It is a DIY IP camera with a wide angle lens that you self-monitor your home or any other property over your WiFi internet connection using your smart phone or computer.
There are stories (with video) online about how people enjoying a vacation or at work discovering criminals in their home because they set up a webcam or a surveillance camera that notifies them on their smart phone of any unauthorized movement in their home. The police are notified and the criminals are caught in the act resulting in at least the stolen goods being recovered and then hopefully there is an arrest and conviction to follow.
The camera is relatively cheap, easy to set up to protect the home and family without putting yourself at risk. The recorded video can also help the police in catching the criminals.
In my review I look at just how good the Dropcam’s features are but more importantly how it measures up as a home security camera system to help in monitoring and protecting your home, family and valuables.
- 1 Installation
- 2 Contract
- 3 Support
- 4 Cameras
- 5 Video Storage
- 6 Alarms
- 7 Notification
- 8 Remote Monitoring
- 9 Battery
- 10 Dropcam Pro Wi-Fi Wireless Video Monitoring Security Camera Sensors/Detection
- 11 Door/Window Contacts
- 12 Panic Button/Duress Codes
- 13 Setting The Alarm
- 14 Control Panel – Local
- 15 Timers
- 16 Protection Against It Being Switched Off
- 17 Coverage
- 18 Wireless or Wired
- 19 Zones
- 20 Dimensions
- 21 Features
- 22 Accessories
- 23 Pros
- 24 Cons
- 25 Dropcam Pro Wi-Fi Wireless Video Monitoring Security Camera Consumer Ratings
- 26 Dropcam Pro Wi-Fi Wireless Video Monitoring Security Camera Price
- 27 Summary
This is a very easy camera to set up with it just taking minutes to get everything up and running.
There is very little to do past following the small set of instructions of plugging it in, setting up an account, downloading an app and deciding where you want to put it.
You will be asked during the set up what level of cloud video recording you want. There is the free version where you do not get any storage, or there are 2 paid levels giving you 7 days video stored or 30 days of video stored on the company’s cloud server. Often you get the first 14 days free to give you time to try out the system. I talk more about this in the contract section as it is important to know what you get for the price of the camera and what costs extra.
If this is going to be your primary or only security system then the locations you are best to cover are your front door and back door first as these are where most burglars gain entry. Then it is to consider securing where your valuables are stored – most burglars head for the master bedroom as they know from experience this is where people hide their jewelry and cash. You might not want to put one in your bedroom for privacy reasons instead you can cover the access way to it.
Installation itself is easy. You can put it on a shelf or attach it to a wall using the hardware that is included in the box and point it to where you want it to monitor.
It is recommended for indoor use only as it is not weather proof but some people do install it outside under eaves to keep it out of direct weather. It does need power to be run to it as the camera needs to be plugged in for power. If you do want to install it outside to keep an eye on your cars or other areas around the house there is a weather proof case that can be bought separately but the seller is not part of Dropcam. It gets reasonable reviews.
Other people have pointed the camera out a window and have managed to get a reasonable quality of picture during the day but at night the infra red lights need to be turned off to prevent reflection from the glass and then the area you are monitoring needs to be well lit for it to see anything.
To use the system you need a WiFi internet connection. Without this it won’t work. It needs to be a high speed internet access with a minimum 0.5 megabits upload per second needed per camera. You can test your upload speed at http://www.speedtest.net and you can contact your ISP. You can use this with just a computer running a later version Web Browser but you are probably going to want to use a mobile device with it to get the most out of the remote monitoring functions. It supports Android devices running with Nexus 5 and/or Android 4.3 or later and iOS mobile devices using iPhone 4S or later including iPad 3.
To use the cameras there are no long term contracts to sign. But you get a basic level of service without the ability to store or record video.
The upgrades to the no cost service enable you to record video, to have access to the cloud storage and to use some of the features. These require you to pay a monthly or annual fee.
It is important to be aware of what is available at the 3 price points upfront as some people have been disappointed to say the least that if they want to record and store video they need to pay a monthly fee. They were not aware of this when they bought the camera.
The 3 levels of service are:
The no cost service includes live streaming, email and push notifications of motion with a snapshot, two way audio, ability to schedule when cameras are on or off and night vision. There is no facility to record or store video locally or otherwise. This allows you to check your home after you receive a notification to see what is happening and if there is a security event you can then contact your neighbors or police as needed. You do not have video that you can give the police to help with identification of any criminals.
