Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Input Devices Wireless Networking

Consumer Webcams With High-Quality Sensors? 218

Posted by timothy
from the sounds-like-a-mandate-from-the-masses dept.
xmas2003 writes "Since 2005, I've had a live webcam watching my grass grow — another is currently watching a bird nest on my front door — five babies! While I appreciate the 802.11g wireless and Pan/Tilt/Zoom (10x optical) of the five-year-old D-Link DCS-6620g, it has issues, especially image quality. I've investigated getting a new webcam, but except for high-end/security-related gear from companies such as Axis, there doesn't seem to be much improvement in the consumer space, as most offerings are just cheaper and USB-connected for tethered video conferencing, etc." So where, the reader wants to know, are the high-quality, reasonably affordable webcams? (Read on below.)
"I have an 18 Megapixel Canon 7D DSLR that shoots gorgeous 1920x1080x30p hi-def video. While I don't expect that in a consumer webcam, their recently released T2i uses the same chip and sells for $800. And heck, point-n-shoots are a couple of hundred bucks, and now many cell phones have cameras built in, so there're plenty of low-power, speedy CPUs in small packages these days to handle the signal processing. So why hasn't someone taken a sensor with good image quality, downsized to around 1024x768, and put it in a PTZ webcam package with 802.11n wireless for around $500?" Even if it's not that exact combination, what are the best options going these days for high-resolution webcams?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Consumer Webcams With High-Quality Sensors?

Comments Filter:
  • Great question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jgreco (1542031) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:14PM (#32103758)

    Especially with the advances in storage technology, it would seem like higher resolution for security purposes could sometimes be handy, certainly enough to justify paying at least a modest premium over 10-year-old technology.

    • Re:Great question (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MoonBuggy (611105) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:28PM (#32103936) Journal

      As with so many things, it's easier and safer for the companies to keep pumping out the same old products. Any innovations that do come about are pushed straight to the uber-niche end of the market where an extra few hundred dollars doesn't matter.

      Luckily (and a little unusually), however, there are two pretty simple DIY option in this case. The first is to get a point-and-shoot for $200, load a custom firmware (I know some Canon models are particularly good for this) and write a quick script to take a shot every 'x' seconds, then throw in an Eye-Fi SD card to grab the pictures wirelessly. I haven't used an Eye-Fi card myself, so I don't know what happens when it gets full - maybe add another script in the camera to wipe the card every day or something.

      The second is to get a firewire camera. No wireless on this option, but many consumer camcorders support firewire for control, not just for data transfer - I was using these years ago as extra high quality options for video conferencing, but I see no reason that they couldn't be rigged up for stills too.

      • Re:Great question (Score:4, Informative)

        by spacey (741) <spacey-slashdot DOT org AT ssr DOT com> on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:36PM (#32104068) Homepage

        From what I remember, the eye-fi doesn't delete content locally, it just uploads. so you'd have to play around with some way of having the modified firmware delete the oldest N photos or something.

        Ahh... it seems that the newest cards will auto-delete: http://www.dpreview.com/news/1001/10010501eyefiprox2.asp [dpreview.com]

        -Peter

      • by natehoy (1608657)

        I've researched the Eye-Fi units, and some of the newer ones claim to automatically clear off images once they've verified that the copy is complete.

        About the only real issue is power. Most cameras in that class could take maybe a few hundred non-flash images (and the Eye-Fi is probably going to cut into that BIG TIME) and can't take external power supplies easily.

        Still, a very interesting thought.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by MoonBuggy (611105)

          Most cameras in that class could take maybe a few hundred non-flash images (and the Eye-Fi is probably going to cut into that BIG TIME) and can't take external power supplies easily.

          It might limit your choice of cameras slightly, but there are actually plenty of point-and-shoots that can run from AC adapters. The prefix that Canon uses for the kits is 'ACK [google.com]'.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          The battery for the Canon SD1100 is pretty good, it can go for about 1200 no-flash shots with the display turned off, (and thats with the cheap dealextreme knock-off batteries) but the highest rate i can get for timelapse is about 1 shot every 4 seconds-and thats without a break to transmit the image to a computer.
          The Canon point and shoots I've worked with all have an option for an external power supply, but its a hard to find proprietary adaptor that is way too expensive (can cost about as much as the ca

          • The battery for the Canon SD1100 is pretty good, it can go for about 1200 no-flash shots with the display turned off, (and thats with the cheap dealextreme knock-off batteries) but the highest rate i can get for timelapse is about 1 shot every 4 seconds-and thats without a break to transmit the image to a computer.

            That's very slow.. I don't have an 1100 handy, but consider trying a better-rated SD card. That makes an order-of-magnitude difference in the SLRs, in terms of save speed.

