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Channel Surfer

Indoor Camera SE review - cheap and it shows

I didn't expect a lot given the low price ($35 on sale for 2), but I was still disappointed. Short version: These are not great cameras for real security, but they're okay for cheap. Cloud recordings are very unreliable as a source for security videos due to connectivity issues, but if the device is stolen or damaged then the local SD card recordings could be lost.

Video quality is very poor, even though it's "Full HD", filled with artifacts and blockiness. This seems to be likely due to the compression algorithm being set so high that it degrades the quality in order to minimize the file size; movement makes the quality even worse, with large sections getting even more blocky and blurred as the "subject" moves around. It's better than old-fashioned black and white VHS security videos, but not astoundingly better. Options for quality would be nice, even if only for the copies stored on the SD card.

"Smart detection" is unreliable, but recording all motion would result in too many recordings and notifications. Set to record "Person" events only, sometimes videos begin in time to see the person enter the detection zone, and other times not. It seems like it's not caching data, and the video only starts being saved after the CPU has determined that a person is detected. A good device would have some video in memory so that the recorded file can begin a few seconds before the detection event is triggered. The result with this device is that a person can be partially through the field of view or even past it before the video recording begins, potentially missing important details like their face. It's also just generally unreliable; while testing at my desk, the recordings were only triggering intermittently as I turned the camera to face me and then turned it away at different speeds and distances, with sensitivity turned up to 72. (It also detected the top of a restaurant soda cup as a person.) When I had it facing outside a window, it was mostly reliable at triggering recordings on my porch.

Videos viewable in the app often cut off suddenly, even while things are still happening, such as a person walking around in the detection area. The "videos" are also often not videos, but just still image. Even when the listing shows that it's 15 seconds or more, actually viewing it is just a still image, and not always even an image captured at the right time to show what triggered the event. The still images also don't display the download/upload icons, so they're nearly useless (have to use the device's screenshot feature to save it).

Overall the wireless connectivity of the camera seems very poor, even with 2 or 3 bars (out of 3), or sitting 20 feet from the router, and when the connection drops even for a moment the cloud recording is cut off.

Videos accessible via the app are also wildly different from what is stored on the SD card. For some reason, the local videos are broken up into 1 minute long files, which makes it a chore trying to watch a full scene. The timestamps are also set in GMT, rather than local time (since you can't set that on the device) which means having to do the math when looking for a video on the card. Recordings to the card also start before the clock is set, and the clock always starts out at a default time, so the initial video timestamps are wrong.

There are also many more videos on the card than accessible via the app. I had mine set for Person smart detection and to "Record sound events" (I can't find any description anywhere of what constitutes a sound event), and both events triggered recordings, but only the Person events appear in the app. The only way to get the sound event recordings is to pull the SD card to copy them to a computer. It's also impossible to even list the files on the card via the app. Saving a file to the SD card is also quite slow - I received a notification of a 15s video and watched it immediately, then unplugged the camera, but that video had not even been saved to the card within that amount of time.

Finally, the camera "corrupts" the SD card somehow. When I put the card in my PC, Windows reports there is a problem and needs to check it and repair it, but the repair fails. If I try to run chkdsk on command line, there are lost/corrupt file blocks reported. Saving the lost blocks to files ends up moving ALL the existing recordings to the FOUND.000 folder and sets their extension to .CHK. When I used the card in the camera again, then put it back in the PC, the same thing happened, but the files work fine. FAT32 is a bad file system to be using these days anyway, as it limits cards to 32GB using default formatting.

These were a purchase that had to be done quickly and cheaply, with minimal needs, so I'm not exactly unhappy with them, but if I was really interested in security I would definitely look for better options that had more reliable connectivity and cloud functions, better video quality and better ways to access it, and preferably better options for recording (to shared storage on a PC or NAS, or to other cloud services). But all I'm trying to do with them is catch some miscreants causing minor property damage and being a nuisance and I think it will work for that.

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Re: Indoor Camera SE review - cheap and it shows

Great description. I have the exact same experience with their outdoor camera I’ve had for almost a year now.

Cool when it works but usually it doesn’t.


Save yourself some money and frustration and find something reliable. 

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