There is a wide variety of network cameras on the market, and Foscam is firmly at the lower end, producing inexpensive cameras for home use. Unfortunately, due to reliability issues, we officially support only a handful of their cameras in our Mac video surveillance NVR software SecuritySpy. However, Foscam cameras are very popular with customers due to their low cost, and they have certainly improved in quality recently, so we are continuously reviewing this situation and adding support for new Foscam cameras wherever possible.
Foscam has just released a new camera, the C1, which offers a nice set of features at an amazing price (and hopefully spells the end of their horribly confusing model numbers!). For just USD $80 (GBP £54 or EUR €70) you get 1 MP resolution, WiFi, built-in infra-red LEDs for night vision, and audio. Here’s our take on it:
The camera is very compact, measuring just 7cm (2.7″) wide and 12cm (4.7″) tall when fully extended. It’s powered by a USB cable from a small USB power adaptor. This is a useful feature, making it easy to replace the cable or power adaptor when required – for example, if you need a longer cable than the 2m (6.5′) one provided.
The camera is fairly simple to set up once you know that it uses the non-standard port 88 for its HTTP communication. Simply plug it into your ethernet switch or router using an ethernet cable, and the camera will automatically obtain an IP address using DHCP. Use our Network Device Finder Mac software (make sure to specify port 88 for the network search) or Foscam’s IP Camera Tool Windows software to locate the camera’s IP address.
The camera can then be set up in SecuritySpy as follows:
Make sure to specify both port numbers as above, enter “admin” for the username and leave the password blank. Click OK and SecuritySpy will connect to the camera and display the live H.264 video stream.
To further configure the camera’s settings (network settings, date and time overlay, frame rate, compression quality etc.) you will need to use Safari and download and install a plugin. Foscam provides instructions on how to do this, but basically you need to follow these steps:
- Use Safari to connect to C1 camera
- Click the link Plugins are not found, click me to download
- Locate the plugin package plugins.pkg in your Downloads folder
- Right-click on the package and select the Open option
- Go through the installation process, then quit and reopen Safari
- Log on to the camera using admin as the username, with no password
The quality of the video produced by the C1 is really not bad. Here’s an example (click to enlarge):
The sharpness is not great, which is partly due to the H.264 video compression, but ultimately a limitation of the cheap optics. Saturation and contrast are surprisingly good, and the camera effectively adjusts to different lighting conditions.
There is significant barrel distortion that is very noticeable towards the edges of the frame, resulting in a mild fish-eye effect. However this is partly because the lens is very wide-angle (covering 100° horizontally), which is a very useful feature if the camera will be used in a tight space such as a room or hallway of a house.
At night, the built-in infra-red LEDs automatically turn on and provide adequate illumination up to around 5m away.
Unfortunately, the audio quality is rather poor – the camera barely picks up a normal conversation a few meters away.
This is a good little camera for home use, at an amazing price. To go from “good” to “great”, Foscam only needs to increase the optical quality, which I think most users would gladly spend a little more money on.
- Physically small
- Good feature set including WiFi, night vision and audio
- Decent video quality, considering the price
- Very poor microphone sensitivity
- Cheap lens with significant barrel distortion and average sharpness
- Limited night vision range
Note: SecuritySpy is our Mac NVR software product, which will enable you to easily set up an effective video surveillance system in your home or office. It works with thousands of cameras, so there is always one to suit your requirements. Please feel free to email us with any questions.