          • The cover for the battery compartment should have a tiny hole with a cover (a door-within-a-door) The power adaptor is shaped like a battery which goes into the camera, and the wire goes through that little hole in the battery cover, and into the wall.

            Sounds like something one could macguyver with some dowels, gaffer tape and a £5 DC power supply. No problems there.

    • Re:Great question (Score:5, Informative)

      by Miamicanes (730264) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @09:03PM (#32106776)

      Having just had my house broken into ~2 weeks ago and spending most of the past two weeks researching good-but-affordable security cams as a result, here's a bit of what I learned (and bought):

      The best-yet-cheap hi-res IP camera I've found is the Compro IP70 (available in the US from Directron, widely available elsewhere in the English-speaking world and a big chunk of Europe).

      * The good: 1280x1024 resolution and 1/3" CMOS sensor, awesome low-light performance, onboard microSD card for persistent storage of snapshots triggered by motion or inputs. Dual codecs, so you can have it simultaneously grabbing 1280x1024@15fps for snapshots or web viewing, as well as 320x240 or 640x480 (among others) for viewing on your Android phone/iPhone/other phone. It explicitly supports MJPEG, h.264, and MPEG-4, plus 3GPP (apparently, this means it might work on Java ME MIDP phones and Symbian).

      * The bad: mediocre room-light performance with color that's utterly dire if you have the IR activated, and once an event triggers a snapshot (that can be saved to SD, FTP'ed, and/or emailed), it can't take the next pic for ~4 seconds.

      * The mitigating: telnet ${ip} to get a real, honest to god root shell complete with busybox. Very little public documentation, but looks almost shockingly straightforward to figure out what's going on, and maybe even replace the onboard apps with my own. According to 'top', the camera has at least 50-100mb free ram running normally, so implementing a burstmode that can grab a bunch of shots to ram once triggered, then upload/save them to persistent storage later shouldn't be too hard. One big tip if you get this cam: "low light" mode != "IR mode" -- low light mode cuts the framerate to interpolate more gray and average out the noise. The problem is, it utterly ruins the camera's ability to take meaningful event-triggered snapshots. So, if I could request just one improvement to it, it would be, "implement a burst mode whereby the camera will (optionally) take 1-4 pics immediately, turn off low-light mode, then take 1-N pics... saving them to a ramdrive, with another daemon pushing them to persistent storage in the background. If nothing else, this camera has serious potential as a fun embedded linux box with onboard USB (the optional wifi is USB), two isolated inputs, and one isolated output, plus 10/100 ethernet. I bought one so far.

      * Other details: it's not PTZ, and it's not weatherproof. It's also pretty huge (~5" x 5" viewed head on), so think twice before planning to stick it somewhere aesthetically obvious in your house.

      The IP70 has a baby brother with the same resolution, but without the IR called the IP60 for about $40 less (also available at Directron). I haven't used it, I'm just mentioning it to be complete. Officially it has no IR capabilities, but to some extent just about all CMOS cameras seem to be at least slightly IR-sensitive.

      For cheap PTZ Linux-based fun, you can't beat the Foscam FI8908W. Their official US distributor is foscam.us, and they're readily available for less than a hundred bucks on eBay (a non-wireless variant exists; it's rare, but about $10 less). Just be careful and make sure the seller LITERALLY specifies "Foscam FI8908W", as opposed to "Foscam-Type" or just shows a pic. There are a LOT of fakes on eBay. I haven't seen them side by side, but from what I understand, the fakes are basically the same camera body and electronics, bought from the same ODM, but have different firmware, and apparently tend to ship with visibly lower-quality lenses. Apparently, some can be reflashed with Foscam firmware, some will get bricked if you do.

      Foscam cameras only do 640x480@30fps with MJPEG, but they make up for it by being one of the only cheap IP cameras that doesn't need Internet Explorer to work. They're also very hackable, with several individuals who've made lots of public progress documenting their hardware, bootloaders, and onboard i/o ports (they support 1 in and 1 out, plus JTAG and a few other ports as well. I'm pretty sure I reme

      • Re:Great question (Score:5, Informative)

        by Miamicanes (730264) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @09:18PM (#32106882)

        I forgot to mention -- don't put ANY of these cameras anyplace where you wouldn't mind being viewed by members of the internet-using public unless they're sitting behind a bastion-host firewall/proxy and/or you have a way to physically power them down when you're at home, because their security is largely ceremonial, and trivially easy to bypass if you know what you're doing.

