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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Foscam FI8910W WiFi Camera



I thought I would post this for anyone that has ever searched as long and hard as I have to find a decently priced WiFi camera for home monitoring. My particular need was for a video monitor to keep watch on my infant and toddler boys in their nursery, but these cameras have any number of other uses. I quickly ruled out video baby monitors as they were all insanely expensive for the video quality you get, all had mixed reviews, most had very limited features beyond video, and none had DECT technology to prevent interference with my wireless network.

I moved on to seeking just a stand-alone camera, and started my search with the following requirements:

  • Inexpensive- The camera had to be under $150, and preferably even cheaper.
  • Night vision- This was a must as I needed to see my children in complete darkness.
  • Acceptable Video Quality- HD video simply didn't exist in my price range so I settled for acceptable.
  • WiFi Connectivity- There was no way I wanted Ethernet cables snaking around my nursery.
  • Remote Connectivity- Come on, what technology geek doesn't want remote access to a camera?

As I searched, I drooled over the slick looking but very expensive Logitech Alert 750n, and was lured by the positive reviews of the also expensive Sharx Security VIPcella-IR. I thought maybe I had found my match with the cheap D-Link DCS-932L but hesitated after some mixed reviews. I actually pulled the trigger on the simple and slick-looking Dropcam HD, but then cancelled my order after reading this review and seeing some of the abysmal video samples. When I finally settled on the Foscam model that is the subject of this post, I left the then “coming soon” Withings Smart Baby Monitor far in my rear-view mirror.

I chose the Foscam FI8910W because it met all of my above requirements, and also added some additional features that would have been requirements, had I known how useful they would be. The Foscam brought with it an invaluable pan and tilt capability. I don’t know what I would have done without this as I can pan between my two boys on opposite sides of the room. It can also be accessed by a number of third-party mobile apps. I chose the iOS app, Live Cams Pro, since I recognized it from the Foscam demo video below. An iOS app had been a wish list item, but now I realize how important it really should have been. My wife and I use the iPad/iPhone all the time to check in on the boys both from home, and even when we’re allowed some brief time away from home.


Bonus features include two-way audio (fun way to freak out babysitters), an automatic ability to switch between daytime and nighttime modes with its light sensor, and an included wall mount that can pivot up and down for a range of positioning options.

It’s not perfect, but my search taught me that cool features like a well-polished user interface, HD video, and optical zoom would have cost me hundreds more. As it is, the web browser-based user interface is very plain but functional. Take a look at a real example of the interface below (that’s not a model, it's my actual little boy sleeping through afternoon nap time):


Some other small caveats?

  • The instructions are terrible (see for yourself). If you aren't technical, you may need to recruit a friend. 
  • The audio quality is merely okay (I wouldn't use it just by itself as a baby monitor. For that, I recommend sticking with a standard audio-only monitor). 
  • It can record video, but this wasn't obvious how to activate at first and isn't very user-friendly to setup. 
  • There is an audible clicking sound when it switches from day to night mode. 
  • It is a large camera that many might think is unsightly when bolted to the wall. 
  • There is a dim, red ring of lights that appears around the lens when the night vision is activated. This last niggle seems unnecessary since the infrared light used by the night vision system can’t be seen with the naked eye. That makes me feel like the red lights are just window dressing. They are very dim though, and shouldn't be a problem for anyone, but my son was mighty curious when he first saw them. That delayed bedtime a bit. Dad doesn't like it when bedtime is delayed!

That said, the Foscam FI8910W ended up doing everything I wanted it to. Once I setup my router to allow connectivity from outside my home, I was able to check-in whenever I wanted, from wherever I wanted. The quality isn't amazing (only VGA, 640x480), but it lets me see what I want to see and for the right price (~$100). Also as I mentioned above, the pan and tilt capability is an awesome feature that isn't shared by many other models (even some of the high-end ones).

Check it out if you’re in the market for a camera like this and let me know what you think!