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Author Topic: FloodCam Review [Updated: 2007/01/28]  (Read 80826 times)

engineer

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FloodCam Review [Updated: 2007/01/28]
« on: September 18, 2006, 11:20:10 AM »

FloodCam Review
This review applies to VT38A "FloodCam" models that were purchased around July of 2006.

The FloodCam is a neat single unit that includes a Wireless Camera, a Motion Detector, a day/night sensor, and a set of Floodlights all in one unit that mounts and wires into onto an outdoor electrical box.


Pros:

  • Nice combination of a wireless camera, floodlights, and a motion detector.
  • The 2.4 GHz link used to send the camera picture looks OK (at a range of 40 feet).
  • The motion detectors don't require batteries that will need to be replaced.
  • The nighttime motion detector range is even greater than the 20-foot specification.

Cons:

  • Camera can't see much at night.  (Even with the floodlights on).
  • Floodlights often don't turn off.  (If motion was detected around sunrise or sunset the lights lock "on").
  • Motion detector works correctly only at night.  (It false triggers constantly during daylight).
  • The FloodCam RF motion detection signals have a short range.  (They don't reach a receiver ~40 feet away).
  • Camera angle is usually too narrow to fully cover the area you want to monitor.
  • Camera picture isn't very clear or sharp.

Details:

  • Background
    The FloodCam with the iWitness PC software looked like a good idea for keeping an eye on the car in our driveway, and for lighting up and monitoring the side of our house when movement was detected there.  The plan was to use the FloodCam motion detectors to trigger both floodlights and the iWitness camera recording, which would record any activity using the cameras built into the FloodCams.  I purchased the FloodCams in a package with ActiveHome Pro and the iWitness software, and mounted 2 FloodCams.

  • 2.4 GHz Camera Link
    The FloodCam uses a 2.4GHz wireless signal to send the camera picture.  At the 40-foot range my computer's video receiver was located away from the FloodCams, the picture from both FloodCams was clear with no static.

  • Camera
    The camera in the FloodCams actually worked the first time I tried them (though I mistakenly thought they were not working at first).  But it was dark when I first tried them, and I couldn't see anything at all (even though the floodlights were on) and so I thought that there must be some problem with my setup.  When daytime came I could see that the camera in the FloodCams were actually working OK, though they were not very clear or sharp.  (Focusing the cameras using the lens ring helped somewhat).  The next night everything was completely black again, and I realized the cameras just couldn't see very well when it was dark.  Even a large white car not very far away and illuminated by the floodlights was difficult to make out very well.

  • Camera Picture Width
    The width of the camera angle is about 60 degrees.  For the areas I wanted to monitor this was not a wide enough picture to capture the entire driveway or the side of my house.  It would have been nice if there had been another model (or an optional lens) that offered a wide-angle view.

  • Floodlights
    After a few days of playing with the FloodCams I noticed that sometimes the floodlights were staying on and not shutting off.  I had them set to the minimum delay (about 1 minute).  They would turn on when motion was detected, and usually they would turn off about a minute later.  But sometimes when leaving in the morning or arriving home at night I noticed that the floodlights were already "on" before I approached, and would not turn themselves off, no matter how long I waited out of their view.  The only way to get the lights to turn off was to send an "off" command to the FloodCam address, or to kill the power to the FloodCam.  Using the published FloodCam reset procedure did not help.

    After a while I realized that most often this "lights locked on" behavior usually happened at sunrise or sunset.  The floodlights only go "on" if the FloodCam light detector thinks it's nighttime.  If it's dark and motion is detected then the lights turn on.  But apparently if during the time the lights are on the light sensor thinks that it's not night any more because it's too bright now, the FloodCam doesn't remember to turn the lights off and leaves them "on" permanently.  Both of my FloodCams have this same behavior.

    This "lights locked on" behavior will also occur if the floodlights (or a nearby object) reflect light onto the front of the FloodCam when they are turned on.  Because if light from the floodlights shines into the light detector on the front of the FloodCam then the FloodCam apparently thinks it's daytime now and the FloodCam "forgets" to turn the floodlights off.

