Friday, November 16, 2018

Added filterable sheet to camera compare

On my Camera spec compare sheet I added a transposed version of the HD cams sheet called HD filterable. It is not as readable as the other given it is over 200 columns by almost 30 rows but it had the advantage of being able to filter the camera models by all the features you are interested in. Just go to the HD filterable sheet and create a temporary filter

Then click on the down arrow of each column you want to filter.
For instance here I selected Brand, Color and Viewing Angle such as
To get a view like this

Monday, November 5, 2018

What is the best camera for X?

I see that question posted a lot. Often just "What is the best camera?".


It really depends on what you are monitoring and the features you need to do that. Things to take into account:

  • Need audio recorded?
  • Do you need to be able to talk back?
  • Distance to main target area?
  • What level of recognition are you looking to get? Motion, face or plate at 3 feet or 200?
  • Wide, average or narrow view angle?
  • Is a wired ethernet possible there?
  • Is power available there?
  • Is night vision required and if so to what distance?
  • How weather / theft proof is needed?
  • Is zoom wanted? If so auto or manual?
  • Is pan / tilt wanted, if so should it track objects automatically?
  • Are you going to use a DVR? If so do you have one or are you looking?
  • If thinking cloud recording do you have the upload bandwidth for the number of cams you want? What length of storage are you expecting?
  • Do you want continuous recording (the answer to this one ought to be yes somewhere if only on the camera or DVR.) 

This why the 40 I currently have online are a mixture of brands and models. See my compare sheet.

To find the best camera you need to first gather the answers to most of the above then ask that question again.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Rexing V1P vs V1 3rd gen Dash cam

Rexing V1 3rd Generation 4K UHD WiFi Car Dash Cam 2.4" LCD 170° Wide Angle Dashboard Camera Recorder with WiFi, 16GB Card, G-Sensor, WDR, Loop Recording
Rexing GPS Logger for Rexing V1 3rd Gen, V1P 3rd Gen, V2
Rexing V1P 2.4" LCD FHD 1080p 170 Degree Wide Angle Dual Channel Dashboard Camera Recorder Car Dash Cam with Rear Camera, G-Sensor, WDR, Loop Recording

Overall I'm quite pleased with the result over my previous dashcam, a VC-250 Dash Cam with GPS. Though I miss the remote on the VC-250 to trigger protecting of videos from being overwritten. Finding and pushing a button on the camera while driving is not practical. That experience taught me too an interior cam is about worthless for seeing out the back. Which is why I mounted a Rexing V1 3rd Generation 4K camera facing front and a Rexing V1P mounted on the rear window with its remote cam inside pointed forward to catch an inside and bit of side view that might be needed. The over all effect is almost a 360 exterior view plus interior. Decent audio on all streams makes syncing the stream almost automatic in a editor like Adobe's Premiere Pro.

Here is a quick multicam video I made from my Rexing V1P rear mounted camera and my forward mounted Rexing V1 3rd Generation 4K. Elements from the each cam are overlayed to keep the SUV in view and the GPS speed and time readings. It is an example of the clarity of the cameras and how they can show evidence if you need it.

For example in the above thumbnail I mixed the video down to the 1080p rez of the Rexing V1P forward (my back view) stream, overlayed the interior view from the Rexing V1P's remote cam and  overlayed a zoomed in image from the Rexing V1 3rd gen to show the lights and a cropped but dull rez shot of the Rexing V1 3rd gen's data overlay at the bottom to show speed and time. Lastly I added text. With something like Adobe's Premiere Pro it is not all the hard but not so easy you would normally do without reason.  I did a post digital zoom on the 4K stream to highlight what was happening. Note the 2X, 3X and 4X flash in the lower right to indicate that it has reached that level of zoom. (The editor smooths the changes in zoom so you might not even notice them.)  The picture near the end is still pretty clear at 4X zoom. Better than a lot of 720p cams I've seen unzoomed.

Note the raw video has GPS data encoded if you have options GPS. If you use the JMS DVR GPS player to view the videos you get a screen like this.

