Annke Nova J IP Security Camera Review

Introduction

The following product review takes a look at a newer IP indoor-only security camera from a company called Annke (Annke.com).  The specific camera model was provided to the QuellaReviews team for evaluation along with writing up our overall findings.   The plan is to also do an unboxing and a teardown article in the coming days.

Annke has been providing security camera solutions to some of the top chains around the world for quite some time.  Distributors such as Costco, Walmart, Home Depot, and others to name a few.  The company has been in the security business since 2006.  During its inception, the founder knew he could manufacture an IP security camera that would be just as good as others on the market, but at nearly half the price of them with similar features and functions.  Their founder wanted to ensure people would not give up on deploying camera-based security if they could find an affordable solution.  Price for any product is important, however Annke additionally focuses on customer care and satisfaction as well.  In my opinion, no matter how good a camera system is, it is nothing if not supported by the company.  With any technology investment, you want it to be able to change with the rapid innovations in today’s camera technology, and it appears Annke is attempting to do just that with this IP Security camera. 

Annke has a wide assortment of security cameras and their website even has a tool to help you pick the best product for your given need.  They have anything from your typical bullet style IP security camera to various internal-only camera options; like the one we will look at in this review.  Options for connecting your camera to a network also exist for a wide range of their cameras including wireless to wired and some even include POE (Power Over Ethernet); which brings both power and data over a single cable.  If you are looking for a security camera solution, I think you will be able to locate one on the Annke website at an affordable price.

The Camera

The specific camera the company sent to QuellaReviews for evaluation is their newer “Nova J”.  It is a recent generation 1080p HD indoor-only smart wireless camera with pan and tilt.  It should be noted that this camera does not include a zoom feature; either digitally or optically.  We will dive deeper in functionality and features below.

The body of the camera is made of plastic.  Overall it feels sturdy.  The base of the camera has four small rubber feet to prevent it from slipping on smooth surfaces.  Although the base is wide enough to support and keep the camera stable, would have liked to have had a bit more weight ensuring it would not move or be bumped.  As with any type of electronic device, I would not feel safe giving it to a young child to play with.  The camera does not feel flimsily or cheap.  The camera itself is rather compact coming in at just under four (4) inches in length, 3.5 inches wide, and just under 5 inches tall.  It is small enough to fit on any end table or mounted out of the way using the provided ceiling mount. 

For those looking to purchase their first IP security camera, you can easily find yourself spending anywhere from a few tens of dollars to thousands of dollars.  This indoor-only IP security camera (at the time of this review) comes in at the lower price range of ~$55.99 USD direct from Annke or on Amazon for about $15 USD cheaper.  I can say for the price point, this camera is packed with many features making it a good purchase if you are able to forgive a few of the more obvious missing items.  Things I would have liked to have seen included on any security camera; even at a bit higher price point.  This specific camera can be found in the “Baby/Pet (Monitoring)” section of their website or by clicking on this link: https://www.annke.com/products/1080p-hd-smart-wireless-pan-tilt-security-camera

When I compare the Annke Nova J camera to a few others in the same class, the price and features are rather close.  This camera has decent video at 1080p, good night vision coverage (with visible red LEDS), and nearly full pan and tilt capabilities.  Again, I would like to see at least optical zoom as a feature in a camera at this price, but this one does not have any.  There are places where the software felt incomplete or needed some better work in English translation, but most will be able to quickly setup the camera and begin recording with very little trouble.

Specifications

Let’s take a brief look at the features and functions of this indoor IP security camera. 

The Camera

This camera has the ability to record in one of four pre-defined resolutions set via the web application; a direct connection to the camera.  The mobile app appears to have three different resolutions which we will discuss afterwards. 

For the Web Application, the first resolution, being the preferred one, is 1280×720 (HD) which come in at a total of 921,600 pixels or 0.922 MPs and is 720p instead of 1080p.  The second resolution is 640×360 (Normal) comes in at 230,400 total pixels or 0.230 MPs.  The third 320×180 (Half) which is quite low resolution providing 57,600 total pixels making up the image or 0.056 MPs.  The last option is 160×90 (Small) includes a total of 17,100 pixels and is 0.017 MPs in size.

