Sunday, December 10, 2017

Amcrest ProHD Outdoor 3-Megapixel Wi-Fi Vandal Dome IP Security Camera - IP3M-956W

Amcrest ProHD Fixed Outdoor 3-Megapixel (2304 x 1296P) Wi-Fi Vandal Dome IP Security Camera - IP67 Weatherproof, IK10 Vandal-Proof, 3MP (1080P/1296P), IP3M-956W (White)

At $99 dollars it is $20 cheaper than its bullet counterpart. Electronically they are about the same so you can pretty much just look at my Review: Amcrest IP3M-943W for details.

Under the come it looks like this

Under the LED array the camera looks like this

If you look close you can see the lens is glued in so there is not swapping of lenses possible.

Here is a sample shot from the bird feeder to compare view angles.

And a matching shot from a QD900 1080p cam

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

More IP cam insecurities

These kind of issues are why you do not expose your cams to the outside world or let them talk out to just anyone. You should always have your cams talk to a local server and make that local server be the access point for the cameras. To be really secure put devices that should not be talking to the outside world on their own network that blocks any any access to the outside world.

Check out these links for more info about Foscam (and the many OEM brands using their hardware ) current issues and possible fixes. Though at the time of this writing a fixed version of the firmware is not available.
Internet cameras have hard-coded password that can’t be changed
Foscam Security Cameras Full of Security Flaws
Securing Your Foscam Camera – Important Notice
The latest firmware

Monday, April 17, 2017

Some things to keep in mind if you are thinking of cloud recording your cams

I hear a lot of people and services talking about recording to the cloud but some basic issues really put a damper on things quick.

Bandwidth needed

Depending on who you ask 720p will eat up 600 Kbps to  44.6 Mbps. 1080p 1.2 Mbps to 73.5 Mbps!

NetFlix says 5.0 Megabits per second - Recommended for HD quality It does not say if that is 720p or 1080p but I'm guessing it is 1080p.

For a more real world example Let's look at my Blue Iris severs with a mix of camera resolutions and brands.
First server is recording 13 cameras. 2 2Ks, 1 960P, 2 1080p and 8 720p. Its network usage averages around 40 Mbps with peeks near 50 Mbps.
Second server is recording 12 cameras. 1 2Ks, 1 960P, 2 1080p, 1 SD and 7 720p. Again about 40 Mbps average with 50 peeks.
Third is lighter 12 cams; 1 2K, 2 1080ps, 6 720p, 2 SD and 1 USB.  Its network usage averages around 25 Mbps with peeks near 32 Mbps.

Not a problem if you have fiber / gigabit level bandwidth but the current top of the line Spectrum (formerly Time Warner) internet connection (300 Mbps service) averages around 20 Mbps upload. The 300 is download speed only.  AT&T only claims 12 to 20 Mbps upload speeds on their top end tier that I cannot even get here. Note AT&T's web store shows a 1 TB cap in fine print for unbundled internet service. (1 TB is less than 14 hours at 20 Mbps or about 33 GB per day) Worse yet it seems TWC is one of the few left NOT capping data. So even if you dedicate a top end TWC internet connection just to your security cams, do not expect to get more than about 6 720p or 3 1080p cams to record to the cloud over it.


Another issue is you REALLY do not want these cams open to the internet. The security on them tends toward cosmetic. Google "webcam security issues" for tons of examples. You want cams on their own, local only, network if possible. At very least blocked at you modem's firewall from talking to the outside except through a local firewalled  server. Otherwise it is like locking your doors while leaving some windows open.

Saving space by not recording continuously

Of course you can save bandwidth by trying to just recorded motion. This is about as useful as saving bandwidth by lowering resolution. Either way you will probably end up cussing when you actually need footage of an event. You can waste quite a bit of time trying to find the sweet spot of balance between catching the stuff you want and eliminating false alarms for each camera. Unless you are monitoring a controlled indoor setting I'd suggest you just forget it. Either you error on the side of false alerts to not miss anything (and probably still miss some stuff) or you might as well not be recording at all. Your best bet is to record continuously and set you motion triggers to the light side, uploading pic and or snippets to cloud storage. That way you get alerts for anything serious and can check the video for what lead up to it. As well as other views of the area from other cameras if available. Assuming the server is not taken of course.

