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Customer Review

180 of 196 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable performance for the price, March 1, 2011
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This review is from: Foscam FI8918W Wireless/Wired Pan & Tilt IP/Network Camera with 8 Meter Night Vision and 3.6mm Lens (67° Viewing Angle) (Personal Computers)
There are a ton of well-written reviews for this camera (also check out the other versions, e.g. FI8918W White, FI8905W) that give an excellent sense of its many strengths, minor weaknesses, as well as tips for setting up IP cameras in general. I won't rehash the basics, but I will give a brief overview of my setup. Then I'll make a comment on security, and finally go through some of the ways you can extend this camera's capabilities. This last section is where the Foscam truly shines, in my opinion. After all, if I just wanted a no-hassle cam/DVR, I could get something more basic (but much more expensive) off the shelf at Costco or through a residential security company.

If you have any questions, just comment on this review. I'm happy to respond.

Setup:
The setup process was very standard for any sort of web-enabled device. It'll take a bit longer if you've never gone through the steps before, but once you do it, you'll know how to set up a whole slew of similar devices (e.g. home webserver, media servers, etc.). There are literally hundreds of great tutorials on all of these topics around the web, so if any step or terminology is confusing, just google it and you'll find a bunch of good links. (i.e. don't get deterred by reviews that say "bad instruction manual" or "bad customer service", since you won't need either if you have the whole internet and the power of google at your fingertips). Anyway, here is the rough outline of the setup process for me:

1. Connected Foscam via LAN cable, checked "DHCP clients" list on router (I have a MacBook Pro and an Airport Extreme router) to get local Foscam IP, and then typed this into my web browser to get to the Foscam web interface. Alternatively, use the little utility included with the Foscam to get to the same place.
2. Added a new login/password, deleted admin login, and set up wifi access in the Foscam settings. Then disconnected from LAN and moved Foscam to the desired location. Plug it back in and now it's working via wireless.
3. Went into my router's settings and assigned a static IP to the Foscam's wifi MAC address (note: this MAC is different from the ethernet MAC). This is done with "DHCP Reservations" on the Airport, but of course the exact label will vary by router. Now the Foscam web interface will always be accessible at the same local address within my home network.
4. To get external access outside of my home network, I went into my router's "Port Forwarding" settings and forwarded some external port to port 80 at the static local IP of the Foscam.
5. Since I have a residential internet provider, my external IP is dynamic, which means it could potentially change. To get around this, signup for a free dyndns account. Then just use the updater client on the Foscam, itself, or one of many others that are available for free for mac, windows, and linux.

Security:
This is a bit confusing since the Foscam advertises "encryption". The part that IS secure is the Foscam's communication to/from your router via wifi. This is very good, and considering how easy it is to snoop traffic over an unprotected or WEP-protected wifi (there are even NYTimes articles describing the basics!), I would consider this a mandatory feature of any IP cam. While this is excellent to have, if you choose to make your Foscam web interface accessible from the outside internet (i.e. you did port forwarding), then this connection is public and completely unencrypted. Firstly, this means you should immediately add a new user in the Foscam settings and then delete the admin login. Even once this step is done, it means that there will be no little "lock" symbol in your browser indicating SSL encryption, and your new login/password and video stream will still be sent in the clear. This doesn't bother everyone, but if it does, you can use a computer on your home network to set up a VPN or SSH tunnel (easier) to make the connection encrypted (or just disable external access completely if you don't need this feature). At any rate, it's good to be aware of this limitation at least.

Enhancing functionality:
- Misc information on advanced features - There is a lot of useful information about these Foscams, including some more advanced topics, scattered around on various blogs and forums. Here are a couple (I'm sure google will find even more): gadgetvictims dot com, forum dot networkwebcams dot com, networkcamerareviews dot com.
- mangocam dot com - Free online storage for your cam stream. What's the point of having a security camera if the crooks steal all your computers with the footage!? This site just popped up with a free public beta, so it's definitely worth checking out. Sort of like the built-in FTP/email features taken to a whole new level.
- Smartphone apps - A neat way to check in on your cams remotely (but see important security note, above). IP Cam Viewer Lite works great for Android, and other reviews mention other apps for iPhone, etc.
- ZoneMinder - The holy grail for getting the most out of your cam. This is a free and open-source web application for managing your cam feeds. It is sort of like mangocam, but you install it yourself on your own webserver, and it does a whole lot more. For instance, you can define different motion detection "zones" in the image. Maybe zone #1 is the whole image, zone #2 is just a doorway, and zone #3 is a tree that is always moving in the wind. Then you can define all sorts of complex filters, like 1) Record a section of video footage when there is any motion in zone #1, excluding zone #3, or 2) Record a section of video footage when there is any motion in zone #2, but only during work hours on weekdays; then automatically send some still screenshots to my email and upload a movie of the event to some off-site server. Wow...the options are truly endless! With just this program, some $200 linux boxes, and some Foscams, you could start a business setting up surveillance systems for people!
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Showing 1-10 of 26 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 2, 2011, 4:04:12 PM PST
AvidReader says:
can you do a youtube video on installing this on a Macbook Pro.?

Posted on Mar 17, 2011, 7:21:45 PM PDT
allnitelong says:
First of all, Thank you for such an informative review. People like you are what make Amazon so great. Now I have a question or two. I can't figure out how to make the sound work and record video. I am using google chrome and I suspect this is the problem. I do plan on doing some searching around. I did a little reading on gadgetvictims.com but have not found what I need yet. So, any advice is appreciated and thanks again for the great info in your review.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 21, 2011, 4:56:50 PM PDT
John says:
Hi there. I actually haven't tried out the sound yet, but I believe you need a Windows PC with Active X to get the sound and recording working directly through the Foscam interface. Somewhere on the gadgetvictims website it tells you the direct link to the version of the video stream that has sound, which some people have used to directly feed into VLC or another application that can record the video. For recording without sound, I've had great success with ZoneMinder for Linux. I know there are similar PC programs as well. Probably less for the mac. You might try mangocam dot com too, which is an online recording service. Good luck!

Posted on Apr 28, 2011, 3:17:07 AM PDT
GREAT review. Very helpful--thanks!!

Posted on May 22, 2011, 5:51:51 PM PDT
Eric says:
So the Foscams don't come with a free, non-home-built way to access them via URL or the like? The Panasonic BL series comes with lifetime access to viewnetcam.com so you can specify a URL and just access them from a browser with no additional webserver on your end.

Posted on Aug 30, 2011, 2:10:18 PM PDT
do you think you can use this at say a beach house 60 miles away and connect over the internet?? thanks Bruce

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2011, 3:19:11 PM PDT
John says:
Hi Eric,

The Foscam's have a built-in web interface that you can access directly, or with various computer and phone apps. I just prefer to use the other apps because they allow for more customization of motion detection, etc..

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2011, 3:23:48 PM PDT
John says:
Hi Bruce,

Definitely. I access mine even when I travel thousands of miles away and it works perfectly.

Posted on Sep 16, 2011, 11:06:32 AM PDT
Excellent review.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2011, 10:19:52 PM PDT
roastedbeans says:
Will the Firefox and Chrome plugin IETabs solve the problem?
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