        My own setup: my new cameras sit on their own network. The cameras are all powered through X-10 appliance modules, and connect to their own wireless router/access point (itself plugged into an X-10 appliance module). When my security system (Elk M1G) goes into 'away' mode, it cycles through them all twice and sends their 'on' codes once per cycle. When my security system gets disarmed (and hasn't been set off), it sends the 'all off' code to power them down. For now, the second access point is connected via UTP to my main router, with the relevant ports forwarded and double NAT, but at some point over the next few weeks, I'm going to repurpose an old laptop with Debian and use it as both a persistent storage drive and bastion host firewall/proxy (so there will literally be no way to connect directly the cameras from the internet, and so I can use SSL). I'm not thrilled about the wifi security, but it's mitigated by the fact that they're only physically powered up when I'm not at home.

        • Re:Great question (Score:5, Informative)

          by Miamicanes (730264) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @10:38PM (#32107366)

          While I'm at it, I might as well share the rest of my notes from the past few days...

          A lot of info about Foscam's cameras in general, by a blogger whose postings about it became quite popular:

          http://www.gadgetvictims.com/2009/06/foscam-wireless-pan-tilt-ip-camera.html [gadgetvictims.com]

          http://www.gadgetvictims.com/2009/07/foscam-ip-camera-part-two.html [gadgetvictims.com]

          Info about hacking Foscam cameras. The last time I checked, they'd figured out how the bootloader worked, and were working on getting its Linux distro to run under an emulator to make experimentation easier:

          http://www.computersolutions.cn/blog/category/ip-cam [computersolutions.cn]

          http://irishjesus.wordpress.com/2010/03/30/hacking-the-foscam-fi8908w [wordpress.com]

          http://www.makehackvoid.com/computers/hacking-foscam-fi8903w-linux-based-ip-camera [makehackvoid.com]

          Foscam's CGI-based web API (for integrating its video into your own app). It's far from perfect, but it's several orders of magnitude better than anything I've seen from companies like D-Link, Linksys, etc. In any case, it beats trying to reverse-engineer what some buggy ActiveX plugin is doing by sniffing the traffic with Wireshark. For comparison, my old PTZ camera is a D-Link DCS5300-W. Its bundled software was quite dire compared to the software that came with my new Compro IP70 and my Foscam FI8988W cameras, and the only thing the D-Link camera has a straightforward means of doing is grabbing a single 320x240 pic (no way to grab 640x480 from it), and I spent HOURS hunting for the elusive URL online.

          http://www.drivehq.com/file/df.aspx/publish/bubbah/PublicFolder/IPCAMCGISDKV1.7.pdf [drivehq.com]

          If you have an Android phone, there's one app I know of for viewing many IP cameras: IP Cam Viewer by Robert Chou. Search for it in Android Market (I think it can also be downloaded directly if you're in a country without access to Android Market).

          There are also lots of low-cost thirdparty IP camera apps -- viewers, spoolers, etc. Don't be afraid to ditch the app(s) that came with your camera(s), especially if it has a known public API and/or implements known standards.

          If you're planning more than a half-dozen cameras (especially if you can easily run new wires for them), you might be better off with a proper security DVR -- you'll be able to use smaller cameras, and pay about half as much for them.

          The cheapest web-accessible host I've found is the Aviosys 9100A (roughly 85 bucks online, including from Amazon). It can host 4 cameras and one mic. HOWEVER, I believe it multiplexes them, so you can only watch one at a time. However, I think it can iterate through your cameras, capture a frame from each, and show them all at once in a single grid if you'd like. In any case, if you're looking for a quick & dirty way to get 4 conventional cameras online, this is probably your best bet. If it had an onboard (micro/mini)SD slot, I probably would have bought one of these, too.

          Aviosys also has some interesting "Kameras" that do high-res (like the Compro IP60/IP70), but were more expensive and seemed to do a bit less than Compro's. Still, they might be worth investigating, too.

          For small, cheap, and cute, the prize goes to the "IP510" camera (sold online under lots of different names and model numbers... IP-510 from buy.com, IP-400 from dealextreme.com). Alex Kuklin has some good info about it on his blog (kuklin.ru), including the

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Miamicanes (730264)

            ^^^ Argh. Memo to self: never use the back-arrow when actively posting to Slashdot. It'll repost the same comment you made earlier under whatever comment you happen to be viewing at the time :(

  • by Anonymous Coward

    HQ, reasonably priced wireless webcams to be easily stashed wherever I please? I've had that dream as well......

  • by rachit (163465) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:16PM (#32103780)

    Watching grass grow? Watching birds? Tell us *really* what you are going to use the webcam for...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:17PM (#32103788)

    trendnet IP-TV252W and IP-TV512P are decent POE cameras at relatively cheap prices. one is a pan tilt dome the other is not. interfaces well with linux systems and work really well. not especially high rez but pic quality is decent for $250 or so..

