Dropcam has been around since 2009, but only truly became a player in the app-enabled home security space early last year with the release of the Dropcam HD Wi-Fi video monitoring system. It separated itself from the normal cast of IP video cameras by offering an insanely easy setup process, beautiful software, and effortless mobile device integration (iOS/Android). These wireless cameras have become so popular that Dropcam is now processing more video than YouTube on a daily basis.

Building on the success of the Dropcam HD, the San Francisco-based startup is now launching the Dropcam Pro. It will not be replacing the HD, but rather joining it as ‘step-up’ version for users who want to get the absolute most out of their video monitoring setup. The Dropcam HD will now be known simply as “Dropcam.” We had the opportunity to spend an entire week with the Dropcam Pro. Keep reading to find out if it lives up to the high expectations set by its predecessor.

What does it do?

Dropcam aims to bring a fully-featured video monitoring experience to consumers by cutting out the over-technical setup process, cable running, and expensive equipment usually associated with these types of systems. The mobile apps make ‘dropping’ in on your family, pets, or empty house while you’re away on vacation an extremely simple task. Within seconds of tapping the Dropcam app you are viewing and controlling all of your cameras. They even offer a cloud-based service to add DVR-type functionality to your video streams, making it easy to jump back in time and review noted events or any specific moment in recent history. Additional features like two-way audio, 8X zoom, and a 130-degree viewing angle help it match up to other IP video cameras currently on the market.

iPad mobile setup

Setup

Dropcam boasts that a new camera can be setup in just 60 seconds and our experiences absolutely confirmed this claim. In the past, the initial setup of a Dropcam HD required a Mac or PC, but the new Pro version takes advantage of Bluetooth low-energy technology to allow setup to be completed exclusively on a mobile device. This feature requires an iOS device no older than an iPhone 4S, iPad 3, or iPad mini. The first time we tested the Dropcam we went through the Mac setup process and it couldn’t have been any easier. You simply tether your new camera to your Mac or PC via USB and launch the installer app from the desktop. This setup wizard will walk you through creating a Dropcam account, connecting to Wi-Fi, and placement of the camera. The entire process really is a breeze.

The camera is not completely wireless, as it requires the unit to be plugged in at all times and does not include a battery backup for power outages or other downtime. This makes it a bit tougher to find the perfect place to setup, but it is not uncommon for these types of cameras. The actual camera is about 5 inches tall and stands on a circular base for maximum stability. The body is made of aluminum with a nice matte black finish and feels strong. It includes a plastic mounting bracket and screws in case you wish to affix the Dropcam to your ceiling or wall. The arm of the unit manually tilts to help you find the perfect viewing angle.

4S_Dropcam_View

Video/Audio quality

The Dropcam Pro features a new six-element all-glass camera lens, more sensitive microphone with double the sampling rate of the HD model, and a louder speaker. The Dropcam Pro supports up to a 1080p HD video resolution, compared to just 720p on the regular Dropcam. However, it isn’t all about the resolution here. The new larger image sensor produces amazingly smooth video even during high-action events. I had no problem identifying people entering a room, reading a nearby sign or understanding exactly what was going on at any given moment.

Both the standard and Pro models will be recieving an over-the-air software update which will bring a new enhancement and zoom features to both systems. The zoom feature is activated in the mobile app by simply pinching on an active video feed. In my experiences the zoom feature worked smoothly and was extremely responsive. Dropcam Pro will zoom up to 8x, while the regular Dropcam can only go up to 4x due to its limited hardware capability. The ‘enhance’ feature can freeze the current frame and really bring that static image into focus. Colors become more vibrant and true to real life. I could imagine this type of feature being perfect for snapping a shot of a potential burglar or license plate of a thief outdoors.

Dropcam_Zoom

I was most impressed by the night vision mode. In a completely dark room I was still able to dial into my video feed and get a clear picture of the items in the room and the current activities. Dropcam Pro’s low-light capabilities are seven times stronger than the original Dropcam. This improvement alone may be worth the upgrade price for some. You can choose to have the camera auto detect low-light and adjust accordingly or you can manually turn night vision on or off from the setting menu. This option comes in handy in areas with extreme variances in light levels. In this situation the camera may get confused and continually turn night vision on/off, but you can combat this by overriding the auto-detect feature and manually activating night vision.

Dropcam_nightvision

The Dropcam Pro features a 20% larger field of view over the Dropcam, which makes it easier to get an entire room in your shot. It is worth noting that the video image will have a slight fish-eye effect due to the 130 degree field of view, but it’s not too distracting and does not take away from the overall video quality.