    One work-around I am considering is to have a Macro that will send an "off" command to the FloodCam address a few minutes after they turn on (when motion is detected).  That way the Macro would hopefully shut off the lights to override the problem with the FloodCam forgetting to turn the lights off.  However this would also shut them off when continuous motion is occurring and so this isn't an ideal fix.

  • Motion Detector RF Range
    When the FloodCam motion detector sees something move it sends out an RF signal to report it.  (I had hoped to use this signal to start the iWitness camera recording and recording with a VCR).  This signal is picked up by either an RF transceiver, which translates the signal into a power line signal, or by a computer RF receiver.  However none of the 3 different types of RF receivers/transceivers I bought could "hear" the FloodCam RF signal from ~40 feet away.  Finally I took a known good RF transceiver and ran it outside under the FloodCams using an extension cord.  Then it would work correctly.  So it appears that to hear the FloodCam RF motion detection signals, the RF receiver used must be extremely close to the FloodCam. 

    As a work-around for this problem, I bought an additional RF transceiver (RR501) and mounted it in an outdoor socket next to the FloodCams.  Mounting it within a few feet allowed it to successfully "hear" and retransmit the FloodCam motion detector signals into the house wiring.  However since the VCR recording requires an RF signal to reach the VCR to start the recording, I have not been able to make the VCR recording work.

  • Motion Detector Triggering
    The FloodCam motion detector seems to work OK when it's dark outside.  It will detect motion, turn on the floodlights and camera, and then turn them off after the delay that was set.  However during the daytime the FloodCam motion detector appears to be fooled by the sun's bright light, or by the sun warming the ground, or by some other daylight effect.  During daytime, by watching the "Activity Monitor" screen I can see the FloodCam motion detector triggering on and off all day, even though there is no object moving where it is pointing.  As soon as the sun sets, the motion detector starts working correctly.  Both of my FloodCams showed this behavior.  This seems to defeat the idea that the FloodCam motion sensors can be relied on to trigger the iWitness camera recording software for daytime recording.  The motion detector would probably work OK for this at night.

Overall the FloodCam is a neat idea that seemed like a good all-in-one camera & motion detector & floodlight solution for illuminating areas you wanted to keep safe, and recording video of what was going on whenever motion was detected.  However problems with the motion detector, motion detector RF transmitter range, light sensor, floodlights, and the nighttime camera visibility have made getting this idea to work somewhat difficult.  It is my hope that the floodlight shutoff, RF range, and daytime motion detection problems can someday be fixed, perhaps along with better camera sharpness, a wide angle lens, and better night time visibility.


Update: 01/28/2007  (Additional feedback after 6 months of trying to make the FloodCams work.)

The FloodCam floodlights have been frustrating.  While washing my car in my driveway during bright daylight, I've observed that the FloodCam floodlights sometimes turn on due to my movements, even though they are not supposed to.  After they turn on during daytime this way they do not turn off by themselves, they stay on indefinately.  I have the FloodCams set to not turn on during daytime (but sometimes they do anyway).  When this happens the floodlights then won't turn off, apparently because the Floodcam on/off circuit has a problem that doesn't allow the lights to be turned off during daylight.  This is ironic, as it appears the control is working backwards, it sometimes allows the lights to be turned on by movement during the daytime (which it shoudn't), and then will not turn them off after the set delay (because it's daytime!).  So this problem with the FloodCam light sensor circuit seems to be the cause of the "lights locked on" behavior that many people have reported.

I have tried to create a workaround for this by setting the computer macros to always turn off the lights 5 minutes after the computer sees the signal that the lights have been turned on by the motion sensor.  This seems to work, and seems to prevent the lights from being "locked on" during the day.  However it is a crude workaround; the lights should not come on during the daytime; and even if they did they should shut off after the delay.  The light sensor part of the these FloodCams seems to just not work correctly. 

