A new wave
In this post we compare a new wave of indoor camera based security devices.
Unlike classic indoor security solutions that trigger alerts based on motion sensors and similar devices and are blind systems, video based indoor security cameras will allow visual confirmation of the detected situations. Furthermore, the setup is much simpler, less intrusive and doesn’t require any wiring or placement of remote devices. Only the video camera (or set of video cameras) need to be placed and setup at the appropriate locations. Any motion detection alerts will be accompanied by video and dozens of false detections with classic indoor security systems will be avoided this way. These video based systems are simpler more powerful devices that are completely portable (thus renter friendly) and are also way cheaper than classic security solutions.
For more info on the appropriate sizing and placement of indoor cameras check our Project article: Coming soon.
This all seems extremely promising but the differences between different models can be great, all cameras reviewed in this article already offer great features and quality but the differences may help you choose the best option for your scenario helping you create just the perfect solution.
In this comparison we review 6 different video camera models. Some have been born as extremely popular IndieGogo projects (Piper and Canary), others have made a brand-name in the recent years (DropCam) and others are made by popular video security brands (Swann).
Piper is your hub for home security with a great 180º lens, sees an entire room and adjacent ones without space for missing anything, but is also a nice Z-Wave home automation center, able to control lights, dimmers and sensors. Packed with quite a few sensors Piper also provides all the essential vital stats on your home, like temperature and humidity readings and trends. Piper nv adds night vision on top of this.
Canary is similar to Piper, with a less powerful lens (only 147º, still wider than most other solutions) and without home automation features, Canary is more powerful than Piper only due to some intelligence that can learn when you leave the home and arm itself and in the field of monitoring with a very competent air quality sensor to add to the other sensors Piper also has.
DropCam is a smart cam, Video quality is good, coverage is also good if placed in a corner of a room. With no additional features like Piper and Canary and with a price tag equivalent to Piper and not too far below either Piper nv or Canary, DropCam may not be a proper contestant. Nevertheless DropCam is the most popular device among these ones and has proven field results.
Finally Swann’s Cloud cams are interesting cheaper alternatives. Like DropCam they don’t add sexy features like home automation or additional sensors but they offer decent apps and, unlike DropCam, have real motion sensors (Passive Infrared) that won’t alarm you with false detections. Might be a nice, cheaper alternative to Piper.
Most at least have a microphone for audio monitoring (Canary, Swann Cloud cams) but Piper and DropCam have dual way audio so you can talk to your kids or pets while your away. Only Canary and Piper have a Siren so they can literally sound the alarm (but if you want to, only after your confirmation).
We also analysed other camera models namely HikVision Cube, iChano AtHome Camera i8 Pro, Foscam, SwannEye ADS-445, Conceptronic Wireless Pan & Tilt, Zmodo EzCam and Belkin Netcam. But they were either too unfriendly and complex (HikVision Cube, Foscam, SwannEye ADS-445), too basic (Conceptronic Wireless Pan & Tilt), too expensive for their features (Zmodo EzCam, Belkin Netcam) or simply unreliable (iChano). As such, we only considered the best alternatives in this comparison.
Let’s get into the details…
Also check below for our final verdict.
|Piper||Piper nv||Canary||DropCam Pro||SwannCloud ADS-446||SwannCloud ADS-456|
|Lens Type||Wide-angle 180º 4mm||=||Wide-angle 147º||Wide-angle 130º||Unknow||Unknow|
|Stream Resolution||FullHD 1920x1080||=||FullHD 1920x1080||HD 1280x720||HD 1280x720||HD 1280x720|
|Megapixels||2||3.4||2||2 (only 1 used)||1||1|
|Night Vision (Infrared)||Up to 16ft / 5 m||Up to 16ft / 5 m|
|Pan Tilt Zoom|| Virtual|
4x mini video wall
|Audio||Dual audio - microphone + speaker||=||Microphone only|
Speakers exist but not enabled
|Dual audio - microphone + speaker||Microphone only||Microphone only
Speakers exist but not enabled
|Siren||105 dB||=||90-100 dB|
|Detects||Motion (with Passive Infrared sensor|
up to 30ft / 9 m or with video)
|=||Motion (with Passive Infrared sensor)||Motion - video based||Motion (with Passive Infrared sensor|
or with video)
Sensor + Alarm interface
|Motion (with Passive Infrared sensor
or with video)
Sensor + Alarm interface
|Automation||Z-Wave Controller (Series 300)|
Controls ON/OFF switches, dimmers and open/close sensors.
