Testing D-Link's IP Camera (DCS-920)

Author: Benros Emata, Published on Jul 19, 2010

D-Link is one of the most commonly selected IP cameras in the budget/home market. In this report, we test the D-Link DCS-920, an inexpensive cube camera that we purchased from Amazon.

One of the least expensive IP cameras available, we examine the use and limitations of the camera including integrating the camera with D-Link's own VMS as well as multiple 3rd party VMS systems.

We found a number of positive and negative points with the camera/solution and not a simple fit (good or bad). As such, we recommend carefully weighing the trade-offs in your environment.

Contrast to our test results of the Cisco-Linksys WVC80N for a camera with similar functionality and price point.

Recommendations

For home users that want an inexpensive way to view and record a few indoors cameras without remote monitoring, we find the D-Link DCS-920 to be an attractive fit. With its simple setup, wireless capability and provided VMS software, it provides the key components for a home surveillance solution at a low cost. On the other hand, for remote access functionality, the manual port forwarding tasks and lack of detail in the wizard may prove challenging or frustrating to non-technical users.

For a small business (with less than 8 cameras), the DCS-920 would just be an 'ok' fit, assuming that it is integrated in a location with even lighting and limited darkness. A small business user could take advantage of DView Cam, the included video monitoring software, and have a relatively simple experience in conducting live monitoring, recording, and investigative tasks.

For a larger deployment (over 8 cameras), the DCS-920 may fit if the system is not meant for security intensive purposes. The fixed lens and low light performance could hinder from identifying features of subjects within the field of view. While its low price point is attractive, the trade-off is the limited places where the camera could be useful. In addition, most of the 3rd party VMS support was limited to "budget" VMS offerings, and lacked in support for professional VMS systems. 

Key Findings

Setup: Setup of the D-Link DCS-920 was easy. In our tests on multiple PCs, the included wizard  was consistently successful in detecting and identifying the camera over the network.

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Monitoring Software: The included version of the DViewCam monitoring software (ver 2.03) on the CD is not compatible with 64bit OS. D-Link recommends downloading version 3.0 (64bit compatible) via their public ftp site (not currently available on the main website). 

Bandwidth: The bandwidth consumption during the day was measured at 1.3Mbps, and 650kbps at night.  The camera's video settings were at 640x480, 15fps, MJPEG codec.

Details of Subjects: With the camera's 5mm fixed lens, it will be difficult to get facial details of a subject within a large room but enough to identify the subject as a human.

Nighttime Performance:  In an indoor low light test, where the light level was controlled and measured at 1lux, the image was too dark to make out distinguishing features of our subject in the field of view; He appeared as a silhouette in the image. 

Third Party VMS Support: The DCS-920 was able to connect to the Luxriot DVR software using it's MJPEG stream. Although Milestone Enterprise does have support for D-Link cameras, we verified that the DCS-290 model is not supported.  In addition, we verified ExacqVision VMS did not support the camera.

For budget VMS systems, we were able to successfully integrate the camera to Argus Surveillance DVR, Blue Iris, WebcamXP, and I-Catcher Console.

Remote Access & Monitoring: The DCS-920 does not have any processes to automatically setup your network for remote access; All port forwarding tasks must be performed on your network router manually.

D-Link does have their own DDNS service, but the included documentation does not make any reference to this service, nor does the wizard on the camera's web interface perform any registration to the service.

Product Overview

While testing the D-Link DCS-920, we verified these product points:

  • Supports only MJPEG codec
  • 5mm fixed lens, 1/4" CMOS sensor
  • Maximum resolution of 640x480 at 15fps
  • Setup wizard included on CD and additional setup wizard on camera's web interface
  • Supports wired or wireless connectivity; wireless is 802.11g only
  • Monitoring software included on CD, but only supports 32bit operating systems (unless version 3.0 is downloaded from D-Link's ftp site)
  • DView Cam is a stripped down OEM of NUUO's VMS (refer to our report on NUUO software), which provides basic live monitoring and playback functionality with notable features like searching via date/time, map support, scheduling, and video exporting (using cue in/cue out timeline markers)

Price

The D-Link DCS-920 is available through direct retail channels at an MSRP of $119.99 USD or online for approximately $95 USD

Physical Overview

The following screencast highlights the physical form factor and accessories of the DCS-920.

Key points include:

  • Camera has wireless or wired connectivity
  • Wireless supports 802.11g only
  • Camera has 5mm fixed lens
  • Maximum resolution of 640x480 pixels at 15fps
  • Supports only MJPEG codec
  • AC adapter is 6ft long
  • Documentation for support information is readily available 

Setup & Configuration

The following screencast covers the setup procedure from using the included CD to accessing the camera's web interface.

Key points include:

  • Setup CD includes a setup wizard
  • Setup wizard installs on your PC's hard drive
  • On all of the PC systems we tested, the setup wizard was able to locate the camera on the network
  • Setup wizard goes through the configuration in a step by step process
  • D-View Cam is D-Link's video monitoring software
  • The version of D-View Cam that is included with the CD is not compatible with 64bit operating systems
  • Version 3.0, which is 64 bit compatible, can be downloaded on D-Link's FTP site
  • In the web interface, to view live video, choose either the ActiveX or Java function
  • Camera does not have many advanced features and the setup interface reflects that
  • Web interface includes a wizard to change configuration options
  • Resolution and frame rate can be configured in the Video section
  • Brightness, contrast, and saturation is configured manually in the Image Setup section

Image Quality Analysis

The DCS-920 was tested in different environments and light levels.  The exported video is analyzed on in comparison to the quality of competitor home network cameras.

Download our sample clips (30.7MB download)

Key points include:

  • In a daytime indoor scene, image quality was fair, but detail on subject was soft and colors were a little muddy
  • In a low light indoor scene (1 lux), subject shows up as a silhouette, but environmental details can still be seen
  • In a wide dynamic range scene, outdoor light washes out details, when subject walks indoors, he is too dark to be seen

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