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      trendnet also has a megapixel version :
      http://www.trendnet.com/products/proddetail.asp?prod=170_TV-IP522P&cat=147
      and a night version :
      http://www.trendnet.com/products/proddetail.asp?prod=110_TV-IP301&cat=147
      252 is only in non megapixel format but has low light capability with delayed shutter :
      http://www.trendnet.com/products/proddetail.asp?prod=160_TV-IP252P&cat=148

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eggplant62 (120514)

      Does it provide video of enough quality that it would stand up in court as reliable evidence of the creeps who might break into my house again this summer? I'm shopping for a reliable camera rig & recorder for just that reason and I can't believe how timely this article is to me.

      • by azrider (918631)

        Does it provide video of enough quality that it would stand up in court as reliable evidence of the creeps who might break into my house again this summer?

        It depends on the jurisdiction. For plain "see judge, this is what I saw" (as a backup to a witness), probably. As standalone evidence, probably not.
        The reason for this is that, unlike film cameras, the computer based pictures are discrete pictures that can be edited easily by any of a number of video editors. Commercial grade (Sony, AXIS, Panasonic)

  • by sznupi (719324) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:17PM (#32103790) Homepage

    Some routers have external USB ports (typically meant for storage); some of them have the possibility of using quite "normal" Linux, and hence all the drivers it has. So just connect a good quality webcam (note: you might need powered USB hub)

    Or even connect Canon digicam with modified firmware [wikia.com] and/or use app or script (there are *nix CLI ones) which can control such cheap camera.

    (cheap & energy efficient Atom nettop would be fine too, of course...but WiFi routers are somewhat closer to the "independent" webcams you mentioned)

    • by epiphani (254981)

      I'm not the submitter, but I also want something like he describes. I happen to live on a road where we get a fairly large number of accidents during the winter - four this past season on my front yard.

      I don't want to hack something up personally. I just want a plug-and-play webcam - it should require power only, after I've configured it. I'd put it in my window during storms and that would be it.

      While hacking up solutions can be fun, they often don't make for low-profile, portable and ignorable devices.

      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        I've been looking to set up some sort of ZoneMinder [zoneminder.com] system...and am also looking for some good quality wireless cameras that are compatible with this system.

        I need lots of coverage...that isn't really good for wired units (2x story house, front, back, inside...etc). I saw a wiki once from their site, but not the main cameras that seemed to be good quality, are kind of $$.

    • Apparently you missed the fact that he's looking for one with pan-tilt controls as well as zoom.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        He only said he "appreciates" this feature in one webcam he has; but no mention when specifically asking for something better...and is pan-tilt really that usefull for watching grass and birds grow? (zoom can be certainly controlled, too)

    • by julesh (229690)

      note: you might need powered USB hub

      You can get USB cables that have a third connector to supply additional power. Hook one of those up to a power adaptor with a USB output (get 'em on ebay, they're quite cheap these days) and no hub is required.

    • by dissy (172727) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @08:00PM (#32106304)

      (cheap & energy efficient Atom nettop would be fine too, of course...but WiFi routers are somewhat closer to the "independent" webcams you mentioned)

      Not for the mass market or 'end user' at all, but for those interested in the DIY approach:
      http://www.plugcomputer.org/ [plugcomputer.org]

      These little things are awesome.
      2.5" usb powered external HD + a sheevaplug = teeny fileserver that can tuck away almost anywhere.

      This plus two usb cameras could make a great webserver stream of the video.
      Just plug it in the wall, give it ethernet or a wifi usb stick, and hang a camera off it.

      Protip: In debian (and I assume any debian-like distro) you are just an apt-get install webcam-server away

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:17PM (#32103794)
    Since you've just posted a link to your site containing large jpegs, I must assume that either you're not paying for bandwidth, or that you're really, really new around here! Or, quite possibly, you are attempting to test the performance of your server under heavy loads.
  • by Mabbo (1337229) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:18PM (#32103802)
    I think I just found a time machine to 1997.
    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      geocities is back... with a vengeance!
    • by FatAlb3rt (533682) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:35PM (#32104044) Homepage
      Nah, his scam [ethicsscoreboard.com] was a little more recent than that. I knew I remembered that site from somewhere.
      • Very interesting, and a good catch. Looks like /. is going to feed him some more advertising revenue.
      • by xmas2003 (739875) * on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:49PM (#32104264) Homepage
        Followup three years later from the Ethics Scoreboard [ethicsscoreboard.com]

        Alek O. Komarnitsky
        (December 2007)

