I’ve been using a Dropcam WiFi security camera since my review of their first camera back in 2010. I’ve tried several other camera brands over the years but always come back to Dropcam due to ease of use, image quality and mobile viewing. Their latest camera is the Dropcam Pro. I don’t want to spill the beans in the first paragraph of the review, but I think I’m in love… well, almost.
Note: Images can be clicked to view a larger size.
Weight 5.7oz (162g)
Camera Color with digital zoom
Field of View 130° (diagonal)
Video H.264 encoding, up to 1080p HD
1920 x 1080 at 30 frames/sec
Night Vision High-power IR LEDs
Warranty One-year parts
Operating Temperature 0-35°C
The physical design of the new Dropcam Pro is pretty much identical to their previous version, although the Pro is black instead of silver. It features metal construction with a round base and a pivoting camera head. The base can snap into a plastic holder that can then be attached via screws (included) to a wall or other flat surface.
Setting up the Dropcam is very easy. Using the included USB cable, you connect one end to the camera’s micro USB port and the other end to a free USB port on your computer. An external drive mounts, which you can then open to launch the setup application. From there you just follow the prompts. I was up and running in less than 10 minutes and that included opening the box. Of all the cameras I’ve used over the years, Dropcam continues to be one of the easiest to setup. Absolutely no hassles at all.
After the camera is configured, you unplug it from your computer and relocate it to where you want to monitor video. The same USB cable you used to connect to your computer plugs into an included AC adapter, which is used to power the camera. I placed the Dropcam Pro in my windowsill, pointing out the front window. It’s on the right in the image above. On the left a few inches away is Dropcam’s original Echo camera.
Here’s what I see when I login to my Dropcam account for the Echo camera.
And this is what I see when I look at the Pro’s live view. Wow! Remember, the Pro is looking out the same window as the Dropcam Echo, just a few inches away. I was blown away the first time I saw the video stream. The 130° (diagonal) field of view is fantastic. It does have a little bit of a fish eye feel, but I’ll take a little warp any day when I am able to see this much area.
The Pro also offers 8x digital zoom via the web interface and smartphone (iOS and Android) interface.
The picture is noticeably sharper than older Dropcam cameras. Here’s an indoor view with just the overhead light.
The Pro’s night vision mode is the best I’ve seen. The image above was taken with all the lights off. There may be some light coming from the basement stairway behind where I’m sitting, but it felt very dark to me. I couldn’t see to to walk around without turning on a light.
I was hoping that the Dropcam Pro would be able to pull off a feat that no other WiFi camera I’ve tested has been able to do yet. I’m talking about being able to use night vision through a window. No luck… this camera suffers the same fate as the others. When you point it out a window, the IR LEDs reflect against the glass when it’s dark out and you end up seeing an image like the one above. Bummer.
If you opt for Dropcam’s optional Cloud Recording service, you can use either the web interface or the mobile app to watch past video events that are automatically saved and captured. The service can save up to 30 days (720 hours) of continuous video and offers you the ability save clips that can then be shared to Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, downloaded or emailed.
Dropcam Clip Sample - Video sample
You can also setup the camera to send alerts when it detects motion and / or audio events. You’ll then receive an email with a screenshot that was snapped when the event took place. Notifications are free, but the CVR (Cloud Recording) service is an add-on cost at the time you purchase the camera. You can go with $99 for 7 day video retention or $299 for 30 days of video retention. Both of those prices are per year.
I use both the web viewer and the smartphone viewer at least a few times a day to check in on things. The camera supports 2 way audio, so you can have a conversation with someone or yell at your cat to get off the end table (see image above on the right). I don’t use the audio feature very often, but I do login to see past video when I get an alert email with a snapshot that looks curious. For example, if I get an email with an image of the Fedex guy parked in my driveway, I’ll login to the Dropcam web viewer and click the bar on the timeline to watch a few seconds of video of the Fedex delivery person bringing me a package. It’s both fun and useful. When we were on vacation this summer on Sanibel Island Florida, we watched the live video feed for at least 30 minutes when our contractor was working on the front porch and was trying to kill a bee’s nest next to the garage. It was highly entertaining
There’s only one issue I’ve run into while testing this camera and that’s with the web viewer. See the buffering animation in the image above? I see that about 90% of the time when I use the web app to view Dropcam live video. The buffering animation will spin and spin and never stop. It happens on the live feed for the older Dropcam Echo feed too. This is a problem that seems to have started with the release of the Pro. It happens when I use the web viewer at home (on the same WiFi network as the cameras) and at my day job. I’ve tried different computers and different browsers, and the all show the same problem. The odd thing is though that I can use the Dropcam mobile app on an iPad, Android tablet or smartphone at the same time time I’m seeing the buffering on my Macbook and the mobile app will show the live video feed just fine. I’ve given this info to the Dropcam support people, so hopefully the issues will be resolved in the very near future.
Even with the buffering issue, I really like the new Dropcam Pro. The picture quality has been improved and the wide view is great. I’ve been a happy user of Dropcam for the past 3 years and can’t wait to see what their next camera will do. My dream would be a Dropcam Pro that can rotate and pivot by remote control… and of course no buffering issues.