on November 12, 2013
I recently ordered two FI8905W cameras. I upgraded the firmware and I connected them to my wireless router. The installation process is pretty straight-forward and easy to follow. I played with them for about three weeks and I learned a lot of things. Here are the pros and cons:
- You can't beat the price. FI8905W is a surveillance camera with a lot features. It comes with an aluminum case and mount and it seems well built and durable. I've been doing a lot of research and I didn't find any competing product around $100.
- Video and pictures are okay. Compression is good, and it creates nice avi videos. This is not your fancy Sony camcorder, so don't expect to get the Columbia TriStar Motion quality. However, it is a good image for a surveillance camera.
- It comes with wireless N and the streaming looks good.
- Night vision is okay.
- Alarm on motion detector is okay. Sometimes I get an email, sometimes I don't.
- The camera URL has a serious security issue. Foscam uses consecutive numbers to generate the camera URLs. If you change one number in the URL you will reach other people cameras. They may be password protected but remember that the camera doesn't use https to encrypt the passwords. That's pretty serious. Foscam should generate random URLs for their cameras. Not consecutive. Moreover, they should switch to https.
- Auto IR-LED illumination stopped working after one week. The night videos were dark and unusable. Foscam support says to point a flashlight to the camera and it will fix the problem. Well, that's true; it may fix the problem until next evening. What if you are on vacation? What if you have 30 cameras? This is silly. I sent it back to Amazon. However, setting up and installing the camera is not a 10 minutes process. It takes time to do it right and it takes time to replace it. I don't like to waste my time.
- Foscam manipulates the reviews on Amazon. I found a lot of 5 stars reviews which look very suspicious. I think Amazon shouldn't tolerate fake reviews. Unacceptable.
- My first FI8905w came in a box which was relabeled. Twice. The box is from a FI8905w camera and the first label says FI8906w. The second label, placed on top of the first one, says FI8905w. The UPC code was relabeled four times. To make things worse, the FI8905W user interface omits on very important detail: camera model. I had no idea what camera I was using. I believe I got a refurbished camera.
- Buying a Foscam camera is a lottery. If you are lucky, your camera may work without problems for a couple of years. This is Chinese company who wants to sell its products in the US using questionable business practices. I don't trust them. If your camera stops working after 30 days you may be in a big trouble. It is better to go and buy it from WalMrt. Their return policies are much better than anything in the world.
One year later and I'm happy with my camera. It is stable and up and running 24x7. However, I found one minor issue:
The heat and light from the IR light attract spiders which found my camera cover to be hospitable and habitable. A spider web in front of the surveillance camera is invisible during the day but it will totally mess up the image during night time. Every time I tried to remove the spider web, the tiny guy took it personally and made another one within the next 24 hours. Tried everything: insect repellent, insecticide, water resistant silicone lubricant. Nothing worked. The only thing that seems to work is to push the camera top cover all the way to the back. This solved 90% of the problems.
One more thing I would like to add. If you are not sure how serious the consecutive URLs issue is, please watch the following video.
If you don't know how communication ports, web servers and firewalls work, please do yourself a favor and hire an IT guy to secure your camera. This is serious device, not a toy. Until Foscam assigns random https URLs AND random admin passwords to their cameras, there is a pretty good chance for you to get hacked.
10/01/2015 Just to confirm the lottery theory, almost two years after the installation, the Foscam camera died due to a hardware failure. Well, I'm not surprised...
on April 5, 2014
I'll write up a long review, since getting information about security cameras is pretty hard. But first, here is a quick rundown.
This camera is good for: Door security, installing in an area where running a network cable out to it is not possible, ease of use.
This camera is not good for: High quality video or "snapshots," remote viewing, viewing scenery or wildlife.
I bought 2 of these, for separate purposes. One was for added security on our front door, and one was for viewing the mountains, weather, and wildlife in our back yard. Both cameras are mounted outdoors, under a covered porch. The front door camera works perfectly for security purposes. It has good quality (can easily indentify someone), and send email alerts when motion is detected. For the back yard, I'm not happy with the results. It has a pretty narrow field of view, and objects seem further away than they are viewing them with your eyes. There is no zoom feature on this camera. The image quality is not good for this purpose, and the images are very grainy/pixelated. I will probably purchase the FI9805W model for the back door (or an other brand if I decide to go with a wired camera). An HD-type of camera is necessary for my purposes in the back. This camera has a 640*480 resolution, which is worse than you will get with cell phone cameras these days! However, that kind of low resolution is necessary for constantly emailing alerts, or viewing remotely. Any HD image recording will likely bog down your network. But if you plan on having it take high-resolution snapshots every hour and uploading that to a website, you should be ok. There are a few 3 megapixel cameras out there that blow this one away for quality. For comaprison, this one equates to about 0.3 megapixels.