        This is a first: an Ethics Hero who emerged from the shadow of an Unethical Website designation. Back in 2004, Alek O. Komarnitsky received national attention for a whimsical holiday website that allowed people all over the world to turn his Christmas lights on from their home computers. Everyone had fun, which was clearly Alek's design. Still, when it became known that his site was a hoax and that the lights going on were only an illusion, the Scoreboard weighed in with the opinion that perpetrating such a large-scale deception was wrong, no matter how well-intentioned. Alek objected, and has maintained a spirited defense of his stunt in e-mail exchanges with the Scoreboard. But you can't keep a Christmas spirit down. At a significant cost in time and money, Alek figured out a way to really let people all over the world turn on his lights, at http://www.komar.org/cgi-bin/christmas_webcam---the [komar.org] very same site that the Scoreboard previously deplored. He has done this for a couple of years now, but has added a new feature in 2007. To quote Jolly Old Alec himself "There are three live webcams and X10 powerline control technology system so web surfers can not only view the action, but also *control* the 17,000 lights. Heck, you can even inflate/deflate the giant Elmo, Frosty, Santa, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Homer SimpsonWhile people around the world (157 countries last year) enjoy seeing the lights ON, environmentalists will be happy to know that they can turn the lights OFF with a click of the mouse. Better yet, this is the 4th year I'm using 100% Wind Energy and even though that is "clean" energy, I even did a Carbon Offset contribution for the 0.61 Tons of CO2 for the ~MegaWatt-Hour of power consumed; that's about the same as one cross-country airline trip. Finally, by providing viewing via webcam, you don't need to burn fossil fuels by driving around to see Christmas lights - Al Gore would be proud! But HEY, the $3/day in electrical costs are well worth the joy it brings to people (especially the kids) when they see the display in person and/or on the web. And new this year is a Hi-Def option, so gather your family around the large screen" The website, Alek reminds us, is free, and also exists to raise awareness of Celiac Disease,which afflicts his two sons as well as many others. He says his lights have raised nearly $20,000 for the cause. I've visited Alek's site, and it is fun, and you can turn the lights on and off, as well as inflate and deflate Homer. You win, Alek! The Scoreboard hereby pardons www.komar.org, and declares you a true Ethics Hero, and a damn persistent one, I must say. Thanks from all us kids, and a very Merry Christmas to you! You've certainly earned it.

  • by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:18PM (#32103808)

    I have a 3CCD camcorder with a USB webcam mode. The image is stupid-high quality. Of course, it wasn't cheap and that's not why I bought it but it's a nice added feature. Just about any mini-DV type camcorder will produce a better quality picture than any webcam and many of them are in the $100-200 range. Find one with a webcam mode and you're set.

    • by Chirs (87576) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:44PM (#32104192)

      The original poster is looking for a replacement for a camera that has pan/tilt/zoom controls.

      • I'll admit I didn't read the entire summary. Too many of them wordy things. But there are pan/tilt tripod heads. Gotta be some that can be controlled thru the entarwebs. Or MacGuyver a camcorder to the pan/tilt mechanism of his existing camera.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @05:59PM (#32105080)

        Professionals don't use it nearly as much as they used to these days. They use high resolution and wide angle lenses instead, and do PTZ in software. PTZ was important when your video frame was 480x320 or suchlike. Now you shoot 5 megapixels and pan and zoom digitally.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        No problem: attach the 200$ camcorder to an alt-azimuth telescope mount. for $195 [telescope-warehouse.com], a serial to USB adapter for $10 and a Wireless router or storage box that runs linux for $50-$100, and you've just fulfilled all the wishes of the op with some room left in the budget. To control the Pan and Tilt, you can install INDI server on the linux box or write your own (web?) application that emulates the handbox and move it either interactively at different speeds or move it directly to any horizontal and vertical ang
  • by TheReverandND (926450) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:19PM (#32103838) Homepage
    It has crashed my browser (Chrome) 3 times. Congrats.
    • by eln (21727)
      Ha Ha. Your browser sucks. All it did to me was freeze my browser for 30 seconds while I feverishly pounded on the close tab key. Two seizures and a puddle of vomit later, the window closed and the browser stayed up. Thank you, Firefox!
    • by treeves (963993)
      Opera handled it OK. The site even popped up a Javascript window letting me know that it knew I was using Opera.
  • I guess the market has not grown because of the tiny percentage of people (not including corporations) using pan/tilt/web-addressable web-cams, most are not really concerned with high-end image quality. They just want to watch birds or use it for home monitoring. A guy in my office has one watching the river behind his house (it floods often). The people who really do want/need the high-end stuff are more than willing to pay big money for it.
  • Logitech has some webcams with a pretty decent sensor. Don't remember the model name right off the bat, but you might check out their product line.

