I’ve been searching for a way to keep an eye on my summer cabin while we’re not in residence, and the Xtreme Life Landscape Stone from KJB Security products would seem to be the answer. It claims to provide unattended surveillance with minimal operator intervention and ease of operation. I guess we’ll have to see about that…The Landscape Stone system consists of two major components: a compact DVR and a camera disguised as a rock.
- Video Input: NTSC/PAL Auto Detection
- Standby-time: Up to 365 days (1 Year)
- Continuous Usage: 20 hours
- Record Mode: Standard, Motion, Overwrite
- Max DVR resolution is 720 x 480
- Min Illumination: 0.2LUX
- Resolution Mode: 320×240 / 640×480 / 720×480
- Frame Rate: 1,5,15,20,25,30fps
- Video Format: MPEG-4 ASF file format
- Picture Format: JPG
- Storage: SD Card (up to 16GB SDHC)
- Recording Time: ~40 minutes per GB @ 720×480
- Frame Counter Stamp: Yes
- PC Interface: USB 2.0 ( This was NOT on my device)
- Battery Type: 3.7V 15000mA Lithium Battery
- Camera Resolution: 480 TV Lines
- Image Sensor: 1/4 CMOS
- Size: 8″H x 9″L x 7″W
This is the interior of the rock without the DVR installed. At the top of the photo you have the camera and P.I.R. (Passive Infrared)sensor that detects motion. The shell is made of fiberglass and does somewhat resemble a rock.
On the other side of the DVR is a slot for an SD card (there is no internal storage), power and interface cable connection , the infrared port for the remote and a bank of switches to set the parameters of the DVR. All the ports have a cover to protect them from the elements.
There is a bottom, but it doesn’t fit too snugly. On the plus side, I did not experience any water issues even though I left the device out in a heavy rain storm. My concern is that there is enough space around the bottom to allow little critters access.
Before you can use the surveillance camera, the DVR has to be setup. This is accomplished by connecting the DVR to a TV via a cable using the component input. Curiously the cable came with connectors for video and sound, but there is no sound available from the stone. It is important to note that the DVR can be used with other hidden cameras supplied by KJB, and this may be why they send a generic cable.
After charging the DVR overnight, I then began the setup procedure. This is done with the DVR connected to the component video inputs of a TV.
Here adjustments are made for the resolution of the video, frame rate, SD card formatting, etc. You’ll probably notice that the image on the TV is cut off on the right side. There is an adjustment for that, but using both an old analog TV and a new digital TV, I was unable to fit the image in the screen. Once the parameters are set, there is no need to connect to the TV again unless you wish to view the videos using the DVR. You could just as well remove the SD card from the device and view the videos on a computer.
Unfortunately the only way to move about the various menus is by using the credit card size remote. It’s no secret that I have no love for these small, directional, and difficult-to-press button remotes and this one didn’t disappoint. Multiple button pushes were required to initiate an action, and if it was more than 12″ away from the DVR, it wouldn’t work. Yes, I did put in fresh batteries, but it made no difference. What’s worrisome is that the only way to access the menus is via this remote. Lose it, and you have a non-functional device.
After several frustrating hours of fighting with the remote, I had everything set. The next step was to set the switches on the DVR box for the length of each recording, the sensitivity of the PIR sensor, and to put the device in stand-alone mode. I was now ready to place the rock where it could record people entering my property.
It’s at this point when I had a ah-ha moment. Remember, this device is a stand-alone recorder without a monitor. How would I know if it was pointed in the correct direction? It turns out that this is a trial and error process. I placed the rock and activated the PIR by waving my hand; I turned the rock over and removed the bottom; I then removed the SD card and went inside to view the video on my computer; I returned the SD card to the rock and adjusted the placement of the rock to what I thought would capture the scene I wanted. This whole process was a W.A.G. Scroll back to the beginning of this post and look at the photo of the rock. The tiny hole in the middle is for the camera (the black dot is the PIR sensor). There is no way to know which way it’s pointed.
In this photo of my TV screen are the partial results of about 12 hours of operation. For whatever reason, the camera would trigger at random short intervals throughout the day, even though I had the sensitivity set to the lowest level. Each of these files is a one minute recording, which when played back was very legible, but there was no activity in the scene. On occasion, it would activate if there were actual motion.
Being a former Field Service Engineer for a computer company, I always default to blaming operator error before questioning the hardware. I thought perhaps the change of going from shadow to sunlight was effecting the PIR.
So I moved the rock to a location that spends most of the day in shade. Unfortunately, the results were the same. The camera would record until the 4 GB SD card was full, which happened very fast because it was recording several times an hour. To eliminate the possibility that the sensitivity was set wrong, I tried at all three different settings with the same results.
My last test was to point the camera at a blank wall in the house and again the camera triggered randomly without any apparent motion. Also, during night recording, there were fewer videos recorded, but there was still no motion to trigger the device.
To say I was disappointed with the results of using the Xtreme Life DVR and Landscape Stone would be an understatement. For a device that costs almost $650, I would expect more, especially since this was the second unit I received. The first one developed a problem with the camera after about a day, but when it did work, it exhibited the same issues as the replacement unit.
It’s too bad things didn’t work as expected. This would be a perfect device for surveillance at my remote summer home, because there’s no broadband available. If there was, I’d just go with a network camera like I use at my home.