Review: Foscam FI9800P IP Camera

Despite a history of producing cheap cameras of questionable quality, Foscam has recently released some very promising models. Their cameras are popular with our customers due to their low prices, so we are very keen to investigate the new models on offer from this long-standing manufacturer.

Features

The Foscam FI9800P is a compact outdoor 1 MP network camera with night-vision, built-in wireless communication, and audio input (microphone not included). Most waterproof outdoor cameras on the market do not have WiFi, so this is an unusual set of features that makes this camera particularly suited for installations where running ethernet cabling would be problematic.

Another nice feature is the mechanical IR-cut filter, which will filter out infrared light during the day while allowing it to pass through to the sensor at night. Having the IR-cut filter in place during the day results in better colour reproduction and image clarity. Many low-cost cameras with night-vision do not have an IR-cut filter, and this results in unfocussed images with bad colour reproduction in daylight.

Foscam FI9800P IP Camera

Foscam FI9800P IP Camera

Build Quality

Due to its all-metal construction, the camera feels very solid, and the mounting bracket is strong and easy to adjust. The FI9800P is durable and is no doubt suited to outdoor installation where it will be exposed to the elements.

Foscam FI9800P IP Camera

Foscam FI9800P IP Camera

Setup

Like other Foscam cameras, this one uses port 88 for its HTTP communication (we don’t know why; it would be much easier if all HTTP devices use the standard port 80). Fortunately though, the camera uses DHCP to automatically obtain an IP address from your router, so all you need to do it connect the camera to your network and use our Network Device Finder Mac app to perform a search on port 88 in order to locate the camera (if you are using a Windows PC, the CD supplied with the camera contains a similar search utility for Windows).

When you first connect to the camera using a web browser, you will be prompted to download and install a plugin that is required to configure the camera’s settings. On a Mac you can currently do this using Safari, however we hope that Foscam have taken note of the fact that web browser plugins are on the way out; they are already blocked by many web browsers, such as Google Chrome, and may well be blocked by Safari in the future. Foscam should be working on an alternative way to configure their cameras, using standard technologies such as HTML and Javascript instead of relying on custom plugins.

Image Quality

Despite the modest sensor resolution, image quality is impressive for such a low-cost camera. Optical quality is often far more important than pure number of pixels, and the FI9800P is a good demonstration of this, delivering images with a good colour balance and sharpness, at up to 23 fps. There is very little distortion, with straight lines being rendered accurately. The camera’s web interface also allows a selection of image controls such as brightness, contrast and sharpness to further enhance the image quality using in-camera software image processing.

FI9800P Example Image - click for full size

FI9800P Example Image – click for full size

The built-in infrared illumination does a good job at night, lighting the scene adequately. The night vision is specified to 20 meters, and the camera certainly achieves this in the centre of the frame where the light is strongest, however the edges of the frame are not so well lit by the built-in illumination. The image sensor itself seems to be reasonably sensitive, so if there is some ambient light in the scene (e.g. from street lighting or security lighting), this will help with the overall night-time image quality.

FI9800P Example Image at Night

FI9800P Example Image at Night – click for full size

Summary

This is a useful little camera with a good feature set, that could be an effective part of any video surveillance system. At 1 MP, the sensor resolution is modest by today’s standards, so you might also want to have a look at the FI9900P and FI9900EP models, which have twice the resolution.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive (around $110)
  • Good build quality
  • Reasonably good image quality
  • Wireless connectivity, which is unusual for an outdoor camera

Cons:

  • Modest resolution
  • No auto-iris, which would improve the daytime image

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.

8 thoughts on “Review: Foscam FI9800P IP Camera

  1. MickO

    A few reasons for using port 88. 8 is considered to be a lucky number in Chinese culture. So using 88, or even 888, gives double or treble luck. If 80 was used, there would likely to be a clash with any other port 80 use. So by using 88, Foscam can be reasonably assured of no port clash. Anyway, cams can be setup to use a different port with or without port forwarding.

    Reply
    1. Ben Software Post author

      Hi MickO, thanks for your feedback, that’s interesting about what you say about the lucky number 8, that could well be playing a part! However there is no technical reason to use non-standard ports in this way. Even if every device on the network used port 80 there would be no conflict; they would still all be perfectly accessible. And while you are right that it’s possible to change this to 80 in the camera’s settings pages, having the camera pre-set to a non-standard port in this way makes the setup counter-intuitive.

      Reply
  2. KS

    I have this camera. I have been happy with it for the most part. However, my main purpose was to catch some punks in the neighborhood who have been breaking into cars. In the day, it works great. but my night vision shots are blurry if the person or car is moving. so it makes it impossible to identify the make and model of a car that went by my house at 3am. so, I am still looking for a camera that gets a good motion capture at night (good enough to identify a person or make/model of a car)

    Reply
    1. Ben Software Post author

      Every camera with night-vision has a certain usable range at night (and it’s often significantly shorter than the range quoted by the manufacturer!). If you’re finding that activity you want to capture is beyond the camera’s range, one possible solution is to install some additional dusk-to-dawn visible or infra-red lighting at the front of your house. This isn’t too difficult or expensive, and it will improve the camera’s image at night. If you are going to seek another camera, make sure to get one with high resolution and good low-light performance (ideally 0.1 lux or lower) which indicates that the camera’s sensor is sensitive to low light. Unfortunately many manufacturers (especially Foscam) quote 0 lux for their cameras with night-vision, which is useless information that doesn’t tell you anything about how sensitive the camera’s image sensor actually is.

      Reply
  3. Harry Farrar

    My FI9800 falls in and out and is intermittent. Web research shows it is a problem unit from China and is not supported. I can’t even return it. I bought it on amazon. Spent time for installation and money to have it installed. Crazy. Will never do this again.

    Reply
  4. Mike

    I recently purchased a FI9800P but nothing I’ve tried* allows it to connect to SecuritySpy. It does work fine with Safari on Mac with the special Foscam plugin as well as with FoscamPro on iPad. Has anyone had success with SecuritySpy?

    *ONVIF and all Foscam profiles and using address found by Network Device Finder

    Reply
  5. Robin

    Hi,
    I have been installing this camera for few month and what i feel is radio of wifi should be very strong otherwise this camera gonna take forever to connect. Unfortunately, residential wifi are not too strong.
    I think when its comes to CCTV surveillance WLS is not a reliable solution.

    Thanks
    Robin

    Reply

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