The Dropcam Pro is one of the easiest cameras to set up and operate. It's also one of the most popular cameras on the market. Deciding what to write about a camera that has been slightly "overexposed" is intimidating at best. However, this isn't going to be "just another" weak sauce fluff article. We're going to review things that you should consider when buying a camera and not just cut and paste junk from another website. Have I tested a Dropcam? Yes. However, full disclosure. I tested it and then returned it so I am not a long-term user but I do know my cameras and I do understand what to look for in a camera so let's keep going.
- Part Of The Works With Nest Program
- Easy Set Up
- Software Quality Does Not Match Hardware Quality
- Monthly Fees For Premium Features
Image and Video Quality with the Dropcam Pro
The Dropcam Pro has the potential to record in FHD. However, it is not a FHD camera. The Dropcam Pro runs in 720p, not 1080p. It has the capability to do 1080p but it has not been enabled to do so. The HD resolution still provides a clear picture that is enhanced by Dropcam's ability to capture a wide spacial area (130 degree field of view). When monitoring a wide space you will eventually want to zoom in to take a closer look which you can do using Dropcam's 8x digital zoom. The digital zoom feature works while streaming live footage. At the top of this page you will see a tab for video, open that tab in a separate window to view a demonstration of the digital zoom feature. The digital zoom is used to take a closer look at any portion of video that is captured by Dropcam's wide-angle lens. Once zoomed in, you can use one-button touch to sharpen the image and get a closer look.
Even at 720p, the night vision performance is solid. We tested night vision and found that the image was bright up to about 15 feet and somewhat bright at about 20 feet. We could see the back of the room at 30 feet though it was dark. If someone was walking at the back of the room (30 feet away) it would be impossible to identify the person. To enhance the night vision experience, Dropcam Pro uses infrared night vision with an IR filter. The IR filter allows infrared light between 810nm and 870nm. Night vision is automatically turned on when the Dropcam settings allow the camera to do so. The image will switch from color to black and white.
Dropcam to Enhance Home Security
Any camera is going to enhance your home's security though some might add more value than other. Dropcam is an indoor camera only. If you want an outdoor camera you will need to purchase a third-party case for Dropcam and find a spot outside that allows Dropcam to remain plugged in or you will need to buy another brand which means two apps.
Dropcam employs a wide-angle lens for security coverage. At first this was problematic because any motion detected within that range set off an alert. Since launch, Dropcam has added a feature called activity zones. The downside is that activity zones require a cloud subscription (see below) but the upside is that it improves the quality of the motion alerts you receive. Think of your living room like a box. Not everything in that box is valuable and also some areas may have high traffic. However, let's assume that there are areas that should not have traffic like the area in front of your windows and the area leading to the secret man cave. Within Dropcam's app you can draw a virtual square around the windows and around the entrance to the man cave. Then you can say, "If motion is detected in these areas on Monday or Friday between 7pm and 7am send an alert". Activity zones allow you to make alerts more intelligent by only watching over specific areas.
When using a camera, you have to consider privacy part of the home security package. Cameras can be hacked and you want to make sure you are buying a camera that makes that harder and also that you take measures to protect your own privacy. From a privacy perspective Dropcam is okay.
The cameras communicate to servers. The video streaming between your camera and the server is encrypted using 128-bit encryption which is not as strong as other cameras offering 256-bit encryption. Each camera has its own private key and certificate used to authenticate with the server and derive per-session encryption keys. I've heard people say "a key is no good unless you hold the key in your home". This is not the case with Dropcam but I also don't agree with this statement. While it is idealistic and nice, I don't see this as a major concern unless your home requires some sort of Oval Office level security.
Dropcam Software Behavior
Dropcam only supports iOS (which should be downloaded from iTunes) and Android (which should only be downloaded from Google Play or Amazon). They do have a native iPad app which enhances the iOS experience. The app is used for customization, live video streaming, and also to check-in on things if you receive an alert. In general the app is average in its performance.
If you do receive an alert and it's legit, you have a couple of options.
- You can call the police.
- You can ignore it.
- You can use two-way audio to scare the crap out of somebody.
If motion is detected you also have the option of sending video to the cloud...if you are willing to shell out some money.
Video Storage in the Cloud
Dropcam offers cloud storage. There is no internal storage option with Dropcam but there is also no buffering on an internal storage device so events are sent straight to the cloud.
Dropcam is dependent upon power and internet with no built-in redundancy. If you lose power and internet, you lose Dropcam. However, if an intruder finds your Dropcam and destroys it, your cloud footage will still be safe in the cloud. This might leave you wondering, how safe is the cloud?
Dropcam has partnered with Amazon S3 for cloud video storage. Amazon states that it utilizes state-of-the art electronic surveillance with multi-factor access control systems. An easy way to think of this is that your video is sitting on Amazon's server which is really just a computer times more awesome. To keep the servers safe, Amazon keeps them in a special data center. This data center is not next to the water cooler in the Amazon office or in their conference room somewhere, it's a self-contained area that just houses servers and storage. Their data center requires a high level of security for entry and it is staffed 24x7 by security guards. It's a pretty tight ship.
If you are not a Cloud Recording customer, you don't need to worry about this. Though you will receive clips based upon events, those clips are not saved. They are generated, sent to you, and you own them.
|Cloud Storage||0 Days||10 Days||30 Days|
|Cost Per Month||$0||$10||$30|
|Make and Save Clips||NO||YES||YES|
|Access to Video History||NO||YES||YES|
|Advanced Motion Alerts||NO||YES||YES|
A Quick Summary
If this was all overkill for you let me wrap it up in one paragraph. Dropcam is easy. You can give it to your grandmother and probably expect minimal amounts of phone calls for setup assistance. It's pretty secure but not the most secure. The hardware is solid and produces a beautiful picture but it is slightly overpriced like most brand name items. If you own a Windows phone, you can use a web-based login but they support apps for iPhones and Droids only. Those apps support push notifications which can become white noise. There is no way to set up phone calls or text messages or anything besides a push. If you want storage, you better be prepared to pay for it.
Compatible Devices and Pricing Comparison
Dropcam works with Nest and SmartThings.
Dropcam Pro on Amazon $198.95
Dropcam Pro on the Nest Store $199.00.
Dropcam Pro from the Apple Store $199.95
Dropcam Pro Outdoor Case on Amazon $49.90