This is one of the improvements over the VC-250 that you had to convert the videos to see them outside of their app and after converting you lost the GPS data.

Note I replaced the audio on these to avoid audio book copyright issues.
Rexing V1 3rd gen night video sample
Rexing V1P exterior night sample
Rexing V1P interior night sample

Friday, September 28, 2018

Quick overview

At the moment I've have 38 cams from several brands on 3 Blue Iris servers plus one each of the Wyze cams. I've tried almost that many models. Here is what I've found.

I like the clarity of the Reolink 5MP the best.

But I've found the Reolink 5MP bullet cam can have trouble in Texas heat. When temps got over 100 here the Reolink's auto focus and zoom motors stopped working then the camera just crashed. For awhile it was also losing its configuration I bought the dome version and have not had any trouble with it. Heat has not seemed to be an issue with any others except the old Foscam 8900 PTL series OEMs made for indoor use.

IR reflection bad be really bad in some of these. Dome cams almost all seem to have this to some degree. You should look at the pics here but in general I would recommend the Amcrest, Hikvision or Reolink bullet cams for that.

Wifi range varies a LOT. For example at the turn in my driveway some 80 feet through heavy woods the Amcrests, Foscama and Escams all worked most of the time. Reolink, Hikvision and SV3C were iffy and the Wyze cam could not even connect.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Running a camera on battery

What I wanted to achieve.

I wanted to get a cam on my mailbox which across the street. But the closest place to an outlet that could get line of sight is over 300 feet from any building and across the driveway. So we are talking major construction to run a line or POE cable out there. I already have a couple cams down by the creek running longer distances from my super AP ( a UniFi AP Outdoor+ with a Ubiquiti Airmax Omni AMO-2G10 10Dbi 2.4 GHz Rocket antenna) so I started to wonder what kind of battery would it take to power a camera.

Experiment 1

Hooked a Foscam FI9804P 720P Outdoor HD Wireless IP Camera to a 12V 9Ah Compatible Battery normally used in pairs in my UPSs and it ran 35 hours.
Temp UPS battery setup

Experiment 2

Same Foscam FI9804P 720P Outdoor HD Wireless IP Camera but with a Duracell Marine Battery (Group Size 24) and it ran about 6 days. Was not sure it was fully charged since that seemed short so switched it back to the UPS battery which only lasted about a day this time. Running it dead might be taking a toll on it. Put it back on the big battery and up for 6 days so far.

Experiment 3

After talking to a neighbor and looking up some specs I started thinking a Wyze cam v2 might be a better way to go. About 1/2 the power draw, has audio and 1080p instead of 720p. Also smaller and needs less IRs to see so less visible. Of course the downside is it only records to the cloud and SD card right now unless you seriously hack it. Also not sure about its WiFi range but will make a good experiment. I'll first try it in parallel with the Foscam on the big battery and the Wyze on the UPS battery. Since it is an indoor camera I also bought the Frienda Camera Cover for Wyze Cam 1080p HD Camera and iSmart Alarm Spot Camera, Black Skin Cover with Security Wall Mount, Weather Resistant, Against Rain and Dust and some adapters to power USB off a battery. Camera, cover and 25 foot power cord total cost just $46.96. Add another $9.99 for a 32 GB SD card for redundancy sake.

Here is what it looks like with the cover on. It is a rubber like material which should seal it pretty good.
From front

From bottom
Ran into a problem with the power adapter I rigged up from WINOMO Car Auto Battery Terminal Clip 12V DC Cigarette Lighter Socket Adapter and Car Charger RAVPower 24W 4.8A Mini Dual USB Car Adapter with iSmart 2.0 Tech, Compatible with iPhone X 8 7 6 Plus and Galaxy S9 S8 Plus S7 S6 Edge Note 8 - Black seems the RAVPower is not long enough to make contact in the WINOMO. Ordered a Anker 24W Dual USB Car Charger, PowerDrive 2 for iPhone X / 8/7 / 6s / 6 / Plus, iPad Pro/Air 2 / Mini, Note 5/4, LG, Nexus, HTC that will hopefully work better.
 This appears to be a failure because the Wyze cam will not connect even at the driveway curve about 80 feet from the AP with line of sight much less through the woods where the drive cameras are or out by the gate where it was supposed to replace the Foscam.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Wyze Cam Pan 1080p Pan/Tilt/Zoom Camera

Wyze Cam Pan 1080p Pan/Tilt/Zoom Wi-Fi Indoor Smart Home Camera with Night Vision and 2-Way Audio

Setup was easy.

