My original ESCAM solar camera arrived In July from Banggood (links below) – marked as ESCAM Model YN88-WIFI-130W and with the simple name “Solar Camera”. Much more on that lower down but first – here is it’s replacement – the “Watchmen” Solar WIFI Camera and what a beauty (note I still stand by that in mid-2022). See latest updates at the END of this blog entry.
The above “Watchmen” camera is the replacement for my original ESCAM solar camera which worked just fine but appeared less than 100% reliable in hot mid-summer Spanish sun (not recovering automatically) – an issue which does not apply to the “Watchmen” version.
The newer (Watchmen on the box) YN88 camera arrived in the first week of August 2019 and WELL over a year later I was OVER THE MOON. It comes complete with English instructions, WIFI antenna, much improved wall bracket, extension lead, USB charging lead (not that I expect to ever have to use either) and more. Setup with the “UBell” APP (in the case of Android) could not be easier. ONE way to set it up is to use your phone to read a QRCODE (one for Android without Playstore, one WITH Playstore) and iPhone.
I ran the scanner on my Android phone and hey presto, the APP installed. I turned the camera on with only it’s aerial attached, I made no attempt to charge it or plug it into anything and within minutes I had a working camera. A voice on the uBell phone APP asked me to introduce a camera and a voice on the camera said it was ready for pairing. The app wanted to know if I was inside or outside of China (I correctly entered “outside”) and invited me to select one of my access points and provide the password, along with a unique password to give the new camera.
Here’s a photo from the camera – without the controls…
And that’s about it. Compared to the original (easy) setup for the ESCAM camera detailed below, this was even easier. What can I say – HD video (1920*1080 max, lovely colours etc. Note the clear blue sky, not at all washed as with some cameras, yet there is detail in the shade from the hot sun) this just works – 2-way audio, adjustable PIR settings, white light and IR lighting via 4 powerful LEDs, recording (with visible timeline), snapshots, digital zoom and a VASTLY, VASTLY improved wall bracket over the original. Check out the Banggood link for more and read below the break for the full story. What you see above is a screenshot from the live video on the APP. This short video might be useful when it finishes uploading (Spanish rural broadband, who would have it?)…
Update November 24, 2020
For YouTube reader “Calocarv” – here’s a snapshot taken this morning from the (Watchmen) YN88 camera (NOT the IP67 or original ESCAM) at 9:30am – the camera has been in place since August 2019 and not externally charged once. Also it has not yet been exposed to sun this morning as it is mounted on the west side in the shadow.
Update November 27, 2020
One of my YouTube subscribers asked about the Watchmen camera and that triggered me off to clarify that I’m using the UBell Android APP with it. I just realised it is keeping track of all passers-by AND the horrendous rain we had last night. Images from the timeline… the middle pic below is my very helpful neighbour 2 days ago, no idea who the fellow with the hat is – and that wide orange line is the horrendous rain last light – I think I missed all the droplets in this snapshot.
The in-camera recordings go back to Nov 21, 2020. I guess an SD only holds so much. I could put a larger SD in but who needs several weeks worth of history – I can easily back the lot up to the phone or web.
As for power, the camera has definitely seen no sun today and only a few minutes worth yesterday. The theory is, we’re back to sun and clouds in 2 days. The camera is marked on the side – YN88-WIFI.
Update May 6 – 2021
The YN88 camera has proven to be pretty much 100% reliable without ever needing a USB charge – it stays in HD mode once you put it in there (could be the camera, could be the UBell APP) – a tad slow to find history stored in microSD but so are my other cameras. After a year, the white colour is showing minor signs of yellowing but I’ve just taken the camera down and given it a quick brillo pad clean up and now it looks almost like new. For all of this time since , the camera has been fully exposed to Spanish weather including scorching sun, freezing snow and short but violent rainstorms.
