Showing posts with label Foscam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Foscam. Show all posts

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Foscam AC Adapter Teardown

I still own a couple of Foscam wireless IP cameras. 

I'm done with that brand in favor of Amcrest (sort of a spinoff of Foscam with far superior design and usability aside from the marginally unusable mobile app), but I believe firmly in using a product up to and beyond its predicted life span if it's able. Up until just weeks ago they were performing satisfactorily, then I stopped receiving motion detection alerts from first one, then the other. Could've been a power surge, though the UPS I have my desktop PC hooked into reported no recent events.

Both had curiously similar symptoms. The older camera, an FI8918W, presented with its ring of infra-red (IR) LEDs all blinking simultaneously, with a red indicator LED in the rear constantly flashing and a faint clicking in time with them. The newer one, an FI9821W, didn't have any IR LED activity, just the flashing indicator LED and clicking.

I happened to have a nonfunctional unit of the latter in my closet at home and decided, after some research on Foscam's forums, to simply try swapping the AC adapter. That worked; the camera came back to life and began happily firing off motion alerts.

It would appear that in addition to various other problems with Foscam cameras, the FI9821W in particular, we can add AC adapter failure to the list. Out of curiosity I took the seemingly defective one and tore it down for inspection.

Foscam FI9821W AC adapter with label indicating specifications.

The top of the circuit board showed no obvious signs of failure; no scorch marks, no bulging or burst electrolytic capacitors (see here for more details), no melted or burnt electronics.

Cover removed to reveal the top of the circuit board and components.

The bottom of the circuit board revealed some clues. Multiple areas show telltale signs of melted solder flux, which could indicate overheating. Given that the camera expects a fairly consistent, specific voltage and current, overheating of the AC adapter components over extended periods could've bumped its output outside the tolerances the camera requires to operate normally.

Bottom of the circuit board. Note areas of solder flux showing evidence of possible overheating.

On the brighter side, replacement Foscam AC adapters are inexpensive and available online. If your Foscam wireless IP camera happens to die suddenly and exhibit some of the signs indicated previously, try swapping out its AC adapter and you might have a quick and easy fix. If you're feeling adventurous, it might be worth it to carefully drill some holes in the AC adapter casing to allow for airflow; in operation the AC adapter is quite warm to the touch.

A better long-term fix might be to invest in an Amcrest camera, given its better web UI usability, night vision, and better HD resolution, at least in the one unit I've had set up for a couple of months now.

One wonders if someone more business-savvy among Foscam's leadership actually wanted to invest time and energy into creating a camera that would actually deliver on features, usability, and quality in the form of Amcrest. So far my experience with it has been far superior to my trials and tribulations with Foscam, but we shall see.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Foscam Firmware Update Bricks Camera, And They Don't Care

Foscam once again doesn't seem to respect consumers, nor understand the concept of quality control.

Typically when a company releases a a product to the public, it's been through some testing to ensure that the product is actually serviceable to the consumer. Sadly, in the case of the Foscam FI9821W, they have failed miserably.

Recently, Foscam released a firmware update, version Numerous FI9821W camera owners, myself included, have reported that the camera has been "bricked" following the upgrade. The upgrade begins, then an "Upgrade Failed" message appears, and thereafter nothing happens other than a steady, red LED beside the camera's ethernet port, and the camera is completely unusable.

A user on the Foscam forums, TheUberOverlord, has been shepherding a thread where he provides a solution which involves buying a specialized tool, cracking open the camera, then interfacing with the camera and overwriting its firmware. 


Firmware updates are frequently released for various electronic devices (including wireless IP cameras) in order to fix defects not initially addressed by the manufacturer. Usually, updating is a good thing, because it fixes something the manufacturer neglected to fix in the initial release, whether due to time or budget or other constraints.

Even if a camera is past its warranty coverage, there might be subsequent firmware updates to fix various issues. This was the case with the firmware update for the Foscam FI9821W. Of two FI9821W cameras I own, one of them successfully updated to the firmware, but the other experienced the aforementioned upgrade failure.

I contacted Foscam via email. This was their response.
Thank you for contacting the Foscam RA department. Unfortunately, we are not authorized to replace your FI9821W model as it is out of warranty. The FI9821W models have a one year warranty. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Out of warranty, eh? Despite the fact that Foscam released firmware for this out-of-warranty camera model, which turns out to be defective for many of these cameras, they refuse to take responsibility??