The password would be filled in above but see below.

No the QR code will not work even on my network since the password was blanked.

However when I went to check the video a week later for some samples to post and it had quit recording after a day. The camera was still tracking movement just not recording to the cloud. I had not put an SD in yet so there was nothing to check there. So I deleted the camera from the app, reset the cam and did a readd. But it would not connect. I wasted hours trying stuff. Finally I tried setting up a wide open Access Point (AP) and noticed the password was still filled in. I removed it and it connected. Repowered and it still reconnected so I wiped it all and readded to the secured guest network and it still works. While I was at it I stuck a 32 GB SD in it.

So far it looks like it is running just under 1 Mbps bandwidth.

So far the main drawbacks are:
  • Only records to SD or the cloud
  • Only saves triggered video. No 24/7
  • You can only view video from the phone app (no web viewing).
  • No easy way to change WiFi password.
  • Some suspicious network activity has been reported so only use on a guest or other isolated network.
  • The above also probably means you should think twice about putting the app on and phone or tablet that has sensitive info on it.

  • Free 7 days of cloud recording.
  • Ridiculously cheap at just $38 including shipping.
  • Seems to do an OK  job of tracking (by doing pan and tilt) and marking moving object in the video. (See videos below.) Note people have reported being creeped out by this and have to admit it does feel a bit weird and makes the camera seem a bit alive. I was actually surprised how little video was saved vs the amount of time the cam appears to be panning to look at things.
  • Can save / send video to a huge number of services
  • Alexa support just added.

I posted some sample videos on YouTube with the motion and sound detection at the default values and motion detection masked to around the dog door. Unfortunately I can not really show you the mask because when you go back in to modify the mask it only shows till the video kicks in and then defaults back to the whole screen.

Basically it is top to bottom from the wall socket to the edge of the window.

Main things to note here are how random the video is. It was triggered by noise way more than motion.

Lastly connecting the cam is slow and fails fair amount. Being an encrypted guest network might be a factor in that though as mentioned above I would definitely suggest isolating from your network like that.

Since the cam does not record 24/7, if this was my only cam in there I would be thinking of taking off the mask and cranking the sensitivity. Though that would probably make finding video of actual motion harder to find. As is I already have 2 cameras recording 24/7 in there to me it is mainly another motion detector and hopefully gets a close up of who is using the door should I need to know. If they made an outdoor version of this I'd definitely have a spot for it and would probably recommend at double the price. Would think about a couple for the barn if I could monitor on a local PC since most of my cams are to let me see what is going on (as in what has the dogs upset) with as little distraction / time wasted as possible. Having to open an app, connect to a cam and find a notification just does not do that. To notify you with a video if something is moving where there should be no motion it is not bad. Especially for the price.

Update: 8/11/2018 More issues.

Found these instructions online for using Tiny cam to bridge the cam to the local NVR. They did not work for me. Might be some sort of manual firewall config though. Note they seem to connect to the server not the cam directly so you might be burning as much down bandwidth as up using them. When you test your connection it says it is receiving something but dropping all frames even if you point it at an address that does not respond which is either misleading or something else is going on.

However, trying to debug first I checked the regular app and it could not connect either till I rebooted the cam. Even after rebooting the cam it kept dropping out. So that might be an issue too. Oddly there are plenty of recordings which would seem to indicate the stream is getting to the cloud.

On a whim I tried connecting with the Amazon Show. But it now seems to think my one cam is two cams with the same name and will not connect to I rename one.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Kind of gross but also makes the point of 24/7 recording, coverage and adequate resolution.

