Foscam's $220 (available in both the UK for £135 and in Australia for AU$230) Plug and Play Wireless IP Camera FI9826P is full of contradictions. It's a high-quality pan, tilt and zoom camera with night vision, two-way talk, an SD card slot and opt-in Cloud storage services. Despite these solid specs, its web interface is extremely antiquated and downright DIY-unfriendly; unfortunately, you have to navigate it to successfully sign up for email notifications and to make a bunch of other camera-related settings adjustments.
Tack on the mobile app's lack of push notifications and the FI9826P's initial promise fades fast. Since it delivers in terms of optics, it will work as a live-streaming solution. But, both the Web and mobile app need major design overhauls to match the real-time, DIY-security-camera-style of Foscam's closest competition.
The FI9826P is a hefty 1.8-pound camera that's available in either black or white. If your router has a Wi-Fi Protected Setup button (WPS), you can connect it wirelessly. Otherwise you're stuck tethering the camera to the router via the included Ethernet cable. I went the WPS route and experience a few hiccups early on.
The "quick installation guide" walks you through a series of steps -- pressing the WPS button on the camera and on the router, downloading the Foscam Viewer app on your Android or iOS device (there are several unofficial Foscam apps, Foscam viewer is the one you want), scanning the QR code on the bottom of the camera (quite a balancing act) and registering with a unique username and password.
This process was pretty confusing. I created a username and a password only for it to return an error message: "Login Fail: Username or Password Incorrect." Apparently, you have to log in the first time with Foscam's default username, admin, and no password. Then, it gives you the chance to update your info, but I had to reset the camera before it actually accepted my new username and password.
From there, I was able to access live streaming in either single-or-quadrant-view (great if you have multiple cameras running simultaneously). I was also able to record video, take snapshots, pan, tilt, zoom, set night vision and enable audio for two-way talk.
It also has an "Enable Push Message" option for motion-related security events, but I wasn't having any luck getting it to work. Foscam confirmed that push alerts are not currently available on the Foscam Viewer app (either for Android or iOS users), but that a new app should be coming out within the month that will offer this feature. How odd.
|Dropcam Pro||Foscam FI9826P||Piper||Samsung SmartCam HD Pro|
|Price||$200, £190 (not available in AU)||$220, £135, AU$230||$200 (available only in North America or Europe for €200)||$190, £160 (not yet available in AU)|
|Color||Black||Black or white||White||White|
|Field of view (diagonal)||130 degrees||35 to 70 degrees||180 degrees||128 degrees|
|Cloud storage||Yes, starts at $10/month or $99/year for 7 days||Yes, saves 30 clips or 100 photos for free and goes up from there||Yes, saves up to 1,000 clips at no extra cost||No|
|Local storage||No||Yes, SD card||No||Yes, SD card|
|Mobile app||Yes, Android and iOS||Yes, Android and iOS||Yes, Android and iOS||Yes, Android and iOS|
|Motion and sound alerts||Yes||Motion only||Yes||Yes|
|Protocol integration||No||No||Yes, Z-Wave||No|
|Pan, tilt and optical zoom||No||Yes, 300-degree horizontal pan, 120-degree vertical tilt, 3x optical zoom||No||No|
While the FI9826P has some pretty good specs, the mobile app's missing push alerts seriously limit that whole remote access thing. And the Web app isn't any better. In fact, it was the most perplexing part of this so-called "plug-and-play" camera.
The Web app doesn't function like the intuitive ones we've seen from other brands, where you use the same username and password from the mobile app and simply sign in via the brand's website. No. The process was much more convoluted and not for the DIY faint of heart -- not exactly difficult, but certainly not straightforward. Fortunately, Foscam has a series of tutorials for Web app setup.
Configuration will vary depending on the type of computer you're using, but I had to download something called the IP Camera Tool and make sure that my computer was on the same Wi-Fi network as the camera itself. Then, I had to confirm the camera's IP address, Subnet Mask and Http port and add in Gateway and DNS Server details. From there, I was assigned a unique IP-based URL that I was able to use as my camera's custom Web address.
Of course, that means that you can't use the Web app when you're outside of the home network's range. But, you can use the newly configured Web app to opt in to email notifications -- that's the only feature that makes the FI9826P even remotely reliable as an on-the-go security monitor. It required a similarly tedious series of steps, though.
If you have some level of familiarity with routers, these steps may not slow you down much. It helped that Foscam's support section is fairly extensive, but it really shouldn't be that complicated -- especially when you consider Dropcam, Samsung and other close competitor's comparatively intuitive apps.
Here's the good news: Once everything was set up, it worked really well. The Web app lets you make all sorts of adjustments to the pan, tilt and zoom features as well as set zones and schedules for the motion alert emails. The emails were delivered promptly and included three different photos taken when the motion sensor was triggered. Sometimes the photos captured the cause of the motion alert and other times it missed -- pretty good, but not as reliable as a push alert or a push alert and an email.
The live streaming in day and night vision mode in both apps were stellar. And Foscam gives you the option between SD card storage (up to 32 GB) and Cloud services, which range from free (30 minutes of live streaming, saves up to 30 clips or 100 images) to $50/month (unlimited live streaming, saves a month of clips and 100,000 images).
In addition to its old-school interfaces, the Foscam FI9826P doesn't have an IFTTT channel, protocol integrations or third-party partnerships. That's another way that names like Dropcam and Samsung have Foscam beat. By staying true to its passé "IP camera" name, Foscam is really missing out on a lot of potential action in the smart-home sector.
At $220 (£135, AU$230), the FI9826P seems to offer an exceptional value. It shares a lot of features with other Wi-Fi cameras we've reviewed, but its pan, tilt and zoom functionality really stood out. Sadly, even impressive specs don't matter much when you can't rely on its apps to provide the information you need when you need it. Hopefully, Foscam's next round of app updates will add that usability factor that's sorely missing and then I'll be able to reevaluate its ability to compete as a DIY home security camera.