So my conclusion is that the floodlight part of the FloodCam can only be made to work if you are willing to have the floodlights come on during daytime.  If you set the light control to allow daytime floodlight operation (all the way counter-clockwise to tell it to ignore the light sensor and turn the floodlights on day or night when any movement is detected) then the FloodCam lights will turn on when motion is detected and turn off after the delay time.  The day/night function seems to be completely broken, and if you set the control to not turn the floodlight on during daytime all it seems to do is to prevent the floodlights from turning off after a motion has turned them on.

The camera seems to work, though it takes a lot of adjustment of the reciever to get a clear signal from it.  I seem to be close to the maximum range of the receiver (the receiver is on the window sill about ~40 feet away from the FloodCams along the same wall).  I have adjusted the focus again several times, but they are still not very clear or sharp.


[TTA Edit: Formatted a very well done review for improved readability and impact.]
« Last Edit: April 17, 2007, 08:54:27 AM by TakeTheActive »
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Nickhere1

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Re: FloodCam Review
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2006, 08:22:34 PM »

I am having the identical situation with my flood cam.  I come home from work only to find that the flood lights are locked on!
Obviously, a design problem.
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JimC

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Re: FloodCam Review
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2006, 06:37:16 AM »

I no longer use my flood cam as supplied by X10. As stated previously it would not be unusual to come home, in the middle of the day, and find the flood lights stuck in the on position. When I last used mine I rewired it so that it would work with an external MS16 motion sensor and appliance module. This worked fine.
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BSRMAN

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Re: FloodCam Review
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2006, 12:45:53 PM »

I also have the very same situation as described here. By the way a perfect review. Question for the night vision problem has anyone thought of replacing the color cam parts with the nightwatch parts. I have some that lost the RF board but the cam part might still be good. Does anyone know if this has been tried or possible?
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Puck

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Re: FloodCam Review
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2006, 01:30:43 PM »

All the same problems here as well.

My Floodcam is now stripped of it's floodlights and currently enjoying a productive life as part of my security system in the form of a basement camera.
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immyfish

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Re: FloodCam Review [Updated: 2007/01/28]
« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2007, 05:50:52 AM »

Thanks for the review.  Well said, and dead on correct!  Over the past week, I have been going through varying stages of frustration, outrage, and pure venomous anger over these cameras.  It sounds like there is much more frustration to follow.  The cameras are completely unreliable and useless as a stand-alone system.  I hope anyone considering buying these will not waste their money (and lots of time!) on these HORRIBLY designed cameras.  The concept is great, but the execution of this wonderful idea is terrible.  I'm hoping to get them functional with some macros, and using other Eagleeye remotes to trigger the cameras and the VCR Commander (another piece of garbage) as the included motion detector is absolutely useless. (It false triggers CONSTANTLY all day long, and only works at night once I have sent an "on" signal via remote and "woken it up") I will probably disable the camera's included motion sensor and hope the Eagle eye will function more reliably. Am I naive to still hope, or should I save my efforts and return this garbage before my wife leaves me due to my frustrated mood brought on by these horrible products? ;D >:(
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tom j

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Re: FloodCam Review [Updated: 2007/01/28]
« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2007, 03:12:45 AM »

Say guys are you and mend sure that the you have the little pointer turned about 3/4 of the way CLOCKWISE??? I though mine was doing the same thing and then realised I had it set to daylight all the way counter clock wise after I realised what I had done it been working fine off during the day on with motion at night, the old x10 floodlights have a little pointer to make this process easier this model doesn't this won't help the short reception but maybe it will help someone keeping them off at during the day, let me know if this helps anybody.

