn't overseas with someone reading from a training manual (Cassandra was very nice and professional).

The cameras are solid and are simple to install, others I’ve used in the past are cheap plastic. They include a simple 1 page quick start guide that will get you from start to finish, and also watched the how-to videos on the Night Owl website [...] which were very helpful.

Ended up calling support and she configured my network settings and got me hooked up on the internet in less than 10 minutes and now I can view all my cameras using my iPhone. The app they told me to download was “Night Owl Lite”…best part about it is it’s FREE.

This is a lot of system and service for such a great price. Will probably be buying another one in the near future for work.
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74 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Value and Unbelievable Customer Service., January 13, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Bought on a lightning deal for under $200.00. I had already bought two other systems and returned them both because they were complicated and not very "user friendly".

I decided to keep this one because it advertises LIFETIME customer support. Finally I made a good decision. This system works great. I have zero networking experience but the excellent customer service people not only explained what to do but logged on to my PC and set everything up for me in a matter of minutes.

They even made a hand typed note explaining how to do some basics and placed it on my desktop so I could not lose it. Seriously, who does that? This is customer service at its finest.

I made a mistake and pointed one of my cameras towards the front yard where it picked up every car driving down the highway which resulted in hundreds of emails a day. I called customer service again and was up and running perfect in under 5 minutes.

The cameras and DVR function exactly as described. I only have DSL basic and was concerned the quality might not be very good. This was not a problem. Video is not choppy and the clarity if fine.

I am waiting for this to go back on a lightning deal so I can buy a second one for my primary residence.

I highly recommend this product.

I hope you found my review helpful.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent System for Price Minor Security Problem, December 26, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I bought this system mainly because of its price and the decent reviews across the web of the company. It is not a high end system but it will do for regular home surveillance. I tested the product out of the box and everything I tested worked fine. The cameras came on and the DVR was functional. (did not test the system over the internet) The IR is not the best outdoors but you get better IR inside the home due to the reflection of the IR light off the surfaces in the home. The Cameras will do well for facial recognition within 10-20 feet this would be the typical range in which you'd expect to find that in this price range.

I gave this system 3 stars due to its ability to be tampered with and the fact the images of the cameras lead you astray. I live in a ranch style home meaning I'm in a single story and I cannot place my cameras up high enough that they could not be tampered with easily. The wires attached to the Camera for both power and video feed are exposed to the elements which leaves them highly susceptible to vandalism. Other systems have a "vandal-proof" design where it goes through the post and is covered.

The camera system should be enough of a deterrent but some criminals consider it a challenge and will look for blind spots or vulnerabilities. I'd rather not welcome the challenge and make it easy.

Other than the mentioned security risk this system is a sound investment especially for internal building surveillance as well higher than one story mounting outdoors. I'd recommend this purchase for people in those two situations that are looking for a cheap system for security surveillance.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great starter unit - side effect includes Camera Acquisition Syndrome!, February 6, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I purchased this DVR back in December 2012 after months of research. I know its not the best product and perhaps not even the best in its class but it does the job well (with a little help as I'll explain later).

After I missed out on all the thanksgiving sales when the newer model was $249, I was extremely pleased when I found this model as a warehouse deal. The item arrived in excellent condition.

Getting the system connected was quite simple as the quick setup posters provides the exact steps required to get the unit up and running.

The O/S of the dvr manages the 500Gb rather efficiently as I can get 35-40 days of video on all channels with motion activated recording.

The port forwarding feature is a bit challenging for me but once you have a static external IP you should have no issues. So for now I have the system connected to my local network and so I can view from any smart device tablet laptop desktop etc. This means that I can monitor from any room in the house with dedicated viewing on three devices all wireless. No more wondering who is at the front door or what was that sound outside. Until I have the port forwarding configured I am using the email feature to provide 'near real time' snapshots of alarms while I am away from the house.

The video quality is best on CIF for me as the higher resolution produce choppy videos. The view angle is also quite restricted at 42 degrees making camera placement critical. Although I have the entire property covered there were a couple blind spots. To address this I purchased a couple 600 TVL cameras with 90 degree viewing angles and I can say on those channels video and picture quality have improved tremendously and at that angle there is perfect overlap of the viewing ranges i.e. no blind spots.

