The smart camera market is changing fast, with lenses built into robots and drones soon to be patrolling the smart home for increased flexibility. However, there’s still plenty of room for static cameras designed to keep an eye on a room, outside your property, on a secure door, your pet or other valuable.
They also don’t have be staggeringly expensive like some of the much talked about brands listed, such as the Nest Cam and others. Enter the $60 Zmodo EZCam, a low-cost device that you can buy, install and leave running for all time, in theory.
It doesn’t have many of the smart bells and whistles that many devices offer, however there are millions of users out there that just want to point a camera somewhere and keep an eye on what’s happening.
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Key Features of the Zmodo EZCam
- High Resolution (but not he highest): The Zmodo EZCam keeps its costs down by sticking with the lower high definition 720p resolution for video video.
- Night Vision: It still manages to cram in a night vision mode that can view up to 30ft and has a microphone and speaker for two way chat with the occupant or visitors.
- WiFi, App, and Web Enabled: It hooks in directly to your WiFi and can be monitored on your smartphone via a Zsight app for iOS or Android, you can also use a PC.
- Smart Triggers: If something triggers the motion detector, it can send an alert straight to your phone so you can check out what’s going on.
- Offers Local Recording (no cloud subscription) Unlike some models, you can also record locally direct to a MicroSD card, so there’s no need to rely on the cloud or subscription service plans.
- Compact and Lightweight: Available in white, the EZcam is a compact unit measuring 3.54 x 6.5 x 7.28 inches and weighing just 8lb.
- Easy to Install (but needs power line): Small and unobtrusive, it needs power via a USB port, but can be installed pretty much anywhere near a plug. Around the edge are eight IR leds and a green light to show connectivity. The lens offers 105 degree field of view, which isn’t great but should be sufficient for most users.
Pros of the Zmodo EZCam
- East to Set Up: Definitely one of the easier devices to set up, the EZCam can be up and running in minutes. Link your camera to the phone via a QR code and you can watch what’s happening at home and receive alerts when there’s action. Mostly it provides a sharp picture but is definitely not up there with the 1080p devices on the market.
- Can Record Locally: It can record to the SD card for around 36 hours, depending on the size of card. That’s great for when you’re out for the day, but if you’re gone longer, it will wipe over any events from earlier on. If the service is running, it will ping your phone with an alert when there’s motion. That’s about it for the pros, and for the money you can’t really expect much more.
Cons of the Zmodo EZCam
- Some Features Not Yet Here: Cloud services and some other features appear to be billed as “coming soon,” which doesn’t seem to suggest the company has its future plans sorted.
- More of a Nest Cam Knock-off: Zmodo itself if a Chinese production company with a range of security cameras, but it seems to be trying to make its way into the smart home market with some quite low-key devices.
- Only Works with Older WPA Standards (security issue): The EZCam might also not be suitable if you have strong WiFi security, as it only works with older WPA or WPA2 standards, not modern WEP encryption.
- Password Limitations: Also there’s a limit on the password length to 13 characters, otherwise it won’t connect to your router. The password issue may only be a problem for a few users, but no one should have to downgrade their WiFi security for a smart home device.
- Can Get Very Hot: A potentially more serious issue is that the camera gets very hot when left running for extended periods. While it is unlikely to pose a fire hazard, no smart home gear should pose a burn risk, with children or pets around, which is rather disconcerting and may put many buyers off.
- Questionable Software: Finally, and most worryingly, the app has intermittent connection problems, which seems to stem from poor software.
- Can’t Take Screenshots: Users can’t capture the video output on their phones either, other than taking a screenshot, but that’s hardly smart home thinking. This may be fixed by the company, but they seem to have a very poor support record, so be cautious when it comes to buying this.
Final Assessment – Is the EZCam Worth the Money?
With the cons easily outweighing the pros, you might want to consider the EZCam as a back unit or as a low-cost experiment for your smart home, certainly you wouldn’t want to be relying on it for front line defense.
With plenty of other models out there at the same cost, or not much more, but with added features. With no customization or smart home smarts, it barely creeps into the smart home technology market.
There are many generic hardware video cam models out there, and it is up to the makers to add some value via good software or services. Unfortunately, Zmodo don’t seem to be too bothered about customer service or adding value, which is a shame when there are many companies out there trying to differentiate, like iSmartAlarm’s recently crowdfunded Spot camera project.
Similarly, Zmodo’s “support” page is limited to a few basic questions and answers, and some tutorial YouTube videos, they could certainly learn a lot from other companies when it comes to user support.
If you do want to give the EZCam a go, remember to pick up an SD card, which will increase the cost slightly. It will accept a 64GB card to provide days of recording. If you do buy one and it works, then congratulations. If it doesn’t function as advertised, return it quickly rather than struggling to get it to work, claim the refund and move on with your life.
That is increasingly the way that users will resort to trying these lower-cost devices, and with poor support it will be increasingly hard for companies like this to gain customer loyalty.
Final Take: Not recommended unless you treat it as a low cost experiment and/or as backup system.
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!