We’re big fans of the Wyze cameras here at Stacey on IoT. I had the first generation unit for a while and found it a steal for $20. Kevin Tofel tried the second generation Wyze camera that also sold for $20, and loved it. So two weeks ago when Wyze launched a $30 camera that pans and tilts, I had no qualms shelling out a total of $37.98 (the extra is for shipping) for an HD camera that can scan horizontally in 360 degrees and up and down within a 93 degree arc.
After a few days testing the Wyze Pan Cam I can say it was totally worth it. If you are in the market for an IP camera you’d be nuts not to look at this one.
The camera itself has most of the basics such as 1080HD video at 15 frames per second during day and 10 frames per second at night. This is a bit less quality than competing cameras but those can cost between $100 and $200. It also offers credible night vision, two-way audio and motion detection. It does not recognize objects, but it seems to knows that a person or pet can generate a motion alert, while a shadow on the wall or falling paper shouldn’t. The new feature that makes this camera cost $10 more than the prior model is a motorized base that swivels the camera around in both directions as well as up and down.
Wyze adds two software features to take advantage of this movement. The first is a patrol setting that basically lets the camera scan the room constantly. The default option is to scan the room at 90 degree intervals, but you can customize where it pauses, just in case you have a wall or something there. It brought to mind many a heist movie where the hero or heroine would time how long a camera takes to complete a scan and then dart into position when the lens was facing the other way. I can now play that game in my own home. Fun!
The other feature is motion tracking. This lets the camera circle around in response to motion. The camera tries to cover whatever is moving. It’s really good at this; so good that at first I thought it was following the voice of whomever was speaking. The camera travels around at 110 degrees per second, so it’s very responsive. It is however, a little uncanny to have a camera following you as you walk around your home. I turned it off.
Because the camera pans quickly, but only refreshes at 15 frames per second, when the camera is moving, it’s a bit jerky and your feed gets a bit wonky. I didn’t mind, but others might. I also wish the camera had more arm/disarm settings for folks who want to use it as a security system and leave it turned off when they are at home. Today, you can set a schedule when the camera will send alerts, but that’s about it. I’d like to see a way to have the camera turn on automatically when I’m away from home.
Wyze does have an IFTTT integration, but that doesn’t allow me to use geofencing to turn off the camera either. Only notifications. So I could turn off notifications when I’m home as opposed to on a schedule. For those concerned about privacy, the camera does offer local storage via an SD card, but I don’t see a way to turn off the camera sending data to the cloud. You do get 14 days of rolling cloud storage, which is actually really nice.
Data to and from the cloud is encrypted with AES-128-bit encryption and the data goes to Amazon’s data centers in the US. The makers of the camera are former Amazon executives who want to use low prices on consumer goods to drive adoption. The cameras are made in China, but the software and team are in the US.
Another important aspect of any security camera is the night vision. This camera comes with LEDs that illuminate the room significantly. I could make out a lot of detail even when it was utterly dark. See below.
The camera does require wired power and has both a USB and microUSB port. The Wyze app works on both iOS and Android, and is pretty good. When transmitting data in the live view, you may want to stick to Wi-Fi networks. The camera sends 1-2MB per minute in SD, or 4-7MB per minute in HD quality.
My ideal use case is either as a camera I plug in for when I’m on vacation, or in my garage so when I get alerts that my garage door has been open for 15 minutes, I can see what’s happening before I close it. Every now and then when I get that notification, I close it and then get an irate text from my husband who was cleaning out the garage or working on some project.
For $30 both of these use cases feel reasonable.
Update: A few of my astute readers pointed out that I could turn off the Wyze camera by plugging it into a smart outlet and using geofencing or whatever else to turn that off when people leave. Thanks, y’all! How did I not think of that?