This AM I found someone had gotten sick in the hallway. (Thankfully I have vinyl flooring or tile everywhere but the bedrooms.) From the sheer volume and some of the bits that looked like dog food I assumed it was one of the dogs. I went to the video to see which but of course the only camera  pointed that way (an Amcrest IP3M-956W in the kennel) was too far away to make out the mess on the floor. So I scanned back to my last trip down the hall but still could not see anyone going through during that time. There was a small spot visible on another cam (an Amcrest IP3M-941W in dining room) but scanning that video showed it was made by one of the cats. Back tracking the cat I saw he came from the hallway even though I had not seen him on the kennel cam. Armed with an exact time I went back and ran the hallway video slowly and could see a shadow from the small blind spot between cams that had to be the cat getting sick into the hallway. So it appears the cat ate some of the dry dog food and it made him sick. At least that is my assumption right now as he seems fine but I know to keep an eye on him for a while.

Which leads me back to the points I keep trying to make to people.

  • A lot of what of what you want to see after the fact would be missed if all you have is triggered recordings. The only bit above that triggered a motion event was the cat getting in the dining room which was small and short.
  • You need enough coverage to be able to track a subject. It is amazing how often seems to happen in blind spots. This is why I have 38 cams and want more.
  • And you need to be able to make out detail in the video. Sometimes only being able to see a body is there is good enough if you are just back tracking but if you need to see a face or when something was disturbed / left you need detail. 

Granted you never will have all the coverage you wish you had after an event but often a few extra dollars and a bit of extra planning will yield a much better end result so you do not end up feeling like you wasted your time and money.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Bluecherry NVR vs others

BlueCherry is another multi-camera Linux NVR. 

Here is a great 45 minute overview and demonstration. Below is mainly just the stuff not really covered in it.

You can download their client and connect to their demo server to try it for yourself. Note only 4 of the demo cameras would connect for me and one is playing a animated video.

Interface beats Zoneminder by a mile.

Their feature compare with Zoneminder is here. does beat them on some features like heat maps but over all I'd say the Bluecherry interface is better than too.

Does most of what Blue Iris does. Main diffs with Blue Iris

It costs a lot more.

To dup my current 38 cam set up would be $650 to 675 vs $135 for Blue Iris. There is a 30 day free trail though.

Generally the interface is not as polished as Blue Iris though way ahead of Zoneminder

Plays back at up to 128x where Blue Iris does up to 256X

Probably not that big of a deal unless you are having to find when thing X happened in several hours of video.

Also not seeing many automation options. 

For example with Blue Iris I can trigger virtual devices in my home automation system based on motion and loss of signal. Here the only option appears to be email. This is what the options are with Blue Iris for motion or loss of signal triggering.

Motion detection seems thin

Compare this Bluecherry screen

to Blue Iris' these screens

Zoom seems to stay centered on image instead of cursor location like in Blue Iris

This means if the thing you want to zoom in on is off center, zoom is basically useless. Also it is a simple +- button system of step instead of the much smoother Blue Iris method of put your cursor over the subject and use the scroll wheel to zoom in and out.


Not sure about loads since I have not set up a sever to test on matching hardware. The client did not seem to load my PC much at all though all I could pull from their server appeared to be 4 streams around 720p.

Another Linux option is Do not know anyone that has actually tried it though. If you look at the docs, to do multicams on a server (not a RPI) you need to setup a docker image for each cam. I'm still looking if you need multiple web interfaces as well. The demo appears to show a camera only. I like some of the data displays like the heat maps I have not seen elsewhere but the wonder about the horsepower required for all that. Especially since I'm phasing out all my 720p cams. Blue Iris is often accused of being a CPU hog. With motion highlighting turned on (similar too but less data intense than heat amps ought to be) 13 (720p to 2K mixed) cams can max a 4th gen i7 (4 cores / 8 threads) during a storm.

Another issue for me is I want a console. If the dogs start barking or a sensor is triggered I want to be able to look at the monitors and see what is going on.One of the reasons I have 3 Blue Iris servers, other than load, is that 13 cameras fit perfectly in a 1:3, 4 up layout full screen display on a 32 inch monitor so that I can see at a glance what is going on.

