Dropcam Pro: The Good, the Bad and the So-So

Published: Mar 31, 2016 at 08:00 UTC
Dropcam Pro

Okay, let’s have a little chat about the Dropcam Pro. After checking it out, it definitely left an impression with some pretty strong positives, but some drawbacks as well. It seems like it could be a dual-use camera, doubling as a security system and maybe a baby monitor.

Maybe you need to do a little reconnaissance mission on your baby or maybe you need to see if your kids or your spouse are jumping up and down on the couch. Hey, you never know. We might as well go through the good, the bad and the ugly to see in which case it serves the most purpose.

What Makes the Dropcam Pro Such a Pro?

Well, first thing you need to know is that there are actually two versions of this camera available. In addition to the Pro, there’s an HD camera sold. Now, what’s the difference? A great question, you inquisitive person.

The Dropcam Pro is the newer model and has several advantages over the Dropcam HD. The Pro, in fact, can be billed as a DIY home security option. Why is this so? Another great question.

Keeping your security needs in mind, the Pro version has an expanded field of view where you can see more of what’s happening in your surroundings. Increasing from 107 to 130 degrees, a full 20%, you now have the ability to zoom 8x.

A few things that weren’t upgraded from the HD version are the ability to tilt, pan or pivot the camera. You aren’t able to do it with either version, but the 8x zoom is supposed to compensate for these lacking features.

However, Dropcam claims that with the 130 degrees field of view, you are able to view the whole room without panning or zooming. With a smaller or mid-sized room this seems to be valid.

In addition, the Pro Model features a 6-element, all-glass lens. This Dropcam Pro also sports a larger image sensor.

How’s the Setup Process?

At its very core, this camera is DIY where even a novice can hook it up easily. Therefore, there’s no need to worry if you’re not a tech genius, this camera only has a few easy steps to follow. It takes around 10 minutes with a good chunk of that involved in carefully removing it from its packaging.

Hey, you don’t want to break your camera before you set it up.

To set-up:

• Hook up the Dropcam to your computer, using a USB cord.
• Connect the camera to your wireless network.
• Download the appropriate iPhone or Android app. iOS 6 or later is required or Android 2.3 or later is required.
• Begin using.

Pretty easy, right?

What are Some of the Top Features?

With a 3-megapixel image sensor, your video appears to be sharper with more vivid details as compared to the HD version. Objects and people seem more vibrant and brighter. There’s a world of difference when the images are placed side-by-side.

Dropcam-Pro security cameraThe 8x zoom allows you to enhance an image after you have zoomed out to bring back some of the clarity that has been jeopardized. This is a great feature but it can take a little bit of work to get it just right. When you zoom to 8x, the whole image is going to be out of focus.

After that, you need to press the enhance button so that the image is back in focus. This will leave the image looking a lot sharper and more precise.

One of the biggest improvements in the Pro model is the ability to stream more smoothly. Once your Dropcam captures the video, you can watch it live through their specialized app. Simply log into their system on your computer and you are ready to go. Even if you’re not at home, you can see what is going on in real-time.

This camera is built to work equally well in both the brightest of sunlight and in the dark of night. Night-vision allows you to capture quality video through the darkness.

Another cool feature of this camera is the two-way communication. However, it can take a little work to get it to actually enable. Another issue is that the audio lags significantly behind the video. While you can see the real-time video almost immediately, it can possibly take up to 15 minutes to receive the audio. This seems to mainly depend on your Internet speed.

One optional feature is Cloud Recording. This service can automatically save live video for you on a regular basis. While real-time monitoring is free, the cloud service is considered a premium subscription. The service can start at $9.95 per month or $99 per year. With this, you receive continuous recording for 7 days. There is a 30-day continuous recording plan available, but it costs significantly more at around $299.

Some users complain that this service is too expensive. One user said:

“Hidden cost of this product is very high,” and “This is a great product if you are willing to subscribe to the very expensive cloud recording.”

What are Some Drawbacks?

Besides the issues with the two-way communication and the expense of the cloud services, the amount of bandwidth consumed by this camera can be an issue. Since the video feed is streaming at a continuous rate, a large amount of your bandwidth is used every month.

You will need to check with your Internet provider since some put caps in place and if you go over your allotted amount, the speed can slow. In order to save on bandwidth, you could shut off the camera when you are at home but this kind of defeats the purpose of an all-around home security camera.

Can I Have More than One Camera on my Account?

This is one of the most common questions when it comes to the Dropcam and the answer is, yes, you can have as any many as your bandwidth can handle. Since each Dropcam commands between 0.2 and 0.5 Mbps of upload speed, you will probably need to contact your ISP before purchasing extra cameras.