Dropcam_FieldofView

The audio quality is adequate. In my testing it was able to pickup conversations from all around the main viewing room with ease, and even caught sounds from a bedroom down the hall (with the doors open). Even the creak of a door was registered and clearly heard on the video feed. I do not think the overall audio quality or microphone sensitivity is less than desirable but I do think there is room to make it even better in future Dropcam releases. Carrying over from the original Dropcam, the Pro version also includes two-way audio. This means that you can broadcast sounds over the camera via a built-in speaker. This is a great way to scare off burglars or ease a baby to sleep. I used this feature to play with my dog and utterly confuse her. The projected sound is clearly audible throughout the room, but don’t expect to hold a conversation with someone through the camera as it has a slight delay that will throw off speech timing.

Cloud Video Recording (CVR) and event notifications

All Dropcam purchasers can freely ‘drop in’ on their video stream whenever they’d like, but if you’d prefer to have a recording of stream for future playback you will need to Dropcam_MobileAlert_V4subscribe to one of Dropcam’s CVR plans. They offer a couple of plan options: $9.95/month for seven days of continuous recording, $29.95/month for thirty days, and discounts for annual subscriptions and multiple cameras.

The Dropcam Pro unit we used was equipped with the CVR service and it works exactly as advertised. I setup event notifications for both movement and sound. When Dropcam detected a change in the environment it immediately alerted me via email and/or a push notification. I was then able to pop on to my Dropcam app and re-watch the segment of video that triggered the notification. If you don’t have a CVR plan you can only jump into the live feed when you receive an alert. If you are planning to use a Dropcam for any level of security I highly recommended you opt for CVR. Don’t worry, this is the only ‘add-on’ feature to speak of for the Dropcam. A brand new beta feature coming to the web player only is Activity Recognition:

Using advanced computer vision and machine learning technology, Dropcam Cloud Recording can now recognize motion patterns in your video stream and group together like activities. Customers can name these activities and customize alerts for them.

Activity Thumbnails - Timeline

Room for improvement

The Dropcam Pro is a truly wonderful product but there are a few areas where it could improve. The CVR works seamlessly and is a breeze to setup, but I would love to see the option for users to store their video recordings locally. I understand that in some cases it is less expensive to use Dropcam’s cloud service due to upfront hardware costs and excessive electric bills, but I think this option should be available for power users who want maximum security. To be fair, when I spoke with Dropcam CEO, Greg Duffy, he mentioned that they have been discussing this feature but haven’t launched it yet. Also, the Dropcam Pro’s 130 degree field of view is superb but I still wish it had the ability to tilt/swivel the camera remotely so it can truly capture every inch of the room. Finally, I’m not sure it is realistic to expect a completely wireless 24/7 surveillance camera, but I would like for Dropcam to include some sort of battery so it can withstand short power outages. A small built-in battery would be much more convenient and versatile than positioning a bulky UPS near the camera.

Availability and pricing

The new Dropcam Pro is available beginning today from Amazon and Dropcam.com for $199 and the original Dropcam remains at $149. Dropcam expects to offer their cameras in brick and mortar retail stores within the next few months. More on that later.

Update: As of today, 10/24, the Dropcam Pro is now available in Apple retail stores and the Apple online store.

Wrap-up and giveaway

The new Dropcam Pro is a tremendously easy to setup and offers great audio/video quality for consumers and small businesses. The addition of Bluetooth LE, dual-band Wi-Fi, and a wider field of view are all worthy updates that help make the Dropcam Pro one of the best Wi-Fi video monitoring systems available. It truly makes checking in on any location as simple as can be thanks to the iOS and Android mobile apps. There are a few areas of opportunity for Dropcam but not enough to hold it back or stop me from recommending it. It may not stack up spec-for-spec with some competitors’ offerings, but it makes up for that with a brilliantly designed web interface and mobile app.

At its core, Dropcam is a software and services company. That means Dropcam gets better over time with hassle-free automatic updates to the camera, cloud service, and apps, said Greg Duffy

That type of company outlook and vision shows their dedication to costumer satisfaction and overall value of their cameras. I can absolutely recommend the Dropcam Pro as one of the best ways to monitor your family, pets, and business.

Update: the contest has ended and the winner has been contacted.

Dropcam was nice enough to provide a brand new Dropcam Pro as a giveaway for 9to5Mac readers. To be eligible to win the camera simply retweet this post and make sure you are following 9to5Mac on Twitter so we can direct message the winner. It also wouldn’t hurt to leave a comment on this article. The winner will be chosen at random next Thursday, October 17th.

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199 Responses to “Review & Giveaway: Dropcam Pro Wi-Fi video monitoring with mobile access and cloud recording”

  1. willydp says:

    Great product. Great review. Thanks guys!

    Like

  2. My bike was stolen out of our garage, and it would have been great to have had a camera to catch the guy. The Dropcam also seems WAY better than the baby monitor we’re using right now, and it was around $199.

