Watchman Solar Powered WIFI IP Camera

My 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:

Boxed "Watchmen" Solar Camera

"Watchmen" Solar Camera from Banggood

The above “Watchmen” camera is the replacement for my original ESCAM solar camera which works just fine but appears less than 100% reliable in hot mid-summer Spanish sun (not recovering automatically) – an issue which does not seem to apply to the “Watchman” version.

Camera with controlsThe new camera turned up in the first week of August 2019 and up to now 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…

Camera output

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

Original (July 2019) ESCAM Solar IP CameraWe’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 and with reservations as I’ve only had it for a few days, 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 asked, Banggood immediately quickly sent off a replacement for the ESCAN, this time branded “Watchmen” with a different App called uBell.  In the meantime I put the 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  (of course, being under the pergola limits what I can do with it and that bracket will have to go at some point).

When I finally gave up using this camera in bright sinlight as it would simply not stay on reliably, I emailed Banggood and suggested that this was a non-starter from a reliability perspective and made two suggestions: send me a replacement of a similar model from another manufacturer. They first chose the latter, which is up and running and I have to say, firstly excellent speed of response getting a new model here to Spain and secondly, up to now , weeks later, not a single issue impressed. See separate review.

Sizes, info and more pictures: suffice it to say for now that the ESCAM is a monster, running entirely off the sun and talking over WIFI. I’ve not plugged it in or 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.

image

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. As we’re likely to be out of the country for up to 6 months, I will be having a lot less daily recordings than that. It is not necessary to fit an SD card to use the camera.

Phone screenshot of WIFI cameraThere 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 produces 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!! 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 cameraSmile

Camera and lights on test

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 Smile

IP67 1080P HD Solar Powered Wireless WIFI IP Surveillance Camera
http://bit.ly/2Frnd8T
More WiFi IP Cameras — http://bit.ly/2unR3pR

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40 thoughts on “Watchman Solar Powered WIFI IP Camera

  1. Seems pretty good, I’m hovering over the “Buy” at present, ditto for use in Spain, although to be tested in the UK if the sun ever deigns to shine.

    Does it have a web server included, for config setup and perhaps direct monitoring of video ?

    Security of this sort of system is always a concern, phoning home, chaos with 3rd party systems (like the recent Google cam kerfuffle) and what not. Usually can be tweaked to safety.

    1. Too early for me to be an expert, the info claims that the camera once turned on should at least in theory never go off. If it loses the WIFI and that subsequently comes back on, all should be ok. It CAN act as a WIFI access point, in fact that’s how it gets started, by being an access point for your phone which then gives it the password for your WIFI. Not messed with web server yet… The claim is that it should be able to run with 30 days of no sun, unlikely in the USA, impossible in Spain, but 30 days of no sun in the Northeast of England is not that unusual, trust me. I’ll put up more info soon as I learn more. Feel free to add comments if you see any useful info elsewhere on this camera. I can usually get info from Banggood as AT LEAST 3 people there speak English, more than I just got from a leading Spanish mobile phone service which I subsequently ditched as I could not get a word of English out of them… sadly I’ve not mastered Spanish.

      There is an FAQ with the camera which is useful but needs a little work. For example there is an “inductive street light function” – what on earth is one of those I wonder. At some point someone will enlighten me or I’ll enlighten myself and put the answer in here.

      1. About that obscure “inductive street light function”, I remember one of my cams come with some kind of “algorithm” to prevent night flashes from street lights (they are not very stable) triggering motion detection.

        Perhaps that inductive thing is something related.

  2. This looks really cool and solves the problem of having to route power outside (the reason I modified my Solar LED light to have a larger 18650 cell and an ESP8266 so that it could double up as an external MQTT temperature sensor node…

    This Solar camera has inspired me to either a) buy one of them and do some wireshark packet sniffing to ensure it doesn’t ‘E.T’ and telephone casa…. or b) Create my own version using my existing Raspberry Pi Zero W / Raspberry Pi Camera / “RPi Cam Control” software devices that I use at home and at my holiday home for LAN based CCTV. It’s just a case of working out how much LiPo battery capacity I need to keep the thing going through long winter UK evenings/nights. with only a sensible sized solar panel. So often with these chinese cheapies you either get a low capacity LiPo battery or an undersized solar panel combination.

    As always – great find Pete … thanks …. my credit card hadn’t fully cooled down from the Raspberry Pi 4 impulse purchase a few days ago and now you’re already warming it back up again !

    1. Just noticed the £80.92 price tag which here in the UK could trigger Postman Pat to apply import tax on it. I remember once buying too many OrangePi boards in a single order and exceeding the 22 Euro (or whatever it is) threshold and getting really badly stung on duty (the wouldn’t have been due had I split the order into two orders of 1 unit each).

