Earlier this year, Dropcam, which has made a name for itself for providing an easy-to-set-up video-monitoring camera and service, released its new video-monitoring camera, the Dropcam HD.
Unfortunately, the initial units the company shipped had quality control problems and Dropcam had to recall them. However, the production issues -- which affected image quality -- were, and I've been testing one of the new units for a couple of months and everything is working well.
As you can see, the Dropcam has a pretty interesting design and is fairly tiny. The camera can be removed from its stand -- such as when you connect it to your computer -- but most people will leave it in its stand and either set it up on a flat surface or mount it on a wall.
You can't swivel the camera remotely, but you can manually tilt and swivel the camera into almost any position. It's a fixed lens, which means there's no optical zoom, but Dropcam is now offering a digital-zoom feature.
The original Dropcam cameras were manufactured by Axis and used Dropcam's firmware. This new camera has been designed in-house by Dropcam and features an integrated microphone and speaker, so you can both hear what's going on in a room and talk to anybody in the room through the camera. Another nice improvement: setting up the new camera is even easier than the old one.
The Dropcam HD has a wider-angle lens in the camera than the original Axis cameras, and it's certainly much sharper. Also, because it's a higher-resolution image, you can blow up that image up on your computer screen and retain much more detail. One caveat: even though the camera is technically "HD," don't expect to see the same smooth, crisp 720p image you'd get watching HDTV. Still, it's a welcome improvement, and it gives you a wider image with more depth to it, meaning things in the background appear more in focus.
You can get a good image without a great Internet connection. My DSL connection at the remote location where I was testing the Dropcam is only fair. With lots of motion, I got some slight choppiness in the video, and there is some lag; but overall it wasn't too bad.
It's worth noting that the Dropcam captures video continuously. If you have a bandwidth cap, it will certainly eat up a nice chunk every month (reports have the number north of 50GB), so you should take that into consideration. I also did experience some dropouts (where the camera went offline), though overall I found the product to be pretty reliable. It's unclear whether the dropouts were due to something on Dropcam's end or a glitch with my Internet service provider -- or perhaps even my DSL modem or wireless router.
The company touts its "60-second setup": you plug the camera into your computer via USB, select your Wi-Fi network, and name the camera, and your Dropcam HD is online and ready for viewing. While it may have taken closer to 90 seconds, I can attest that setup was, in fact, just that simple. Just as importantly, when the camera goes offline due to a power failure or dropped Internet connection, when it comes back on, the camera automatically joins your wireless network and comes back to life. The earlier version wasn't as reliable.