    Like

  3. Dela Hunter says:

    I would make so much use out of this…

    Like

  4. Adam Hanson says:

    Would love to win this. My wife is a teacher and I’m a law student. This would be fun for us during the day to what our puppy was doing around the house. Also, when we have kids, this would be great for the baby’s room.

    Like

  5. David Vela says:

    The “new” dropcam sure looks sweet.

    Like

  6. I follow via Twitter & retweeted! (@collifornia)

    Like

  7. I’ve been waiting for something just like this.

    Like

  8. Luis Cruz says:

    Nice I want one!

    Like

  9. I have old version and love it, also their support is great too. I would love to buy another soon, but it dies not hurt to get one free;)

    Like

  10. This device looks cool, hopefully it will work with multiple cameras

    Like

  11. Kyle says:

    Neat. Not sure I’ll upgrade, but I am intrigued. Dropcam’s site itself says both cameras are 720p, but this review says the Pro is 1080 – wonder which is true?

    Like

    • Dan DeSilva says:

      I can tell you that the box I received from Dropcam states 1080p, as well as the product listing on Amazon. I know Dropcam.com is showing 720p so I have reached out for clarification. I will update as necessary. Thanks!

      Like

  12. Excellent review. I am definitely considering Dropcam pro as my first home surveillance camera. Seems to be just what I am looking for. Was very pleased to see some examples of the low light mode. Thanks for the review!

    Like

  13. Would love to try one of these. Thanks for review!

    Like

  14. tilquinith says:

    Thanks for doing such a thorough review. Definitely looks like I’ll have to try these for my setup at home.

    Like

  15. ivykalusa says:

    Great review! Love the new Dropcam!

    Like

  16. I would love to be able to spy on my dog during the day and see what trouble he’s getting into.

    Like

  17. I would to see what my labrador does while the humans are out…

    Like

  18. pedro2nr says:

    Nice device. I want one.

    Like

  19. Just moved, so this would be useful.

    Like

  20. Looks awesome!! Well worth the money!!

    Like

  21. Very good review, Thanks Dan.

    Like

  22. This will be be my baby monitor because of hearing of the improvements in this review….thanks

    Like

  23. I was always looking for a camera like this. The Dropcam Pro seems to be the perfect choice.

    Like

  24. I love this camera! Nice review! Thanks!

    Like

  25. martinchaser says:

    Very nice. Just please make it able to record locally.

    Like

  26. I’ve been looking at these for some time and when you compare it to the others on the market it stacks up very well. As a bonus the industrial design it top notch. Suitable solid looking. Any chance of winning it? Probably not but happy to say that it’d be my choice of cam when I have to buy one and with a little kid now at home I’m thinking it would be a great idea.

    Like

  27. Great article about Dropcam Pro. My wife is hesitant about products like this. This article will be a great way to educate her on this product. I would love to watch my dogs while my wife are at school and work. Good luck to who ever wins this AMAZING product.

    Like

  28. Great review! U sure the Pro is 1080p?

    Like

  29. I have seen talk about these for a while..considered ordering…please PICK ME!

    Like

  30. ….you know you wanna

    Like

  31. That would be nice in my apartment complex. Not the best area in town…

    Like

  32. I would love this Dropcam to keep an eye on my rescue APBT puppies. My little girl puppy has already chewed the control on my spa and my sprinkler system! Thanks for the chance to win such a valuable prize!

    Like

  33. alexsimson says:

    would love one of these, working third shift and leaving my wife alone every night is pretty scary.

    Like

  34. msqueenn says:

    This would be awesome to have. Some loser broke into the storage area under our house and stole our lawn mower.

    Like

  35. We’ve been having issues in our neighborhood and this would be great for my front door!

    Like

  36. Very nice review. I would love to win! Been looking into security cameras for a while now. Netgear’s VueZone is nice because it runs on batteries and is truly wireless. But this new DropCam is nice as well.

    Like

  37. Doug Humble says:

    Very good review! I hope to win this one because I just gave one of my other ones away to a neighbor to hopefully help him catch a thief that has broken in to his house twice. We are hoping with me watching the front and him watching the back we can catch this person! It would be nice to be able to have his/her butt on camera to plaster all over the local news.

    Like

  38. This is the perfect solution to my slight paranoia, hah!

    Like

  39. Mo Zainuddin says:

    wow, this is great product. I like it. kind of price for student with out a job. But This is awesome.

    Like

  40. Jeni Smith says:

    Very nice post.. Thanks a lot for sharing…

    Like

  41. The cost to get this cloud service is completely ridiculously priced to where the com’mon person couldn’t even think of affording it.. is this for the rich only. Com’mon get real. Sell it where the average person can afford it otherwise don’t offer it. What a joke. Love the dropcam pro but if this is the only way to record than its cost is way beyond the poor persons dream of having….

    Like