The best wireless outdoor home security camera

By Rachel Cericola

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After spending almost three months looking, listening, adjusting angles, and deleting over 10,000 push notifications and emails, we’ve decided that the Netgear Arlo Pro is the best DIY outdoor Wi-Fi home security camera you can get. Like the other eight units we tested, the Arlo Pro lets you keep an eye on your property and provides smartphone alerts whenever there’s motion. However, it’s one of the few options with built-in rechargeable batteries to make it completely wireless, so it’s easy to place and move. It also delivers an excellent image, clear two-way audio, practical smart-home integration, and seven days of free cloud storage.

Who should get this

A Wi-Fi surveillance camera on your front porch, over your garage, or attached to your back deck can provide a peek at what really goes bump in the night, whether that’s someone stealing packages off your steps or raccoons going through garbage cans. It can alert you to dangers and can create a record of events. It should also help you to identify someone—and if it’s a welcome or unwelcome guest—or just let you monitor pets or kids when you’re not out there with them.

How we picked and tested

Photo: Rachel Cericola

During initial research, we compiled a huge list of outdoor security cameras recommended by professional review sites like PCMag, Safewise, and Safety.com, as well as those available on popular online retailers. We then narrowed this list by considering only Wi-Fi–enabled cameras that will alert your smartphone or tablet whenever motion is detected. We also clipped out all devices that required a networked video recorder (NVR) to capture video, focusing only on products that could stand alone.

Once we had a list of about 27 cameras, we went through Amazon and Google to see what kind of feedback was available. We ultimately decided on a test group based on price, features, and availability.

We mounted our test group to a board outside of our New England house, pointed them at the same spot, and exposed them all to the same lighting conditions and weather. The two exceptions were cameras integrated into outdoor lighting fixtures, both of which were installed on the porch by my husband, a licensed electrician. All nine cameras were connected to the same Verizon FiOS network via a Wi-Fi router indoors.

Besides good Wi-Fi, you may also need a nearby outlet. Only three of the cameras we tested offered the option to use battery power. Most others required an AC connection, which means you won’t be able to place them just anywhere.

We downloaded each camera’s app to an iPhone 5, an iPad, and a Samsung Galaxy S6. The cameras spent weeks guarding our front door, alerting us to friends, family members, packages, and the milkman. Once we got a good enough look at those friendly faces, we tilted the entire collection outward to see what sort of results we got facing the house across the street, which is approximately 50 feet away. To learn more about how we picked and tested, please see our full guide.

Our pick

The Arlo Pro can handle snow, rain, and everything else, and runs for months on a battery charge. Photo: Rachel Cericola

The Arlo Pro is a reliable outdoor Wi-Fi camera that’s compact and completely wireless, thanks to a removable, rechargeable battery that, based on our testing, should provide at least a couple of months of operation on a charge. It’s also the only device on our list that offers seven days of free cloud storage, and packs in motion- and audio-triggered recordings for whenever you get around to reviewing them.

The Arlo Pro requires a bridge unit, known as the Base Station, which needs to be powered and connected to your router. The Base Station is the brains behind the system, but also includes a piercing 100-plus–decibel siren, which can be triggered manually through the app or automatically by motion and/or audio.

With a 130-degree viewing angle and 720p resolution, the Arlo Pro provided clear video footage during both day and night, and the two-way audio was easy to understand on both ends. The system also features the ability to set rules, which can trigger alerts for motion and audio. You can adjust the level of sensitivity so that you don’t get an alert or record a video clip every time a car drives by. You can also set up alerts based on a schedule or geofencing using your mobile device, but you can’t define custom zones for monitoring. All of those controls are easy to find in the Arlo app, which is available for iOS and Android devices.

If you’re looking to add the Arlo Pro to a smart-home system, the camera currently works with Stringify, Wink, and IFTTT (“If This Then That”). SmartThings certification was approved and will be included in a future app update. The Arlo Pro is also compatible with ADT Canopy for a fee.

Runner-up

The Nest Cam Outdoor records continuously and produces better images than most of the competition, but be prepared to pay extra for features other cameras include for free. Photo: Rachel Cericola

The Nest Cam Outdoor is a strong runner-up. It records continuous 1080p video, captures to the cloud 24/7, and can actually distinguish between people and other types of motion. Like the Nest thermostat, the Outdoor Cam is part of the Works With Nest program, which means it can integrate with hundreds of smart-home products. It’s also the only model we tested that has a truly weatherproof cord. However, that cord and the ongoing subscription cost, which runs $ 100 to $ 300 per year for the Nest Aware service, is what kept the Nest Cam Outdoor from taking the top spot.