      I know sometimes the Chinese sellers get a bit creative and under-quote the value of the goods and I remember the old days where they would wrap goods in ‘happy birthday’ gift wrap to try and pull the wool over customs eyes but those days are sadly gone.

      I’m not sure how lucky I feel with an £80 purchase from China given I’d triggered ‘fun tax’ on an order for about half that before….

      1. Not that I would ever dream of suggesting any creative tax avoidance scheme but you could just ask Banggood to refer on the packaging to the product as “lights” or similar with a low value on it, after all, you are the customer, but of course that might affect any insurance – and in any case, definitely, if you buy more than one, insist on them being shipped separately.

        I find in the UK that import duty is more likely with DHL than normal post. I generally have no problems getting stuff from China to the UK or rural Spain with one marked exception: “Seur” in Spain are utterly rubbish – I can’t stress that enough.

      2. For the sake of clarity – the UK limit on imports before they attract VAT is £15 including p&p. If it is selected VAT will be charged on the full value and the post office will add £12 handling. other carriers typically charge more. Separate limits and categories apply for excise duties.

      3. I believe that one of the advantages of buying via Banggood rather than AliExpress is that you can tick the box for tax insurance where they will pay any unexpected tax. Not tried that on anything big yet but this is very likely to be important to us UK folk after brexit.

        1. An interesting point – so thanks for mentioning it.

          I had a bit of an issue a couple of years ago dealing with Banggood regarding a customs/refund issue and they weren’t great so I tend to get more stuff from AliExpress these days as you are liaising with individual sellers a bit like eBay and they can be more accommodating although by definition, there will be good and bad sellers and some more accommodating than others. It’s always a bit of a gamble.

          With regard to Banggood and “unexpected taxes”, I guess it depends how they define “unexpected” ….I’d be interested to hear how people get on in such situations where the item value is greater than the EU customs thresholds and the item was sourced from Banggood… anyone reading with such experience – please DO share!

          1. Indeed, I’d also be very interested to hear about real experiences.

            Not had any issues with Banggood so far so fingers crossed. I also find they seem to have a better selection in many cases (not all) and I found them to be cheaper in many cases too.

            AliExpress have been REALLY annoying me lately since if you aren’t logged in, every page load results in a massive “discount coupon” box covering everything else. Every page load!

            Ultimately, I check BG, AE and Amazon normally to compare prices and options – sometimes I will also check eBay but rarely find them good value these days. I will start checking GearBest as well.

  3. A couple of thoughts for anyone considering using these cameras for security. I have used Escam cameras from Banggood for several years now (QD900 HD) and have been very happy with the build and image quality. However, there are a couple of caveats. In Scotland, the cameras have not shown themselves totally waterproof in strong rain and need “drying out” at least twice a year to prevent corrosion on the connectors and main board.

    The second issue is partly to do with the camera and partly the recording software. For whatever reason, spiders seem to love building webs across the front which can barely be seen during the day but are reflected by the powerful IR LEDs at night and cause almost continuous motion recording. Additionally, when it rains, even lightly, the reflections from the strong IR light cause the same problem with motion detection. Spiders can always be a problem but whether it’s the IR Light or warmth that does it, my ESCAM cameras suffer much more than other cheaper makes

    Having said all that, I repeat that the quality of the cameras versus price is exceptional and can recommend them.
    Michael.

    1. Michael,

      Have you tried silicone caulking on them yet (the cameras, not the spiders)? We’re currently sitting here (in Japan) with horizontal, typhoon wind-driven, torrential rain, so any hope of using an outdoor camera that isn’t completely waterproof is a non-starter.

      (Come to think of it, a fierce looking, but date expired spider, caulked to the front of the bezel, might possibly deter other arachnids from approaching)

      -John-

      [ …and if, like me, you always have trouble getting the spider out of the bath, get a hold of Adrian Tchaikovski’s “Children of Destiny” (Science Fiction) and stay with it to the end 🙂 ]

    2. That’s incredibly useful feedback Michael, I would not tell you how many solar gadgets I’ve had over the years which have been destroyed by weather. Always worth a little effort to keep them dry – maybe positioning to avoid the worst weather,

      1. I should have mentioned, I also add a small bag of desiccant each time I “dry” the cameras out.

        Re caulking, I suspect most of the moisture comes in via the cable glands and they are not easy to seal with caulking.

        When I worked as an apprentice with the old GPO (that gives my age away) we were taught that no amount of self-amalgamating tape would stop water so all outdoor cables should run “up” into boxes etc. Most camera manufacturers don’t heed this wisdom and bring cables in the back.

