Foscam IP Camera Overview

By: Ethan Ace, Published on Aug 25, 2011

In this update we will examine the IP camera line of Chinese camera manufacturer Foscam. Foscam has a reputation for being low-cost and average (or below) quality. Let's examine the line and its competitive positioning.

Product Overview

Foscam's IP camera range is small, consisting of eleven models [link no longer available]:

  • Five bullet cameras
  • One fixed box camera
  • One cube camera
  • One outdoor PTZ
  • Three indoor pan/tilt cameras

Compared to most of the industry, Foscam is lagging in features on multiple counts. First, the entire line is single protocol only, with only four models offering dual-stream H.264, and the rest being single stream MJPEG-only. All cameras have a max resolution of VGA, with most using 1/4" image sensors, as well as some 1/5". None of the line currently supports ONVIF, nor is Foscam an ONVIF member, so we would not expect it in the near future. 

The only way to describe Foscam's pricing is "cheap", even when compared to the typical lower-cost brands:

  • The Foscam FI8904W [link no longer available] outdoor bullet camera can be purchased directly from Foscam US for $125, but can be found elsewhere online for as low as $84. Compare this to the Vivotek IP7330 standard def bullet camera, which sells for about $225 online, nearly three times the price.
  • As for pan/tilt cameras, the FI8918W [link no longer available] is available for $80 online. Vivotek's closest comparison is the PT7137, which sells for $211 online.

Recommendations

It is difficult to recommend Foscam's cameras, since there is so little to differentiate them. With pricing this low, quality becomes a justifiable concern. We have performed no testing of Foscam cameras. Reviews and posts online indicate those with basic requirements seem to like them, but others regularly cite concerns over product support, firmware stability, and image quality. 

The lack of ONVIF compliance or many third-party integrations is also a major negative. Since most of the line only uses MJPEG, VMS generic drivers (for example from Milestone or Genetec) would be able to view and record video with little trouble. Like many of the low-cost camera manufactuers, some of Foscam's cameras are listed as compatible with Synology's surveillance station. They are also integrated with some of the lesser-used or lower-cost VMS's, such as Digifort, Blue Iris, and iCam. Blue Iris looks to be the most popular choice, especially among the DIY set, with Foscam US offering Blue Iris for order along with cameras, as well.

1 report cite this report:

Low Cost Professional IP Cameras Comparison on Oct 23, 2011
"Too expensive" is probably the most frequent complaint about IP cameras....
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