Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Review of Amcrest 720P Wireless IP Camera System IPM-721S

This is a review of the Amcrest 720P WiFi Wireless IP Security Surveillance Camera.

I have used half a dozen different Foscams, a couple of Android motion detection apps that will send alerts and images if motion is detected, and now this Amcrest. 

I like this camera, but I am surprised that no one has commented on features that do not work with this camera.  It was easy to set up using the QR code, and I am using it behind an AT&T U-verse modem/router combination -- and then a Netgear router.  Therefore I am happily surprised that I can view this camera's real-time image, and use pan and tilt settings, through the phone app and a web browser at their website.  Barry from Amcrest tells me that this is due to P2P. 

I have not been able to get through the U-verse modem/router to control any other IP camera remotely.  I don't even know if U-Verse has forward-facing IP addresses to allow this.  I used to have Comcast service and could indeed control my cameras from outside my local network -- this was using a cable modem and my own router, no company combo router with another router added to the mix. 

However, several important features do not seem to be working with the Amcrest camera.  Here are a few:

(I sent an email to Amcrest Tech Support, but they did not reply for over a day.  Mario Romero finally replied but in the meantime, I called and reached "Barry" in tech support.  I've posted both of their replies."

1.  Turning off the camera in does not work at all.  If the power to the camera is on, the camera is always on. 

Answer from Mario Romero in tech support:
The turn off feature refers to Global motion detection on the Cloud service and not the camera physically being turned off. We are working with our cloud to have it rephrased in manner to help alleviate confusion.

Barry in tech support said that this does not work, period. 

2.  Turning schedules on or off in does not work; setting schedules have no effect on either starting or stopping motion detection.  It seems to be always on.

Answer from Mario Romero in tech support:
There was glitch that has been corrected recently affecting schedules. How recent did you attempt the scheduling portion on the cloud.

I tested this again, and it still does not work as I expected.  I was always getting motion detection alerts (emails) even if the schedule was turned off.  I suspect that if you schedule the camera to be OFF during a period of time, this only turns off the video recording to the cloud.  You will still receive motion alerts via email.  This is OK with me but I wish that their cloud site made this clearer.  At some point, Gmail might label all these motion alerts as spam and maybe even blacklist the emails, so this is a concern. 

3. You cannot set motion detection on or off using the web remotely or the camera app.  You can only set motion detection on or off if you are using your local home network. 

Answer from Mario Romero in tech support:
The smartphone has the ability to do it also, but there is a glitch where it will turn off the motion detection scheduling currently. I would reccomend to use the local web UI or the cloud service to change the setting. There is a way also to have the local web ui available remotely but may involve port forwarding on your router/ modem.

4.  The camera seems to go to B&W depending on low light level.  I have not tested this extensively, but it sometimes gives me a B&W picture, and sometimes the picture is in color.

Answer from Mario Romero in tech support:
This does occur depending on lighting  in a room. The IR lights(Night Vision) are designed to kick in when lighting is at a certain point. you are able to disable the the night vision through the cloud,app, and local web UI and re-enable when you like also. If you have ever heard a clicking sound, it because the night vision is kicking in/out.

5.  I have set the camera up to send emails to a gmail address.  For some reason, Gmail interprets all email alerts from this camera as coming at some time 16 or so hours before the actual time.  The time stamp within the email is correct, and is what I've set the time for in the camera setting (Pacific Standard Time).  However, the Amcrest is evidently sending emails with an "email time stamp" that is way off. 

Here's an example from one recent email alert:
Gmail says that the email was sent at: May 29 (8 days ago)
But the email body contains an image and the following information: Alarm Start Time(D/M/Y H:M:S): 30/05/2016 05:18:05

The email body has the correct time. 

Answer from Mario Romero in tech support:
the time stamp of the camera can be looked at and verified. I have seen this occur also, and a soft reset helped the situation. Please unplug the camera from power for 5 seconds, then plug it back in.  (Norb's note -- this has never worked, I've tried it several times). 

But Barry said that this was a known bug, they are working on it.

In summary, this Amcrest IP camera works well and is easy to set up.  I was able to view it remotely using the camera app and my web browser at the site.  However, there are some features that don't work -- and should work -- such as turning the camera on and off; motion detection on and off; and correct time stamps accompanying emails.

A few more notes:
1.  The video recording to the cloud is nice, but any videos are deleted from their cloud site after 4 hours.  This makes the video recordings useless.  It's a pretty smart way for Amcrest to convert users to paid users, where the video recordings are stored on the cloud for a longer period. 
As one reviewer on Amazon states:
It is only 4 hours of clock time, not recording time. It's enough for you to evaluate if you want to subscribe. If you want to catch a burglar, it would only have your recording if he came in the last 4 hours.

2.  The only way to turn off motion detection on the camera -- and to avoid getting a constant stream of motion alerts flooding your mailbox -- is to physically turn off the power to the camera.  You cannot turn the camera or the motion alerts off using the cloud site or the phone app. 

Amcrest tech support 888.212.7538
their website states that email is the best way to reach tech support, but I found that calling was far better, and quicker.

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