    • by sznupi (719324) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:55PM (#32104370) Homepage

      Sure, current Logitech webcams are rather decent (though at most quality levels you can get something cheaper usually (*)); but don't forget that Logitech, being the longtime "leader" of webcams, is almost single-handedly responsible for their stagnation which lasted almost a decade and was interrupted only recently. For almost 10 years they sold to people the same entry level (and most people will of course pick that one) basic design, price and poor quality. Leaving people disgusted with what can be "achieved" by their new webcam...

      (*)unless of course you want to use Skype HQ; which is, with willing cooperation of Logitech, restricted to only few webcam of the latter; which only makes things worse in my eyes. Otherwise it's often a safe bet that, say, a Creative webcam will have better quality/price ratio (and understand fully what it means for me to recommend something from Creative - I will never forgive them for Aureal)

  • I don't know (Score:5, Informative)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:26PM (#32103908) Journal
    Why "security" cameras(ie. webcam and some sort of TCP/IP speaking computer in the same box, often with goodies like 12/24 volt tolerant GPIO, POE, and weatherproof housings) have largely lagged; but the situation isn't nearly as dire if you are willing to do a touch of DIY.

    Between the substantial increase in the number of ~$100 webcams that actually work with UVC drivers and have image quality that doesn't suck, and the availability of highly capable SBCs like the Shivaplug for not much more, you can get an ugly; but surprisingly functional, setup going for ~$300 and a little linux fiddling.

    The other option with good price performance punch is taking advantage of all the DV video cameras that are being upgraded by their owners, or have shot tape-transport mechanisms. All but the ghastliest DV cams will outclass virtually all webcams in terms of optics and sensors, and they all connect via firewire in a standard way. A bit bulky; but if you go after stuff being dumped by "HD" enthusiasts, or hardware with broken tape parts, you can get fairly serious image quality for peanuts.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Personal experience : The equivalent Logitech camera is way way better than the Microsoft one.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lester67 (218549)

      I second this. The Cinema HD is head and shoulders above the old Lifecam's, and better than anything else I've seen on the market (to date). Catch it on sale you'll pay $50. (And it's easily disassembled for hacking/repurposing.)

  • by CityZen (464761)

    A "webcam" is typically a USB camera you attach to your PC to do web (video) conferencing.

    An "IP cam" is what you're thinking of, which attaches directly to the internet without a separate host.

    Now, someone will probably follow up and tell me that "IP cam" is an overloaded term as well.

  • For example: http://www.everythingusb.com/microsoft-lifecam-vx-7000-14105.html [everythingusb.com]

    Or use a point-and-shoot with a webcam mode.

    That said, you'll likely have to massively trade off frame rate for image quality, particularly when you're dealing with an embedded CPU doing the compression.

  • Roll your own (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rwa2 (4391) * on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:28PM (#32103934) Homepage Journal

    I've had some of those expensive Axis/Canon PTZ webcams for work. Pretty sweet what you can zoom into.... we could read license plates off cars in the parking lot outside the office building windows.

    I think your best bet would be to attach a $100 USB Logitech Orbit to a $200 nettop, perhaps running off an SD card. There are fairly good Linux drivers (including rudimentary PTZ) and fairly decent optical quality for the Logitech webcams (compared to those D-link webcam things, which I've also learned to loathe). So you could get 1280x960 stills at low frame rates (sounds good for what you're doing) and also 30fps 640x480 video, plus audio. If you stick it on a beefier machine, you could even do mpeg4 encoding and streaming using VLC or something.

  • by cgenman (325138) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:28PM (#32103942) Homepage

    Has anyone tried the linksys N [google.com]?

    Other than that, I've attached a QuickCam Pro [google.com] to a dedicated $50 laptop, and left it running. The whole setup cost about 130, and provided decent low-light performance for the time.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      My experience with the Quickcam line is that the drivers are intrusive.

      Say for example you set the exposure settings to look good in your specific lighting conditions (ex: 1/300th of a second) because the automatic correction features are really screwed up for your specific lighting conditions...

      ..you would expect that the next time a program grabs a snapshot off the camera (or starts recording video), that those exposure settings would have been remembered.. nope .. back to 1/30th of a second.

      It prov
    • by BLKMGK (34057)

      I have not used the N, however I HAVE used the Linksys WVC54GCA Wireless G and found it to be EXCELLENT! the only real issue I had was that it's a bit big if you wish to hide it. Vendors still sell enclosures on eBay for them though so it is possible. I've only ever used this indoors but the video works well and I believe there are some capture packages that can handle it, my friend used Securityspy and it was capable of aggregating multiple cameras and could apparently send video to his iPhone using Cam V

  • Watch the device driver support, I port a cheap Net cam, only to find it didn't support Linux or XP 64 which are all I use. The cam was useless to me.
  • bad comparison (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    your little page compares a web cam to a DSLR. In other news, a Corvette smoked a Ford Focus on I95N today, film at 11.