|Z-Wave Controller (Series 500)|
|Video Recording||Cloud, only detected events|
Free up to 1000 events
|=||Cloud, 12h + 5 events Free|
Paid plans up to 90 days
|Cloud, 12h Free|
Paid plans up to 30 days
|Push (App) Notification||=|
|Air Quality sensors||=||Smoke, CO, NO2, PM2.5, PM10, CO2|
|Power Source||Wall Adapter||=||USB||USB||Wall Adapter||Wall Adapter|
|Battery||3x AA as Backup|
|Wi-Fi||802.11 b/g/n||=||802.11 b/g/n|
|API||Not yet, but might come||=||Cloud||Coming|
|Evaluation||4 / 5||5 / 5||4 / 5||3 / 5||3 / 5||3 / 5|
|Price|| from $165.4 white|
from $198.51 black
Piper with 2 piece home automation bundles also exist at $299 but honestly this is too expensive for the bundle.
Check our Z-Wave packs (coming soon) for cheaper better Z-Wave options compatible with Piper.
|Not yet available|| $249 at Amazon|
|from $186.99 at Amazon|| from $157.51|
| from $96
In our evaluation we need to consider:
- the video quality and lens;
- the ways the system alerts you and lets you define how it works;
- whether it uses real motion sensors (as in Passive Infrared or PIR) or if it does motion detection using video and may have false detections;
- how you can access video recordings and are these continuous or only event based;
- how other sensors complement;
- other features like home automation control.
Given these elements there is one winner, an its Piper, offering the most comprehensive and solid solution among all. Exceptional lens, alerts not only with app Push or email but also with text / SMS and phone calls (no other system does this), packed with real motion sensors and an array of complementary sensors like temperature, humidity, light intensity and sound, make Piper the best solution for indoors home security and automation. Now under a larger IoT company (iControl Networks) Piper will probably gain new features and you’ll get even more than what you buy now as time goes by and new features are uploaded to your Piper, this has happened since launch and will probably only become more frequent now.
Only limitations with Piper are no night vision in classic Piper (solved in Piper nv with native night vision or in classic Piper by turning on a light automatically when motion is detected, as simple as that) and no continuous video recording, but videos are saved once motion is detected and you can still use Piper as a family automatic recording device, just arm it, turn off any automatic notifications and video will be recorded when motion is detected, that is, when you and your family are around so you can review and share these “candid” family videos any time with family and friends.
Canary is not at all behind Piper and it was very close to winning. Don’t hesitate in getting a Canary if you’re more into controlling the air quality in your home, Canary has a superb air quality sensor that detects smoke and measures gases that indicate a low quality air indoors like CO, CO2, NO2 or high air particles density. Minor disadvantages with Canary are you won’t be able to get Video storage for free for more than 5 events and 12h and no home automation features, but the design is better than Piper‘s. Consider Canary if you want a video security system but also an air quality sensor and simply don’t want to pay for both as separate devices.
You should also consider Canary as as a secondary camera (e.g. one Piper in the hallway and a Canary in your living room / kitchen), the best overall solution might be to buy both Piper and Canary and use them in conjunction. Piper will control the widest field of vision with 180º lens and an excellent movement sensor while Canary will complement this with a secondary video monitoring location. Canary will keep an eye (or better, a nose) on your home’s air quality, helping you avoid forgetting to open windows and advising when it’s best to do this. Meanwhile Piper will help you create a smarter home with Z-Wave automation, just add a couple of Z-Wave devices to automate whatever you need. Additionally you’ll have two distinct locations with detailed temperature, humidity, light and sound monitoring.
If these two are a little out of your budget then you can consider the only real alternative, the SwannCloud cams. If you’re in the EU beware of the power socket options, you’ll probably need to buy a power adapter for these models. For the price difference I’d push it a little and go for the Piper myself.
Don’t forget to read our Project article on how to select how many cameras you need to cover your home, how to select and where to place them and how to setup your indoors video security system: coming soon.
Hope you liked our Comparison, let us know in the comments below, share your experiences, have fun and feel safe.