Top positive review
433 people found this helpful
Solid 4 stars, with 5-star potential
on August 11, 2012
I've been on the fence about buying one of these systems for a little over a year now and finally decided on this one.
My needs were:
* 4 outdoor cameras
* Good resolution
* Good night vision
* DVR with network capability
* Ability to view cameras from multiple computers and smartphone
* Price range of $300-$350
This system appeared to meet all my needs and I had noticed over the past year that the Defender systems seemed to have the best overall ratings. I further researched the on-line manual for this system (as I frequently do for things that I'm serious about purchasing) and it also gave me comfort that the system would meet my needs.
I've had the system installed for about a week now and I am quite pleased with it. That being said, I would like to share my overall experience with everyone, as it may be helpful for those considering this system and installing it themselves, as I did.
I did a few things backwards, but found it helpful in adjusting the cameras once I had everything wired.
First off, the entire system was packaged very nicely - great presentation and well organized. All of the camera cables were rolled up nicely on plastic spools. All parts were neatly arranged and well labeled.
Next, I took everything out of the box and hooked up to my 40" Samsung LCD via VGA cable to test it out. Note: the manual indicates that if you hook the DVR up using VGA to an LCD TV or monitor that the mouse and remote will not function. I called Defender to inquire about this prior to purchasing and they informed me that the unit WILL work fine via VGA and they were correct. I have no problem with the mouse or remote working using the VGA port and this gives great resolution (much better than using the composite video cable.) The VGA cable is not included with the system, but all other cables you need are. I would recommend using VGA if you can.
After hooking everything up for a test run, I found that everything worked fine. I did notice that the video connections on the back of the DVR seemed to be a bit loose, causing the video to flicker and go in and out if I moved to cables, however, once I had everything hooked up and running I have not experienced this again.
I then proceeded to configure the system and do the network setup, firstly, to verify that it would actually work and do all the things I wanted, and second, so that I could view the cameras from my Android phone while adjusting them, which is very helpful and allows for an easy, one-person installation.
I had no problems at all with the network setup and port forwarding on my AT&T U-Verse router/gateway. I simply set the DVR to DHCP and let it acquire an address. I wrote all the acquired information down, then changed it to Static and input the same information (so that I don't have to worry about the IP changing. I forwarded the three ports needed for network and mobile viewing and was viewing on my phone within minutes. Defender's network guide was great and made the whole process very easy. I added the IP address to the trusted sites zone as directed and set security for trusted sites to low and had no trouble with the ActiveX install.
The on-line software is very nice and allows you not only to view your cameras on any computer, but also you can manage every setting on the DVR, just as if you are right there. And, it's actually easier (in my opinion) to do this via the software, than on the DVR itself, although the DVR's interface is also easy to use.
Now, on to the installation; here are the things that I experienced that I hope will help future buyers install this system with less pain than I had.
I dropped all of my cables from the attic down into the wall behind my flat screen TV and routed them through an AV wall plate, along with the other cables that were already there (HDMI, VGA, power, etc.) Here is one important thing to note; the cables are neatly spooled up, so naturally I unrolled them all in the direction that they were spooled. While the BNC video connectors are the same on both ends, the power connectors are NOT; they are male on one end and female on the other. AND, two out of four of mine were spooled backwards. This caused me to spend an extra day re-running one cable completely, which I had run all the way to where one of the cameras would be on the other side of the house, down through another very difficult wall to the first floor. I did not notice the problem until I went to plug the camera into the cable and ended up with two female plugs together. So, long story short - pay careful attention to the orientation of the power connectors and make sure you run the cables in the correct direction (the female end should start at the DVR and the male end should be at the camera where it will plug into the female jack on the camera.
After getting over that, I got the cameras all mounted and hooked up. Another thing to note is that these cameras can only be wall or table-top mounted, but not ceiling mounted, so if your application requires this, you will need different cameras. I think some of their other cameras can be ceiling mounted, but not these.
The wiring goes through the mounting bracket, which is very nice and there are slots in the top and bottom if you have to run the wire differently, as I did with three of mine (up into the eves and into the attic.) If the cameras could have been mounted directly to the eves, this wouldn't have been necessary, but it all worked out.