Always test your setup with a person in the most extreme distance to confirm the video will not be useless when you need it by trying to get a recognizable picture from it. Odds are you will find you need better resolution and or zoom than you think to get video useful for more than just seeing someone is there. For a starting point check out the CCTV Design Lens Calculator for ideas of what you will probably need.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Review: WS-PoE-Tester/Detector

WS-PoE-Tester/Detector - Inline tester for power over ethernet, display from 20v to 56 volts, 0-5 amps, and actively used power in 802.3af, 802.3at and passive PoE at 10/100/1000 data rates

If you are hooking up IP cameras you probably are connecting them via POE (Power Over Ethernet). Seriously since you have to get power to it you might as run Ethernet cable to it to avoid WiFi issues and power them off the same UPS. Despite the Amazon title for this device it works good with 12 volt systems too. POE or old school analog power cables. Not only will this show that the camera is getting power but also how many amps it is drawing and the actual voltage. Then you can compare the end of the line voltage to the source to see how much loss there is so you can easily see if there is an iffy connection or too much loss due to the length being too long for the cable type you are using. Always try and keep the loss to less than 0.1 volts.

So useful I bought a second as a backup after I forgot to put the first one back in my tool box once.

If your camera does not support POE directly but has the standard 12 volt connector, you can pick up a Huacam HCP05 Passive PoE Injector/Splitter with 5.5 x 2.1 mm Connector to convert it to POE.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Review: Amcrest UltraHD 2K IP3M-941W

I bought a Amcrest UltraHD 2K (3MP/2304TVL) WiFi Video Security IP Camera with Pan/Tilt, Dual Band 5ghz/2.4ghz, Two-Way Audio, 3-Megapixel @ 20FPS, Wide 90° Viewing Angle and Night Vision IP3M-941W (White) from Amazon. I should note the first one I received did not work. The second one did but took some messing with to get working with Blue Iris

The video quality of the Amcrest IP3M-941W is the same as the 2K Amcrest IP3M-943W cam. In other words about what you would expect from a 1080p cam just more of it. The normal Amazon price is $150 but it drops to $130 on occasion. The main extras you get for an extra $20 over the IP3M-943W are:

  • Pan/Tilt
  • Audio input
  • 5 GHz WiFi

The down sides:

  • Indoor only

Depends on the need:

  • The view is a little less wide with a 4 mm lens instead of the 2.8 mm the IP3M-943W has. Only 90 degrees instead of 100. But that is still wider than the 70 degrees of many cameras.
  • The 4 mm lens is a F 2.2 and the 2.8 is a F 2.0 so there will be a slight difference in depth of field but not enough I noticed it.
Bottom line:
If you need wide angle and pan/tilt or local recording it might be worth the extra money. If you do not need pan/tilt (with 90 deg view you probably do not), before you buy though check Hikvision. One of their models will probably do what you need for a lot less. And if you are really worried about security their dome versions can be bolted to the ceiling to really make it tough for thieves.

Example night shot from the Foscam FI9821W I replaced

Yeah the place is usually a mess with multiple projects going and keeping eval boxes to hand for return shipping. Anyway here is the same view with the Amcrest IP3M-941W
So what you get is pretty much wall to wall coverage if you put it in a corner. Plus a clearer picture. Though at up to 3 times the cost. Note you will get better coverage if you mount the cam about half way up the wall so it can look straight out. Though if your main goal is security instead of something like keeping an eye on the pets then you probably want to mount it as high as you can. Note both these cams use 5 volt power supplies so need to be close to an outlet versus 12 volt cams that can usually be on a 200 foot power cord with no problems.