For $9.95 per month or $99 per year you also get 7 days of video stored on the company’s cloud storage. You can make your own video clips and share with others and download to your own computer or other storage methods. You can set up activity zones where you receive notifications when motion is detected in just that area. When motion is detected you get a link to the video stored to watch rather than a snapshot. You can also make a time lapse video of an event or day that you can watch in minutes.
For $29.95 per month or $299 per year you get 30 days of video recorded and stored on the cloud. The rest of the features are the same as the $9.95 per month service.
This cost is for one camera. For additional cameras they are charged at 50% of the cost. So, if you have 3 camera and choose the $9.95 service the first camera is $9.95 and the next 2 cameras are charged at $4.975 each giving a total cost per month of $19.90.
The Dropcam now works with Nest Protect (CO or smoke) and Nest Thermostat . If there is a safety incident your Dropcam turns on and records a clip whether you have the no cost or paid cloud storage service.
You can cancel the service at any time without penalty.
The company can be contacted 24/7 by phone or email except for a couple of days over the holiday period. This is good to see as most company’s only have support during business hours making it difficult for the customer to get hold of them when they aren’t at work.
They have a 30 money back return policy guarantee and cover shipping. The limited warranty period is 1 year where they will replace or repair if there is a problem with the hardware. They cover the cost of shipping if product requires returning.
I contacted Dropcam by email with some questions to complete this review and they responded within 2 days with all the information requested.
There is some confusion over the exact resolution of the cameras and what you can see. The current situation is that the cameras have the ability record in 1080p but they are set so you can only get 720p HD resolution. This may change in the future.
Having said that the quality of the Dropcam Pro Wi-Fi Wireless Video Monitoring Security Camera video during the day and night is excellent with it being crisp and easy to make out detail. You can view live cams on their site (where people have chosen to share the stream publicly). During the day it is color and at night it is black and white as it uses infra red illumination to see.
The camera has a wide angle view of 130 degrees. When located in the corner of a room this gives you a full view of the room. It does have a fish eye effect to get this coverage with the side edges and corners being curved. It does impact on the quality of the image but it is not significant.
You can’t pan or tilt around the view but you can digitally zoom on different parts of the image to get a better look at that section of the video. It can zoom up to 8 times but the image does get blurry initially but you can enhance the resolution in the live feed. This brings back most of the crispness lost in zooming and is great for focusing on specific problem areas. This is one of the best features and is something not available in other IP cameras I’ve looked at so far.
However, for recorded video you can zoom in but you can’t enhance so after 2 X zoom the image becomes blurry. This can be an issue if you want to zoom in on a face to get a clear picture of them to help in identification.
At night the camera can see up to 25 feet away with the infra red illumination without any other lighting. You can see faint lights from the camera when it is in night vision that could give its location away if someone is looking for it specifically otherwise it is unlikely to be noticed. If you are wanting to cover your driveway at night it is going to need another lighting source if it is over 25 feet away from the location of the camera.
Up to 20 ft – 30 ft is the ideal distance from the camera (night or day) for getting a good level of detail for identification of anyone after that the quality starts to be less clear. The zoom/enhance feature can help in live feed situations to get better detail but it does restrict your total view to just that section you are viewing – that view is also what is recorded.
To store video you need to either subscribe to 7 day or 30 day cloud storage plan, otherwise there is no facility to record and store locally or on your own online storage. If you have the subscription plan the video older than the days subscribed to is removed.
In addition to the daily storage you do get up to 3 hours that you can store permanently online if you want
Once the video has been recorded you can make video clips from the video stored online and download them to your hard drive or store elsewhere.
Motion events that happen are marked on the video timeline so you can jump straight to it and view that rather than having to search through hours or days of video to find it. There is no way to fast forward or rewind through the video but you can make time lapse videos where you can go through hours of video in just minutes to help with searching through the video.
If there is an incident while you are out of town you have the opportunity to view the video to identify the perpetrator. It won’t be stolen as could happen if it was stored on a local storage device in your home.
You have 7 days or 30 days video to work through to identify when your home was broken into and who did it to help the police in their investigations. It can be a small price to pay for the peace of mind and it can increase the chance of your valuable items being recovered.
When the cameras are turned on streaming 24/7, as they can be with cloud storage, they will upload about 2 GB a day. Your ISP can you let you know if you have the level of service to be able to do this, otherwise you may need to increase your limit.