As for the person bashing on Foscam and saying "don't buy!" on all the Foscam products out there, don't believe his hype. I appreciate that's he's trying to look out for us, I really do. It all depends on what you plan on doing with these. Like I said, one works perfectly for front door security. As for the problems with Foscam cameras, I'd like t point out that all cameras that I have looked into have various problems of their own. And it looks like all the problems related to this person's rantings can be taken care of with firmware upgrades. Yes, products should work well out of the box, but as long as fixes are available, I don't think you can classify something as junk. For the record, I ordered the FI8905W model, and was sent the FI8906W model (for both cameras I ordered). The box says 8905, but the label on the cameras say 8906. None need a firmware upgrade. They came with firware version 220.127.116.11 on them, and while there is a newer version, the updates are very minimal.
Speaking of updates, that's one thing that is great with Foscam. They have firmware listed and easy to find on their website, as well as web page tutorials and video tutorials. They also have a message board where you can ask questions and get support. I haven't found a company yet that offers such good support. I did call their phone support once, and was connected (yes, to someone most likely in India) in about 10 minutes. They sounded very knowledgeable, but keep in mind of you call, their techs will want to take control of your computer to fix the issues you are having. I understand that's probably the easiest way for them to do it, but I was caling just to ask for some tips on how to get port forwarding working (if I had missed any steps or anything like that). I was calling from work, and he wanted to take control of my computer, which was of course at home and turned off, so I didn't get much help there. I ended up getting it figured out, but know that they will do the quick & easy fix of taking control instead of trying to walk you through what you need to do.
Also know that with anything wireless, you will eventually have some connection issues: dropped connections, slower connections, etc. If you want a consistent and fast connection, go with a wired camera. Wireless is inherently unstable, and much harder to set up. Which brings me to that topic. Setup was a bit of a hassle, but with the video tutorials and included documentation, wasn't too bad at all. The documentation doesn't have the best English, but you should be able to get the idea. They also have a lot of screenshots included, which helps. You need to know that these cameras need to be physically hooked up to the network to do their initial setup. Once that is done, you can unhook them and verify the wireless is working before you install them outside. I'd recommend getting someone with a smart phone or laptop (with the live feed going on them) to go with you where you plan on installing, so you can see exactly what it looks like and change your install as necessary. These cameras come with mounting brackets, but they aren't very good. You are pretty limited in how you can install the cameras. The cameras can be mounted normally or upside-down, but not at a 90 degree angle/sideways. If you plan on mounting them to something above you, with the mount coming straight down, know that the mount won't allow for a horizontal, "flat" angle. There will a bit of a tilt down, or if you turn it around, up. That may not be a big deal if you mount it high enough. But it really made me change my plans. You can mount it to the side of something and get a flat angle that way. My front door camera is mounted about 20 feet from my router, and it seems to have a good connection. My back yard camera is about 30 feet from my router, and it loses connection a bit here and there. I've adjusted the antenna on it a bit, and has has helped, but I may need to get one of the cheap 6 ft antenna extenders and mount the antenna on a window sill nearby to get a better connection. My house (and covered porch) does have a metal roof, so that is part of the problem. It will deflect the signal quite a bit. I went with a wireless camera because I live in a log cabin, and I didn't want to drill through the logs. I also don't have the tools to do that anyway. For power, I have an outlet outside that I run the power from - the cords go under my decks and up behind a log that supports the porch, then to the cameras. It's not pretty, but not very noticeable. Yes, someone can come by and unplug them, but I'm not worried about that. You also have to keep in mind that if you want to run the power inside (for better security, keeping someone from unplugging it), you may have to drill a hole about 1 1/4 inches wide at least to accommodate the cord. The cord has the ethernet connection on it, which is not detatchable. If you are going to drill a hole that big, you might as well get a wired camera anyway. You may be able to drill a smaller hole just for the power cord, but then you'd have the ethernet cable hanging outside the house, which is how I have mine. It's tucked away behind the camera. Again, not the most professional install, but it works for me. Also know that there is a reset button on one of the cables, making yet another reason to try to run the cables into the house.
