Dome camera models

A cool gadget that still needs some work

You don’t have to look far to find a home security camera with big names like Logitech, Google, and Netgear all offering systems to keep an eye on things. There are also some new players with cameras that you might want to consider. For example, Yi technology funded by Xiaomi. This Chinese firm has released a few home cameras, but the new version of its Dome Camera stands out. Unlike other cameras, this one can actually rotate to get a 360-degree view of a room and has built-in motion tracking. Unlike the old dome camera, this one also records 1080p video.

There are definitely things to love about the Yi Dome Camera, and I can imagine use cases where it makes more sense than a nest or a circle, but there are also a few weird caveats that you might think of it as breaking up agreements.

Design and configuration

The Yi Dome camera looks like a larger, bulkier Logitech circle. I guess it’s inevitable to some extent. It needs all the gear to move, while the Circle and the other cameras stay facing the same direction until you move them. The housing is not weatherproof, so this device is only intended for indoor use. I also think it’s cheaper than most of the other cameras I’ve tested.

The camera itself is in a spherical section at the top with a hood around that contains the motors. Unfortunately, the motors make quite a bit of noise when the camera is moving; it is like a squealing loud enough to be heard in a relatively quiet room. It rotates 115 degrees vertically and 345 degrees horizontally. When you factor in the angle of the lens, you can see everything around the camera. I will note, however, that it does not tilt at all. This is strange considering that many promotional images show the camera tilted down. This means that placing it on a high shelf will not be ideal. He tilts very far. So much so that it slips under the hood, which is of no use. Looks like someone messed up here.

Well, that’s not very helpful.

The dome camera can be placed on a flat surface with the built-in bracket, or you can use the included mounting bracket to secure it to your ceiling. You can technically mount it on a wall, but I wouldn’t recommend it. As soon as you rotate left or right, the image will no longer be right side up. If you choose to place the dome camera on the ceiling, there is a 180 degree flip in the settings which sets everything correctly.

On the back of the unit is a recessed panel with a reset switch, microUSB power supply and microSD card slot. I appreciate the inclusion of local storage, which is rare on consumer security cameras. One thing you won’t find in the Yi Dome Camera is a battery. When unplugged, it stops working. This is something that most of its competition has. Being able to put your camera somewhere else for a few hours comes in very handy, so I can only assume that Yi was looking to keep the price low.

The installation process wasn’t the worst I have seen, but it was far from the best. I made the mistake of plugging in the camera before opening the app. The camera then told me (in words from the loudspeaker at high volume) that it was waiting to connect. I had to create an account, verify my email, and then log in before I could shut it down. The app produces a QR code for pairing, which you show to the camera. I wasn’t sure how far away I had to be for the camera to recognize the code (this turns out to be pretty close). It took about 10 seconds to register, then another 30 seconds to connect. It is important to note that this camera only works in 2.4 GHz WiFi.

Video and audio

The version of the Yi Dome camera that I tested is the most recent 1080p. 720p can be bought cheaper if you want to save money. The video quality is generally very good, but not as crisp as what I’m used to seeing on the Circle. I feel like it’s more compressed than other cameras, but it’ll do the job in good light. However, the viewing angle is only 112 degrees. It’s significantly narrower than other cameras. So it’s a good thing he’s spinning. Exposure isn’t bad, but it looks a bit prone to the blown highlights. The lag between real life and the stream is about one second, which is similar to other wired security cameras. It seems that the connection after starting the application is taking longer than expected; maybe three or four seconds.

There is a ring of IR LEDs around the camera lens that will light up in low light. They are able to illuminate 15 to 20 feet in front of the camera, which should be sufficient for most rooms. IR brightness looks a bit uneven, concentrated more in the center. Video compression is more evident in the dark, but the contrast is still enough to make everything stand out.

The sound feels solid to me – the sound from the speaker is loud and the microphone is very sensitive. Two different modes are available on the dome camera. There is a standard intercom mode that you get with most cameras where you press the button to speak, then release and listen to the response (only one person can speak at a time). Hands-free mode allows you to open a line to the camera and start talking. Both parties can speak freely in this mode.

Application and features

Yi Home app works with all company home security camera products, so you can mix and match dome cameras and standard fixed version. The main screen displays your cameras in a vertical list with a navigation bar at the bottom. It is directly linked to the camera list, alerts, album and your account. The navigation bar changes when you open the camera interface, but the live feed is still at the top of the screen. The navigation bar simply changes what is displayed in the lower half. You get directional controls, location bookmarks, motion tracking settings, and alerts. Overall, it’s a very efficient interface.

In the directional control panel, you have a virtual joystick that can be used to move the camera manually. It will do this on its own if you turn on motion tracking, but only if there is something moving in the narrow field of view. Auto cruise mode helps with this by rotating the camera every now and then. This feature can also be configured to only activate at certain times of the day.

Notification options are lacking compared to other cameras. You can independently activate detection of baby’s movements and crying, but not simple audio triggers. There’s also no geofencing, so you’ll have to use a time-based schedule if you don’t want cameras sending alerts all the time. You can at least set a notification cool-down period so you don’t get bombarded. Notifications are only sent through the phone; there is no SMS, no phone and no e-mail option. Push notifications are also significantly delayed for me sometimes (this is unrelated to cooling).

There is another special feature here: the panoramic photos. The camera rotates and captures a full 360 degree panorama of the room. It’s a good idea, but the execution isn’t great. There is a panorama below as an example. You may see several places where the image is not stitched properly and has exposure consistency issues.

This is not how the piece is shaped.

How Yi’s cloud plans work is a bit confusing. If you don’t have a subscription, only your saved events will be downloaded. They are available for 7 days, but the videos and photos that you manually capture from the camera are not downloaded (they are saved to your device). For $ 10 per month, you get unlimited downloads of motion detection events that are stored for 15 days, and $ 15 gives you 30 days of storage. There is also a premium tier with 15/30 days storage for a full video stream. It’s $ 10 / $ 20. The trade-off is that you can only have one camera on this plane whereas the standard event-only version allows five. I don’t think these are the most appealing shots, but there is the microSD card slot if you just want to store the video locally.

Conclusion

The Yi Dome camera has some undeniably cool features that you don’t get in other cameras. If you can fit it in a good location, it literally sees the whole room with its rotating stand. I wish it wasn’t that loud, and the inability to tilt down is annoying. You may be able to see almost as much with a well-placed fixed camera. In addition, the need for a power cable and the absence of a battery means that the dome camera cannot be placed anywhere. The panoramic image capture was also a disappointment for me due to poor stitching.

Yi Technology says you can mount the dome camera on a wall, but I found that the app is not smart enough to properly rotate the video in this case. Looking to the side, your video will be sideways. Ceiling mounting is perfect using a 180 degree flip adjustment. The included mounting bracket is also easy to install. When you choose a location, the video looks great in daylight and night vision.

The notification options and plans aren’t as compelling as what you get with more expensive cameras, but the Yi Dome camera is competitively priced. You’re looking for $ 80 for the 1080p version, and the Logitech Circle (my current favorite for indoor cameras) costs around $ 150 each. If you are interested in a budget security camera and have a good place to put the dome camera, this is not a bad choice. Just keep in mind the downsides I mentioned. You can pick up the dome camera on Amazon.


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