I’ve been using Panasonic IP webcams for years to keep an eye on things at home and at my studio. However, Panasonic has gotten out of this business and therefore it was time to look at newer cams to recommend to people that ask. I was intrigued by the Dropcam HD and finally got a chance to try one out. Dropcam HD is a 720p HD WiFi enabled video monitoring camera. It also broadcasts sound. Unlike the Panasonic cameras, Dropcam is both a hardware solution and service. During the setup process you configure a Dropcam.com account along with setting up the hardware. You have a choice of a “free” live viewing only account or a paid Plus or Pro account that not only allows you to view your Dropcam live, but also see either 7 or 30 days of recorded video respectively. The idea is that if you’re using it as a security camera that you’re not going to be watching it 24 hours a day. Therefore Dropcam will automatically record and keep the last 7 or 30 days of video so that you can review it if need. However, even with the Free account you can setup motion detection that can alert you that something is moving in front of your camera so that you can tune in immediately and watch.
The initial setup
The initial setup couldn’t have been easier. Dropcam HD comes with a stand/mount, 10 foot long USB cable and USB power adapter. You plug the Dropcam HD into your Mac or PC initially and it mounts on your desktop as a volume containing the setup utility. No need to even download anything. During the setup you join the Dropcam HD to your existing WiFi network including password protected ones. You also setup your account on Dropcam.com during this process. Once you’ve got it setup, unplug it from your computer and place it where you want to monitor (indoor use only) and plug it into a AC wall plug. Once the camera powers up and connects to your network the setup completes. The mount can be either used on a desk, bookcase, etc. or you can wall/ceiling mount it. It even comes with the screws and anchors. Also the camera can easily be removed from the mount. It just pops in and out. Also the indicator light can be disabled for more discretion.
I was really impressed with the image quality. Definitely much better than the standard def/low def Panasonic cameras I’ve been using. You can watch the image in a Flash enabled web browser on your Mac or PC or you can download their mobile App and watch the stream live on your iOS or Android devices. See my review of the iPhone/iPad App here.
Works in the dark too
Unfortunately the room you’re monitoring may not always have the lights on especially if you’re not home. I was happy to see that Dropcam HD uses infrared technology to show you what’s going on even in the dark. It automatically switches to night vision when the lights go off and off again when the lights come back on.
The Bottom Line
Dropcam HD is a very well thought out process and the company doesn’t rely on any other company or software to make their solution work. This is a good thing as many other solutions lack things like mobile apps or online recording. The image quality is exceptional and exceeded my expectations. You can setup multiple Dropcam HD units. You can do two way audio and it has digital zoom. While this hardware/service solution works as advertised there are a couple of things that would make it better. First off there’s no way to rotate/swivel the Dropcam. It’s a fixed camera and therefore can only cover the range that the built-in lens covers. With that said, the lens covers up to 107° field of view, so this may not be an issue for most. The next thing is that while it comes with a USB power adapter, it’s unnecessarily wide and you may have an issue plugging it in to an multiple plug outlet next to another plug. There’s no reason why it couldn’t be skinnier. The only other thing you might consider is that Dropcam uses about 60GB of bandwidth a month. Depending upon your ISP/plan this may be an issue. Comcast for example thinks anything over 300gb a month is excessive! As you can see I can’t find a whole lot wrong with Dropcam HD. I’m impressed and will look to replace my older Panasonic units with Dropcam HDs.
You can get Dropcam HD here.
You can also check out Dropcam on Facebook here.