On to the features, and how they work! You don't need any software to use these cameras, or a DVR or even a computer (other than doing the initial setup). You do need a wireless router, and you will need to know how to configure it for wireless security (highly recommended, but not mandatory), and for port forwarding (if you want to view the cameras remotely, from work or a hotel or something like that). Again, there are tutorials available on Foscam's site, and the instructions are pretty good about showing you the processes. Once set up, to view the live feed with a computer, use Internet Explorer because it will give you the most options. Use the camera's IP address, port number, user name & password, and you're in. You can also use a smart phone app. There is one called Foscam Viewer, it's free, but NOT easy at all to set up. You can also use Firefox or Chrome internet browsers, but their functionality is a little limited. I use Chrome most of the time. For remote viewing, I have not been able to consistenly do that. I think it's because of the weak signal because my connection times out quite a bit. So what I dis is set up an FTP connection to a website I have. I set the camera to upload a new image every 10 minutes, and use some coding to get the image on the website to automatically refresh every 10 minutes. It works pretty well, so I do't really need a live feed. I also set motion alerts to email me, and tht works well. It will attach 4-6 pictures in the email, and they seem to be spread out about 1 second apart, though there is no way to set the timing between photos on that. You can set it to use multiple email addresses as well. The night vision on these things works great - it can be pitch black out and when someone comes to the door, you can see the details very clearly. As for videos, these cameras won't record video, unless you use some computer software. iSpy is a good one (and it's free). It's not the most user-friendly, but it's not hard to figure out, either. You can use that to record video to your computer, and use it to get more snapshot options. I will override the settings you gave the cameras when the program is running. The problem with the software option is that your computer has to be on all the time for it to work. Once you close the program, your cameras operate how they would have before using the software. There is also a Foscam program included on the CD the cameras came with, but it doesn't look like it has nearly the same options as Ispy does. I think the coolest option I found was one that allows you to set one camera's motion trigger to autmatically force another camera to start recording. It also looks like you can set it to upload videos to your YouTube account, if you have one. I did a few video tests, and the file sizes are extemely small. One 30 second video was about 140 Kb, and a 10 second video was 120 Kb. So you shouldn't have a problem storing a lot of videos. Still image sizes are about 50 Kb. Bandwidth usage hasn't been a problem with all teh FTP uploads and email alerts, but obviously if you get a HD-type of camera, it will be something you'll need to consider. I haven't seen any options to get text alerts to your phone.
Other thoughts.... they do look to be waterproof or at least pretty resistant. We've had rain and snow since I installed them, and several times the back camera has gotten wet. The hood (which is adjustable and removeable) has been soaked, but the lense is clean and dry as can be. It hasn't fogged up yet. It gets below freezing at night, and no problems there, either.
Overall, I'm happy with the front door camera. I think I'll eventually move the one out back to the front and cover more of the porch, and but a better "HD" type of cam for the back yard. If I can figure out a way to drill a hole, I'll probably try the Hikvision one. It's gotten great reviews, but that said I have seen a lot of complaints about it on discussion boards.
Another option I heard about was using wired cameras, and getting a DigiVue (or something similar) PCI card for your computer. Run the cameras to your computer instead of a DVR, and then set up port forwarding on your router, and you will have IP cameras that way. Again, you'd have to have your computer on 24*7, but it's a way of getting high quality cameras to work as IP cameras. I haven't found any one camera or system that really stands out, so I thought I'd mention it.
I think your best bet would be to find a camera you think will work for you, then research their website and see if you can find good documentation, tutorials, updates, etc. Download and read through all of it to see if the setup looks like something you can do. Download any firmware updates and look through those to see if the updates look necessary. I don't normally recommend doing firmware updates, becuase a botched update can ruin your camera, but look through them especially for Foscam cameras that are getting bad reviews. The good thing about Foscam is they have a "Readme" file, or it will have a section in the install instructions, on what specifically the firmware update fixes. For example, my camera's firmware update says is fixes these issues:
1) Fix the bug that no need to do authentication when using some CGI commands;
2) Forbid using blank space in login username;
3) Support some special characters in login password.
None of these are big enough issues for me to risk doing the update, but if you find some on a different model you want to do, make sure to do the firmaware update with the camera phsically plugged into the network. That's why I recommend downloading them before you even order the camera. That way you can do the upgrade before installing outside and having to take them down and bring back inside.
Good luck, hopefully this info helps someone out. If you'd like more details or have questions, I'll try to keep an eye on this and answer quickly.