Nighthawk Outdoor Camera

Cammy: "Free" Indoor & Outdoor Cameras

Hardware Criteria7.7
Software Criteria7
Video Storage4.2
IP Rating / Weatherproofing10
Hands-on Authority and User Reviews5.1
6.8
Reader Rating: (0 Rates)0

Cammy started in 2014 as an app-based security camera monitoring solution. Over the course of 2 years, they've evolved, adding both an indoor and an outdoor camera. The indoor camera is called Penguin, and the outdoor camera is called Nighthawk. But don't get it twisted; this is one home security solution that is still very much centered around software.

GOOD

  • Human vs. Non-Human Detection
  • Automatically Arms and Disarms

BAD

  • Records Clips Not Videos
  • Paid Subscription Required

Penguin Indoor Camera

Penguin Indoor Camera

The Penguin Indoor Camera looks like, well, a penguin. And it’s a nice change from some of the not-so-attractive, boxy hunks of plastic. It’s not too cute; it doesn’t have eyes nor does it look like you’re decorating a child’s bedroom. It’s just curvy and stylish.

The head of the penguin is the camera, which can tilt up and down by 120⁰. The lower body can move left or right 350⁰. In other words, Penguin is a pan-and-tilt camera. During testing, the camera was quick to move according to my commands, which is a nice change from a few other cameras I’ve tested, like Fujikam. You can control it using your smartphone via the Cammy mobile app or by using your PC.

Video Quality

Penguin streams and records 960p HD videos. Of course, the final output when streaming depends on the strength of your home's Wi-Fi connection. The video quality is decent and on par with most mid-range home security cameras.

My problem with the camera wasn’t the video quality, but the lag time. Even when I was connected to my home’s Wi-Fi, it took an average of about 15 seconds for the video to buffer. It is, by far, the longest buffering time I’ve experienced while testing a home security camera. No matter what you plan on using your home security camera for (baby monitor, home security, pet monitor, etc), this is long enough to cause frustration and impatience. I should note that my internet isn’t lightening fast, but has a download speed of about 31 Mbps, very close to the average US download speed.

When it's dark, Penguin uses IR LEDs, which allow it to see up to 26 feet and make for decent video quality at night.

Penguin for Home Security

Aside from its video features, Penguin can also help protect your home. For one, it can act as a makeshift remote intercom. Using the app, you can speak to people near the camera through your smartphone, and they can speak to you via the app, thanks to a built-in microphone. The speaker quality was clear and thankfully didn’t sound like a muffled school P.A. There wasn’t a lag time with the audio either. However, you have to be in live video mode to speak through the app or hear audio, and as you may recall, you have to wait for what seems like an eternity for it to buffer.

To protect your home, Penguin is limited to detecting motion. It uses a PIR (Passive Infrared) motion sensor to improve detection and lessen false alarms. The PIR sensor detects motion from objects that emit infrared, like humans and pets. Also, Cammy software adds an intelligent layer via an algorithm that allows Penguin to differentiate human motion from that of pets. I'll explain this feature further below. That said, Cammy claims it is smart enough to ignore moving branches, shadows, or vehicles passing by. Their claims seem to stand up to testing. This was one of the only cameras I’ve tested that didn’t send an alert every time a tree branch swayed in front of my window or every time the clouds covered the sun.

Setup

Setting up Penguin is easy. To setup the camera, you plug it into a power source and your router. From there, you install the app, enter your login details, wait for the app to find the camera, and you’re all set. It takes all of five minutes. And if you get stuck? There is one-on-one assistance included, more on that later.

Requirements

  • Power: 100-240VAC
  • Connectivity: 2.4GHz Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n) or Ethernet cable
  • Internet Speed: 1Mbps upload speed recommended
  • App: iOS (iPhone 4S or newer), Android (Android 4.0 or newer)
  • Web Portal
  • MicroSD Card or Cloud Storage

Another way Cammy protects your home is by monitoring for activity inside your home as well as outside using Nighthawk. And it's fairly easy to purchase both cameras for very little, if not nothing at all.