Like our top pick, the Nest Cam Outdoor doesn’t have an integrated mount. Instead, the separate mount is magnetic, so you can attach and position the camera easily. Although it has a lot of flexibility in movement, it needs to be placed within reach of an outlet, which can be a problem outside the house. That said, the power cord is quite lengthy. The camera has a 10-foot USB cable attached, but you can get another 15 feet from the included adapter/power cable.

The Nest Cam Outdoor’s 1080p images and sound were extremely impressive, both during the day and at night. In fact, this camera delivered some of the clearest, most detailed images during our testing, with a wide 130-degree field of view and an 8x digital zoom.

The Nest app is easy to use and can integrate with other Nest products, such as indoor and outdoor cameras, the Nest thermostat, and the Nest Protect Smoke + CO detector. You can set the camera to turn on and off at set times of day, go into away mode based on your mobile device’s location, and more.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

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Microsoft Pix Camera imitates Prisma with its AI-powered filters

Microsoft Pix Camera uses artificial intelligence to make your pictures of people better. It uses algorithms behind the scenes to analyze the 10 frames it snaps for every picture you take, looking for sharpness, exposure and even facial expressions to make sure you get the very best shot. It even takes good data from the pictures it doesn’t use to enhance the photos it chooses. The app, launched last summer and just updated, now offers new filters that can help you make your photos look like real works of art.

These artsy filters may sound a lot like what standalone app, Prisma, does, but Microsoft’s implementation was developed by Microsoft’s Asia research lab in collaboration with Skype. According to a company blog post, Pix Styles use texture, pattern, and tones learned by deep neural networks from famous works of art instead of altering the photo uniformly like other similar apps. Microsoft researcher Josh Weisberg told Engadget that the app uses two different techniques, run in tandem to save time, to produce these effects. “Our approach lends itself to styles based on source images (that are used to train the network) that are not paintings, such as the fire effect,” he said in an email.

The initial 11 Styles filters are named Glass, Petals, Bacau, Charcoal, Heart, Fire, Honolulu, Zing, Pop, Glitter and Ripples — more will be added in the coming weeks. Pix Paintings creates a timeline of your picture as if it were being painted in real time, giving you a short video of its creation. The Paintings feature is accessed with a button that shows up when you apply a new Style, and you can share or save the resulting short video (or GIF) it makes, too.

“These are meant to be fun features,” said Microsoft’s Josh Weisberg in a blog post. “In the past, a lot of our efforts were focused on using AI and deep learning to capture better moments and better image quality. This is more about fun. I want to do something cool and artistic with my photos.”

All this AI magic works right on your iPhone or iPad and won’t access the cloud, saving your data plan and decreasing your wait time. You can still use Pix’s other features with the new styles, adding frames and cropping your still photos. Microsoft Pix Camera is available now in the App Store and as a free update to existing owners, as well.

Source: Microsoft Blog, Microsoft/Twitter

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Xiaomi Mi 6 mimics the iPhone’s camera tricks without the bump

After the swanky limited edition Mi MIX, you’d think it’d be pretty hard for Xiaomi to top that with its next flagship phone, but the new Mi 6 unveiled today still had some tricks up its sleeve. First off, the company has revived the Mi 5’s awesome curved glass back design along with a special ceramic edition, and this time it’s complemented by a piece of 2.5D front glass panel plus two new color options: metallic blue and glossy silver. To my surprise, Xiaomi has also gone back to the more expensive stainless steel (as used on the Mi 4) instead of aluminum for the mid-frame: not only is it tougher, but it’s also more luxurious with that high-gloss finish — a much welcomed feature on the blue version’s gold-colored frame.

As per usual, Xiaomi has thrown in pretty much the best essential components for its latest flagship, though this time it’s a bit more generous than before. On top of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipset there’s a whopping 6GB of LPDDR4x RAM instead of starting at 4GB, a base storage option of 64GB instead of just 32GB, a denser 3,350 mAh battery and an improved under-glass fingerprint reader on the front (though unlike the one on the Mi 5s, this one is capacitive rather than ultrasonic). Based on the display units at the launch event, the Mi 6 is powered by MIUI 8 based on Android 7.1.1 which is remarkably up to date.

