I bought the FOSCAM FI9900P to add an extra layer of security to my home and provide piece of mind for when I’m not there. I’ve been in law enforcement for over fifteen years and I have never been impressed with commercially available security systems. I think that subscription-based monitored solutions are fairly worthless and building your own system is well worth the time and money (in the long run, cheaper than a company monitored solution). I chose FOSCAM for my exterior needs because I was already using their FI9825W as my baby monitor and I was really pleased with its performance.
Initially I purchased the FI9900P and the FI9805P to try them out side-by-side. I ended up returning the FI9805P and buying three additional FI9900P cameras to complete my four camera setup. In my comparisons, I found that the FI9900P had better automatic contrast leveling abilities and I like the 110-degree field of view (FOV) much better than the 70-degree FOV from the FI9805P. The image was also sharper on the FI9900P.
The cheapest solution to get the best coverage for my home was to have four cameras, one mounted on each corner of my home and pointed in a counter-clockwise position. If you don’t have a square or rectangular footprint to your floor-plan, you will probably need more cameras. I knew there would be gaps in the views, but in order to eliminate those gaps I would need eight cameras and that was another $600 in cameras alone, not to mention mounting hardware. I took the two test cameras, added them to my network, and then went around my house and held each one in the different positions that I thought would work best for my layout and then I took still images from those camera views using the baby monitor app I have on my iPhone that connects to IP cameras.
Once I had all of the photos from each of the cameras, I sat down and looked at them on my computer and decided which images I liked best and which camera placements gave me the coverage I wanted. You can see from the two photos above that the FI9900P has a better image in contrast, FOV, and clarity. One main thing I wanted was for my family to be able to see who was at the door. The FI9805P didn’t do well in giving me a good image of the shady areas at the front door and the well lit areas of the front yard. In order to get a better image of the front door, I had to move the camera to the left so its image sensor was more in the shade before it adjusted well. But then I lost a lot of FOV of the front yard and I gained a lot of useless FOV of my garage door.
I also printed out two satellite images of my house and the surrounding area. I took all of the images from each camera and I mapped out the FOVs for each on the satellite photos. In the end, it was obvious that the FI9900P won over the FI9805P in every way. I have very little dead-space in my monitoring and the image quality is great. I think the FI9805P would be good for some applications, but for an extra $50 the FI9900P is well worth it.
I read a lot of reviews on different cameras before I went with the FOSCAM, and a I read a lot of things about difficult setups on home networks. I had no issues with my outdoor cameras at all. I did have issues with getting my FI9825W setup to be accessible remotely on WAN, but I called the company and one of their techs set it up for me via a computer sharing program. I currently use Blue Iris for my security setup and it does all of the external WAN connections for you through a wizard.
The FOSCAM products come with a QR code for easy setup, but I never used this, I tried but gave up five minutes later because it wasn’t easy at all. It was much easier to connect the cameras to my router via Ethernet cable, find the camera, go through the web browser setup and get it connected to my wifi LAN, then disconnect the cord. This took about five minutes per camera. I also went into my router and gave each camera a static internal IP. The camera prompts you to change the default user name and password during the initial setup and I did, making both long and impossible to remember without a password app. Anyone interested in home security should start with the gateway into your home which is your router. Your user names and passwords should be full of symbols, numbers and lower/upper case letters, and your router encryption set to WPA2. Otherwise it’s like buying a steel door with titanium reinforcement only to install a deadbolt made of balsa wood.
When I was performing my tests before the final setup, the FI9900P gave a very clear and steady image over my network. I am using a Netgear Nighthawk R7000 router for my LAN and it is great router. However, when I got all four cameras on the system, along with my already-owned baby monitor, I started to see signal dropouts with the cameras and some degradation of the images from each of them. I have a 2,300 square-foot stucco home and each camera is getting good signal from the router, but I think having five HD cameras and twenty other gadgets connected was straining the system. I decided to get three ZyXEL 600 Mbps mini powerline AV2 Gigabit adapters with AC pass through. I already had a ZyXEL Powerline AV 500 Mbps 4 Port Gigabit Switch Wall-plug Adapter with PLA4205 Powerline AV 500Mbps (PLA4225KIT) on my network so I just needed to add these adapters to my system. Only three of the four outdoor cameras were in positions that allowed me to use the powerline adapters so the fourth camera remained wireless. I noticed a major improvement and I don’t have camera dropouts anymore now that three are wired.
Each camera has its own built-in web server software. You can log into the camera and view it from your browser. I found that Chrome doesn’t work as well as Explorer and the new Windows 10 Edge browser doesn’t work at all. The internal software works really well except the file save location. The software allows you to view the camera, setup the other cameras to be viewed from one camera’s web server, and tinker with all of the camera’s settings. You can use the internal web server software to be your security monitoring software and it’s free.
The major issue is that you can’t change the file save location. There is a section that allows you to setup an FTP location for you to save files to and also where on your local network you want video and still images saved to. I got the FTP setup just fine without any issues. The local save location though has issues and I’ve found that most everyone else is having problems with it as well. I have found a few posts from people claiming to have fixed the issue on their system but when I try their solutions, they don’t work for me. Basically, the camera is set to record to a default location on your C-Drive. However, when you try to record there, you get an error saying you don’t have proper permissions to save to that location. When you try to change the default location in the settings, it automatically resets it to the C-Drive location which doesn’t work.
