Home security cameras come in all shapes and sizes, but most of them have similar features. One feature that can make a good camera stand out from a great one is pan and tilt. It lets you look around a room and see everything- an invaluable feature no matter what you plan on using the camera for.
That said, other features affect pan-and-tilt. If you don’t get notifications when you need them, what’s the point of having pan-and-tilt? Or, if the video quality is terrible, moving the camera around is useless. To help you find out which pan-and-tilt cameras have all the features you need to give you ultimate home security, we chose to compare 4 of the best pan-and-tilt cameras: Foscam F19831P, Amcrest Pro HD, Vimtag 361 Basic (formerly Fujikam), and D-Link DCS-5029L.
|Colors||Black or White||Black or White||Silver, Black, White, or Black & White||Black
|Resolution||1280 x 960||1920 x 1080||1280 x 720||1280 x 720|
|Night Vision Range||26ft. (8m.)||32ft. (10m.)||32ft. (10m.)||26ft. (8m.)|
|Image Sensor||1.3 MP CMOS Sensor||2.7" 2MP CMOS Sensor||Unknown||1/4" Megapixel Progressive CMOS sensor|
|Video Compression||H.264||H.264||H.264||Video Compression|
|Storage||Cloud (with fee) or microSD Card||Cloud (with fee), microSD card, NVR||microSD card, Vimtag Cloud Box||microSD card, myDlink Camera Video Recorder|
|App||iOS, Android, Web Portal||iOS, Android, Desktop Application||iOS, Android, Web Portal||iOS, Android, Windows, Web Portal|
|Buy Now||Visit Site||Visit Site||Visit Site||Visit Site|
Round 1: Video Quality
It’s a common misconception that video quality is only defined by resolution, and that the camera with the highest resolution is always better. There are other factors that affect the video quality. How well does it see in the dark? How well does it respond to changes in lighting? What would happen if there are both dark and light areas in one frame? We took all of these things into consideration when rating these four cameras.
Foscam F19831P's highest video resolution is 1280 x 960, which is slightly lower than HD (1280x720) and appears stretched. The quality isn’t the best in the business, but it’s good enough. To be honest, there’s not a huge difference between Foscam and Vimtag’s video quality. However, unlike Vimtag, while Foscam can stream 1280 x 960 videos, it can only record videos with VGA resolution (640 x 480). If you’re looking to record crystal-clear videos of your pet performing feats of awesomeness, you’d better lower your expectations. Foscam does offer a digital zoom, but it’s dependent on the app that you use. Other than that, Foscam's video quality is good. The camera has an IR cut filter to deliver clear images. It filters out Infrared and near-Infrared lights that may distort the colors of an image. When it's dark, the IR cut filter is removed and the IR LEDs kick in to deliver black and white night vision. Foscam's 11 IR LEDs give it the ability to see up to 26ft at night and it's good enough that you can make out people and objects.
Amcrest Pro HD's resolution can reach up to 1920 x 1080, which is the highest among the four cameras. And unlike Foscam, Amcrest can digitally zoom. Although we prefer optical zoom because it produces clear images as opposed to grainy ones when you zoom, having the ability to zoom at all is a plus. The camera is also equipped with a high-grade CMOS sensor, which helps create crisp and clear images and improves the video quality. Like Foscam, Amcrest has night vision. The camera’s specs claim that it can see up to 32 feet in the dark with the help of its 12 IR LEDs.
We've tested and reviewed the Vimtag 361 Basic. It has a decent HD (720p) resolution. It’s also equipped with 12 IR LEDs that allow it to see up to 32 feet in the dark. With 3 times digital zoom, you can get a closer look at what’s going on in your home. So although it doesn't have the best video quality of the four cameras in this review, it can compete in regards to video quality.
The D-Link DCS-5029L offers HD (720p) resolution backed by an impressive 10x digital zoom. However, keep in mind that digital zoom is not the same as optical. When a camera zooms in digitally, it is actually taking a portion of the frame and enlarging it. This can sometimes lead to a rather grainy picture. The camera uses IR LEDs for night vision and claims 26 foot visibility in the dark.
- Foscam: 8
- Amcrest: 10
- Vimtag: 9
- D-Link: 9
Amcrest wins. It has the highest resolution, it has a good night vision range, and it has a powerful CMOS sensor. Overall, that makes for a very reliable camera day or night. Vimtag comes second, losing to Amcrest by only a hair's breadth.
Round 2: Alerts
You can't keep your eyes on your camera's feed 24/7, can you? That's what alerts are for. Cameras can send you different kinds of alerts to let you know when something's up. If someone breaks in, you'll know. If your window glass is broken, you'll know. There are even cameras that can warn you if it hears your smoke alarm or if it hears your security system siren. What kind of alerts can these 4 pan-and-tilt cameras send you?
Foscam senses both motion and loud sound, and it notifies you by sending an email with snapshots of events. There are, sadly, no push notifications available with this camera. When there is a motion or sound event, the camera starts recording. Event videos are saved to your preferred location.
This camera has several different sensitivity settings for the motion detector, ranging from low to high. The ability to adjust sensitivity can help to reduce false alarms, particularly if you have pets. However, a sensitivity setting is no guarantee that there won’t be false alarms. For some cameras, this feature works and false alarms are reduced. Other times, like when I tested the Tenvis JPT3815W HD, the motion sensor was still too sensitive to work with pets. During testing, Foscam had relatively few false alarms, but it took some time to figure out which setting worked best for me. You can read our hands-on review here.