  • I'd love to know also. I bought a Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 for about $100 to test out for my White Dots (www.whitedots.org) project, but it had very disappointing performance in low light levels (the only ones that matter for me). Distant planes disappeared in a sea of multi-colored noise.

    • project

      performace

      low light levels

      Distant planes

      Would you mind giving some of your identifying information to that kind gentleman in the suit who is standing over your shoulder?

      Correction - you will give your identifying information to that kind gentleman over your shoulder.

  • 1. Buy a smallish, cheap digital camera that has good resolution and a USB connection. 2. Buy a tripod. 3. Attach camera to tripod, attach camera via USB cord to computer.
  • I realize it's unrelated to your search for a webcam, but ... how do I turn off the sound on your page!?

  • by kriston (7886) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:54PM (#32104356) Homepage Journal

    Not completely appropo, but sometimes you can find what you're looking for by trying out the not-so-obvious solution.

    First, go to your local computer store and get a few generic UVC webcams.

    While you're there get a few long USB extension cords. You can get an active one that will let you put your camera a few hundred yards away if you like, or a passive one that will get you to thirty or forty feet.

    Now go home and plug in all your cameras, one at a time. You can plug in as many as you have USB ports, and, don't worry, no drivers needed.

    For Windows, visit this site to download the "MJPEG Surveillance" program: http://www.brooksyounce.com/ [brooksyounce.com]. Install it and run "MJPEG Recorder," click the right mouse button, and choose "Add New DirectX Camera." This program will let you adjust most of your camera's parameters including frame rate, and even motion detection and how long to record after motion stops. Jack up the resolution to the highest your camera will support since you're not going to want to record full-motion video in a surveillance situation. Be sure to set the JPEG quality to an acceptable level and put a time stamp in the corner, too, that you can read and won't get smudged by the JPEG compression.

    A couple of gigabytes of free space is more than enough to record days of 1280x800 at 85% JPEG quality and 1 FPS. Experiment. The motion detection is key.

    For example, at my local Micro Center, you can get a typical, generic UVC 1280x800 webcam for $25 or less. Try the WinBook WB-7144 HD Webcam 2-Pack for $40 or $25 for just one camera. In any case you should not pay more than $25 for a UVC webcam. These cheap units do 1280x800 at 30 frames per second and have autofocus, too, which is unbelievable at this price point. For discretion you may wish to disable the LEDs by disassembling the camera (they pop apart after unscrewing the base) and with a needle-nose pliers remove the two LEDs.

    The quality is good for daylight, and rather grainy at nighttime. At these prices, experiment and have fun!!

    • Careful! Maximum USB cord length is 5 meters (16ft).

      I shrugged that off until I tried connecting a USB printer with cable twice the length. My computer didn't like that. I got messages ranging from unknown device to being able to see, but not print. Only when I connected a shorter cable did everything start to work.

      I hear there are cable repeaters, but it will require another AC adapter to be plugged in someplace (powered USB hub might work).

  • There are pretty good HD cameras used in videoconferencing that are affordable.

  • Try this company (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Neanderthal Ninny (1153369) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:56PM (#32104398)

    I have several infrared high resolution closed circuit security cameras at my home from this company which works well for me www.supercirucits.com. They have some high resolution webcameras that you can see if it works for you http://www.supercircuits.com/search?keywords=ip [supercircuits.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cayenne8 (626475)
      "I have several infrared high resolution closed circuit security cameras at my home from this company which works well for me www.supercirucits.com. They have some high resolution webcameras that you can see if it works for you http://www.supercircuits.com/search?keywords=ip [supercircuits.com] "

      Do they work with Linux?

  • by TheNinjaroach (878876) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @05:05PM (#32104492)
    After scouring the web for reviews I ordered the Microsoft LifeCam Cinema this morning for $50 from Amazon. It shoots (widescreen) 720p high definition video, is manufactured with all-glass lenses and performs great in low light situations. I was wary of buying a Microsoft product, but the camera is UVC and works out-of-the-box with Linux. Can't wait to get it.
  • by Thurmont (712483)
    While using Skype one day I stumbled upon the fact that my nearly 6 year old Panasonic Mini-DV camcorder (PV-GS120) will function as a webcam when it's connected via Firewire. It provides picture quality at or better than an expensive USB webcam, functions well in low light, and has zoom and infrared auto-focus. Turning the built-in LCD around towards the front provides a "view my video" function freeing up my monitor to just display the other party. True, it's not "HD" quality but it serves a new purpose
  • Similar to the Axis cameras, I have 2 Vivotek IP7152's streaming video to zoneminder running on an Ubuntu box in my basement... One is across the street in my neighbor's garage window facing my house, and the other in my livingroom window facing my neighbor's house. Across the street I have a Yagi pointing at my house and in my entry way, I have an omnidirectional antenna hooked up to some LMR-400 leading to a DD-WRT access point downstairs. The two cameras talk to that.

