When you work away from home or travel often, it’s nice to be able to check in on things at home for security and peace of mind. That’s why I have installed various WiFi security cameras in my home that can be accessed by web browsers and mobile apps. The newest camera that I’ve been given the opportunity to review is the SpotCam Wi-Fi Video Monitoring camera. It reminds me a lot of another camera which has been my favorite for several years but I’ll talk more about that later. Let’s take a closer look at the SpotCam.
Note: Images can be clicked to view a larger size.
Included in the package
AC adapter with 10ft cable
Snap on base for wall mounting and hardware
Quick start guide
Video: Up to 720P HD(1280×720) at 30 frame/sec
Streaming: H.264 encoding
Field of View: 110 degrees (diagonal)
Audio: Speaker and microphone
Night Vision: 12 High-power IR LEDs
The SpotCam HD is made of white plastic and has been designed for indoor use. There’s also a SpotCam HD Pro that can be installed outdoors. The camera has a lens on the front with a status LED below it and a microphone below that.
The camera can pivot forwards and backwards to adjust the viewing angle.
On the back is the power port and a switch that is used during the setup process.
The SpotCam has a non-slip rubber base so that you can set it on a flat surface or you can use the included wall mount that snaps over the base.
Setting up this camera is very easy and straightforward. The quick start instructions guide you through the steps which take less than 10 minutes and requires no knowledge of networking or anything else tougher than plugging in the power, switching to the WiFi access point that the SpotCam creates, flipping the switch on the back of the camera, and then connecting back to your normal WiFi network.
The next step was to locate the camera to the area I wanted to keep an eye on. For purposes of the review I set the SpotCam next to my Dropcam Pro pointing out a window.
I then visited the SpotCam web page which allows you to view live video and past events depending on the cloud storage plan you choose. Each camera comes with a free 1 day plan that will let you look back on 24 hours of captured video. Other plans include:
3 day recording – $3.95/month, $39/year
7 day recording – $5.95/month, $59/year
30 day recording – $19.95/month, $199/year
When I first logged in to my SpotCam web page, I had a feeling of deja vu because the interface looks very similar to the Dropcam web interface down to the layout and similar colors.
When you first login you are shown a thumbnail list of your cameras. You can then click on a camera to go into the live viewer like you see above.
And here’s the Dropcam viewer. See what I mean about them being very similar? You also will notice that the SpotCam has a much narrower field of view compared to the Dropcam’s wide view.
I can forgive the narrow viewing angle and even the copycat web interface if the camera worked well, but unfortunately, it doesn’t. First of all look at that image of the SpotCam web interface again. See the timer/spinner in the center of the picture (it’s over the chime hanging from the roof). That spinner is all I ever see when I try to see a live view of the SpotCam. I’ve tried restarting the camera, relocating the camera and clearing the cache on my web browser all without any improvement.
Let’s take a look at a few other features like the motion detection alerts. The SpotCam can detect motion or audio events and email you to let you know about them. The email isn’t very useful though as it just includes a link back to the web page to view the event which doesn’t work for me…
Let’s compare to the Dropcam motion alerts which actually include a thumbnail image of the detected motion. Much more useful don’t you think?
Luckily the SpotCam can be accessed with a mobile app. The app is free for iOS or Android devices. I tested the Android app on my LG G3. Again, I was really surprised how much the SpotCam app is like the Dropcam app even down to the app icon.
Unlike the web browser viewer, the mobile app does work. It’s sluggish though and seems glitchy. It crashed on me a couple of times or showed that the camera was disconnected when it wasn’t. It’s also annoying that you can’t make video snippets from the mobile app. You can only do that through the web browser viewer – which doesn’t work… at least not for me it doesn’t.
I was hoping that the SpotCam might be a good alternative to the Dropcam given its better pricing on cloud storage. But with the web viewer issues, narrow field of view and general clunkiness in features and mobile app, I’m sticking with my Dropcam. It’s the one to beat.
Update 12/26/14 – Due to SpotCam’s update to fix the problems I encountered (see below), I’m now more likely to recommend the SpotCam as a thriftier alternative to the Dropcam.
Update from SpotCam
Thanks for the review. SpotCam looked into the issue you were having with the loading/buffering screen, and has now adjusted the software that resolves the issue. The problem was that they had the minimal FPS set a little too high, and when the FPS dropped below the minimum threshold, the loading screen would initiate, even if actually the camera was recording and sending the video to the server and back to you just fine.
What they did to resolve the issue was lower the minimum threshold so the load screen does not initiate over small FPS drops, and instead just drops a couple of frames (a common approach across the industry since internet connections can differ from place to place).
If you check it now, everything should work fine.
One other thing, when comparing the field of view of the SpotCam, you were comparing it to the DropCam Pro which has a 130° field of view (compared to SpotCam’s 110°) but is also $50 more. The DropCam HD Wifi has a 107° field of view and is available for the same price as SpotCam.
Also, thanks for your feedback about the notification system, SpotCam has now introduced a more intuitive system that sends a snapshot in the alert email.
Source: The sample for this review was provided by SpotCam. Please visit their site for more info.