What’s more surprising is that the Mi 6 is Xiaomi’s first splash-proof device thanks to the added internal seals, though the company avoided the word “waterproof” throughout the keynote. Indeed, the Mi 6’s product page states that it has yet been put through such certification tests, so you’ve been warned.

After the Redmi Pro and the Mi 5s Plus, Xiaomi is once again dabbling with a dual camera setup on the Mi 6. Rather than going with the increasingly common RGB + BW sensor pairing, this time Xiaomi has taken a page out of Apple’s book to pair a wide-angle lens with a telephoto lens for this 12-megapixel camera: the former has an f/1.8 aperture plus a 1.25um sensor, whereas the latter — effectively a 2x optical zoom — has an f/2.6 aperture with a 1um sensor. However, unlike the iPhone 7 Plus, the Mi 6’s dual camera is flush with the body; plus its wide-angle lens features 4-axis optical stabilization, meaning it’ll take better photos in low-light conditions.

Xiaomi also boasted its latest beautification algorithm which claims to produce more natural looks, and there’s also a portrait mode which automatically adds a bokeh effect. As for selfies, there’s an 8-megapixel front camera which takes advantage of the new beautification software as well.

Much like its two predecessors, the Mi 6 is sticking with the relatively humble 5.15-inch 1080p display spec, which is good news for those who prefer something more ergonomic. It’s a nice LCD, too: like before, you get a 94.4-percent NTSC gamut, a brightness ranging from 600 nit all the way down to 1 nit (with 4,096 levels in between), and an optimized blue light filter mode with reduced color cast.

On the audio side, it’s worth noting that Xiaomi decided to ditch the headphone jack for the Mi 6, with the reason being it wanted to offer a cleaner look (ugh), which is why you’ll find a USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter in the box. Similarly, there’s no fancy DAC chip here to satisfy audiophiles, though the phone does have a stereo loudspeaker implementation — using the earpiece as one of the two audio channels — similar to those used on recent HTC and Huawei devices for casual video-watching.

As with pretty much all Xiaomi products, the Mi 6 will only be available in China to begin with as of April 28th, with the 64GB model priced at 2,499 yuan (about $ 360) and the 128GB flavor at 2,899 yuan ($ 420). And for an extra 100 yuan ($ 15) you can get the 128GB ceramic edition with 18K gold rim around the main camera lenses. Alas, CEO Lei Jun said the silver edition isn’t quite ready for mass production; it’ll apparently be months before it’s finally ready.

Source: Xiaomi

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Oppo’s clever, zooming dual camera was inspired by periscopes

The dual-camera craze is real at Mobile World Congress, but Oppo decided to break from the pack with its own, very clever implementation. Long story short: the company managed to build a 5x “lossless” zoom system for smartphones using two sensors and a zoom mechanism inspired by periscopes. The latter part is nothing new, of course: ’tis a feature which was once common on compact digital cameras, and ASUS even applied this to its ZenFone Zoom last year. Oppo’s implementation, however, takes things up a notch.

See, Oppo’s telephoto lens is actually mounted horizontally inside the camera module and moves sideways through the top of a phone’s body. When you’re taking a photo, light enters the module and gets reflected by a prism into that waiting lens. Oppo’s optical image stabilization is similarly impressive, the prism and the telephoto lens move around to compensate for shaky hands on the fly.

Just keep this in mind: much like the ZenFone Zoom’s camera, the telephoto lens itself is capable of 3x optical zoom, and Oppo blends the images from the telephoto lens and a wide-angle lens next to it between 1x and 5x zoom. After 5x, it’s just the telephoto lens and digital zoom kicks in at some point between 5x and 10x. One wouldn’t normally associate digital zoom with “lossless” quality, but Oppo swears up and down that the system works like a charm. We’ll be the judges of that, thanks very much.

(Update: I just tried a demo version of the 5x camera in a tester phone, and it was pretty damned great. Oppo had a blind taste test going on, and while the disguised iPhone 7 Pluses had the edge in colors, the 5x camera produced much clearer results throughout the test.)

Anyway, Oppo’s design — which it licensed from another company and worked on independently for more than a year — makes for a camera module that’s only 5.7mm thick. It takes up a decent chunk of space in modern, super-slim smartphones, but we’re told many other 2x optical zoom lens setups are slightly thicker anyway. If Oppo’s photographic results are as good as the company claims, smartphone junkies in the company’s native China will probably go nuts. (Don’t forget: Oppo currently holds the number one spot in Chinese mobile market share and fourth worldwide.)