Getting Cammy Cameras Without Buying Them

You can get Penguin and Nighthawk from Cammy without buying them, but that obviously doesn't mean they are free. Instead, Cammy uses the same model employed by some alarm companies, such as Comcast Xfinity; free equipment with a service contract. With Cammy, you get a free camera if you use their software, which costs $14.50/month, and sign a 1-year contract. When the contract ends, it’s up to you to decide if you want to renew the contract or end your subscription.

Each camera comes with its own contract, and each contract is treated individually. That way, you can add new cameras anytime you please. For example, if you purchased a Penguin in April and add a Nighthawk in May, Penguin's contract will end in April of the following year while Nighthawk's would end one month later.

Nighthawk Outdoor Camera

Nighthawk Outdoor Camera

Nighthawk is Cammy's outdoor camera with an IP rating of 66. It is sealed tight to keep dust and water out and is safe to use outdoors. It also has features that are superior to Penguin. For example, the camera's resolution is 1080p and its night vision range can reach up to 65 feet. The extra range of the night vision was a valuable feature. Though I didn't measure to confirm their 65-foot claim, it was powerful enough that I could make out my neighbor walking down the street in the middle of the night. During the day, the video quality was slightly better than Penguin.

On the other hand, Nighthawk lacks two of Penguin's major capabilities. One, it can't remotely pan-and-tilt. It does have a semi-wide field of view (96⁰ horizontal, 102⁰ vertical), but this seems lackluster when compared to cameras offering 130⁰-180⁰ field of views, like D-LinkDCS-8200LH. To make up for the lack of pan-and-tilt ability, you can manually adjust the camera on its base to get the best possible shot. And two, unlike Penguin, Nighthawk doesn't have a PIR motion sensor. Normally, this would mean that you have to set it away from high traffic areas to avoid false alarms, but Cammy’s smart software (more on that below) fills in the gap.

Setup

Setting up Nighthawk is slightly more complicated than Penguin, as is typical with outdoor cameras. For one, you will need to drill a hole for the power cord as it needs to be plugged into an outlet (or connected to existing wiring) at all times. Second, you must find a place where the camera can still communicate with WiFi. The rest of the setup process is done through the mobile app.

Requirements

  • Power: 100-240VAC
  • Connectivity: 2.4GHz Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n) or Ethernet cable
  • Internet Speed: 1Mbps upload speed recommended
  • App: iOS (iPhone 4S or newer), Android (Android 4.0 or newer)
  • Web Portal

With Cammy, It's All About Software

While Cammy offers an indoor and an outdoor camera, their focus is on software. In fact, if you're more comfortable using your existing cameras, Cammy encourages you to keep using them alongside their software.

You can use the software with FTP-enabled IP cameras. They recommend D-Link and FOSCAM cameras as they support quick setup. However, you can’t use live streaming or pan-and-tilt control if you use a camera from another manufacturer.

Is it free to use Cammy?

Unfortunately, it is not free to use Cammy cameras no matter what. You must have a subscription in order to take advantage of any of the camera’s features. Also, you can’t buy the indoor or outdoor camera without signing up for a subscription service.

And while you might be able to get a couple of cameras for free, paying $14.50 per month per camera will add up. Let's say you want to use Cammy with 5 cameras; the total cost will be $72.50 per month. Yikes! And if you take them up on their two cameras for free offer? Your total will be $29.00 per month. But let's give Cammy the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps paying $14.50 a month per camera is worth it? Perhaps not?

Cammy Subscription Features

Cammy's subscription service does add both value and intelligence to the cameras through multiple features.

Hands-On Assistance

The first valuable feature included with a Cammy subscription is one-on-one help. When you install the app, you can chat with a technician through the app and they will help you with any problems you encounter. Setting up your camera is simple enough on your own, but it’s nice to have someone waiting and ready to walk you through the process.

