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