Chances to such a camera making it to parts of the world Oppo doesn’t service — like, say, the United States — aren’t nil. After all, the company licensed the original design from someone else, so it’s possible a more globally minded smartphone maker could take the same route. Then again, Oppo has filed about 50 patents to keep this particular approach locked down, so who knows. Hopefully we’ll get lucky someday.

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Next iPhone might have depth-sensing front camera

It’s that time of year, folks. Rumors of what the next iPhone will be like are coming in hot and heavy. Last week, well-connected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo noted that the new handsets would nix the home button for a touch-friendly “function area.” Now there’s another bit of info. In a KGI Securities report detailed by 9to5Mac, the analyst explains that the upcoming OLED iPhone will feature a “revolutionary” front camera that’s capable of sensing 3D space via infrared.

More specifically, the report explains that the newfangled camera can combine depth information with 2D images for things like facial recognition, iris recognition and, perhaps most importantly, 3D selfies. Given the previous report about the home button being put out to pasture, there will need to be a replacement for Touch ID. Rumors indicate that either facial recognition or a fingerprint reader embedded in the display would assist with unlocking the device. This new report would point more to the former method.

The report also explains a bit about how the 3D front-facing camera would be used in gaming scenarios. The camera could be used to replace an in-game character’s head or face with that of the user and those 3D selfies could be destined for augmented reality.

It’s no surprise to get word of potential depth-sensing camera tech from Apple. The company nabbed PrimeSense in 2013, an outfit that co-developed the original Kinect for Xbox. This latest KGI report says PrimeSense algorithms will allow the hardware to depth and location of objects in its field of view. An earlier report from Fast Company explained that Apple was working with Lumentum to use its 3D-sensing tech on the next iPhone.

While the 3D camera will only be on the front side for now, Kuo says Apple will eventually employ the tech on around back as well. The report also explains that the company is way ahead of Android as far as 3D algorithms go, so a depth-sensing camera would be a unique feature for a couple of years. Of course, if the early rumors are true, you can expect to pay $ 1,000 for the 10th anniversary iPhone when it arrives.

Source: 9to5Mac

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Microsoft’s new camera app brings AI to your iPhone

Microsoft sure loves it when research projects beget actual products, and it just released another for the masses to play with. Pix is a replacement camera app (what?) available for iPhones and iPads (what?), and in short, it promises better photos of the people around you without any extra work on your part. It’ll run on just about every iOS device from the iPhone 5S on, and an Android version is in the works too. (Microsoft didn’t have a firm answer when I asked if these features would make their way into the Windows 10 Mobile camera.) And you know what? In some ways, I wish this was the camera app that Apple built in the first place.

First, the basics. The most important thing you need to know about Pix is that it’s been tuned to make your pictures of people look better.

“There are things the Apple camera does that we don’t do and might not ever do,” said Josh Weisberg, GM of computational photography at Microsoft. “The goal was around people photos — can we make better people photos than the stock camera? And we succeeded.”

From the moment you start Pix, it’s capturing what your camera is pointed at -– you can never tell when something’s about to happen, after all. Once you press the shutter button, Pix snaps 10 frames, and Weisberg says that’s where the magic really kicks in. Algorithms evaluate those ten frames for obvious things like sharpness or exposure, but also underlying characteristics like whether a person in the shot seems happy or sad. When that near-instantaneous process is done, you’ll be given up to three “Best Images.” The image data from the leftover photos is used to enhance those winners before being deleted. All of this happens on the fly and without any extra fiddling, so you don’t need to be a photo buff to snap some great shots.

If the app detects a bunch of similar pictures, it’ll stitch them into a Live Image, but only when it thinks what’s going on in the photos is interesting. Oh, and the Hyperlapse feature that Microsoft has been working on for years is here too. This time, though, you can turn existing photos into time-lapses, or just use it to stabilize video you just shot.

Using Pix is very much a learning process, and I don’t just mean for you, the user. According to Weisberg, the app sends anonymized bits of “telemetry” — settings data and what Best Images people fave’d or deleted — back to the mothership, where human judges will examine them and adjust the image processing algorithms accordingly. Basically, the more you use Pix, the more insight it gains into what makes a photo good. All told, Weinberg was right: The app really is helpful for improving your photos of people. Usually, anyway.

