Sunday, March 12, 2017

Knewmart Indoor IP Camera

I am always on the lookout for inexpensive yet quality cameras to integrate with my security system.  If you buy a camera today from almost any store it is nearly a given that it will come with an app that you can use to view the camera remotely.  But aside from a few small motion detection perks that is usually about the end of it.  Many cameras do not play well with other cameras, or make it easy and cheap to actually record like a real security system.

For this reason I have come up with the following rules when buying cameras:
1. It must support OnVif.  This is a standards protocol that guarantees the camera will at least try and play nice with most of the security systems out there.
2. It must support H.264 encoding.  This is a compression algorithm that significantly reduces the amount of storage required when recording for long periods.
3. It must have an Ethernet jack.  Many people like the idea of going wireless for convenience, but even wireless cameras need a power cord.  However, wireless has the major downside of being insecure.
  - Not only is it much easier to hack into a wireless feed.
  - But if you put the camera next to your microwave and turn it on you will realize it is a piece of cake to simply overwhelm the camera with radiation, disabling the feed.
  - Also a nice quality camera will be sending so much data over the wireless network it can overwhelm a normal wireless router, effectively rendering your wireless network useless.
  - And even if you decided to give it its own wireless network, you are still cluttering the radio waves which could end up causing various problems for you in the future.
4. It really should allow for a Static IP to be set, it is just easier to manage networks that way.
5. If it is an outdoor camera it must support POE.  Power Over Ethernet allows me to run just one low voltage cable to the camera.  Trying to mess with high voltage extension cords and a power cable just is not worth the trouble.

As a Note.  For outdoor cheap cameras I have had better luck with the few large LED configuration over the numerous small LEDs for night vision.  Cheaper cameras are not made with the same care, and you can end up with the small LEDs not being positioned correctly and washing out your image at night.

Camera technology is moving fast, but after testing quite a few brands I had settled on a really nice outdoor camera that met all my requirements and worked very well indoors also.  But then two new brands came on the scene, Wancam and Knewmart.

Today I am looking at the Knewmart (no model).

- It fits all my requirements for an indoor camera (eg, it supports OnVif and H.264 and allows for a static IP to be set, and has an Ethernet jack)
- It has wireless built in in case I do ever need it, and the ability to disable it for security if I don't use it.
- For those of us who do not like installing more apps on our phone it has a built in web server so I can configure it from my computer, which I love.  It is the first web interface I have seen on a less than $50 camera that actually works well.
- The web configuration interface is very simple and easy to use and really started me falling in love with this camera immediately.
- The camera ships with DHCP enabled by default, so it auto connects to your wired network when you plug it in.  This is a much better design in my opinion than cameras that try and stand up their own wireless network for configuration.
- It has a default username/password of admin/admin.  It does have a user and guest account, which is nice, but it has no way to disable them, so make sure you change all the passwords.
- For those who are paranoid about configuring their own cameras, it does come with a QR code to auto configure basic connectivity in their native app.
- It has the ability for dual streams at different quality levels, which was unexpected although it is probably becoming more standard in the industry.
- For those who do not run separate NVR software, it has the built in ability to trigger alarms during a time span you schedule and send you an email with a picture of what caused the alarm. However, I did not test this.
- It has little motors so you can pan and tilt it, which is new for the less expensive cameras, and I absolutely love it.  This Knewmart has the widest range of motion I have experienced yet, it Pan: 355°, Tilt: 90°
- It does work with the E-View7 app, which I liked because I already use that app for other cameras.  They also made a special P2PIPC app according to the directions that came with it.
- For those who are not quite ready to built an NVR system, but still want to record some video locally, it does come with a MicroSD card slot.  While this does seem to be a popular feature, it is a feature I have never personally found a good use for.
- It also comes with the ability to talk out of it and hear through it, another set of features I absolutely love in this camera.
- There is port labeled as a headphone jack, although I think the picture is misleading, I believe it is a Microphone jack in case you want better audio reception.  The OnVif api supports this conclusion by listing two microphones.
- I use Milestone's XProtect software, and after enabling OnVif it had no issue connecting to the camera on the first try. Microphone and pan/tilt work great.
- As far as cameras go, this thing actually looks very nice.  I question whether it is a bit too big and bulky for an indoor camera that you typically want to be unobtrusive; but the smooth fluids lines on it help make it a more attractive decoration.  Plus there is the argument that being bigger means better quality.
- It has the built-in ability to contact to set it's own time and handle daylight savings time; you just have to choose the right time zone.  This is a very handy feature that is often overlooked.
- It has the standard Flip and Mirror options for the picture, which are really nice when you want to mount the camera in an odd place, like the ceiling.
- I will give this company credit for effort in support also, this is a nice in-expensive camera, and they respond to support requests.  It may not be American level support, but they also do not leave you hanging which is really nice.
- It does have a reset button, I mention this obvious feature only because I have actually seen cameras without one.
- It seamlessly switches between wireless and wired without requiring a hard reboot.
- And finally it takes a unique approach to wall and ceiling mounting.  Most cameras like this have holes in their bottom you just slide over screws.  This camera ships with a pretty configurable mounting arm.  While I am not sure the aesthetics of it are great, it certainly does allow for extreme flexibility in how and where you mount the camera.

- The directions that came with the camera are very basic and intended for a user who only cares about getting the camera running.  If you want to do anything advanced with it you will probably need to use the web interface on your computer and do a little techie research if you do not already understand some of the terminology.
- It does have a small glitch/feature where you have to manually unplug it after making some change to the OnVif settings to actually make OnVif work, it comes enabled by default it just does not work by default.  I have experienced this with the wancam as well.
- I was disappointed that the speaker does not work over OnVif with my XProtect NVR system, but I expected that from other similar cameras I have had.  Hopefully some day they add that feature.
- It does not support POE.  But for an indoor camera that is not a deal breaker for me.
- Like other cameras of this type, when you first turn it on it tests its range of motion, likely to configure the limits in the software.  It has always concerned me that the camera trying to go past its limit during these tests will eventually burn out the motor, but so far that has not happened.
- It does not support Https, however for those who are that paranoid about security (like me) they are probably running their cameras on a closed internal secure network anyway, so it would not be much of an issue.
- If you tilt the camera too far down then its night vision LEDs reflect on itself causing the image to blur white.
- The default IRCut value seems to be too low, in low light the camera starts flickering the IR on and off.  You can either fiddle with the settings, or just switch it to manual mode.
- It is not very easy to unplug a network cable once plugged into it, especially with bigger fingers.
- When used via OnVif with the XProtect software, there is an error in the OnVif protocol when used over wireless that causes a lag in the image frames triggering XProtect to constantly report it as disconnected.  Oddly enough, you can get around this error by plugging it into a network cable, waiting for the transition, then unplugging the network cable.  It will then work correctly for awhile.

All in all, this is a great camera that can support a range of users from those starting out, to those who are quite a ways along in building a system.  If it were not for the larger size (roughly double it's WanCam counterpart) it would become my go-to indoor camera for home systems.  However, it beats out other inexpensive cameras in so many areas that it is still going to be at the top of my list for consideration when I recommend cameras to people

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