In the not too distance past, video monitoring was a costly endeavor. While one can still spend thousands on such equipment, Dropcam changed this paradigm via a small “go-anywhere” camera.
Currently, the following two models are available: Dropcam HD ($149) and the Dropcam Pro ($199). According to the company, the Pro model has a larger field of view (23 more degrees), double the zoom power, and better low light as well as audio quality with the built-in microphone when compared to the HD model.
The reviewed Dropcam Pro arrives mounted in its black metal stand (the HD version has a silver-colored stand) that allows for approximately 180 degrees of movement (i.e., forwards and backwards) and is easily dismounted by gently pulling on the back of the unit. This doughnut hole-sized camera is profoundly small with a 4 cm front diameter and a 6 cm back diameter. Such a device allows for significant freedom in terms of placement and Dropcam even provides all the necessities to wall mount this camera, if preferred.
Regardless of location, the Dropcam must be connected via a USB cable to the power adapter. A 10’ silver-colored USB cable is included and while the length is excellent, the color is in stark contrast to the black-colored camera. This color mismatching is by far not a “deal breaker” because it can be easily changed to another cable.
Setup was simple and can be done via a computer (PC/Mac) or an app (iOS/Android). This author was unable to complete Dropcam setup via the iOS app, as it could not locate the local Wi-Fi; yet, this initial setup was easily completed on a Mac. During this process, one creates a Dropcam account that ultimately acts as an added layer of security, that login (username and password) is required to view a camera’s feed.
Dropcam Pro’s video quality (720p HD; 1280 x 720 at 30 frames/sec) is outstandingly clear both in daylight and at night. Unlike its portrayal in TV or movies, optical zoom generally is “frowned on” with photography-enthusiasts, as it lessens image clarity. Yet, at 4x zoom, text was clearly visible and the overall 8x zoom is a handy feature (i.e., by allowing one to see an enlarged image).
Much like setup, streaming of the video feed can be done from a computer at Dropcam.com or via an app (iOS/Android) for free. Optionally, encrypted video can be stored in the cloud for 7 days at $9.95 per month/$99 per year or for 30 days at $29.95 per month/$299 per year. Moreover, a 14-day free trial was included with the Dropcam Pro and allows one to utilize the intuitive cloud interface. A user simply scrolls back to a particular day/time on the timeline and clicks to play the recorded video.
Brilliantly, Dropcam alerts via an email/phone message when motion and/or sound is detected. Perhaps, more importantly, a notification can be sent when the Dropcam is offline and no longer recording. Lastly, one can customize specific activity zones within a camera’s field of view so alerts are personalized (e.g., "Motion was detected at the front door.")
Dropcam Pro combines solid hardware with superb software and is highly recommended for home monitoring - both prevention and protection. Based on testing, this author believes the best combination is the Dropcam Pro with the 7 days cloud-based recording.
Rating: 5 out of 5
A final note, be on the lookout for the upcoming release of Dropcam Tabs, an affordable ($29) sensor works in conjunction with the Dropcam Pro. A Tab directly attaches to a specific item (such as an expensive bicycle or laptop) and provides notifications when that particular object moves.