Below is a visual representation of the various web interface’s resolutions which the Annke Nova J IP security camera can capture or record.  As you can see, each step is half the larger resolution option.  Again, this is an indoor-only device which will often be used in more close proximity then its outdoor camera counterparts.  Because of this, I would think the near 1MP resolution of the HD setting is what most users would want to have the camera set for if using the web tool. 

If we look at the resolutions provided in the mobile application, we have three options available.  The first is 1080p or 1920×1080 which contains 2,073,600 pixels or 2.07MPs in a 16:9 ratio.  There is also a “Smooth” setting which appears to be the same resolution as the 1080P, however the image size is slightly larger.  I could not determine much of a difference when I compared the base 1080p image to the smooth image.  The last option is only shown in the mobile app as “Sta…nition” which I assume to be some standard option which comes in a 640×380 or 243,200 pixels; 0.234MPs.  Below is a comparison of the 1080P and Standard images sizes.

It is clear from the above comparison image that the 1080p is much larger and detailed then the smaller setting.  It almost looks like a picture-in-picture on a TV set, but the above is only to demonstrate the image size differences.  I would recommend most people leave the camera in its default 1080p or smooth option and use a larger SD card for retaining the recordings and snaps requested.  You will never be disappointed to capture more detail, but may regret getting less to save a few dollars on an SD card.

Camera Clarity and Functionality

When discussing the camera’s overall image clarity and functionality, I can say it seemed quite good for the price point in both regular and night vision modes.  The camera has adjustments for brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpness.  Each of these settings can be modified so a user gets the image they like.  The majority of users will keep these setting in their default mode (middle) unless there are specific reasons to change them.   I do like that the web interface provides a way to easily reset any changes made by clicking the prominent “Reset” button near the bottom of the screen.

There is a mode selection option for the camera to be in either “Day”, “Night”, or “Auto”.  Auto allows the camera to use a photo sensor at the top of the camera to determine if the camera should switch to night mode when conditions become dark.  Again, here one will often leave the setting on “Auto”, so the camera automatically detects and switch between day and night vision as needed.

This IP security camera also provides a “Flip” mode if you intend to hang it upside-down via the provided tripod mount.  This setting simply flips the cameras image 180-degrees.  There is not an option to rotate the camera in 90-degree increments if mounted to a wall for example, only the full 180.

Lastly, the camera provides for switching the frequency at which the camera runs.  This will be either 50Hz or 60Hz based on your respective country.  By default, the camera is set to 50hz which is more common in Europe and parts of Asia.  With the camera being manufactured in China, it should come as no surprise that the default setting is 50Hz.  Users in countries, like the United States which use 60Hz power frequency, I recommend you modify this to the proper setting for your location.

Night Vision

Let me turn to the camera’s night vision capabilities.  For its size and number of Infrared (IR) LEDs, it does a decent job of illuminating a dark room so you can make out specific objects and details.  The camera comes with six (6) IR LEDs operating in the 850nm frequency spectrum instead of the 940nm ones.  This means the LEDs when active have a slight red glow making the camera visible in very dark situations.  This may not be ideal for places one desires complete darkness such as in a baby’s room, etc.  It is understandable why the company selected 850nm LEDs over the invisible 940nm ones.  The lower wavelength (although visible to the human eye) provide 30%-40% more illumination over their more covert counterparts.  Annke claims the camera’s night vision is capable of illuminating objects up to 20 feet (or 6 meters) from the camera, I would say this is accurate based on my testing.

The relays used to switch between day and night vision are a bit nosier or “clicky” than I would expect for a camera used for monitoring a baby’s room or sleeping children.  It would have been better if the company used a quitter means of switching modes.  Again, this may have been one of the tradeoffs in keeping the price point lower. 

The image example shown above is a bit washed out in the night vision mode due to the distance between the camera and the objects being recorded.  The recording in this example is about six feet from the wall and window.