So if you just want a simple unit to get started in home security this is a great place to start. But note it is inevitable you would develop Camera Acquisition Syndrome as coined by an earlier reviewer.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sensitivity, May 13, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Night Owl Security STA-168 Night Owl Security 16 Channel STA DVR with 8 Night Vision Cameras 500 GB HD and Smartphone Viewing, 30-Feet (Electronics)
Almost USELESS. Imagine you come home each day and review the security camera video captured during the day. You are looking for anything that triggered movement. Regretably, it takes forever with this unit. EVEN ON MINIMUM sensitivity, the cameras record almost continuously and you can only go forward 16x speed. So, reviewing the days activity takes....all evening. Yes, you can 'mask' areas to keep the motion sensed to a minimum, but those are the areas YOU WANT to trigger the cameras! I find that when I do this, someone would have to jump up and down in front of a camera to make it sense motion! I have another brand unit and it is far superior, only recording when someone enters the cameras range. Without masking. So it takes 5-10 minutes to see what happened. Also it seems like this product was designed and developed in a non-English country. The instructions and on-screen menus are not easy to follow. Password, enter, then MENU BUTTON to go to the next item? It took a long time just to figure that one out!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but there are some caveats..., November 18, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Overall, this security camera setup seems to be a solid platform, but it falls short in several key areas.

First the good parts - the cameras seem to be well built, the IR night vision works quite well, although certain colors can be distorted (during my testing, in normal room incandescent lighting, my navy blue shirt appeared light gray on the camera). This isn't really a deal-breaker, but it's important to note in case you ever find yourself trying to describe what an intruder is wearing to the cops. The cameras and DVR are relatively easy to connect to each other using the illustrated setup guide.

You'll need a few things in order to be able to use this system to it's full potential. First, you'll need high-speed internet (DSL at the very least), and access to your router or modem's settings/admin. Its necessary to set up port forwarding. I had to call my ISP to get my router's login info. This system connects to the internet via ethernet cable. Because my router is in a different room than the DVR, I spent an extra $50 for a Netgear N300 wi-fi to ethernet adapter, instead of running 100ft. of cat5 cable under carpet and through walls. It works great for this purpose, and I'd recommend it. You'll also need to know your ISP's email settings. Another thing they don't mention - if it's necessary for you to update the DVR's firmware, the only way to do it is by using a USB flash drive. Not a big deal, but its one more expense if you don't already own a flash drive (I couldn't find any of mine and had to buy another).

Now for the bad parts. The software in this system really falls short. Even though the company has numerous videos on their website, it seems as though the videos only cover the things that are clearly covered in the included manuals. I had to call their tech support twice to get the system working to the point that it is now. I am able to view my camera feeds through my smartphone (which is why I initially purchased), but I still haven't been able to figure out how to view my camera feeds through a web browser. I consider myself to be a pretty technical-minded person, and while the hardware setup was simple, the information missing from the manuals, as well as error messages written in "Engrish", made for a more frustrating experience.

For the price, I probably shouldn't complain. The cameras seem to be very good quality-wise, and if I can ever get the software set up properly, it should be a solid platform. If you're a techy kinda person, I might say give these a try. If you're not, the company does offer a third-party installation service (can't vouch for them, but they do offer it).
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39 of 49 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Warning DO NOT BUY, January 1, 2013
This review is from: Night Owl Security STA-168 Night Owl Security 16 Channel STA DVR with 8 Night Vision Cameras 500 GB HD and Smartphone Viewing, 30-Feet (Electronics)
I purchased this garbage in Aug 2012, installed it in Sept 2012, and the DVR stopped recording in Nov 2012. I sent it in at my cost, and when it came back it would not even power up. They know there's an inherent problem with the DVR, but fall short of upgrading and let you speak to a Supervisor. This product is JUNK and I suggest you do not buy! My advice is to pay a little more and get a real brand name. I regret paying all the money on this system, installation, and it NOT working to secure the house!!!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recorded, December 7, 2012
By 
Joanna Hale (MOUNT HOLLY, NJ, US) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
It can and does record for longer that 4 days and I believe it will record for up to 30. It has a limited range, because its small but will capture a room or a portion of the yard.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Night Owl DVR, August 5, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The DVR is nice for the price, but the cameras are washed out with little color and blurred images. Stay away from this combo. Instead buy the Swann PRO System. It will cost a little more, but the color is much better.
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