Hands-on Review: D-Link Full HD Pan & Tilt Pro WiFi Camera – DCS-8526LH

Having an easily-accessible camera covering the house while I am away on semi-regular trips is something important to me. I need that peace of mind to ensure that the only person entering the house while I am away is a trusted friend visiting to feed my cat. However, not all cameras are created equal, and while I have been fortunate enough to test some good ones, I have also had some real lemons to deal with… and frankly, I was dubious about this unit when it first arrived – it sounded too good to be true. There are times when it’s great to be wrong, and this was one of them. Here’s why…

The unit is amazingly compact for the features it includes and they are, as the specs state, pretty high-end specs without being budget-killing OTT. Having full 1920×1080-HD at 30fps made for crystal clear footage even in very low-light conditions thanks to the powerful built-in infrared LEDs. A wide 138-degree field of view plus the full range of pan and tilt means plenty of coverage with minimal movement of the unit, giving you the assurance that an intruder is going to give you plenty of incriminating evidence on record before they notice this small, discrete and stylish unit (which a friend jokingly described as “the cutest albino minion”) hiding away on the top of a bookcase or shelf. My house has a serving window between the kitchen and lounge, which I have sealed off from the kitchen side to effectively convert it into an in-wall display shelf – the perfect place to put this camera so as to cover two of the more typical potential break-in points in any house – the back door and patio.

Setup was, as is to be expected from the modern family of D-Link smart-home devices, a matter of moments. Opening the ‘mydlink’ app, adding the device, and setting the preferences took me less than 10 minutes – most of which was spent exploring the many customisable options – after which my camera was doing its thing. The only step I ended up taking after the initial setup was, upon discovering a stack of unused microSD cards I had overlooked in my ‘random tech bitz’ box, to slot a 4GB microSD card into the discrete slot on the bottom of the ‘black eyeball’ so that I had local-storage of video files. It will accept and use microSD cards up to 256GB if you want more storage though. Call me silly, but I am not a huge fan of having video of the inside of my house on a cloud server. It’s not that I don’t trust the service, it’s just a personal preference. However, with the built-in ONVIF Profile-S recording protocol, if you have a compatible network recording device you can store all your video within your home network. Failing that, it’s simple enough to set up and record to a cloud account.

The only slightly negative thing to note is that if you choose to connect it to your local network via Ethernet cable, it only supports 10/100 speeds, no gigabit (1000) option. While this isn’t a deal-breaker by any means, I did find it a slight let-down as I would have expected gigabit support as standard these days. Still, not the end of the world, and the house WiFi is pretty suped-up so that was the better option anyway. I hate cables running everywhere like some house-hugging hydra.

Setting up motion detection was very intuitive, and it was so much more flexible and dynamic than the old ‘choose your grid squares’ method used by older devices. Dragging the anchor-handles of a dynamic-resizing area box allowed extremely fine-tuning of the visual area to be used for triggers. This meant that I could eliminate high normal-traffic areas of the image from triggering false-positive alerts. Having a built-in microphone also allows this unit to have sound detection, so an intruder breaking a window outside of the visual area can also trigger a recording and follow-on actions.

What really impressed me though was the added smart feature of people recognition. While motion alarms can be triggered for anything moving in the field of view, you may not want to know every time your cat wanders in from the wild, and instead only get a notification when a person is detected inside. Having this extra level of intelligence hardwired into the unit itself means a reduction in your daily intake of digital annoyance. It is worth noting that detection alerts can include a snapshot, so you will see what it saw, and can make your own decisions regarding follow-on actions. It would be rude to call the cops on your pet-feeding neighbour, after all. That brings to the fore other cool actions a successful detection can trigger, thanks in large part to the high level of integration this unit is capable of. It is compatible with other D-Link Smart Home devices, as well as IFTTT, Alex and Google Assitant, giving you a huge range of plug-in actions that can flow on from a successful detection event, including ringing up to 2 designated contacts to bring the human element back into the chain of events. Utilising the built-in microphone and speaker, and the feature-packed relaunched ‘mydlink’ app, you can even have a conversation with the intruder to let them know just how badly they have messed up. Or ask your friendly neighbour if they would mind popping out the recycling please.

When it comes to placement, you may not want your camera to sit on a shelf or bookcase, and instead be a bit higher up. With that in mind, the kit includes a handy mounting bracket that allows you to hard-mount your unit on a wall or even on the ceiling. Because of the sheer range of pan and tilt, the camera works equally well when hanging like a bat as it does sitting like a Buddha. Wherever you put it, you should keep in mind the expansive range of movement you have at your disposal – it would work really well sitting in the middle of the dining room table, or hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the lounge – just be mindful of any hanging lighting fixtures or decorations that will create blind spots. Keep in mind though, this unit is only suitable for indoor use. Patios and outdoor mounting is not advised as this unit will not survive an attack of moisture.

However, like me, you may not want every moment of activity in the target area to be recorded for posterity, which is where “Privacy Mode” comes into play. Utilising the settings in the app, you can set pre-defined patches of time where the camera basically goes to sleep, ignoring everything and even turning the camera itself off. Why record your family dinners, after all? Setting up a new “Scene” as the app calls them, allows you to set everything to high-alert during work hours when the house should be empty, and have it catch a snooze when ‘authorised personnel’ are on the scene. This allows the kids to have some privacy before the adults get home from work… if you so desire. Of course, these can be over-ridden or instigated on-demand via the app, giving you peace of mind to set-&-forget without giving up control.

Overall, this has to be one of the most appealing smart-home devices I have come across. Feature-rich and simple to use with an intuitive interface thanks to the latest redesign of the ‘mydlink’ app, it took me almost no time at all to become adept at using the unit’s many powerful options. Peace of mind when I am away on trips is now assured, and while I am at home too. Leaving the house for any reason, I need only pop the app open in my phone and activate an appropriate ‘scene’ for the duration of my absence – be that an hour or a week. I know almost immediately if something hinkey is going down at home, and can instigate suitable reactions with a press of a button, then watch as it all unfolds. Being hooked into the other smart-home sensors and devices in my house means I know that I will be informed should someone try opening a door, breaking a window, jumping the fence or walking past the garage’s side door.

Rating:

Reposted in partnership with: KIWIreviews.nz
Disclosure Statement: This unit was supplied by D-Link expressly for the purposes of review. No fee was offered or accepted for this impartial review.

You can read the original press release [-here-]


Basic Specs:

  • Full 360° views in True Full HD quality
  • Cinematic camera movements with pan and tilt technology (340° pan & 100° tilt)
  • Night vision up to 5m lets you keep an eye on things day and night
  • Auto-track motion whenever it’s detected, wherever it goes
  • Edge-based person detection identifies human motion to reduce unnecessary alerts
  • Ethernet port for versatility of use
  • Two-way audio with built-in microphone and speaker
  • Supports the latest WPA3™ encryption
  • Works with the Google Assistant and Alexa
  • Ceiling mountable (hardware included)
  • Supports mydlink cloud / microSD (max. 256 GB) / phone and ONVIF Profile S recording