Very much Below left – a later (but not as good) ESCAM QF260 Solar camera – not to be confused with the original ESCAM mentioned in here)
Update July 31, 2022
Never let it be said that I don’t follow up on reviews… today I pulled in the camera as it was not working due to me changing access point names. I took the opportunity to get out the Servisol cleaner, thoroughly restoring the camera. While I was on, I checked firmware versions in the APP and sure enough, an update was available – 18.104.22.168 – I don’t know if that’s new or not but I have it anyway. The camera has stood up to Spanish hot summers and cold winters including the recent Calima (horrible sand storm) without any significant damage which is more than I can say for some of the “stainless” mounting bolts – however, they’ve cleaned up pretty well with WD40 and a spot of elbow grease. During all of this time I’ve still never had to resort to charging the internal battery other than by solar.
Don’t get me wrong – at the price of these cameras, buffering takes a while, history retrieval (SD or CLOUD) takes time and there are some compression artifacts in the images… but… all in all, good value and lots of fun.
Original ESCAM camera which arrived here in Spain in July 2019
At first the original 2019 ESCAM camera worked perfectly on its own (rather flimsy) bracket on our pergola for testing. It then stopped twice in a matter of days, I then took it out of the worst of the direct sun, it was fine with 90% battery after 24 hours of indoors and very little light. I then put it on a wall bracket outside but part shaded by our roof. But there is MUCH MORE to this story – so please read on – the camera was quickly replaced by Banggood with the superior WATCHMEN camera using the UBell APP.
I have two other (cheap) cameras which have never failed, but then they are not getting blasted with intense sunlight – I thought shielding the ESCAM camera from the worst of the sunlight might do it but no…
Resetting is easy, access panel open, switch to off, then on, seconds later all is well, however if this were to be used unattended then it would be no use at all. I continued to test the camera in partial shade, it lasted more than 24 hours, the charge level looking great throughout. At the end of it around teatime it failed – again for no good reason. Ultimately it went in the bin
Sizes, info and more pictures: suffice it to say for now that the ESCAM was a monster, running entirely off the sun and talking over WIFI. It never needed physically connected it to anything (like power for example)). After being in transit for several weeks (thanks to a pretty useless courier mentioned elsewhere) and after getting only half an hour of sun, the camera came up straight away, IR lights running at full steam, it then lasted the night and was working perfectly the next morning morning but see comments about reliability – ultimately that original camera failed.
Construction of the original ESCAM was the same as the modern versions shown higher up – i.e. mainly white coated metal.
The image was captured early in the morning – a screen grab – the actual image in the free APP “toSee” (in my case on my Android phone) was WAY better than this screenshot. Not a lot to say as the setup took me seconds – “trivial” doesn’t do it justice. The camera was as later versions, designed for outside use and it optionally recorded video (if you add a microSD card (up to 64GB card supported) – socket is under a plastic seal) – and by default it sent out alarm movement-triggered messages to my phone (after I installed the app which again took no time).
Apparently up to 200 short recordings a day means 70 days worth of recordings on SD before it starts recycling. It is not necessary to fit an SD card to use the camera.
There are of course many Chinese and other IP cameras out there (I own and use several of them) in the £30 arena – this unit was more expensive at around £85 (89 Euros inc. free post depending where you are) or less on sale but if you don’t like or can’t have a power lead to the camera (you still need it to be in WIFI range) and you want something a little further upmarket without going overboard, then this type of camera – not this but the YN88 “Watchmen” version shown higher up – I’m fairly sure the ESCAM issues were down to firmware.
The Escam produced a good quality image in colour or mono depending on the time of day with it’s own built-in IR lighting – all solar powered (but see later reliability issues which is why I settled on a replacement – the (WATCHMEN on the box) YN88 camera)!! There is of course a wall mount metal bracket supplied (see comment) and if needed there is a longer lead to separate the camera and solar panel by several feet. I didn’t need that.
On the right above, the ESCAM is on display with its internal 4,000maH battery capacity and default solar panel which is 2.2w output.
End of original review of the original ESCAM camera
Note: The UBELL App (ICAM app also) does not appear to work on Android 13 (Samsung S22 Ultra) – no video out – I have contacted the author Maxwell Wang. It worked just fine earlier. Maxwell is the author of several such apps – all fail on my Samsung as above.