    Performance is pretty good except

  • Seriously, what's with that annoying moving lawnmower following my mouse cursor around?

  • Depends what kind of grass we are talking about doesn't it? What is grass to some are weed to others ;)

  • by Ransak (548582) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @06:05PM (#32105146) Homepage Journal

    ... to paraphrase a certain someone in the IT industry.

    In all seriousnessity, check out the Zonet ZVC7630W [google.com] if 640x480 meets your needs. It runs an embedded Linux kernel with Busybox, supports LAN/WiFi/USB sticks for recording, MJPEG streaming, and has some nifty motion trigger features.

    I use a few of these for security cameras and they're pretty easy to weather proof with some caulk and tupperware. My one big complaint however (which might be a showstopper for many on ./) is the built in web features such as 2-way talk require Internet Exploder. It utilizes an ActiveX applet that I haven't been able to get around.

  • Mobotix over Axis (Score:4, Informative)

    by HycoWhit (833923) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @07:13PM (#32105808)
    Been playing around with IP cameras for a few years. For the most part I set up camera systems for friends to monitor their vacation homes during the week. Have tried D-Link, Panasonic, Axis, and lately have been using nothing but Mobotix.

    Mobotix is by far the most expensive, but Mobotix has been the most reliable for me. Axis was my 2nd favorite, but I have nothing but lockup problems with Axis cameras requiring the cameras be scripted to reboot every 24 hours.

    Folks have touched on a few subjects--wireless is convenient, but such a bandwidth hog. Setup a small office with two wireless parking lot cams. The folks in the office used wireless laptops. None of the laptops could get better than 1.5mbps transfers when the wireless cameras were on. Wired the cameras and everyone was happy. The FPS on the cameras improved dramatically and the four or five folks in the office had speedy internet once again.

    Another thing folks touched on--picture quality. Look for a camera with a changeable lens. If you want be able to read a license plate or recognize a face at 25' to 50'--you are going to need a nice lens. Even more so if you want to be able to read the license plate on a moving car at night.
  • by AK Marc (707885) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @09:00PM (#32106758)
    When looking for a nannycam, I wanted something that was wireless with a remote and/or computer controllable for pan and zoom. I was pointed to porn cams, because there are plenty that are used for that where they have remotes and things. I never did find anything, because searching for "cam" and "porn" wouldn't ever get me what I was looking for. Anyone know what a common one is used for that? They shouldn't be too much, and would have some nice features.

    It seems the industry has been focused on the cheapest thing that looks good with Skype/MSN/Yahoo type stuff, and very little that's for higher quality or for aiming at anything other than a stationary talking head.
  • by Guysmiley777 (880063) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @10:41PM (#32107380)

    The best sensor in the world won't do jack squat for you if you have crap-tastic optics. For pro-am digital photography the lenses are the limiting factor these days, the sensors are more than good enough. And it's not likely you're going to find a webcam with decent glass, sorry. For that form factor (teeny tiny camera) you're not going to get good quality or low light performance.

  • Fishcam (Score:3, Informative)

    by montulli (658308) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:24PM (#32107630) Homepage
    The original Netscape fishcam http://www.fishcam.com/ [fishcam.com] has gone through several iterations of cameras. It started on a SGI indy with a camera that came with the computer. It then moved to a portable video camera that was fairly old at the time, but had an analog RCA output and was encoded by the SGI. Now it runs on a Stardot NetCam SC5IR The Startdot camera is an embedded linux computer with a 5 MP video camera and high quality interchangeable lenses. The fact that it is a linux machine means you can do lots of creative things, like run a small web server, FTP, NFS, CIFS, scripts, etc. The most important aspect about a camera in my mind is its reliability. I don't want to reset the thing ever if possible. The Stardot has been running for more than a year uninterrupted. The big problem with Stardot cameras is the price. My SC5IR is over $1000 with all the accessories. A cheaper alternative is to set up a video server and use cheap security cameras with CGA resolution. You can get security cameras for $100 each and a cheap video card for ~$200.

Real computer scientists don't comment their code. The identifiers are so long they can't afford the disk space.

Working...