Foscam is a camera company in Shenzhen, China that makes low cost surveillence cameras for mainly home use. For it’s low price of around $80, the FI8908W has a lot of features that are interest to many. First of all, it has WiFi with WEP or WPA security, making it very easy and secure to deploy in your home. It has IR illuminators built in that works in complete darkness. It also has the ability to pan and tilt the camera remotely. The ability to view the live VGA resolution images from any browser makes it easy to use from anywhere internet access is available.
I’ve been using this camera for about 10 months and have come to understand where it does best and where the shortcomings are. On the positive side, it’s inexpensive, it works, it allows me to live view and control the camera from just about any browser, at night it does reasonably well with the built in illuminator and the ability to pan & tilt has been very useful.
The way I use these cameras is as sort of an alarm. It has the ability to send you an alert with a series of images via email when motion is detected. I can then view the email on my Blackberry and see if there’s someone in my home that should not be there. I can then connect from my Macbook or PC and view the room live and pan & tilt the camera to see what is going on. It does have a built in microphone, but it’s use has been unreliable for me.
You could have it send images to an FTP site. or it will write directly to a PC that has an IE browser window open to the camera. This camera also works very well with BlueIris software and would be the optimal way if you chose to get multiple cameras.
Where it lacks is in it’s lens quality. Even after you focus it as best you can, you will notice that while focused at the center of the image, it’s soft near the edges. Luckily the lens is changeable and I did change it on one Foscam and it takes this camera to a whole new level of image quality. I bought a 2.1mm lens from DealExtreme.com for $6.23 shipped, well worth the investment.
Another area that has puzzled me is that sometimes it does not boot up when you unplug it and plug it back in. It’s not that common, but has happened. What I do is plug it in a few times until it starts working.
This is a night camera, meaning it has no IR filter so some colors may come out different during the day. For example, I had a black jacket on the sofa, and it displayed it as light blue. It’s common in lower end cameras not to have this feature, but the trade off is that this camera does really well with nearly invisible IR lighting where day only cameras like the Axis M10 series will have much better color accuracy during the day, but require white visible light at night which is not always easy to live with in a home.
Their support has actually been quite good for a camera in this price range. They respond to emails within 24 hours. They also produce firmware updates on a regular basis should you find a glitch in the camera.
Here’s an image taken during the day with the stock lens. As you can see, the colors are a little muted, the edges are blurry, but it sill functions pretty well.
Here’s a night image in complete darkness.
This is a shot of the interface and also the improvement in image quality you can see using the 2.1mm lens from DealExtreme
The conclusion is that his camera is a good starter camera for many of you that want to dip your toe into network surveillence cameras and protect your home. Even though I have much more expensive cameras at home, I still use this one every day and it’s usually the first camera to alert me of an intrusion.
Camera Features –
- Remote Pan/Tilt control (Pan:270°& Tilt:120°)
- Auto IR-LED illumination for night vision (up to 4 metres)
- Allow remote viewing any standard browsers
- Wi-Fi compliant 802.11b/g
- Support both WEP & WPA Encryption
- Motion detection alert via email or upload image to FTP
- Multi-level users management with passwords
CAVEAT: For those entering the world of network cameras for the first time, these are resonably easy to set up and get working but it does require that you know how to setup your smtp email server settings in the camera to mail out alerts. Viewing the camera feed from outside your network works very well, but you have to know how to configure your network router to allow this.