The only way to access this video is by logging into your account. It is encrypted to prevent access by anyone without the right password. As with any internet account you need to ensure you choose a hard password to help prevent hacking. The video when streamed to the cloud server and to your mobile devices is encrypted using bank level security and remains private to you. However, you can share access with friends and family using the sharing settings if you want so they can also view the live stream and recoded video depending on how you set them up.
The system does not sound the siren when it detects movement unlike the Piper camera that comes with an alarm built-in (but it doesn’t have night vision).
You can’t integrate the Dropcam with home security systems to have a fully integrated system.
If this is something you want to consider then the Oplink Tripleshield is a good solution. It is a home security solution that has entry sensor, siren and camera that you control and monitor with a smart phone from anywhere you can connect with the internet. You can stream video and it records 30 second videos when motion is detected. It can’t stream video 24/7 but the 30 seconds it records is 5 seconds before motion is detected and 25 seconds after. The video is recorded and stored locally.
You can set the system to send notifications to your phone of detected motion, scheduled turning on/off, if system is offline by email and/or push notifications. You have the ability to turn these on or off. You can also add people to receive the notifications so there are more people that can monitor your home giving more coverage so if you are in an important meeting someone else can check up on the camera on your behalf.
There is a limit set into the system of only receiving a maximum of one notification every 30 minutes. So if motion is detected at minute zero and a notification sent you receive this one within a few seconds. However, the next time you receive a notification will be after 30 minutes time when motion is detected to prevent you from being inundated with emails and push notifications. This is a conscious decision on the part of the company. I can see that this is to avoid multiple notifications of the same incident (especially a false alarm) which makes sense but I’m not sure why they came up with 30 minutes and not just a few minutes
This could be a problem if you receive a notification just before you leave your house. The next notification you receive will be 30 minutes later. So, if your house is burgled during that time your notification will probably be too late to see what is happening and take action. (If you want to use it as a baby monitor it could mean your baby is crying for up to 30 minutes before you are notified.)
You control and monitor the camera remotely using an iOS or Android device or computer through your account. It can’t be controlled locally as such as you do need to go via the internet even when at home with your camera.
If you want you can be the only one that views your camera live stream and recorded video but you have the option to share with as many people as you want or to the whole world depending on what setting you decide on.
Using the App and website account is straightforward and it is easy to navigate around it to do what you want from setting up cameras, motion detection zones (activity zones), geofencing, scheduling, what alerts to receive or turn them off, selecting which camera to view, rotate view 180 degrees.
As well as having multiple cameras controlled through the one account you can have multiple locations on the one account i.e. you can have your home camera, business camera and vacation home camera all in one place. The cameras can all be named so you know which one is alerting you if there is an event and which one you are viewing.
With the 2 way audio you can listen to what is happening at home as well as see. You can also talk to whoever is at your premises. There is a slight delay between the speaking and hearing of up to a few seconds but the volume and quality is now good after initial teething issues. You can use it to speak to your pets or children from work or you could use it to speak to someone who shouldn’t be there to hopefully scare them off.
You can watch up to 4 cameras at once with the App, if you have more than 4 you can swap between screens to monitor more.
There are no batteries needed for this system. The camera plugs into the house supply using the USB cable and adapter supplied. There are no back up batteries so if there is a power outage the camera is not working.
Dropcam Pro Wi-Fi Wireless Video Monitoring Security Camera Sensors/Detection
The system detects motion and noise. You can set it to record and/or send you notifications when it detects noise and/or motion.
The motion detection is sensitive and can’t be turned down but you can restrict the detection to certain zones known as activity zones. You paint an important area to monitor on your cameras view and set it to send you a notification when motion is detected in that are only. This helps prevent notifications from flashing lights and leaves blowing in the wind but is only available with the paid services.
It detects motions using an algorithm on the company’s servers detecting when there are significant section of the pixels change color, so as long as something is in view of the camera it will be detected as motion. This is why flashing lights or changes in light can sometimes be reported as motion and send out a notification to you.
Alerts for motion are received at the most every 30 minutes, but with the storage service every motion detected is marked on the video timeline.
If you do not have storage service you receive only a notification after the 30 minute period has elapsed. The snapshot is going to be taken once the algorithm has detected the change in color. It is a thumbnail size so makes it difficult to get a good view of what has happened but you can quickly get a lives tream to see what is happening.