One last point that might make this camera worth the extra money to you. As you can see above, the picture is clearer but you probably do not really get how much till you zoom in. If I zoom in, with the Foscam FI9821W you can barely make out the floor tiles.

But with the Amcrest IP3M-941W you can easily.

Note all the above pics are direct (raw) frame grabs. A quick contrast adjust in something like Photoshop / Premiere will bring up a bit more detail

Inside it looks like this

Again if you look closely you can see the lens is glued in place so no swapping.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Review: Foscam FI9821W

Foscam FI9821W V2 Megapixel HD 1280 x 720p H.264 Wireless/Wired Pan/Tilt IP Camera with IR-Cut Filter - 26ft Night Vision and 2.8mm Lens (70° Viewing Angle) 

If you are looking for something cheap to look out the window during the day or view the inside of your place the Foscam FI9821W V2 might be just the thing. I've seen them NEW as low as $47.50 on, used as low as $34 plus shipping and they can record to an SD card in the base.

Here is a night shot of the mess my living room is in

And in the day

And out the window
There is a 1080p version but it is usually going for about the same price as the 2K Amcrest IP3M-941W so you might as well get that or a Hikvision, if you do not need pan/tilt. Note both the Foscam FI9821W and the Amcrest IP3M-941W are 5 volt cams so must be withing about 10 feet of an AC outlet.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Review: Hikvision DS-2CD2035-I

Those QD900s are getting hard to come by. Often $60 or more now IF you can get them. Plus I've learned of a security flaw in them recently and they do not offer firmware fixes. On a suggestion in an IT forum I looked at the Hikvision cams. The Hikvision DS-2CD2035-I  is a damn nice 2K 70 deg view cam I got for $80 but you do not get WiFi in this model and it is not upgradable. There is sticker on the box warning you not to try in fact which is bit of a red flag for people that are aware of IoT security issues that have been making regular news of late. Fortunately look for the US or upgradable version in the descriptions on for one you can get firmware update to. They seem to be running about $20 more for the same features though. If not worried about your network security, it still compared well with a Escam Qd900 that is running only about $20 less. For that $20 you get a lot more detail and probably are still more secure but you do loose wi-fi. You also get config and monitoring features you do not normally find in low cost cameras like SNMP v3.

I also like the mount better on the Hikvision. Another nice thing about the Hikvision cams is most of them are available with 2.8, 4 or 6 mm lenses so you can probably get one that matches the viewing angle you need without needing to swap out the lens.

All the pics here were grabbed from the video recorded on Blue Iris using this config

In a posted pic you will not see a lot of diff in a day time shot between the 2K Hikvision w/ 4 mm lens
and the 1080p QD900

If you zoom in though you see a huge difference between the Hikvision
and the QD900

Night vision is not bad. Note the plane in the upper right corner.

though the you are not going to get much detail at 50 feet without extra illumination on a moonless night.
Here is a quick IR sensitivity compare contrast left to right the Hikvision, the $40 (referb) Foscam FI9804 and  the $40 SV3C I had next to each other for evaluation. Note the Foscam is picking up some IR bounce back from the fence in front and below it even though the fence is not in the picture.

Inside it looks like this

It is hard to make out but this lens is glued in place making it impossible to swap out.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Started a Spec Compare sheet

I'll keep adding stuff as I test cameras and find new info but it already has pretty complete on the cams listing the "IP Cams I've tried" section. I've added the link (Camera spec compare) in the links section in the header.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Found a nice tool for figuring out what camera you need with what lens

CCTV Design Lens Calculator is a free tool to show you what lens / resolution combo you need in order to:

  • Monitor and Control - 5%; A figure occupies at least 5% of the screen height and the scene portrayed is not unduly cluttered. From this level of detail an observer should be able to monitor the number, direction and speed of movement of people across a wide area, providing their presence is known to him; i.e. they do not have to be searched for.
  • Detect - 10%; The figure now occupies at least 10% of the available screen height. After an alert an observer would be able to search the display screens and ascertain with a high degree of certainty whether or not a person is present.
  • Observe - 25%; A figure should occupy between 25% and 30% of the screen height. At this scale, some characteristic details of the individual, such as distinctive clothing, can be seen, whilst the view remains sufficiently wide to allow some activity surrounding an incident to be monitored.
  • Recognize - 50%; When the figure occupies at least 50% of screen height viewers can say with a high degree of certainty whether or not an individual shown is the same as someone they have seen before.
  • Identify - 100% With the figure now occupying at least 100% of the screen height, picture quality and detail should be sufficient to enable the identity of an individual to be established beyond reasonable doubt.

