You would hardly expect that headline from EFTM, but for me and this review, it is my first wireless camera. The wireless security camera space is growing, and as is the number of vendors competing in this space. Swann has just launched a new model, the SWIFI-CAMW. Swann is well known in the security camera market with a heritage in wired cameras with an on-premise hard drive recorder.
As this is my first camera, why not take the perspective of a consumer walking into a store and be presented with a plethora of choices.
When I built my house almost 20 years ago, we installed a burglar alarm that is still operational but is rarely used due to laziness and false alerts annoying the neighbours. So why might you consider a home surveillance camera?
- Deterring criminals- A thief does not want to be caught on camera
- Video evidence – If an incident does occur police can use images
- Check up on the family – Are the kids home from school OK
- Pets- Watch Rufus destroy the lounge
- Insurance claims – Footage can validate a claim or the camera may lead to a discount.
Now I am in a store I am presented with 5 brands and 20 alternatives, and that’s just the wire-free models. Being wire-free means just that. They include a rechargeable battery and connect via a wireless network. In the case of the Swann camera, you join to your home Wi-Fi network.
The first thing you need to decide is how many cameras you want. It is cheaper to buy multiple cameras at once, but if you have never had a camera before you may wish to try one before you make a more significant investment. At the time of writing the store I visited had the Swann 4 pack for $849 ($212 each) and the single $249. The primary way to view your camera is via an app on your smartphone. These apps are unique to the vendor, so once you invest in one brand, you are locked into that brand for any additional camera unless you want to start again.
Most of the camera’s on display including the Swann, had a resolution of HD or 1080p which is roughly equivalent to watching channel 9HD on your television. This should be ample, and beyond that, you may have issues around transfer of the image due to the larger file size.
All of these wireless cameras will need recharging, and the battery life will primarily depend on how much recording they will do. Charging is relatively simple on the Swann by removing the camera from the magnetic mount and plugging the USB cable into a charger or your computer and the camera. One recommendation we do make is that you choose a camera that will minimise false recordings which will drain your battery and send you unnecessary alerts to your phone. These could be caused by pets, vehicles or moving plants in your garden. Swann uses a technology they refer to as True Detect which they claim uses heat, motion and person sensing for reliable alerts. I found this to be mostly true with trucks driving down my street still triggering an alert.
The Swann comes with a viewing angle of 180 degrees, this means the camera will see anything in front of the camera. Some cameras have a smaller viewing angle which means there will be blind spots to the sides. Positioning your camera should be done to capture the area you want to monitor. You should not install the camera so it can be easily removed or that is likely to look directly at the sun. The Swann camera can record in the dark. Still, I found that the low light capability did not reveal enough to be useful. I also found that movement triggering the camera to record had a delayed action. Walking past the camera failed to capture an image of my face as recording started only after I passed showing my back as I continued on.
Other key features you should consider all of which the Swann included are:
- Weatherproof – allows the camera to be used outside
- 2 way audio – allows you to have a conversation with someone remotely like at your front door
- Face recognition
- Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa compatible – allowing vision to be seen from your video smart assistants
- Support for an optional solar panel – no need to recharge when mounted outdoors
In my mind, one of the most significant factors and differences between the camera’s is how they store the video images. There are 3 possible storage locations 1. On the camera itself. 2 a base station within your premises 3. In the cloud. In the case of the Swann, it stores the image for 2 days in the camera in case the internet or power goes down and 7 days in the cloud. Swann makes no charge for cloud storage which is useful if someone steals the camera. Some vendors charge for cloud storage, so understand what your ongoing costs will be before you buy a camera.
A smartphone app will be the primary source to access your camera/s. The Swann App is easy to use and sends you alerts when motion is detected. When in the App, you can review alerts, watch and listen to footage of the event. You can take a still image from that video or download the footage.
In comparing the Swann to other models, it is good value and does a great job. I would like to see a function added to be able to gate certain parts of the image. For example, if I have the camera facing the road, I could preclude the road itself, so trucks don’t trigger an alert. With my review model, I also found the Wi-Fi dropped out several times even with a direct line of sight to a Wi-Fi repeater 10m away.
If you are in the market for a wireless security camera, I leave you with this checklist of features you should compare before making your purchase.
- Outdoor or indoor suitability
- Resolution of the camera
- Ease of charging or changing a battery
- Technology to stop false alerts
- Viewing angle of the camera
- Ability to record in low light
- Where the image is stored and at what cost
- The functionality of the App
- Other wants like Siren, audio or a spotlight
- Price and bundle options for the number of cameras you think you need