Pan and Tilt

The camera has a decent range of both pan and tilt functionality.  Although the pan (left to right) does not rotate a full 360 degrees around, it does come very close.  The specifications say the range of motion for panning is 350 degrees of rotation.  If the camera is fully panned, and you would like to see a bit more to the one side, you would have to pan the camera fully around the other way.  The tilt, up and down, movement travels up to a 100-degree arc.  Nearly 90 degree straight up and a decent downward view; keeping in mind the lower body of the camera prevents more than about 10-20 degreed field of view.

For a smaller and less expensive IP security camera, I was surprised how quiet and smooth the overall pan/tilt function was.  It seemed fluid and measured up well to the expected motion from both the mobile and web application.    I did not see it in the software app, but I would have like to have had the ability to reverse the pan/tilt input.  Much like with an airplane, then sliding your finger down the camera pans up, etc.  Just something one needs to get used too.

Audio

I was a bit disappointed with the microphone and speaker used in the Nova J IP security camera, but they are functional.  For a product which is geared towards a baby monitor, one would think using higher quality microphones would be desired.  However, again this camera is at a rather low price point and some of the components will suffer because of this.  Both the speak and microphone function, but they are a bit tinny sounding for me.  I think the audio is also quite compressed to take up as little bandwidth as possible, so do not expect CD quality audio with your video recordings.  I could easily pick-up most noises when listening in where the camera was places, but I would struggle a bit when the conversation was rather quiet, or when people were facing away from the camera.

I will say that it is nice to have the ability to both listen into conversations within the room and speak back using the application.  The two-way audio was a nice feature for a camera at this value and I would rather have two-way audio with weaker components than none at all. 

Network Connectivity

When discussing how the camera connects to a network, the obvious option is via wireless for most users based on connivence.  However, I was quite surprised to see that the Annke Nova J also includes a wired option as well.  The device comes with an Ethernet (100mb) port for those who have spotty wireless or want to be able to transfer more data than what can be done over wireless.  It should be noted that this camera only supports 2.5ghz wireless and not 5ghz.  So, if you are in a home with only 5gz wireless access points, you will need to use the Ethernet option for connectivity.  The camera’s ethernet port does not support POE (Power Over Ethernet), so if you plan on the wired solution, you will also still need to find a power source close by.

Storage

Storage for the Nova J security camera is provided using two different methods.  They can be used together for redundancy or each can be used as a stand-along storage.  The first and most common storage method is by inserting a micro SD card into the provided slot in the back of the camera and storing all images or recording to this local device.  The documentation states that the camera only supports SD cards of 64gb or smaller.  I hope this limitation can be removed via a firmware update with larger SD cards becoming rather inexpensive.  The camera as well supports cloud (hosted) storage which can be used for a 30-day trial period (you must contact the company for a trial key) before having to subscribe.  I prefer cloud for remote access and offsite storage. I would have liked to see an option where this camera could send its data to a local storage server like a DVR or NAS system.  There seems to be an option that looks like it could in the mobile app, but I could not find a way of making it work during my testing. 

Power

Because the camera lacks Power Over Ethernet (POE), one needs to ensure they have an outlet and a cable long enough to connect to the back of the camera.  The camera runs using 5volts which is provided via the supplied micro USB connector and small outlet brick.    The provided USB power cable is about 6 feet in length, so if you are placing this camera farther than that from an outlet, you will need to ensure you pick up a longer cable.   For those interested, the provided cable is micro USB on one side and standard USB-A on the other.

Just a side note, I found the cable end that plugs into the power pack sticks out slightly than I would have expected.  It is not any power or safety issue, but it looks a bit unfinished than I would have like. 

Alerts

The camera is capable of enabling motion detection to record or notify you, via the app, if it detects motion within the camera’s field of view.  This also has a nice feature which can additionally be enabled called “Smart Tracking”.  If enabled, smart tracking will attempt to follow the object causing motion until it is unable to track it within its field of view.  I would say a feature such as tracking is a nice to have in higher priced cameras, so it was unexpected in this lower cost camera as a built-in feature.  There is an option to adjust sensitivity within the application so you can alert on bigger or smaller objects based on where the camera is recording.  For example, if you have pets and would only like to trigger an alert or recording for people, you can set the sensitivity lower.