The camera does not have or work with entry sensors. The Dropcam tabs that were announced last year that could detect doors or windows being opened did not go ahead as a result of them being bought out by Nest. Hopefully something will happen on this soon as this would give you a way to monitor doors, windows or cupboards in addition to the cameras. It would mean that when the sensors detect something you would be notified before the intruders have entered the premises and you could then use the camera to see what is happening and then contact the police.
There are DIY wireless home security systems available that can cover your entry points and they have motion sensors to give full security coverage of your home. They can work well alongside your Dropcam even though they won’t be integrated and do need to be controlled separately.
If you want to do the monitoring of the system yourself then the PiSector GS08-M is a good option. It can work with a landline and/or cell network (you need to buy a SIM card separately). It comes with 10 door/window contacts to cover your entry points and 3 motion sensors. It does not have a smartphone App but it can contact you on your smartphone by phoning you and playing back a recorded message or text message. In the event of a power outage it has battery backup for 6 hours so will continue to protect your home. You can read my full PiSector GS08-M Wireless System review here.
If you did want to 3rd party monitoring you need to pay a monthly fee for this but it can be cancelled at anytime without penalty then our top pick is Simplisafe which does have an App for monitoring and control, battery backup and protection against being destroyed by criminals. Read my in depth Simplisfe review here. It is a simple DIY installation system that you can monitor with your smartphone as well as be monitored by a professional monitoring centre so you don’t need to be on call 24/7.
Panic Button/Duress Codes
There is no panic button or duress codes with the system.
The 2 systems mentioned in the Door/Window contacts section have panic buttons that you can press to alert those monitoring the system that you have an issue and also to sound the siren. These can be used to sound the alarm instantly when there is an emergency and the system has not detected it.
Setting The Alarm
There are 3 different ways you can turn you cameras on or off.
You can do this manually as and when you want by using the App wherever you are in the world – from work or from Tower Of London as long as you have access to the internet.
You can set up scheduling where the cameras can be set to come on and off at certain times in the day making this great if you don’t want the cameras on while you are at work and then off when you expect to be back home so you don’t have to remember to do this in the morning or when you arrive home after a long day at the office.
The third option is using you mobile devices location to turn your cameras off and on (known as geofencing). You set up the location you want to be used to control the camera in your account, it doesn’t have to be your home, and the camera will turn off when your device is there and will then turn on again when you leave that location. It can make life easier without having to remember to do this and avoid unnecessary notifications. You don’t have to get notifications when it detects motion, you can just set it so you don’t get notifications but the camera remains on if you prefer.
Control Panel – Local
The system is controlled by your mobile app or by going on to your website account. There is no way to control it locally it is all done over the internet.
If you want to view cameras using a TV screen of some sort this needs to be connected to internet either directly or via a PC. The video from the camera is transmitted to the cloud servers over the internet and then you view it by logging into your account either to view recordings or live feeds.
There are no delays in the cameras going live to give you time to leave the premises. It will detect motion and send out the notification immediately. This is the same when it detects motion there is no delay set on it recording the motion to give it time to be switched off (there is the 30 minute delay between notifications being sent out to restrict the number of emails – see Notifications for more information). It will therefore send notifications of you being in the home as you leave if oyu turn it on before you leave the premises.
Protection Against It Being Switched Off
If the power is cut or the internet is down then the cameras won’t be working either for live streaming or recording. You get notified when your system is offline. If you have cloud storage your recordings will be there up to the point the connection was lost. The camera should then reboot automatically once the power and internet are back up.
The distance you can locate your cameras is determined by your internet WiFi signal. Most people get good coverage for their home and have no problems connecting. If you want to place the camera outside the coverage of your WiFi you can buy a WiFi repeater or extender to strengthen the signal and expand the coverage. This is likely to be the case if you are wanting to install outside or have issues with your WiFi network.
You will see a banner on your video or an icon on your video letting you know if there are issues with signal strength and they have articles on their site to help in overcoming this issue.
Wireless or Wired
The communication between the router and the camera is by WiFi and works with 2.4 GHZ and 5.0 GHZ frequencies. It uses your existing WiFi network.
However, it does need to be plugged into the power supply using the USB cable and AC socket adapter supplied for power.
The cameras are all controlled and monitored in one account. But they can be set up to operate separately and be on at different times through scheduling and geofencing.
The camera is 4.5″ x 3.15″ x 3.15″ and weighs 5.7 ounces.