Note those percentages are based on the old analog cams of about 400 vertical lines. With this tool you feed it the camera specs (including lens) and it will tell you how close it needs to be to the place you are watching for the level of recognition you need.

For instance if I want to read license plates at my main gate. 
With a 720p Escam QD300 with a stock lens, the camera would need to be 34.6 feet from the gate.
Oddly with a Escam QD900 with its larger 1080p sensor but the same 3.6 mm stock lens, the camera would need to be 32.4 feet from the gate. This is because the larger sensor causes the view to be wider even though the lens is the same.
If I swap out the lens though to a 16 mm, that max camera distance jumps to 144 feet. which works.
Put that 16 mm lens in one of the Hikvision 2K cameras and I should be able to read plates at 185 feet. Which be across the street or back in the trees so that is over kill.

To me the most useful part of this tool is seeing what you get for usable video for instance here is a compare of lenses for one of my cameras

You can also import your floor plan and yard objects into it to find blind spots in your layout and try various placements of cameras for the best coverage before installing any.
See their screenshots here

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Review: SV3C 960P Wifi Outdoor Camera

SV3C 960P HD Wifi Wireless Outdoor Home Surveillance IP Security Camera,Bullet Camera,20M Night Vision,Support Remote View by Phone,Pad,Windows PC, Support Max 64G TF Card for Record

With 2 Foscams stolen and a third dying as I tried to put into service I started looking around for another cheap cam for locations outside the fence. What I found was the SV3C 960P Wifi Outdoor Camera, for just $40. Though as I'm writing this I see it is $43 today.

Between the 1280 x 960 resolution and the price you are not going to expect much. I'd say the daytime view is about as good as the 720p Escams and Foscams. Though one oddity was the picture seems distorted almost like they took something a bit taller than 1280x720 and stretched it to be 1280x960. For instance here is my video target.

You can see it seems just a bit taller than it is wide. Enough I noticed it though again probably not enough to matter but it is just odd.

Since I still have a dog food box of parts still sitting on my coffee table here is the compare shot between the HikVision DS-2CD2035-I (left) and the QD900 (right) in evening light

to compare to the SV3C

You might notice the distorted aspect ratio again along with the lack of detail.

Next I stuck it next to a HikVision DS-2CD2035-I with 4mm Lens that comes in at $80 ($81 at the moment).

Here are evening shots of the (collapsed) pool area and deer feeder.
The Hikvision looks like this

and the SV3C like this

Looks zoomed in a bit but not bad till you zoom in. Zoomed in on the feeder the Hikvision looks like

While the SV3C looks like

Things get worse at night. Note both cams are on here so the illumination from both are in use. The Hikvision

vs the SV3C

So the IR distance / sensitivity is not great.

On the plus side it does work with Blue Iris though it is not obvious how to get it working. You want a config similar to this

Some gotchas:

If you do get one of these you might be thrown by the interface coming up in Chinese. Look for this screen to change it.

Unfortunately it does not seem to save this and you need to select English here or the login screen each time.

The password field does not seem to support symbols so if you type a password like Ab3d! it stores it as Ab3d.

Can not turn off UPnP and it says succeeded though UPnP is disabled at my site and I have the cam blocked form accessing the internet.

Lastly it comes with the IP set to a static which might cause problems getting it setup.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Started this as note on Facebook which is almost impossible to find anything on now with all the comments and such so I'll be moving stuff here.