The next thing I've experienced that may be helpful to know before you mount the cameras is that the screws provided are NOT weather-resistant by any means. While the cameras themselves appear to be made very well, my screws have already began to rust after only two brief rain showers and less than one week of being outside. Easy solution - buy some exterior grade screws from a hardware store. I did this, but again, I had to climb back up to each camera and remove and re-install each one. I hope this saves someone a little time.
Also, while setting up your cameras, here's another thing to look for. The first night I had my system working, I noticed halos in the lower part of the screen when the night vision was active. It was more noticeable on one of my cameras, especially when it was very dark outside (like when the street light across from my house would go out due to the bulb dying.) At first, I thought that this problem was being caused by another street light further down shining into that camera. I made adjustments the next day and checked the following night - same problem. After doing some research on-line, I found people mentioning that halos can be caused by the IR being reflected back to the camera from a nearly object, like a window for example. Since there were no objects anywhere near my cameras, my only other thought was that maybe the IR was reflecting off the sun shades of the cameras themselves. I slid each one back about an inch and checked - SUCCESS! No more halos, so this is another thing to check when installing your cameras. Instead of having the back edge of the sun shade flush with the back of the camera, try sliding it back about an inch and you should be good. Now I have crisp, clear night vision.
Each camera has a horizontal and vertical adjustment screw, which can be loosened or tightened with the included allen wrench. While the horizontal adjustment has definitive `notches' or `stops', the vertical one does not. This requires you to have to tighten the screw quite tight in order to keep the camera stable. I wish that both were notched, as I had trouble with one of mine. The screw seemed to start slipping and I ended up using a little crazy glue between the joint to keep it stable, once I had it positioned the way I wanted. Then I simply tightened the screw as much as I could and it seems solid now.
So, I've been using the system for about a week now and really like it. I had played with all the settings, and have it set to record all channels 24/7, with motion recording between 6:00 am and 8:00 pm. It has the capability to e-mail you whenever motion is detected, along with a snapshot of the event. It took some playing with it to get the motion settings more accurate and now it's pretty good. You can select specific areas of the picture to look for motion, like just the front porch steps, for example. I found that even the shadow of sunlight through the leaves of a tree moving in the breeze will cause a motion alarm, so it's important to only select the areas that you need.
With recording 24/7 on all channels, at 15 FPS and 1280 bit rate, I can store a little over a week of footage on the hard drive. I elected for better quality over being able to store more hours of recordings. For my needs, this will be fine, as I'll likely know of any events that occur that I need to download, which you can do through the on-line software or from the DVR itself. The manual mentions being able to connect an external hard drive, but I have been unsuccessful at getting one to work. I've heard that you can upgrade the internal drive to 1.5TB, but apparently doing so will void the warranty, so I guess the 500GB drive will have to do.
With these settings, my recorded video quality is very good. When you download a video file, the quality is also excellent. What I have found lacking is that when you take a still image snapshot from a video, the image quality is not as good, as it saves the image as 704x480 pixels. When you try to zoom in on a still image it gets distorted, whereas zooming a video is not as bad. What I have found to work better is to play the video and resize the window to the desired size, then take a screen shot from there and save it. This works much better and retains better resolution.
All and all, this is a solid system at a great price. The 600 TVL cameras are very nice, with great night vision and the DVR is feature-rich, very small, and very quiet (I have it in my master bedroom in my media cabinet and can't hear it running at all.)
Below are my final thoughts:
* Good quality outdoor cameras with great night vision and 600 TVL
* Feature-rich DVR with network capabilities
* Ability to view and set all functions from any computer
* Ability to view cameras live on smartphone
* Compact size and quiet operation
* Good build quality (except camera mounting screws, noted below)
* Easy connection of cameras, with power and video in one cable
* Long cable length provided (65 feet) allows for flexibility of installation locations.
* Everything needed is included in the package
* Excellent price point
* Camera mounting screws are not weather-resistant and will rust immediately
* Cameras cannot be ceiling (or under-eve) mounted
* Position of timestamp cannot be selected - only displays at top of screen, or off
* E-mail alerts for motion evens do not adhere to motion recording schedule
Note: I have written to Defender regarding all of the above and they advised that they had forwarded these concerns to their R&D people. Not sure if any of these issues will be addressed, but we can hope.
I give the system a solid 4 stars, easily with a 5 star potential with these few minor issues resolved.
I would highly recommend this system to anyone looking for a quality, feature-rich surveillance system at an affordable price.