Right now, surveillance is growing in popularity. Manufacturers have been providing cost-effective video cameras that can be easily accessed from mobile devices. The days of convoluted and/or expensive home monitoring is long gone. Besides, there’s an element of DIY self-satisfaction you get by doing the work yourself instead of hiring a service.
A trio of See.ing SmartCam video cameras have recently been made available to consumers, and I had the opportunity to be sent a unit to check out. Curious to see if these models may be the solution you’re looking for? Read on!
Straight through the package, the See.ing SmartCam 110 looks like a cute little camera. It definitely has a visual appeal befitting a casual household or kids’ room, and not something like a bank vault or cash office. Non-threatening. Visitors who see it shouldn’t feel uncomfortable, as if the camera intends to peer at them in order to glean all internal thoughts and secrets.
The box comes only with what you need: camera, antenna, USB cord, wall adapter, and a mounting kit. Although the See.ing SmartCam 110 can sit perfectly fine on its own, the kit (containing screws and a plate) allows for more creative positioning on walls or ceilings. I appreciate the use of a Mini USB cable instead of some barrel adapter. If it happens to become lost or damaged, it’s quite easy to replace.
Although the instructions that come with the camera are worth a quick look, the See.ing SmartCam 110 is very easy to set up. The free downloadable app steps through the process of getting it connected to your home network. Pulling the front panel below the power and mode buttons exposes the MicroSD card slot. This is where you can locally store video from motion detection. A speaker and microphone are built-in to the unit, providing a means to listen and participate in two-way communication.
Although the See.Ing SmartCam 110 is constructed well, it isn’t something designed for outdoor use. While dust may not be too big an issue, the camera isn’t water-resistant and the plastic body has no protection against fading from UV rays. But main feature that sets this camera apart from other video surveillance cameras is the ability to pan and tilt. The camera can spin a full 360 degrees and point straight up to 90 degrees. Couple that with its wide-angle lens, and you can get a lot of visual reach that would normally require more than one camera unit.
The app is free for iOS and Android users. Set-up is a breeze. All you need to do is turn the camera on, load the app, and follow the few steps. Within minutes, you’ll have the See.ing SmartCam 110 showing a video feed straight to your mobile device. There are only a few options that you can tinker with in the app, making it one of the more fuss-free video surveillance interfaces you can get. Unfortunately, turning the power LED light off isn’t something available (boo). But you can update your account info, password, and opt to receive push notifications for detected movement.
Additional See.ing SmartCam video cameras can be added and accessed through the one single app, making it very convenient to oversee multiple areas at once. The app’s main landing page shows live feed thumbnails from each camera. Although the thumbnail feeds have a 10-second refresh delay, normal viewing updates much faster (about three to five seconds).
Clicking on a thumbnail feed opens it up full-screen while providing a few additional options specific for that particular camera. This is where you can change the camera name (e.g. bedroom, garage, kitchen, etc.), set recording destination, activate motion alerts, and select the WiFi network to connect to. Again, all of this is pretty simple and straightforward. While you are making any changes, you get a mini thumbnail of the video feed up in the top corner. Don’t worry about missing a thing.
So when you’re not peeking around at the camera settings, you can get a full-screen view of what the See.ing SmartCam 110 camera happens to be looking at. From here, tapping the screen opens up options for two-way communication, speaker muting, recording video, taking snapshots, and panning/tilting the camera lens. It’s worthwhile to mention that the camera movement button is “off-screen” when my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is in landscape mode. I have to flip it vertically to be able to pan and tilt.
The camera movement can be a bit tedious if you’re impatient. The controls are a 4-way directional pad, and only one direction can be pressed at a time. Basically, you press a direction and wait (about three to four seconds) until the camera has finished moving before you can do it again. But you get to see more than you would with a fixed camera view. And unless you’re right next to the camera, you won’t even hear the faintest of sounds as it moves – perfect for a baby-cam (don’t wake the baby!).
Manually-recorded video and photos are saved to the smartphone’s internal storage. You can view and delete them like you would any other image on your device. The MicroSD card within the See.ing SmartCam 110 camera is for motion-triggered video.
Unfortunately, all you get with this camera is simply motion detection. There are no options for selecting movement area, sensitivity, lighting adjustment, scheduling, or any means of fine-tuning the experience. It feels quite lackluster. Not only that, you can’t remotely view motion-triggered video without a subscription.
