Monday, April 11, 2011

Logitech 750e Outdoor Master Alert Monitor and Command Center

One thing the Logitech 750e isn't short on is video quality, but that's about it.

The Logitech 750e Outdoor Master Alert Monitor and Command Center lacks command and control.

My personal experience so far is that the new 750e and other security cameras in this group from Logitech leaves me wanting.
For starters, these cameras do not have any internal batteries, cannot be used with uninterruptable power supplies, and can't even withstand a power strip.
What good is a security camera that can be shut down so easily?
When I first began doing my initial setup, the Command Center software could not detect my power line devices.
However, I went ahead and connected the three cameras, which all became detectable.
I fiddled with all the settings to get familiar with the software features and that only took a few minutes, as there are so few.
Then I went to mount my cameras.
I did not have one single power outlet outside, that's a minor problem, as the flat Ethernet cable can go through the window for now.
So then one has to mount the power line modems to the wall near an available socket.
Well, I unplugged the surge protector and stereo and plugged in one of the two boxes in the closest outlet.
I mounted the camera and it works - sort of (I'll explain in a moment).
I plugged in another camera near its final resting place, near power and no need to string the Ethernet cable through a window and it also sort of works.
And then the third camera (out of 4, eventually, when the last one gets here) had to go up.
Hmm, now what?
I had to unplug the microwave and its surge protector and plug in the camera’s power line adapter (and mount it) and the router's power line adapter.
Strung the Ethernet cable through another window and screen and mounted the camera and it works - sort of.

Here comes the good part. The video looks as good as any security camera I've seen and better than most.
Even their night-time view is fairly good, if somewhat flawed.
One of the three cameras has a wall and a ceiling in view and they both glow quite brightly from the infrared causing the field of concern to be darker than acceptable.
The other two cameras look good, but all three have the same limitations when it comes to the motion sensors.
The sensors parameters are difficult to adjust, because there aren't sufficient controls.
You get to create a rectangle for the motion detection zone and sensitivity control sliders.
But when the motion sensor triggers, what it triggered on is anybody's guess.
In my case, it was the shadows, the leaves, and even the grass waving.
Less sensitive alert means fewer moment of recording and fewer numbers of alert emails being sent to my phone.
Now, that's a mixed blessing if ever I had one.
Perhaps some of these issues are alleviated with the available firmware, if I could just apply the update, the data won't transfer.

More to the point regarding the video recording, it is inconsistent and uncontrollable.
If the cameras record at all, they seem to only record some random length of time that an alert is being triggered.
I had only moments of time that my cameras were recording when they should have been very actively recording.
I even set the sensitivity to maximum to try and get two of them to record anything, anything at all, to no avail.
So the cameras don't record on a schedule, they may not record on an alert, but you could get alerts all day long, every day, so long as your PC is on and the program is running.

Did you notice that? In order to save any video remote from the cameras themselves, the PC and program must be running.
It would not matter if your PC is on a UPS however, as the cameras won't send any signal.
If you reboot your computer, you lose any video being stored until the program is up and running again, unless you want to unscrew the back of each camera and import any video that might be on the micro-SD card.
The cameras don't have built in HTTPS services, or any FTPS services.
They don't have internal rechargeable batteries and they don't have Wi-Fi capabilities.
But they can be used with a POE Router or switch (got cash to burn?).

In fact, here are some other features that I think should be included in a security camera and software package that calls itself a Command Center:

Camera Overlay: Color (has), element corners (has), Date/Time Stamp on the video itself
Motion Detection: Polygon Zones, Alerting Item Indicator, such as an oval around the moving object, and the ability to adjust the size of an item that can cause an alert, like a small animal filter.
Schedules: Alert Time Filter, to schedule alerts on or off during certain hours. Manual Recording override, to record continuously or not record at all.
Recording Compression Adjustments: With the ability to record 24x7x365 one might want to compress a little.
Record Before/After Adjustment: Once an Alert is triggered, you should be able to say you always want X-Minutes before and X-Minutes after the trigger to remain recorded (since there is an onboard memory chip, this should be do-able)
FTP settings: The cameras should be able to store recordings to a NAS, send it via FTP/FTPS
HTTP Settings: The cameras should be able to server their video straight to a browser with encryption available (and defaulted)
Mac Compatibility

I would love to be able to say that the Logitech 750e Outdoor Master Security System was a good buy.
It isn't even an Eighty Percent-er product.
It isn't even half way there.
It is as immature as some news anchors - looks good, but there's not much between the ears.
Some of these features could be added by a firmware update to the cameras perhaps (if I could just transfer the data to the cameras).
Some of these features are already in other software packages and hence the software is sophomoric at best.
Most of this functionality should be included in my DVR or my Media Center, or the Apple iTV, or the ROKU+.
My point is that good security camera systems shouldn't be so difficult to come by, especially when one is paying these high retail prices.
These are IP cameras that can’t be used like any other IP camera.
These are security cameras that don't emanate security.
These are simple cameras that are featureless and anemic.
These are expensive toys, at the moment.
I expected better from Logitech.

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