I'm old enough to remember the times when most people didn't have a phone. And even those who did, had something that looked like this.
Yes, I am THAT old. You are probably younger than me, and you are used to having access to all sorts of gadgets that do all sorts of fun, useless things.
But I'll have to admit that some of these gadgets are really useful. As you may already know, I simply love remote monitoring cameras, because they allow you to see what's happening in your home even when you are not there. And going beyond the video feed provided by any home surveillance camera, it is important to understand that different cameras may have different features.
Some of them may include built-in notification systems, sending you an email when their triggers are activated, and then uploading photos or videos to your FTP account.
Others may provide two-way audio, night vision features, and so on.
There are literally tens of thousands of different camera models out there.
Here are the top features that you should consider before purchasing one.
a) Camera connectivity
Most cameras are able to use wired local area connections. But some of them are also able to utilize Wi-Fi connections. Wired cameras have the advantages of increased speed and reliability, while Wi-Fi cameras are much more convenient, because you don't need to run a wire to connect them to the router.
However, if you are experiencing signal drop-outs, you can replace the standard, inexpensive Wi-Fi antenna that is bundled with most cameras with one of a better quality. Depending on the antenna size, you may need a short cable adapter.
b) Image quality
Many modern cameras can stream video in HD, and some of them even support the 1080p mode. The higher the image quality, the better, some would say. But when it comes to remote monitoring, it's important to keep an eye on the amount of data that's streamed across the network, and then stored.
This explains why we won't see 4K cameras for sale anytime soon; the data that is supposed to travel along the wires would kill even a strong Internet connection. And Wi-Fi wouldn't even be an option!
So, go for a high-quality camera, but pick a model that's got the ability of choosing the streamed video resolution. Fortunately, this is the case for most modern cameras - it's mostly a matter of software, after all.
Few cameras have optical zoom lenses. Many of them use digital zoom, which simply enlarges the picture, without adding any details to it. It's as if you would resize a picture in Microsoft Paint, for example. For best clarity, go for a camera model that's got real, optical zoom.
c) Camera type
There are two big models of cameras. Some of them will only work indoors, and that is okay. These are the perfect devices if you are interested in monitoring your baby, for example. Of course, sometimes you will want to keep an eye on your driveway. If this is the case, you will need an outdoor camera, one that's able to withstand rain, snow, extremely low temperatures, as well as bright sunlight for hours, without overheating.
d) Camera apps
Gone are the days when camera manufacturers were forcing you to install an ActiveX plug-in! Most of the time, you needed that plug-in to be able to see the video stream in Internet Explorer. Fortunately, things have changed lately, and most manufacturers provide apps that can be installed on your iOS or Android devices. This way, you will have the convenience of accessing the camera's video stream by using your phone.
e) Data storage
I have told you that cameras have to process a lot of data, and storing huge amounts of it could lead to problems. Most IP cameras include an SD card slot - a convenient solution, considering the fact that we can now buy cards that have up to 512 GB of storage space.
Some manufacturers go even further, offering a certain amount of cloud-based storage space for free. Others offer unlimited storage for prices that range from $5 to $50 per month. Of course, service quality may vary, depending on the provider. For best results, be sure to store the data locally as well.
I guess that you saw that coming, didn't you? Often time, the camera price is the deciding factor. However, don't just go for a camera that appears to have all the needed features and is very cheap. Be sure to see it in action before purchasing it - you will thank me for this tip later on ;)