Tom j
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jesse williams

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Re: FloodCam Review [Updated: 2007/01/28]
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2007, 10:48:45 AM »



I ALSO HAVE THE SAME PROBLEMS WITH THE DAYLIGHT LOCKING ON FLOODLIGHTS. HOWEVER, I FIND MY CAMERA VERY SHARP OUT TO THE ROAD WHICH IS
100 YARDS FROM CAMERA, THE NARROW RANGE 60 DEGREE IS WHAT ALLOWES THE CLEAR FOCUS. MY WIDEEYE CAMERAS ARE BLURRED AT 100 YARDS, BUT WORK FINE AT 25-50 YARDS. MY FLOOD CAMS ARE BETWEEN 75 AND 100 FEET FROM TRANSCEIVER LOCATED IN THE HOUSE. NO PROBLEM WITH THE REMOTE SWITCHING FROM CAMERA TO CAMERA WHEN I PRESS EACH CAMERA LOCATION.
THE X10 PAN AND TILT CAMERA NEEDS THE ANTENNA MOUNTED ON THE UNIT SO IT WILL NOT TURN AS YOU GET SIGNAL LOSS AS THE P&T ROTATES. ALL OTHER CAMERAS NEED THE ANTENNA MOUNTED WITH 360 DEGREE  MOBILITY ON THEM.
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Scoop

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Re: FloodCam Review [Updated: 2007/01/28]
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2008, 09:46:30 PM »

Engineer.. well written report.. right on the money in all aspects and you mentioned that they seem to operate backwards.. I have seen that myself..    But after spending far to much time trying to get these lights to work correctly I have come to the conclusion that we are all owed our money back for buying a poorly designed and untested gear.. If I had ever designed something as poor as these units I would have been fired and out looking for work long ago.. The internals on these things are just not that complex to have not designed them well. Mine are going to the scrap yard to be replaced by digital cameras.. 
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jimazee

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Re: FloodCam Review [Updated: 2007/01/28]
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2008, 09:35:50 PM »

I have had similar troubles with 4 of these. VERY disappointing.

Has anyone had good results with these? Any suggestions?
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Riverineb

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Re: FloodCam Review [Updated: 2007/01/28]
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2008, 05:32:48 PM »

I have had similar troubles with 4 of these. VERY disappointing.

Has anyone had good results with these? Any suggestions?

I re-wired the lights to work with its own sensor.  They seem to work fine now.
Just remove the blue wire and add the new sensor wire to the wiring.
Riverineb
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JMac

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Re: FloodCam Review [Updated: 2007/01/28]
« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2008, 06:07:35 PM »

"I re-wired the lights to work with its own sensor.  They seem to work fine now.
Just remove the blue wire and add the new sensor wire to the wiring."

I don't own one of these, but a picture (or sketch) of what you did would be of help.
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TheBigOldDog

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Re: FloodCam Review [Updated: 2007/01/28]
« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2008, 01:51:57 PM »

I have had similar troubles with 4 of these. VERY disappointing.

Has anyone had good results with these? Any suggestions?

I'm on my second in just a few days. Same problems as everybody else. I used AHP to create a macro to shut it off after 5 mins to make sure the lights aren't on 7/24.

The camera is COMPLETELY USELESS at night. Why would they ever put anything but a low-light camera in these things? What were these people thinking?

Unfortunately, until they sell the million I bet they made on the production run, we are stuck with a *** that doesn't work they way it's advertised.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2008, 09:24:26 PM by Puck »
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ke4rzi

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Re: FloodCam Review [Updated: 2007/01/28]
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2008, 03:17:26 AM »

Silly me.  I did not find this review before I just bought the Floodcam + VCR Commander 2 + Receiver package.  The review here is dead on in every respect.  I've got the picture coming through to my VCR fine but, the VCR Commander 2 is another story.  I believe I have it programmed properly but, it's not able to communicate with the Floodcam so it's not turning on my VCR.  This is ridiculous that x10 has not made some improvements in this area since people have been having the same exact problem all this time.  I even paid for the additional year warranty and at this point I'd like to return this crap.
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hcobb1215

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Re: FloodCam Review [Updated: 2007/01/28]
« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2008, 08:54:46 PM »

Same problem, just installed one. Useless at night, not much better in daylight. Low contrast, not clear. Pointless for me to install the second unit if this is as good as it gets. Thinking of sending the kit back.....
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