I should note too load. Those servers are each looking at around 40 mb/s coming in from cameras so sending to the cloud in never going to happen without a fiber uplink.

I am thinking about setting it up just to fine tune motion detection setting for Blue Iris if nothing else.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Microseven 6-22mm 3MP Manual Zoom Varifocal Len HD 1080P

Microseven 6-22mm 3MP Manual Zoom Varifocal Len HD 1080P SONY 1/2.8" CMOS Built-in Microphone & POE ONVIF Works with Alexa, WiFi IP Camera Outdoor 128GB, Free M7 Cloud &Live Streaming on

Unlike the Reolink 411ws this one has a manual zoom, 6 to 22 mm, and focus which means you set the sweet spot where you want it and it will stay there unlike the Reolink 411ws when it is loses power. Or as it is doing now, just reboots.

Technically the Microseven would not focus at its full zoom. I pushed the focus to the max and then backed off the zoom till I got it to focus at a target about 65 feet away. 

Here are the shots for testing recognition at just over 100 feet. First the Reolink at full zoom looks like this

And Microseven also at "full zoom" looks like this.

Right off you can see it is zoomed in tighter and clearer. But the rez is lower 1080p @ 3MP vs 1728p @ 5MP. If you zoom in on the pics though you see the higher optical zoom of the Microseven (left) still looks a bit better. 

At about 200 feet the Reolink looks like

And the Microseven like

Zooming in again they compare like this Microseven left and Reolink right

Still neither is all that useful at 200 feet for license plate reading or face recognition.
At 165 feet it is almost usable. Though I'd say my beard looks a LOT longer in this pic than it is.

Night vision is better though

Zoomed in it still looks pretty good.

That building is 370 feet away.
Compare with this shot from the zoomed in Reolink 411

But then the Escam QD900 beat the Reolink 411ws in this test
Even with all the grain in the Escam shot might still edge out the others in this one case. Note however the Escam's night vision distance is very limited on its own so without the security light on that building. I should note in the Reolink vs Escam compare there was also an IR flood installed while in the Microseven shots above no IR flood was used. For an idea of how well these illuminate here is a wide shot from the Reolink 411ws
Note the time and name are wrong because it has lost its config again.
Here is the same shot from the Mcroseven. Note the name and time display are turned off on it.

Paired together I think they give great coverage. If I only could have one I'd probably go with the Reolink given the fact fully zoomed in you still have a wider field of view while getting almost as good recognition abilities at distance. Note I did not include and zoomed out shots from the Microseven because it focusing it can be a bit touchy and since it only goes down to 6 mm it still would not be as wide as a standard 70 degree lens at only 50 degrees. The Reolink above for comparison is 98 degrees.

One last shot to highlight a minor point the OSD of name and time are small and only have top and bottom as options. So in case that matter here is a shot with OSD turned on.

Generally I leave the camera's OSD (top) on as a backup to what Blue Iris has (at bottom). They often get off especially with DST. The Microseven OSD I had not even noticed got turned off i earlier shots it is so hard to see.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Zoneminder eval as Blue Iris replacement


After getting feed up with Windows 10 issues I'm checking out Zoneminder. First things first start with a clean CentOS 7 install since I ran into all kinds of conflicts trying to install on boxes with other things already running. xrdp for instance will keep you from installing vlc which Zoneminder needs.

Installing base CentOS 7

Installing CentOS 7 with Gnome desktop

These instructions are great other than instead of minimal configuration, select Gnome desktop and select all sub packages, otherwise follow the instructions in the link
After it reboots accept the EULA and take defaults for basic config. Check for and install any outstanding updates.

The rest of the set up can be done remotely as root logged in via ssh

Create user with sudo access

adduser username
passwd username
If system uses the simple wheel group membership you can use
usermod -aG wheel username

Otherwise edit /etc/sudoers to get granular.

To avoid conflicts DO NOT install anything else before Zoneminder!