Motion detection can also be set on a schedule if you would like to enable it only during times when a business is closed; for example.  In this case, you would most likely set the sensitivity high to detect small changes in the camera’s image to be alerted on.    

Software

Of all of the parts of this camera, I have to say that little to no effort was put into making the web-based application friendly; although it is usable and functional.  It just seems less attention was given to this part of the product then the mobile application or the camera design itself.  I like the ability to pull up a web browser and connect to the camera easily, but the requirement of Adobe Flash and an unsigned plug-in needing to be installed was not something I was comfortable doing.  Once I determined some of the flaws of using the web connection, I moved my attention to the mobile application instead.

The mobile application was easy to locate, install, and operate to not only setup the camera but also to monitor the device with.  It seemed to have more functionality and it was better laid out then the web application was.  It seemed like the company spent more time in getting the User Interface (IU) and workflows right in this version of the application.  There were still some areas of confusion based on the translating from a different language, but it was not something that could not be figured out over time.  At the time of this review, the mobile application is at version 5.9.2, and it appears the company is continuing to add functions and remove bugs as they progress. 

Conclusion and Take-Aways

In conclusion, I feel for the price of the Annke Nova J IP indoor Security camera, it is a good product.  I think the company has accomplished it intended goal of releasing a decent camera at a good price point.  It does not contain the highest-grade components, not the most intuitive web/mobile applications, but for the normal use case of being a baby monitor or general home security camera, it can it achieves this quite well. 

A few things I took way from my testing are listed here below.

  • Although the initial setup was quite easy, the voice announcement was a bit difficult to understand.  I assume this is due to the quality of the built-in speaker.
  • Upon startup, the camera when ready makes a rather loud “ping” sound (like from a submarine) which I found something which may wake up a sleeping baby.  Thankfully this is something that can be disabled from within the application.
  • During the setup and validation process the camera attempts to send an ICMP ping to servers in China.  My firewall limits traffic to places not in my home country.  So, I needed to permit this traffic to complete the install.  Maybe in future updates this can be modified based on one’s region
  • The click of the night vision relay to turn on the LEDs is a bit louder than I would like, but this only occurs when the camera automatically switches between day and night mode.
  • I would have like to have the option of 940nm IR LEDs but understand why the company selected to go with the 850nm ones instead. 
  • I found the top of the unit gets a bit warmer than I would think a camera module would, but it is not something to be concerned about just be aware of it.  I assume this has to do with the night mode IR LEDs as well. 
  • The ability to leverage either wireless or Ethernet (wired) connections is a welcomed feature often removed from lower cost cameras to save money.
  • I could connect to the camera via HTTP (insecure) but when I tried HTTPs (secure) the device would not respond.  The web-based application would notify me to go to HTTPs, but again this would fail when I attempted; all using the direct IP for the device (no DNS).
  • The web-based application also requires the use of Adobe Flash which is becoming blocked by many modern browsers.  I had to test using Firefox as the latest Chrome prevented me from connecting.  It would be nice to move away from Flash and go with a more modern standard like HTML5.
  • The lack of any type of zoom in a camera like this hurts it some when comparing to others in its class, but I would rather have no zoom function than very weak or useless zoom.
  • I’m not sure if this is only an issue for Apple Macintosh computers, but if I removed the SD card from the camera to copy over any snaps or recordings, I would receive an error that the SD card was damaged.  I had to transfer images via the mobile app instead.
  • During my testing, I received 2-3 firmware update notices.  This tells me that the vendor is supporting the product and hopefully making it better with each new release.
  • The reboot and start-up time took a bit longer than I would have expect to initialize to where the camera was ready for remote access.  Often between a minute or two.
  • It is clear that the mobile application is the tool that Annke has focused on polishing over the web application.  That is fine, but I would like to have both application mirror features and functionality. 
  • The “On Screen Display” (OSD) is not moveable from the top left corner of the image.  You do have control over what is displayed in this spot, but you are not able to move it to any other locations.
  • Speaking of the OSD, often this would have a mix of black or white text and it did not seem to be something which was configurable.  I’m unsure if the camera attempts to select a color based on the underlying pixels, but I would have like to either have a solid color and a mask behind then the mixed text colors. 

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