PHOENIX - Have you ever wished you could peer into your home or office even when you're not there? Perhaps you want to check in on your baby at home, when you're NOT home. Technology to the answer. I had a chance to check out two of the latest wireless digital cameras that let you watch your home or office remotely.
First up is the Dropcam. It's a wireless camera designed specifically for your home. The camera itself is a circular plastic pod that clips into a metal stand. A USB cable plugs into the back and provides power for the Dropcam.
Setup was easy but did require you to plug the camera into a PC with that USB plug. It can operate without a PC but you will need one for the initial setup. Not a big deal for most people but it's good to know.
Once set up, the Dropcam is super simple to use. You can view the cam from your smartphone or from the Dropcam website. The video is HD so it looks crystal clear. The camera has night vision. Lights off? No problem for the Dropcam. You also have the ability to talk through the camera. So, if you're watching your kids at home after school, you can push a button and start talking and they'll hear you through the built-in speaker on the Dropcam. You can hear them respond through the live stream. Pretty cool! Is your dog lonely? Calm him with the sound of your voice.
You can also set up alerts on the Dropcam. This means the camera can send you an e-mail or notify you on your smartphone when it detects motion, sound or is disconnected from your network.
Dropcam goes one step further, for a price. It will record your camera in the cloud. It's essentially a DVR for your Dropcam. Do you want to see if your child made the bed 2 hours ago? No problem! The interface is simple and even automatically displays markers at points in the past where it detected motion and sound. If you see something you like, you can quickly save and share clips with others
For $9.99/month it'll save the last 7 days of Dropcam video, for $29.99 it saves the past 30 days. The DVR feature is very cool and very useful but I don't think most homes users would want to pay the extra monthly fee. The Dropcam works great without the DVR feature but doesn't allow you to save video if you don't pay.
Things I'd change
While I really like the design of the Dropcam, the circular camera portion had a tendency to un-click from the base every time I picked it up. Not a major issue but it could be more secure.
I also wish the Dropcam offered some sort of limited version of the DVR feature for free. It's an awesome feature but spending $100/year on a subscription is simply not an option for most home users.
The Dropcam is a really well thought out product. For the price, it's packed with a lot of features that typically only come in much higher end models. Even if you don't spend the money for the extra DVR features, the Dropcam is one of the best wireless cameras on the market for under $200. It has it all including HD video, night vision, the ability to talk to the camera, camera access through a webpage and smartphone apps for both iPhone and Android.
The Dropcam sells for $149.
If you're an "i" junkie, the iZON wireless camera may be just for you. It's a unique looking wireless camera designed specifically for the iPhone, iPad and iPod. The camera itself is essentially a 3" tube shaped device, about ¾" in diameter. It magnetically attaches to a half sphere base that makes for very unique mounting options. Click here to see a picture if my description has left you scratching your head.
Setup couldn't be any easier. In fact, you don't even need a computer. Plug the iZON in, load up the app on your iOS device and it walks you through the three steps to connect your iZON to your WiFi network. The entire process takes a matter of a few minutes.
Once connected, everything is done via the iZON iOS app. You can view the camera on your local network or remotely via 3G/4G. When you're not on your local network, the camera will automatically time-out after 5 minutes. You can set up the iZON to send you push notifications when it detects motion or sound. Keep in mind that you can NOT access this camera from the web. You must use the iOS app on your iPhone, iPod or iPad. For Apple users, it's not an issue but others may consider this a deal breaker.
It originally had the ability to automatically upload clips to your Youtube account when it detected activity but Youtube made some changes that broke that feature. iZON created its own free cloud storage service that will replace the Youtube feature. It's not available yet but the company says it's currently (as of 8/17/12) awaiting approval from the Apple App Store.
The iZON does have low-light capabilities but won't shoot in complete darkness. It does not have an infrared light. This may be an issue for some users who want to watch their
child or home even when the lights are off.
Things I'd change
While I own an iPod touch, I'm far from an iOS junkie. I feel a bit left out with the iZON. It would be nice to see an Android app to solve that problem. Web access for those times when my smartphone is not nearby would be nice as well.
I'm surprised that iZON doesn't have an IR light so you can use the cam in complete darkness. For some people this may not matter but many of us expect to use a camera like this for keeping on eye on our kids while they sleep. In that case, it's a "no go."
For iPhone users looking to keep an eye on their home, kids or pets while away, the iZON is a great camera at a great price. The iZON is built well with a unique shape and mounting base. It's one of the easiest remote cameras I've ever set up. The free cloud storage (currently being switched to Stem Cloud from Youtube) is a huge bonus. Other cameras require monthly subscriptions for a similar feature, it's free with the iZON. The iZON sells for $129.95. It's an even better deal if you buy 2 for $199.
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