October 7, 2013
I work in my window-less basement and like to have a view of the outside, mostly to see the weather, but also to see delivery trucks and the occasional solicitor (I'm not running upstairs for a solicitor, but if it's a neighbor I will).
So, I've had an analog, 900 MHz camera for the past 6 years. I set a monitor above my desk and I can see it out of the corner of my eye. It's worked OK, but every time a plane flies over, or I move my laptop (near the receiver), or shift in my chair the picture flakes out a bit, like an old TV with rabbit ears. After a while this flakiness becomes annoying (it's hard to ignore because it always looks like something's happening out of the corner of my eye). So, I wanted to try this camera.
The results are... some things better... some things worse:
With the old camera, which had only 420x320 resolution (vs 640x480 in this camera), I could tell which of my neighbors was walking on the sidewalk across the street (50-75 ft away), or which one of the two grandkids (3 years apart in age) next door was running down the street. With this camera, I can clearly see a person, and could probably judge pretty well if the person was a grownup vs a young child. But, I couldn't tell you who the person was because the video quality is not as good.
The new camera is located exactly where the old camera was. It's indoors, facing out of a 2nd floor window at the front of the house. I'm in the basement, also at the front of the house. So, the signal has to travel maybe 25-30 ft, through two floors (I align the antennas to be parallel to each other). This camera reports 4 bars of signal strength.... should be great! Well, I don't get anywhere near 12 frames/second. It's more like 2-4 frames/second. The old camera was close enough to 30 frames/sec to look like true video. At 30 frames/second you can understand the scene much better (the mind combines many frames to discern better detail than resolution alone can provide). I tried the lower resolution setting... it did not help... it was twice as fast, but worse resolution and more blur (or data compression issues). I think this camera might be somewhat out of focus, but this is hard to tell... it might just be because of the slow update rate.
The brightness control also seems a little off. Interesting that their youtube video is from a southern house exposure, so the whole scene is BRIGHT. In this case, the AGC does just fine adjusting the brightness. The manual says that you need to place your camera where the whole scene is at the same brightness. Ummmm, that seems to suggest that you can't use it on a north or east or west facing wall of the house (where there might be big shadow areas). It's not THAT bad, but in my case, when 25% of the scene is in shadow, the bright part of the scene is way too bright, and the darkest parts of the scene are black (so, grays in the scene look fine, and whites and blacks don't show well.... for those geeks out there: it's like the dynamic range is not all that good).
But, the good news is that there is no flicker to the picture. Any frame that is shown looks as expected... no distortion. So, I think you either lose a frame update or get a perfect transmission of the frame. I can walk around my room, move my laptop, move the receiver, NO DISTORTION. And, the color is great.
Overall, for me, I think I'lll keep the camera. I can't discern my neighbors, but I can tell the weather, see a delivery truck, and hopefully be able to discern a solicitor vs neighbor as they walk up my driveway. Recently, I covered the LED lights (but not the light sensor) so that it will work (as well as it can) at night (I'm looking through a window so I can't have the LEDs blasting a light that will reflect off the window). Being an engineer, I may eventually dig into the camera and see if I can focus this a little better (probably a tricky and very risky process of adjusting the distance between lens and sensor).