Testing New Dropcam Pro Camera

By John Honovich, Published Nov 25, 2013, 12:00am EST

VSaaS, overall, has been a disaster with nearly every provider, including gorilla Axis, struggling to make it big.

The one clear exception has been Dropcam. It's end to end solution, targeted for maximum simplicity and its direct to end user business has resulted in surging sales and top ranking in Amazon.

Now, Dropcam has introduced, what it calls, a Pro camera. We bought one and put it to the test.

This report shares our testing finding of the new Pro camera contrast to the previous generation camera (which was tested and reported here).

Here are the key findings from our test:

  • Dropcam's overall image quality is now equivalent to professional budget level HD cameras (Axis M series, Dahua, Vivotek, etc.) The new camera has far better daytime image quality.
  • Enhanced: Dropcam has added an 'enhanced' image feature that is pretty amazing, very useful and something that we have not found in any 'real' IP camera.
  • Object Categorization: Dropcam now attempts to categorize types of motion by color, allowing them to be handled different (e.g., don't alarm on a cat, do alarm on a person). However, we did not find this to be very accurate.
  • Otherwise, physically the camera is still essentially the same with a slicker box but no really important enhancements.

This builds on Dropcam's already best in class simple setup. On the other hand, it is NOT a 'Pro' camera as one might think of in the professional market.

Key Weaknesses

A number of key weaknesses, relative to the broader market continue to exist:

  • Still only super wide FoVs (though the enhanced feature now allows improved cropping / enhancing of smaller areas).
  • No varifocal
  • No outdoor option
  • Nothing higher than 720p streaming (though the imager is 1080p)
  • Poor management for watching / searching for multiple cameras at once.

Potential / Recommendations

With the Pro release and new software features, Dropcam has shown that it can improve and innovate relatively quickly. Combine that with their deep funding (most of any VSaaS entrant) and the company has significant potential to expand. Equally important, it has no significant direct hosted video competitors that have any real products / positioning (though we expect budget camera providers to add in managed access to compete).

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The Next / Opposite Avigilon

This release (and continued progress) shows that Dropcam has the potential to be the next Avigilon - that is, a company that comes out of nowhere to disrupt the market.

One completely opposite tactic is that where Avigilon is security dealer only, Dropcam has no security dealers. Both reflect important opportunities to disrupt and pick a clear side. While Axis is screwing around with their multi level VSaaS program, Dropcam continues to build a powerful direct business online.

Just like Avigilon moved up market, we believe it is a no brainer that Dropcam will continue to add features and new camera types to expand into the 4 / 8 / 16 camera market segment over the next 5 years, leveraging their online strength and bypassing the traditional channel.

Image Quality

Here's an overview of the image quality of the previous generation Dropcam vs the new one, same time, same place:

The new camera has a significantly larger FoV yet better details and color. Here's a zoomed in area of the image above that shows the marked improvement:

In this video screencast, we walk you through the image quality comparison in more detail:

Enhanced Video

The real standout feature is their new 'enhanced' mode, which allows users to crop the area captured into a smaller region, while increasing the video quality of that region. This is definitely worth watching:

The immediate value is that it helps Dropcam use a single wider camera even in areas where a narrower FoV is desired. Additionally, it shows that Dropcam can develop feature innovative, useful features.

Typically, the budget surveillance market is filled with cheap products that are clearly inferior across the board to professional products. By contrast, with Dropcam's remarkable ease of use, improved image quality and the new enhance feature, they are showing that they can deliver a sophisticated offering in a market segment where this is uncommon.

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