Even though video may be saved to the MicroSD card within the camera, there’s no option to see it. Not unless you take it out and view the contents on a laptop or device with a card slot. The only way you can remotely view those videos is by paying a monthly fee for the company’s cloud service. This service automatically records that video so you can access and replay it from your smartphone or tablet. While it may be handy in terms of security (someone breaking in can steal the SD card, but you’ll still have saved footage up to that point), it’s disappointing that there isn’t really an option. Other video surveillance cameras provide remote viewing without a mandatory subscription service.
The overall video quality of the See.ing SmartCam 110 camera is pretty good. Although the digital zoom (pinch the screen) can get a little grainy, the regular video image has satisfactory levels of contrast and brightness. There is little problem with the image washing out because the camera is focusing on a bright spot. Although the edges will look darker under that condition, everything is quite visible. For the most part, you can pick out depth and detail within the field of view up to about 22 feet or so.
The video frame-rate is good, turning a touch choppy when there are multiple sources of fast movement. The video camera is accurate enough to pick up smaller details, such as branches swaying in the wind outside, 15 feet away or so. For the price bracket of the See.ing SmartCam 110 camera, you won’t be disappointed.
The only complaint I have is that everything seen during daylight suffers from a pinkish hue. Green plants and cherrywood shelving tend to look grayish-purple. White only appears white because your brain wants to believe it. White is actually a varying, light rose, depending on the lighting conditions. Unfortunately, there’s no means to color-correct the camera.
Although basic, the onboard speaker and microphone function very well. Two-way conversations are easy, as voices are clear on both sides. Just be patient for a five-second delay going each way. The microphone is sensitive enough to pick up the internal noises as the camera pans and tilts.
The See.ing SmartCam 110 camera has some powerful night optics; it may even be a bit too powerful. While viewing the live feed, the infrared night vision shows as a dense spot-focus. Everything within this circle shows up bright, but with enough contrast to identify individual objects. But as soon as you look outside of this area, the image is too dark and suffers from a lack of depth. If the emitters were adjusted so that the entire field of view was evenly flooded, the camera’s night vision would be far more effective. Of course, one could just pan the camera around, but having such a narrow view sort of negates the benefit of the wide-angle fisheye lens.
At first, my smartphone had been receiving push notifications from activity. Since the See.ing SmartCam 110 camera lacks fine-tuning for motion sensitivity, I have had to periodically turn off the notifications.Don’t need my phone buzzing all the time. But at some point, push notifications just stopped working.
Even after removing the camera and uninstalling the app, then reinstalling the app and adding the camera back, the push notifications never returned. There’s only two checkboxes under settings required: push notification and motion alert. It’s kind of a bummer, since that’s more or less the point of owning a surveillance system.
But at least the video feed can be actively monitored via WiFi and 3G/4G, right? Almost. If you’re on a wireless or 4G network with decent speeds, camera video feeds load up without too much of a wait (between eight and 12 seconds). But if you’re stuck on 3G (like I am with Sprint), good luck. Even if you manage to get the video image to load, which can take more than a minute, it usually doesn’t stay connected for very long.
While some people might argue that the fault lies with having a 3G connection, they would be mostly wrong. Mostly. I have and still use other, similar home surveillance video cameras. I can tap into the video feed on 3G. Sure, it might be slightly delayed (anywhere between four to a dozen seconds), slightly choppy, and I might have to reconnect occasionally. However, I can still see what’s going on reliably. That there is peace of mind the See.ing SmartCam 110 lacks.
The See.ing SmartCam 110 camera has some strong attributes going for it. This surveillance camera is compact, easy to set up, and easy to operate. The 360 degree panning and 90 degree tilting is so awesome and convenient, it’s a wonder that more cameras don’t have this feature. Being able to actively monitor a larger area adds a lot of value The overall video quality is pretty good – nothing outstanding – and certainly appropriately powerful for the price range of the See.ing SmartCam 110 camera.
Despite how much I like how the camera works, the biggest flaw is the subscription model. It’s mandatory if you want to be able to review video footage remotely. There’s almost zero point to inserting a MicroSD card into the unit, as you can only explore those video files after you’ve stuck the card into other hardware, like a laptop. By the time you open the app, after receiving a motion detection push notification, you’ve already missed the event. I strongly feel that subscription fees should be an option to expand product value, not an impediment to full-feature functionality.
Although the SeeingCloud app is a flyweight in terms of options and customization, I believe that more can be added from future updates. Hopefully. It would definitely be nice to have control over how and to what degree the camera detects motion. The push notifications should be fixed too. With a solid software and/or firmware update, the See.ing SmartCam 110 can end up as a fantastic buy for anyone wanting a home surveillance camera for less than a couple-hundred dollars.