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 late 2020). 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 new Watchmen turned up in the first week of August 2019 andWELL over a year later I am OVER THE MOON. It comes complete with English instructions, WIFI antenna, much improved wall bracket, extension lead, USB lead (not that I expect to ever have to use either) and more. Setup with it’s “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 QCODE (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 said to introduce a camera, 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 password to give the new camera.
Here’s a picture 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 zoo 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?)…
See also after the break…
Original ESCAM camera which arrived here in Spain in July 2019
We’ve had great weather here in Southern Spain (unless you are working of course, in which case it is probably horrible) and the first few days of testing out the camera were unbelievably hot even in the shade just as they are today on August 8, 2019. At first the ESCAM camera worked perfectly on its own (rather flimsy) bracket on our pergola for testing. It then 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 has been replaced by Banggood with the WATCHMEN camera and I could not be more pleased.
I have two other (cheap) cameras which have not failed once in 2 years, 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’ve 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.
When I had trouble with the original ESCAM, Banggood offered to quickly sent off a replacement, this time branded “Watchmen” and with a different App called uBell. In the meantime I put the original camera in our pergola away from bright sunlight and the worst of the heat where it performed flawlessly for several days then failed again on Aug 10 2019 (of course, being under the pergola limits what I can do with it and eventually the Watchmen ended up outside 24-7 in full sunlight).
When I finally gave up using the ESCAM camera in bright sunlight as it would simply not stay on reliably, I emailed Banggood again and suggested that this was a non-starter from a reliability perspective and made two suggestions: send me something different. They chose the latter and sent me the Watchmen camera, which is running constantly and I have to say, firstly excellent speed of response getting a new model here to Spain and secondly, up to now, 15 months later, not a single issue. Impressed.
Original Escam camera review
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. 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.
Construction is mainly white coated metal.
The image was captured early morning – a screen grab – the actual image in the free App “toSee” (in my case on my Android phone) is WAY better than this screenshot. Not a lot to say as the setup took me seconds – “trivial” doesn’t do it justice. The camera is supposedly for outside use, DOES optionally record video (if you add a microSD card (up to 64GB card supported) – socket is under a plastic seal) – and by default it sends 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 is 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 camera might be ideal for you if and when they solve that reliability issue which doesn’t seem to be a problem for the “Watchmen” version which make me wonder if this is down to firmware.
The Escam produced a good quality image in colour or mono depending on the time of day and has it’s own build in IR lighting – all solar powered (but see later reliability issues which is why I settled on a replacement – a WATCHMEN 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 as this is now under my Pergola, watched by two regular WIFI cameras. So if anyone gets any ideas about stealing it – beware, you are on candid camera
Solar camera and two garden lights (left solar light is full colour (more on that elsewhere – yes, colour choice is retained from day to day), middle solar lamp is a simple but powerful white solar twin flood, all on test… no wires anywhere. On the right above, the solar camera is on display with its internal 4,000maH battery capacity and default solar panel which is 2.2w.
Links below: No I don’t work for Banggood and I’m not on their affiliate program before anyone asks
End of original review of the ESCAM camera
Update November 24, 2020
For YouTube reader “Calocarv” – here’s a snapshot taken this morning from the Watchmen camera (NOT the IP67 or 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 of to clarify 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. 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.