The box includes:
1 Pro HD Camera – 720 HD at 30 frames per second
1 Aluminum stand – to locate on a table or shelf
Wall mounting hardware – easy to install on a wall near a corner to give full coverage of a room
1 10-foot USB cable to be plugged into the camera and USB power adapter after set up
1 USB power adapter for plugging into wall
Dropcam Pro Case Outdoor Enclosure – a weather proof case sold separately by a third party supplier for installing the camera outside
The camera also works with Nest Thermostat and Nest Protect where when there is a safety event of smoke or CO detected you are notified instantly and camera records video and stored ready for viewing whatever level of cloud storage service you have.
2 way audio for detecting sound, listening and speaking to people in your home or business premises
130 degree view camera with quality gives you a good opportunity to cover a room
Very quick and easy to set up in minutes
Portable and only takes a minutes to set up on a new WiFi
Works with both 2.4 GHZ and 5.0 GHZ WiFi
Video is stored online so it is safe from anyone breaking into your home and can be viewed from anywhere you can access the internet
Zoom/enhance feature excellent for getting better focus on certain areas with the cameras field of view for important areas of concern
You can monitor from anywhere in the world
Cameras can be scheduled when they are on and off
Friends and family can be added to your account to help with the monitoring of your home
You can use geofencing to automate the switching on and off using the location of your mobile device
Cameras are not weather proof and can only be used indoors without buying protective covers
There are no entry sensors and the only motion sensors are on the camera.
There is no siren when intruders detected
Does not work with home automation (except Nest) to turn on lights, lock doors etc.
When there is a power outage or the internet down the system is not working. You do receive a notification that your Dropcam is offline
Video storage can only be on company’s cloud servers which costs a minimum of $9.95 a month or $99 per year
30 minute delay on notifications which can in some circumstances mean you can be too late to respond
Snapshots are small and can be too small to help in identifying what has happened
Dropcam Pro Wi-Fi Wireless Video Monitoring Security Camera Consumer Ratings
When it was first released there were some issues with it dropping the WiFi connection at night and the audio not being very clear and this comes through in some of the earlier reviews. They have since fixed this in subsequent updates to software.
The main outstanding issue is that many feel that the cloud storage is expensive and was not properly explained in the product description. They feel they weren’t made aware that you are not able to record locally if you don’t want the cloud video storage. They also feel the monthly fee for the storage is not good value.
Having said that, there are others that like the cloud storage. They feel the price is reasonable and they get their video file stored offsite and away from where it could be taken by burglar if it was stored locally and they don’t have to worry about making sure they have enough storage locally. They like the convenience. They just log on and view their video and everything else is looked after for them. THey see the monthly minor compared to the benefits they get.
Dropcam Pro Wi-Fi Wireless Video Monitoring Security Camera Price
You get a very good camera that works as described with clear video. It’s easy to set up and is reliable and support is very good if there is an issue.
However, if you want to cover the 2 main entrances and where your valuables are in your house your are probably looking at minimum of 3 cameras which is going to cost about $600 to be properly covered. If you want storage for 7 days on the camera this is going to cost $19.90 per month. But you are getting a reliable camera that is easy to use. There is little or no maintenance required. It is very convenient and can help in protecting your home, family and valuables. It can also be used to check up on pets or kids and some people use it as a baby monitor.
For the price you get something that works well and provides a good quality video monitoring.
You can check latest pricing and availability by clicking here: Dropcam Pro Wi-Fi Wireless Video Monitoring Security Camera
As a security system it is not a complete solution but it does work well alongside other DIY security systems. This is similar to other home security camera systems where they are designed more for surveillance rather than a complete integrated solution.
Currently there are only 2 DIY self-monitored home security systems with cameras that give you the ability to cover your home with entry point sensors, motion sensors and integrate with cameras – they are iSmartAlarm or Oplink Tripleshield. Neither of these have a camera that is as good as the Dropcam or offer the cloud storage and 24/7 video recording.
It is an excellent camera for remotely monitoring your property with quality video with zoom/enhancement – day or night – and offsite storage available. There is minimal delay from the camera to your phone, the audio is clear, it has an easy to use App and website and the camera is well made. However, you are dependent on the internet and the company’s servers to access your recordings and live stream.
It can work well as a standalone solution as evidenced by the news stories and help you to feel more secure and protect your property without endangering yourself. I think it works best in conjunction with a home security system monitoring the property and using the camera alongside it.
Filed under: Reviews
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