Dropcam security cameraOne way to accommodate multiple cameras is to turn off the cameras when they are not needed or not utilize the cloud service.

Probably one of the reasons why you are asking for multiple cameras is to place in multiple locations. For example, you may want a camera in the family home, the beach home and your small business. This can be accomplished by checking each location’s bandwidth on the respective Wi-Fi networks.

Can I Receive Text, Email or Push Alerts?

Some users have reported that they could receive text messages, but we couldn’t find this to be reliable. It may be an email to text sort of thing, but that’s different from an authentic text message.

However, Dropcam will send you an alert anytime motion is detected. Even though this is an incredibly important feature of a security camera, many found that they received messages in excess. They can come as much as every 15 minutes on an up to 20-minute delay. Excessive, delayed alerts can appear to be pointless since you have to go back and view old footage where nothing significant has actually happened.

One user described it as:

“Motion detection is not that accurate, not to forget those false motion alerts.”

It’s easy to get frustrated and simply ignore them after awhile. This, however, can be an issue since the point of the camera is to notify you if there’s any suspicious activity.

There are certain options to get around all of these alerts. For one, you could purchase another system with sensors to work in conjunction with the Dropcam. This way the other system’s sensors could be used as the alert system, while the Dropcam is the actual surveillance. The additional unit could allow you to disable alerts from Dropcam.

A second alternative is to simply purchase the monthly cloud service subscription that Dropcam offers. With this subscription, you have the ability to focus on certain “activity zones.” This means that you highlight an area of the room where you want the Pro to pay more attention to, provide more focus. An alert will be triggered when any motion is detected in that certain area.

What are the Best Uses?

Dropcam Pro security cameraSome people wonder if this camera is good for something else besides just security monitoring such as doubling as a baby monitor. However, we have discovered that a baby monitor wouldn’t be the best use for this camera.

There are several concerns such as:

• The camera is prone to overheating due to a heatsink on the back of the camera. This could be dangerous to the baby if he/she got his/her hands on it.
• Due to this overheating issue, there is the small risk of fire associated with this camera.
• The risk of overheating greatly increases due to the use of night-vision.
• Since the sensors are extremely sensitive, any movement your baby made would cause alerts to be sent to you.
• The lag time issues may not sufficiently warn you if your baby was in trouble. Remember that sometimes there’s up to a 20-minute delay.

As you know, the key component to baby monitors is the ability to stream continuously and the Dropcam is only able to stream live footage to your computer or phone.

Realistically, you probably won’t be able to stream video to your phone for hours upon hours at a time. There are other, better options on the market to be used for a baby monitor instead of this particular device.

What Does the Future Hold for Dropcam?

Once again, another great question. Once upon a time, Dropcam began to pre-sell Dropcam Tabs but they stopped after they merged with Nest. A few months later, voila, the two companies have come together in harmony to make your life a little easier. More specifically, Dropcam is working with the Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect.

Dropcam combined with Nest Protect provides emergency video recording for free. Free? Yes, free. With Nest Protect, Dropcam is able to monitor an alarm of your choosing, whether a smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector.

If the Nest Protect happens to detect carbon monoxide or smoke, it will alert Dropcam to record the incident and save the video. Since this is all about emergency protection, you do not have to subscribe.

When Dropcam is combined with the Nest Learning Thermostat, you can achieve home automation. How does this work? Well, Nest can communicate a number of actions directly to your Dropcam. Once your Nest is set to Away, then the motion alerts from Dropcam automatically come on. When your Nest is set on Home, then you the alerts are automatically turned off. It’s as simple as that and one less thing for you to remember.

What About the Price?

Dropcam retails for around $199.99 at major retailers. Of course, some other places on the Internet offer them at a slight discount such as $179.99 or $189.98. Since these prices aren’t that much lower, you might as well go with a reputable retailer such as Amazon or Best Buy.

You can also purchase directly from Nest.

Final Breakdown

The Good

• Sharp Image
• Night Vision
• Two-way Communication
• 8x Zoom
• Easy Setup
• Free App
• Cloud Storage
• Can be partnered with Nest
• Emails and Push Alerts can be sent

Dropcam-Pro security camera

The Bad

• Can’t Pan or Tilt
• Cloud storage can be pricey
• Less than stellar audio quality
• Lag Times
• Consumes large chunk of bandwidth

The So-So

• Text alerts can’t be sent
• Must remain plugged into an outlet or USB cord

Yay or Nay?

Taking into account all features and browsing user reviews, this Dropcam would be yay, not overwhelmingly so, but a yay nonetheless. It all depends on your preferences and what you are comfortable with.

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