Over the course of a week, I received a few tips, thanks to this feature, and offers for help. It was nice to not be on the other end of things, waiting weeks for a response from a tech who passes you off to someone else. I know we’ve all been there, right?

Using The App

Another feature included with the subscription is app access. Because Cammy offers so many services, like alarm scheduling, events vs. notifications, and more, using the app was a little complicated. It took a few days of playing with it to fully understand how to take advantage of all of the features. However, once you get the hang of it, it’s all relatively straight-forward and user-friendly.

30-Day Cloud Storage

Cammy will let you store an unlimited amount of videos and clips to their cloud for 30 days, but after 30 days, your videos are gone for good. If there are clips you want to save, you must download them before they expire.

You can record videos by manually triggering a recording, but clips will automatically record when motion is detected.

Clips are not my favorite because they use multiple snapshots and compile them into a short "clip", which is not the same as a seamlessly recorded video. You can tell the difference in the footage and if you’re used to a continuous stream, it can be a bit of an adjustment to see the choppy flipbook style animation.

Person Detected Alerts

Person Detected Alerts are another way Cammy improves the quality of motion alerts. Thanks to software, your camera will know the difference between human movement, object movement, and pet movement. If your camera detects motion, Cammy will check to see if the movement is human or not…

With Cammy, alerts and events are treated differently.

Events are less relevant. They include motion from objects, pets, and from you. Events are recorded as short clips and are saved to the cloud. You will not receive a notification of events, but they are saved to your event log.

Alerts are events that are important. If Cammy detects a person, you will receive a notification.

The human detection feature works really well. When "something" is detected, the software first decides what it is seeing. In my experience, alerts that included humans were noted as such. I only received one non-human notification during testing - a large group of birds flew in front of the camera and it sent a "person detected" alert. I marked the event as a false alarm and, to reduce false alarms further, I went into the settings menu and changed my alert priority from "fast" to "accurate". When you adjust this setting, the software spends a little more time analyzing the data before sending an alert. With these two changes in place, I didn't receive a second false alarm, impressive.

Act On Motion Alerts

Cammy Mobile App

The paid subscription also includes the ability to act on motion alerts. If your cameras detect motion, you will be directed to a live feed. You can then decide to call the police, ignore the situation, or temporarily disarm your camera for a few minutes. Having the option to call the police was comforting, but I did worry that I would accidentally choose that option while trying to disarm the camera.

Scheduling & Automatic Arm/Disarm

Cammy Settings

Finally, Cammy allows you to schedule when your cameras will be armed or disarmed. If you have a complicated schedule, you can simply turn on the Auto Arm/Disarm feature. Cammy detects if you or your family members are home by tracking your smartphones, assuming they are connected to your home's Wi-Fi. If at least one recognized smartphone is "at home," Cammy will disarm your cameras. But the moment the smartphone leaves the network, it will arm itself. This feature worked flawlessly and was very convenient, given my tendency to forget to arm and disarm the system myself.

Does Cammy Deserve A Spot In Your Home?

Being able to get cameras without paying upfront is a positive. And the software is very convenient; not many cameras can automatically arm and disarm, and not many cameras can tell the difference between a car and a person.

However, I still don’t like the idea of paying a monthly fee for a home security camera. If you’re only looking for one camera to use over a one year period, then it might be worthwhile. The total you end up paying after a year works out to about the same cost as a mid-level home security camera (around $200), and you get Cammy’s cool software. The question here is, do you see enough value in Cammy’s software?

With other cameras offering free cloud storage and integration with third-party devices, something Cammy doesn’t offer, it might be difficult for them to carve out a niche in this already crowded market. However, it is rare to find a camera that is as accurate at detecting events as Cammy and accuracy cost money.

You can get started with Cammy here.

Please note that the Cammy team allowed us to use the cameras and software at no-charge. We did return the equipment after testing, though this did not factor into our decision.