Foscam FI9853EP review

A tough security camera which is surprisingly affordable

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Our Verdict

If you’re after affordable outdoor surveillance, this rugged all-metal dome camera is a strong contender.

For

  • Rock solid build quality
  • Fully waterproof
  • Local data storage on microSD
  • Single cable install

Against

  • Clunky unintuitive browser support
  • Video quality limited to 720p
  • No object recognition
  • No motion zone settings

This is a conventional form factor for outdoor security cameras, built by Foscam, an established brand, but it comes with an improved iOS/Android app and support for all of the main browsers. You won’t find features like motion zone attenuation or object recognition on this budget camera, but you will be reassured by its near bomb-proof construction.

Design and build

The dome design is a practical one because it presents the lowest profile and strongest shape when it bulges from an exterior wall or high ceiling. This device weighs over half a kilo because the housing and bracket are made of metal and the dome is quite large. Priced at £75 (around $90, AU$120), it feels like you’re getting a lot of camera for your money when you compare it with the flimsy D-Link DSC-2530L that costs around £100 (about $125, AU$160) more.

Spec Sheet

Here are the full specs of the Foscam FI9853EP:

Type: IP dome camera

Location: Indoor/outdoor

Mounting: Wall/ceiling bracket included  

Connectivity: Wi-Fi/Ethernet 

Resolution: 720p

Night Vision: IR LED (20m)

Motion sensor: Yes

Audio: No

Battery: No

Local video storage: Yes (microSD)

App support: Android/iOS 

Subscription: From £4.99/month

Size/Weight: 135 x 98 x 135mm (W x H x D); 560g

Features

If this camera is heavy on build quality, it is light on features. The maximum video quality is limited to 720p and the camera sensor is a single megapixel, so don’t expect to be shooting Full HD video here. There’s no speaker or microphone, so no audio in or out. 

What you do get is a free iOS/Android app that helps you set up the camera and then adjust the settings. This done, you can receive push notifications when the motion sensor has been triggered, with a still photo sent to your phone and video recorded onto a microSD card, or stored in the cloud.

Yes, Foscam offers a subscription service that boasts 7-days of rolling data storage for £40 per year (around $50, AU$65), or 30 days for £100 per year (around $125, AU$160). 

A power cable and Ethernet cable are both included in the box, as are the screws required to mount the unit on the wall or ceiling.

Installation and use

Installation is perhaps a little more involved because it means drilling four screw holes in order to affix the heavy metal casing. That done, getting the camera connected using the companion app as a step-by-step guide is a very swift process, especially when you are only using the supplied Ethernet cable. To join a Wi-Fi network and ditch the cable means following another simple procedure. 

The Foscam mobile app makes the process of adjusting your camera to receive, or not receive alerts, fairly painless, but there’s room for improvement. For instance, you can only change your preferences when your camera is online. Also, the home screen uses only half of your smartphone’s display, leaving the other half empty in case you want to add another camera.

More annoyingly, the app gives equal importance to a list of public cameras, which Foscam has placed on random streets somewhere in China. At best, it’s a pointless gimmick, and at worst, it raises concerns about how private your own camera is.

Performance

Video quality is limited to 720p and further constricted by the 1-megapixel sensor, but it does deliver fairly smooth footage in live view. It also makes fairly reliable recordings when the motion sensor is triggered. It detected all of our efforts to sneak past it and performed very well in the dark too. The night vision IR sensor can see twenty metres in pitch darkness and record reasonably clear black and white images. 

Alerts are sent to your phone when motion is detected, as with all good security cameras, but there are no further options to control the frequency of these alerts. You cannot set up zones of motion sensitivity, for example, and there’s no object recognition, so a moving leaf is as likely to set it off as a burglar. With considered positioning, however, it is possible to get satisfactory results and secure an outside area.