      2. Hot glue often seems to do the job and strips off easily enough when you need to get into things. Might need replacing every few years though if in full sun a lot.

        I had a friend years ago who brought a cheap, 2nd hand Landrover with lots of bodywork holes – he filled them all with hot glue and was very happy with the results! 🙂

    3. Re the spider problem : In Spain you can get a product called Biokill. A periodic spray of the camera with that may fix the spider problem. Not a green solution I have to admit!

      1. Don’t worry about it not being green. I HATE spiders. No amount of mesh seems to stop them (and ants) getting into our place. Geckos on the other hand eat spiders and other crawling things and are therefore good in my book.

  4. Thanks, in the UK you can buy a green product made from Chestnut extract that is partially effective but is quickly washed off by rain.

    I’m intrigued by why the spiders are so obsessed with spinning webs across the Cameras.

    My theory is that night-flying insects are attracted by the strong IR lights that the ESCAM cameras use. They really are strong and two cameras can light my whole drive to a point where the cameras give good imagery even on the darkest nights.

    I suspect the spiders know that the cameras create a food hotspot. Any other thoughts?

    1. I’ve left the lights off as the distances are such that they’d be no use anyway. I have 2 other cameras for my drive, this one is looking at the road away up the side of the mountain so I can check for the post lady appearing.

  5. A possible way to seal the cable glands would be to use Ray tech Magic Gel 300. It would require the fitting of a plastic tube by gluing it on (Stixall) around the cable gland. The Ray tech gel would then be poured into the plastic tube surrounding the gland. This would provide IP68 protection. The gel doesn’t set hard and can be removed. I haven’t tried it in this particular application but it is excellent for sealing underground cable connection boxes etc. Among others Toolstation in the UK sell it.

  6. Michael, something like a solvent weld over flow pipe connector would make a good ‘sleeve’ to hold the gel around the gland. Solvent weld rather than push fit because push can be made of polypropylene which is very difficult to glue. If the camera case is ABS or PVC you could solvent glue the sleeve to it.

  7. Real pity about the recommendation changing. I am looking for exactly something like this for my pedestrian gate and came upon your review.

    Please let us know if anything changes. Have you tried contacting Banggood for a replacement?

    1. Well now, hold the phone, I had not quite grasped that we are in the middle of record-breaking temperatures – tomorrow London threatens to be the hottest EVER since records began, back in the Northeast of England they have hotter weather than ever and here in Southern Spain it is VERY, hot, peaking at near 40c in the shade so goodness knows what in full sunlight – touching metal parts of the car is currently almost impossible. I reset the camera and brought it indoors. After more than 24 hours in darkness it was still 90% battery and working perfectly so I’ve put it in the window where it gets some sun but not the worst of the heat – up to now the battery is holding up and the camera is working pwrfectly, so let’s not be too hasty. It is operating better than most people in the south of the UK will be this week 🙂

      1. Thanks for coming back to me Peter 🙂

        OK fair enough, but that’s kinda the whole appeal of this camera — putting it somewhere out in the elements where it will get plenty of sun but where getting normal power to it will be hard.

        In my case I was interested in putting it above my pedestrian gate outside my house — and it will pretty much receive a full blast of sunlight in the hot South African sun where 36c+ is quite possible summertime.

        One other thing — do you know if the camera has ONVIF or RTSP support? In other words to access images without the app?

        1. If the camera has onvif I cant find it – I can only get it to work with it’s own App.

          Agree with you about the sun, I’ve put the camera out but this time just under the partial shade of our roof so it does not get the hot mid-day sun but only the morning sun. Let’s see if that makes a difference. It is around 38c peak here. 18 hours later (now 12:15 lunchtime somewhere) it is still working perfectly. Battery remains at 80%. Watch this space.. Oh, yes, I can hear the wind – it has full 2 way audio.

  8. I see people talking about the heat but what about the cold? How do these camera’s do in -30 degree weather, which is not uncommon for Eastern Canada.

    1. You’ll have to ask someone in Canada or be the guinea pig… Mine go to the UK after this 0 – it rarely gets below -10c there in winter and rarely gets above 30c in summer. Here in Spain, 40c max in summer, -5c in winter but usually much warmer…

  9. Hello Pete

    Thought you might like to know if you want another
    Price:
    63,44€ 81,57€ 22% Off
    offer till 31st Aug at Bangood

    I hate that when Iv bought at higher price

    Regards Brian

  10. Hi Pete
    Sorry to be a pain but Banggood do not seem to have any info on this version of the camera (and apparently they don’t know who you are either). Is there a Banggood number associated with it?

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