Install Zoneminder

Follow the instructions from here.

sudo yum install --nogpgcheck zmrepo-7-9.el7.centos.noarch.rpm
sudo yum install zoneminder
less /usr/share/doc/zoneminder-*/README.Redhat7

The last line above is more instructions. Follow them with these caveats:
sudo dnf install mariadb-server should be
sudo yum install mariadb-server
Note it is important to install mariadb-server and NOT mysqld or try and use a remote db since this seems to currently keep Zomeminder from starting.
Note when you see something like
mysql -uroot -p -e "grant all on zm.* to \
                        'zmuser'@localhost identified by 'zmpass';"
It is better to enter as
mysql -uroot -p -e "grant all on zm.* to 'zmuser'@localhost identified by 'zmpass';"
since \ seems to get lost sometimes when copy pasting into ssh sessions.

At sudo systemctl start zoneminder is where you know if things worked.

Note if you want to be able to access Zoneminder other than from a browser on the box itself also run the commands
sudo firewall-cmd --permanent --zone=public --add-port=80/tcp
sudo firewall-cmd --permanent --zone=public --add-port=443/tcp
sudo firewall-cmd --reload

You can now go to the console via your browser. If you are on the box you can use the IP address of otherwise substitute your server's IP address for in this URL

Setting up cameras

For details check out the Getting Started section of the user guide. Note the set up section appears to be out of date as some of the tabs had different or more options when I setup a camera for this test.
Setup is not nearly as simple as Blue Iris which generally just figures it out from an IP address and a login. Since you will probably end up Googling what to use to make it work with your camera I won't go into steps here.

First impressions

I got Zoneminder to work by spinning up a new copy of CnetOS 7 on one of my test PCs.
The broke bit I saw on my first try seems to be with it not seeing the DB because it is looking for an instance of Maria DB local (remote it also supposed to work) and does not see MySQL local either as equivalent.  Note they are functionally equiv and the OS saw the MySQL DB I had installed as newer version of Maria. There were also other software conflicts on other servers I tried that had other things installed like remote desktop for example which needed to be remove just to get it to install.

The interface is no where near as finished or as easy to use as Blue Iris. Plan on looking up what to put into config boxes and playing with options to get them to work. For example to configure the video stream on ZomeMinder per their Wiki looks like this

Note the Probe and ONVIF links are supposed to yield a list of config suggestions similar to what Blue Iris' inspect does but it returned nothing detected for the Amcrest. The presets option lists about 40 low resolution cameras. Amcrest was not even listed in the presets despite being on their Wiki. By comparison Blue Iris has more than 40 brands of cameras listed, many with many models.

The equivalent window on Blue Iris looks like this
Generic above was setup automaticly by inspect though you could also select Amcrest. The configuration by selecting the brand and model looks quite different but seems to work equally well.

Load wise a single Amcrest 2K cam on Zoneminder appears to max out a Core 2.
Note that is streaming the one cam back to a browser but it was still nailed after stopping that stream.
You can see the spike where I logged back in via remote desktop to see the load and how it changed the load on the box very little.

For comparison that same camera plus 12 others are recording 24/7 with motion detection on the i7 server now with an average core load of 46%.

Granted the i7 is faster but not that much faster. About 3 times faster according to this.

Finally for me I'm looking for something that lets me have a monitor (3 actually) showing the cams so I can just glance up when I get an alert or hear the dogs barking that something is happening.

The Zoneminder interface seems to be oriented to record now and watch later. That is fine if that is all you need but if you want to be able actively monitor multiple cams it won't cut it.


After trying:

  • moving the swap file to another hard drive
  • running hardware diagnostics 
  • Windows troubleshooters
  • trying fixes I found on line
  • reinstalling Blur Iris
  • and even swapping out the graphics card, since the symptoms were the Blue Iris console locking up and Windows programs not updating bits of the screen  

I ended up restoring from the restore disks which put the system back to Windows 7. After installing upgrades and all the software (Blue Iris, apcupsd, cygwin and ODrive) it is working great again. Kind of confirms it was a Windows 10 issue.