Setting up IP cameras around the home can sometimes be a chore, especially if you're not all that good at networking. However, D-Link's range of Cloud cameras and routers aims to make the set-up of these devices as easy as plugging them in.
Indeed, a feature of D-Link's latest IP cameras and Cloud routers is called Zero Configuration, and that is essentially the amount of configuring you have to do in order to set up a useful array of home monitoring cameras.
We recently reviewed the D-Link DSL-2890AL modem-router, which is one of the Cloud router products that's available, and this modem-router, or another router in D-Link's Cloud range, is needed in order for the Zero Configuration to work. Basically, when you set up the Cloud router using the supplied CD-ROM drive, you are given the opportunity to register it with D-Link's mydlink portal service, which is the service that the cameras use, too.
Once the router is registered, the cloud service tracks the router using a unique ID number. This means it will always be accessible over the Internet and you won't have to know anything about setting up a dynamic DNS service and remote access to your router.
The neat thing is, when you connect any of D-Link's Cloud cameras to the already Cloud-configured router, they will automatically become available to view over the Internet, either through a Web browser if you're on a desktop or laptop computer, or through an app if you're using an Android or iOS device.
The cameras that we used for our tests are the DCS-933L, DCS-942L and the DCS-5222L. All of these cameras support mydlink Cloud, and even though they shipped with CD-ROMs and user guides, we didn't end up touching any of that when it came time to install them — Zero Configuration did all the heavy lifting.
You can install these cameras in a couple of different ways: you can press the WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) button on the back of the cameras and then the corresponding button on the router to get the appropriate settings transferred to them automatically, or you can plug them in to the router using Ethernet. We used the second method for our tests.
After plugging the cameras into our DSL-2890AL modem-router, we fired up our mydlink Cloud account and saw them appear in the list of devices that we could access. After telling the service to add the devices to our account, we were able to click on them to view the images that they were transmitting. We then disconnected the cameras from the router and set them up in our desired monitoring locations to work wirelessly.
We set up the DCS-933L and DCS-942L at a radius of about 12m away from the router (in opposite directions), and we didn't have any problems obtaining images from them at all over the Internet through a Web browser. The cameras actually have Wi-Fi extenders built into them, which would have helped in this instance. The only thing we had to do was install the Java Runtime Environment on our computer so that the images from the cameras could be seen in Firefox and Chrome.
We also used the DCS-5222L camera in the same environment, but we placed this one in the same room as the modem-router, about 3m away. The DCS-5222L is a 640x480-pixel pan and tilt camera that can be controlled either with the remote control that's supplied in the box (if you're in the same room as the camera, that is), or through the mydlink Web interface. The range of movement can be adjusted using the mydlink controls, and you can also perform a general sweep of an area by pressing one button. It also has infrared so that it will work at night.
The DCS-933L is a 640x480-pixel camera with an f2.8 aperture, and its angles of view are 45.3 (horizontal) and 34.5 (vertical). Footage is captured and compressed simultaneously using H.264. It has a sensor to detect the light level and infrared so that it can capture footage in the dark, and there is a built-in microphone so that you can monitor sound, too. It sits on a tilting and swivelling base that feels relatively solid, yet easy to manipulate, and it can be wall or ceiling mounted using that stand (you just have to pop the base off to expose the mounting holes). Its power adapter has a cord that's 1.5m long, which is not very useful, and unless you plan on planting the camera on a coffee table, you'll probably need an extension cord for it.
The DCS-942L is a step up from the DCS-933L in that it has a microSD card slot so that you can record footage directly onto the camera. It also has an audio out port that can be attached to a speaker, and its power adapter's cord is 3m in length. With all cameras, you can take snapshots remotely, and you can also set them to be triggered by motion or sound events. You'll then get an email every time an event is detected. You can also schedule snapshots to be sent to you every 5min.
For remote viewing, you can use the mydlink Lite app, which is free and available for Android and iOS devices. It was very easy to use and it worked like a charm. We were even able to control the pan, tilt and zoom of the DCS-5222L camera with it. There is also a paid app called mydlink+, which costs 99 cents, but we found it to be unreliable. The paid app allows you to view multiple cameras on one screen, but we didn't find this to be an advantage in our tests. The DCS-933L also never showed up in this app, even though it showed up perfectly well in the Lite version of the app, which meant we could only view two cameras anyway.
Despite that problem with the paid app, our overall experience with D-Link's Zero Configuration Cloud cameras is a positive one. You'll have to switch to a D-Link ecosystem for your whole network in order to get the benefits of the easy setup, but it's well worth it if you want to set up some monitoring devices without any hassle. You could use the IP cameras for child monitoring, to view pets, or simply as extra peace of mind around the home. There is a huge range of Cloud cameras to choose from, which are priced from $49 for the most basic daytime models, to $400 for the outdoor camera.