So the built-in software has a lot of good features and would satisfy most home users, but it won’t save the videos and that’s a major issue. I honestly haven’t reached out to FOSCAM to help with this because I decided to go with Blue Iris software anyway – which by the way is great.
I’ve only had the cameras installed for a month so I can’t speak to their longevity. I also live in Arizona where the summers get really hot so we’ll have to wait to see how they stand up to the heat. I did notice that they felt pretty warm when I was testing them inside of my house, so I am honestly a little worried about them overheating this summer. The company is based out of Texas so I’m hoping they have their products exposed to the Texas heat for testing and have made sure they will survive.
However, on my limited experience with them so far, I really like their design. They are compact and kind of easy to mount. They have a mounting base with a three-way adjustable mount. The main issues I have are the extremely short power cord and the huge mess of wires protruding from the rear of the camera. The power cord is five feet long with a medium-sized wall wart on the end. I have no idea how they think this acceptable for an outdoor product that is for security. This should be a thirty foot cord.
The mess of wires is the second issue.
How am I supposed to drill a hole through my wall that is big enough for all of those wires? And if I do drill a hole that large, they aren’t long enough to end up on the other side of a wall, they will be dangling inside the space between. These cameras should be made with some sort of a disconnect or optional connect. I would be willing to pay an extra $10 a camera to have a kit that has three sets of dongles in it. One with the most common used wires, ethernet and power, one with just power, and one with everything on it.
So here’s what I did:
I used an outdoor electrical box to contain the mass of wires inside of it. I then spliced the power line and made my own extension to it that you can’t see because I have it running through the conduit to the right of the box. So the power cord is protected from someone cutting it, they would have to just smash the camera or tilt it downward and hopefully I would have their image caught by that time. The box pictured is a two-gang box but I only used that on one camera. All of the other cameras are a one-gang box. Because of the wiring for this one, I had to put the wall wart inside of the box with an extension female plug brought into the box. I also had to add a depth extender to this box in order to fit everything inside. In the other boxes, I cut the power cord and the wall wart is inside the house/garage with wire spliced between the two ends. The single-gang box is mounted directly to my house and I drilled a hole through the wall from the box and brought the ethernet and power line through that hole which ended up being about a 1-inch hole.
I used solid gang plate covers and then cut holes through the covers for the wires to go through from the camera. I then drilled holes into the cover and mounted the camera to the cover. Once the camera was mounted, I bent the bolts inside the cover so someone can’t come along and unscrew the camera from the cover and steal it. I also used security allen screws to attach the covers to the gang boxes for the same reason. Granted, if someone wants to steal the camera, with enough damage and effort, they can rip it from the wall. I wish I had photographed this process but I wasn’t thinking about a review at the time I was putting it all together.
Lastly, I used silicone sealant around the base of the camera mount and between the gang boxes and the stucco wall.
NOTE: This photo doesn’t show the silicone or security screws.
So far I really like the cameras and my setup. The picture is clear and the Blue Iris software along with companion software for my phone is working really well. I have a friend that setup a system he got from Costco that cost under $500 on sale. It came with six cameras and a security DVR. When we compared systems, you could really see the difference between an HD setup and a less expensive non-HD camera. Not to mention his have a 70-degree FOV and he has tons of dead spots around his house. His system is wired and it goes directly to the DVR so he only has to worry about equipment failure of a camera or the DVR. My system by contrast has a camera attached to a powerline adapter that goes to a router that goes to a computer that has software installed to record the cameras to an external hard drive. That is a lot more potential failure points not to mention more potential maintenance time. I however have a lot more flexibility than his system. I can add more cameras or replace cameras and they can be from different manufacturers if I find someone I like better than FOSCAM. I can use wireless or wired cameras. I can add more storage. I can change software if something better comes out. I can upgrade to a Network Attached Storage device and use its internal server for camera control. And most importantly, I have really great images in both day and night footage.
I gave it four stars because of the power cord, wire bundle, and faulty internal web server software.
When it comes to security systems, you need to remember that some bad guys will be deterred by security systems and some just don’t care. Cameras are great for monitoring your home, especially when paired with another system that alerts you to certain events such as glass breakage, doors opening, etcetera. But you can’t sit and watch your feed all day, and no matter what software you are using, you will always receive false alerts when dealing with outdoor cameras (bugs and birds and cars and everything set their motion detection off). But cameras can be useful to help bring perpetrators to justice. That guy who tried to break in and then saw the camera or heard your alarm go off – you need a good image of him in order for him to be found or arrested. That guy who didn’t care and made it into your home and then broke your cameras – you want a good image of him too.
Company monitored systems are in my opinion a waste of money. Most cops know or believe that alarm calls will almost always be false. I have responded to less than five in fifteen years that were true crimes and I respond to at least one, if not more, a day. Most law enforcement agencies that still respond to alarms don’t put them high on the response list, other calls will be taken first.
I have put together a system using a SmartThings hub with a host of sensors to alert me to doors being open, windows opening or breaking, motion in different rooms, etcetera. If I get an alert, I can then check the cameras and/or SmartThings app to find out what’s going on inside my house or on my property. If criminal activity was occurring, I would call 9-1-1 and get an immediate response because it would be a known crime in progress and not just another alarm call. Not to mention I can give the responding units a play-by-play of what’s going on along with a suspect description.