Amcrest detects motion and loud sounds as well, but unlike Foscam, it can notify you by sending either push notifications, an email, or both. If you're not always connected to your inbox, then push notifications are your best friend. You get alerts through the Amcrest app. By tapping on or swiping the notification, it will take you to a live feed from your camera so that you can check things out. Amcrest also records and take snapshots of alerts automatically, and you can review recent events from the Event List on the app.
Amcrest also supports zoning with individual sensitivity settings for each zone/region. Its way of letting you create zones is slightly different from Foscam’s. First, you view the live feed in a grid view. You can then select how large or small you want each region to be. You can have as many as 4 regions per camera, which are color-coded to make things easier. Each region can have a different sensitivity level.
Vimtag can also detect motion, but lacks sound detection. This is the only camera we’ve included on this comparison that doesn’t support email alerts; it only gives you push notifications of an event. Events are also automatically saved for future reference. However, it lacks the ability to create detection zones, although it does allow you to adjust the sensitivity of the motion detector.
One feature that it does offer that sets it apart from Amcrest and Foscam is the ability to schedule when you want the motion sensor to arm and disarm. You don’t have to worry about forgetting to arm it when you leave for work. Instead, you can schedule it to arm at 7 am.
D-Link supports push notifications, email alerts, and automatic recording of events. It also lets you set detection zones and set the sensor's sensitivity. Like Vimtag, you can set times for the sensor to arm/disarm. Although it’s a useful feature, you are limited to setting only one time for all of the days on the schedule. So if you want the camera to arm at 6 am on Monday and 7 am on Friday, you’re out of luck.
- Foscam: 8
- Amcrest: 9
- Vimtag: 7
- D-Link: 8
Amcrest wins again, as it allows for more personalization of alerts. Both D-Link and Foscam also came up strong.
Round 3: Storage
Videos are private, and there are people who think that keeping those videos in the cloud is a bad idea. However, there are times when saving videos—especially event footage—off-site is more secure. For instance, a burglar may be able to destroy evidence by tampering with your local storage. So, what kind of storage works best for you?
Foscam has three storage options. First, you can store videos in the cloud, but with a monthly fee. Their most basic plan costs $8/month, which supports up to 4 cameras. It offers 24 hours of video recording and up to 5,000 event snapshots.
Your second option is using an SD card. Foscam has a built-in SD card slot that supports up to a 32GB SD card (or 64 GB if you’re tech savvy enough to format it correctly). That much storage converts to more than 10 hours of HD videos, which is enough to cover at least 120 5-minute clips. Since Foscam only records VGA videos, it can store more videos to your SD card than other cameras. So although the quality might not be there, you don’t have to worry about running out of room.
Your last option is the Foscam NVR. If you buy a Foscam NVR, it supports up to four compatible cameras.
Amcrest offers 3 storage options—cloud, SD card, and NVR. Amcrest offers a free cloud storage service, which provides 4 hours of storage and live streaming up to 2 hours per month. If you want more live streaming, you have to pay. And that's kind of a big deal. I don't know of any other company that charges for live streaming.
Their least expensive cloud storage plan costs $6 per camera per month. It includes unlimited live streaming and 7-day cloud storage. You can still upgrade and enjoy 14 days and 30 days of cloud storage, which costs $10/month/camera and $15/month/camera.
If you distrust their cloud services, you can always go for the SD card or NVR (network video recorder). Amcrest's NVR can connect with up to 4 1080p cameras and can support up to a 4TB hard disk drive. Using it is much more private compared to storing videos to the cloud, but of course, there's the risk of intruders finding and destroying evidence.
Vimtag offers 2 options for storage — an SD card or the Vimtag Cloud Box.
The Vimtag Cloud Box (available in 1TB and 2TB) is an NVR with built-in memory. Though they've used the term "cloud", this is not to be confused with true cloud storage. It is still a form of local storage, just more expansive and secure than an SD card.
The 1TB Cloud Box costs $149.95, while the 2TB Cloud Box costs $189.95. Both can store videos from any Vimtag camera. There is conflicting information on the net about compatibility, but we spoke with Vimtag directly. They've assured us that the 361 Basic is compatible with either Box.
D-Link offers 2 storage solutions and both store videos locally. The myD-Link Camera Video Recorder is similar to Amcrest's NVR. It connects with up to 4 cameras. For storage, you can attach up to 2 hard disk drives with up to 4TB memory on each. The microSD card is ideal for storing short clips like motion events.
- Foscam: 8
- Amcrest: 9
- Vimtag: 7
- D-Link: 7
Amcrest wins simply because it offers more storage options. More options = better. However, the fact that you can only view up to 2 hours of live videos per month if you're on their free cloud service is a huge bummer. Side note, if you care about your privacy and want to keep your videos locally, a NVR is a better option than an SD card. First, NVRs can hold terabytes of videos while SD cards can only hold gigabytes. Second, NVRs can be placed separate from the camera itself, so when a burglar comes, sees your camera and smashes it, your videos are still safely hidden. Of the cameras that offer NVRs, D-Link can host the largest amount of memory (up to 8TB), followed by Amcrest (4TB), and then Vimtag (2TB).
Which pan-and-tilt camera is your best bet? While the scoreboard shows Amcrest as the winner, it's not a guarantee that it will work best for you. We all have different needs and preferences, and that should be your top priority when shopping for a security camera.