It’s easy to fall in love with the idea of checking in on your favorite pet, loved-one or possessions while you are away from the house. As a seasoned pet-owner I still get nervous about my cats when I’ve been gone for a few hours and it’s a joy to be able to pick up my smartphone and check-in with them anytime I’m curious.
Living in NYC I occasionally wonder if my apartment is still doing fine without me if I’m away for the weekend. I often worry that as I am enjoying my vacation, my upstairs neighbors may have flooded their bathtub and I will soon be returning to a swamp of moldy rugs and water-stains. With a camera I can check-in, then forget all about it and the industry has grown in leaps and bound over the last few years.
With the holidays coming up we know that wireless cameras and pet-detectors are often gifted, so we wanted to dive right in and find what worked and what didn’t. We tested over a dozen wireless cameras over the past few weeks and we learned a lot about the marketing tricks and letdowns that the industry has to offer.
First of all let’s get the term ‘pet-camera‘ or ‘pet-detectors‘, or ‘interactive pet cameras‘ out of the way. These are wireless cameras, which we found are usually more expensive than traditional wireless cameras that offer better resolution and more convenient features.
“Pet Cameras” seem to be mere novelty acts, with water-downed tech attached to a shoddy gimmick. All of this wrapped in plastic box aimed at tricking you into thinking your pet will be happier with your purchase. We’ve seen cameras with “interactive lasers” for cats that promising a controllable laser-light on the floor, and treat dispensers attached to cameras so you can reward your dog while you are at the grocery-store.
Make no mistake, more often than not you are paying for a toy for your pet, that also has a mediocre camera. Now some devices like food and water stations that are automatic, or wirelessly enabled, can be terrific additions to your home and these usually do not have cameras attached. When we say that “pet cams” are shoddy devices, we mean the devices that are wireless cameras first, gimmick second. Those you can leave on the shelf.
We did find some wonderful choices that won’t break your budget during our experiments. Price can be a really big factor in wireless cameras, if you find a great one on the lower end of the price-spectrum it will be easier to add more cameras should you ever need them. Most wireless cameras are very easy to set-up and offer a terrific view of your home while you are away from it.
One of the easiest to use wireless options we found was the Kodak CFH-V10 Camera Monitor 5/5, offering an HD resolution and easy to connect Wi-Fi video monitoring. A bonus with this option is the 2-way audio, which we will get into in a bit.
Everything about the camera works on your home-network, which is a standard feature in today’s wireless camera market. If you would like to access the stream remotely, you simply download the free iSecurity+ app and you’re good to go. That app for this device is available for ANDROID and iOS devices.
You can do a lot with this little camera, and at $79.99 it’s a quarter of the price of those special “pet-cams” that we spoke about earlier. You can set-up alerts and events, say for movement, and notifications are sent directly to your smartphone. There’s even an automatic night mode that enables the night vision feature the camera offers.
There is one small set-up ‘must’ when using this camera that you should verify first. To get your wireless camera up and running properly, you will have to download the free iSecurity+ app. So make sure you are have a compatible device to get the stream working, any iOS and Android device should work just fine.
The 2-way audio function included in this model can be an important function if you want set-up alerts for your phone or tablet. As we mentioned earlier, you can have these alerts sent for your mobile device and if you have an audio option you can set-up audio alerts as well as motion-alerts. The two-way audio feature allows you listen-in whenever you are also checking-in and it’s a feature I think a lot of users will want to look for when choosing a wireless camera. It’s also a wonderful feature if you need to communicate with someone on the stream while you are away.
Another bonus feature for this camera is the Lifetime 1-Day cloud storage. This is a free feature that lets you watch any recorded clips that you have saved over the past 24 hours. You are unable to connect any current free cloud-storage sites like Dropbox you might be using, that’s because Kodak also offers premium plans. These plans do come with expanded features like 14-Day or 30-Day cloud storage, but aren’t included in the free cloud-storage plan.
Overall we had zero issues with this camera and had the stream available within minutes. The camera offers a terrific range and great picture quality (it’s locked at 720p) even in night-mode. The night-mode range seemed to max-out at about 20ft to 25ft for us, but the exact distance will vary depending on the amount of ambient light in the location that you set the camera. Kodak even created an amazing set-up video tutorial and this one actually makes it a breeze for anyone to setup a wireless camera, even if you are completely new to the idea.
Home-connected device company NEST launched the Dropcam Pro Wi-Fi Wireless Video Monitoring Security Camera (5/5 Rating). While this camera offers a lot of functions and versatility, it’s much higher on the price-scale at $199. A few standout options for this camera is the ability to connect to Wi-Fi and the vide-stream through a computer, as well as any iOS compatible mobile device.
The Dropcam Pro has an amazing camera, plain and simple. The device offers 1080p HD resolution and a field of view of 130 degrees diagonal, so it’s one of the most-advanced options on the market. Nest even incorporated a Zoom and it also has a Night Vision mode just like the competitors.
The Nest Dropcam Pro also offers a two-Way audio option and you can set both motion and sound-alerts. The device also goes a little further allowing you to take advantage of scheduling functions and has a Web app if you don’t want to use a mobile device.
You can also opt-in for optional offsite recording, but it’s not free. If you want to save up to 30 days of footage you’ll have to pay for it. That’s really our main issue with the DropCam Pro, the price. Which not only blocks out the cloud-storage but many of the interesting features as well.
The Dropcam Pro offers users the chance to share clips over social-media (in case your cats start dancing or your dogs do something YouTube worthy) and also allows you to check your video-history and alert-summaries. These features are wonderful selling points but are locked behind a $10 a month a fee.
Other terrific functions, like time-lapse and the alert-zone function (which allows users the chance to set specific areas of the field to view to send instant alerts if the camera senses something) but those are only available through the pay-wall.
With the camera offering 1080p HD video, the night-vision and the web-app, the DropCam Pro is an extremely powerful home surveillance machine. Just remember that you have to pay each month to keep the features unlocked.
Another winner was the Vimtag (Fujikam) 361 (3/5 Rating), currently a top-seller on Amazon. Just like the other options this device allows you to check-in through a smartphone or tablet but it also allows you to check the stream through a PC.
The huge downside to this camera is that it does not record to the cloud, it simply records to a Micro SD card that you have to buy separately. If someone stole the camera with the SD card, you would be out of luck. The camera offers a remote pan and tilt function, it offers motion alerts and has a night vision mode as well. The resolution is maxed-out at 720p and the device does offer the 2 way voice option.
Cloud recording is a gigantic selling-point, which is why the Dropcam and Kodak options ranked so highly on our list. The Fujikam is extremely easy to set-up and you can view the stream on a wide-array of devices. Since the stream is so accessible on so many devices, the Fujikam seems to be a more popular option for folks that may not have an iOS or Android phone, or just want to keep things as simple as possible.
At $99 the Fujikam isn’t the cheapest option available but it offers a simple-to-use interface and has an almost instant ‘plug-and-play’ design. You would have to choose simplicity over features however when choosing this option.