In no time at all, I was snapping photos using Pix that came out punchier and with a greater emphasis on the people in the shot. When the testing period inevitably overlapped with post-work drinks at a local dive, Pix shined even brighter. I mean that literally too. Smartphone camera sensors often flounder in dim, dank conditions, leaving software to do the heavy lifting required to make a passable photo. Microsoft’s photo processing was both super-fast and mostly great at brightening up pictures of my colleagues and removing grain without making things look unnatural. I was utterly impressed… until I wasn’t.

Left: Microsoft Pix; Right: Apple’s camera app.

My biggest issue with Pix in its current form is that it’s inconsistent. Sometimes my shots were clear improvements over what Apple’s camera app was capable of. Other times, though, Apple’s softwaer had a clear edge. Take landscape photos, for instance: Even before Microsoft’s instantaneous image processing did its thing, the app had trouble exposing shots with bright backgrounds. Pix’s outdoor shots tended to be a little blown out, while Apple’s camera software was generally better at balancing exposure levels.

And for all the work that went into teaching Pix to enhance photos of people, it still struggles at times. A “Best Image” it suggested of a colleague in the dimly lit dive mentioned earlier was noticeably less crisp than the image the camera actually captured. In the app’s zeal to brighten up her face, it smoothed out her features a little too much. Long story short, the version of Pix I played with was still fairly hit or miss.

Left: Microsoft Pix; Right: Apple’s camera app.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it. In fact, I’d strongly recommend giving this a download, even if you’re not the sort of person who already juggles multiple camera apps. The benefits of better image processing can be seen from the get-go, but the weightier, far more fascinating goal is to see how much Microsoft’s system can learn about good photographs. In a way, it’s almost as though we’re collectively training it to better understand art. The very nature of Microsoft’s algorithmic processing means these early issues will probably get ironed out over time, and I’m fascinated to see how long it takes before Pix becomes great in every situation.

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iPhone 7 spy shot offers a clearer look at its camera

If you’re wondering what the iPhone 7 should look like when it’s more than just a bare shell covered in watermarks, look no further. NowhereElse.fr has obtained a leaked photo that appears to offer an exceptionally clear, more complete view of Apple’s upcoming handset. The snapshot of the device sample shows that, yes, the standard-sized future iPhone should have a much larger, protruding camera lens (and presumably a larger sensor) along with cleaner antenna lines. While there’s no guarantees that this is exactly what Apple will launch later this year, we believe this photo was taken outside of the offices of Lite-On, a company with expertise optical and power supply technologies. It’s possible that someone brought the iPhone chassis to Lite-On or a nearby firm for testing.

The shot doesn’t verify other rumored details, such as the absence of a 3.5mm headphone jack, dual-SIM support or increased storage. And is the camera higher resolution, or will Apple offer a similar resolution and improve image quality (such as low light performance) instead? We’d add that this doesn’t show the larger iPhone 7 Plus, which is widely rumored to have dual rear cameras that would improve focusing and overall fidelity. This may not be the last leak you see, but we have a hunch that you won’t get all the answers until Apple holds its iPhone launch event sometime in the weeks ahead.

Via: 9to5Mac

Source: NowhereElse.fr

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iPhone 7 will get a larger camera, according to spy shot (updated)

Another week, another iPhone 7 leak. (Hey, it rhymes!) Following the set of components allegedly showing dual-SIM support, up to 256GB of storage and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the next iPhone, Chinese repair shop Rock Fix is back with a photo of what it claims to be the 4.7-inch iPhone 7’s rear casing. Most notably, there are fewer plastic antenna bands here, and the main camera is said to feature a larger CMOS sensor — here’s hoping this will offer larger pixel sites to boost light sensitivity. What’s interesting is that contrary to WSJ’s report earlier this week, Rock Fix pointed out that the headphone jack is here to stay on one of the two 4.7-inch variants, which would explain why we’re seeing conflicting rumors about the headphone jack.

Rock Fix added that the cheaper 4.7-inch model — our money’s on the one that’s keeping the headphone jack — will replace the aging iPhone 6 in the new lineup. As for the bigger iPhone 7 Plus, it’ll unlikely have a variant with the headphone jack, but we’re told that it’ll be the only one featuring the special dual-lens camera we saw last time. Both sizes will apparently have dual-SIM slots, which is a common feature in competitive markets like China and India. If true, this move will hopefully give Apple a much needed boost after its recent iPhone sales decline.

Update: We’ve updated our article with new information regarding the special variant that will apparently be keeping the headphone jack, as well as the above image of a purported iPhone 7 chassis without the headphone jack.

Source: Rock Fix (Sina Weibo)

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