I strongly suggest avoiding Foscam until they get their priorities and quality control straightened out. They simply don't seem to care about their customers nor the quality of their products. 

#Foscam #ipcamera #homesecurity

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Foscam FI9821 Wireless Workaround

In my abortive attempt to review the Foscam FI9821, I mentioned the complete inability for the camera to find let alone connect to mine nor any wireless networks in my neighborhood. This precluded my ability (and desire) to review the camera any further.

Now, however, the camera sees and connects successfully to my wireless network. 

After my issues with the late Foscam FI9820 with its poor daytime image quality and anemic firmware, I already experienced RMA hell and didn't want to go through it again. Thus, being handy with electronics, I decided to try an off the wall suggestion found in Foscam's support forum.

Note that the following steps may VOID the manufacturer warranty.

1. Power off the FI9821 and disconnect all cables.

2. Remove the rubber feet on the underside of the camera, this should reveal a couple of screws. Remove them. There are also two screws located on the underside beneath one round laser QA label and another beneath a round paper label. Remove the labels and then the screws as well.

3. Carefully remove the bottom of the camera and follow the wire that runs from behind where the antenna screws in to the camera to a metal "post" on the circuitboard, similar to the one depicted here:

4. Remove the connector, then reconnect it, and as you do so wiggle it, just a little bit.

5. Reverse the steps above and reassemble the camera.

6. Connect the power and ethernet cables, and proceed to configure the camera to connect to your wireless network if you haven't already. Be sure to save the settings!

7. From the camera's web interface, on the Wireless Settings screen click the Scan button. Your wireless network should appear similarly as shown below:

8. Unplug the ethernet cable and wait a minute or so, then try browsing to the camera's IP address. With luck, the camera will have switched to wireless mode and you should then be connected wirelessly, at last!

Why does this work?? It could be due to insulation which is sometimes used to coat electronics, such as that used to coat thin wire that's used for coils. Perhaps in the manufacturing process, the post got sprayed with insulation by accident, leading to a poor connection with the antenna wire connector. Wiggling the connector around on the post may've scraped away any insulation, leading to a solid connection.

Regardless, releasing a $150+ camera so hurriedly with a problem like this, one that some simple quality assurance practices could've caught and fixed, is ridiculous. Although again I applaud Foscam for their responsive customer service and providing me with a free upgrade to the newest model of their camera, shame on them for not catching this frustrating little glitch!

I will review the camera in earnest in the near future, now that its wireless connectivity, a core feature in my eyes, is operational at last.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Foscam FI9821 Review

UPDATE: Hard to believe, but a tip on Foscam's support forum from some random user turned out to be more helpful than Foscam.

A user on the forums reported that they got their wireless functional by simply popping open the camera, and then adjusting the wire connected to the camera's antenna.

Lo and behold, upon opening up the camera (and surely voiding its warranty, but no matter at this point as far as I'm concerned) and then removing the wire from its little post, reattaching it, then grinding it around the post back and forth a few times, suddenly the camera is able to detect my wireless network!


Foscam should enclose instructions telling their users how to crack the camera open and do what their QA department should've done and ensure the connection between the antenna and their camera is solid.

Or, even better, Foscam should do this testing prior to selling a $150+ camera to its customers!


I am pleased to be able to review the recently released Foscam FI9821 IP camera.

Perhaps in part due to my rather frank review of their FI9820 model, Foscam has just recently premiered the FI9821, with similar capabilities as the FI9820 but, I hope, fewer outright bugs than the previous model.

To review, the Foscam FI9820 had the following disagreeable problems:
  • Poor daylight video quality.
  • Inability to connect to a wireless WPA2 network that uses a complex passphrase with any non-alphanumeric characters.
  • As reported by Foscam, no further firmware support that might resolve these and any future issues.

I must give credit to Foscam's tech support. Courteous and respectful to the last, even when I threatened to contact my bank to dispute the credit card transactions associated with my purchase of two FI9820 cameras, they fulfilled an RMA request and provided me with a FREE upgrade to two FI9821 cameras at no cost other than for shipping the old cameras to their Houston, Texas facility.

Now, on to the review of Foscam's newest camera.

The cameras each arrived carefully packaged via USPS Priority Mail. My first minor disappointment came in the form of the AC adapter, its cord is still a mere 3 feet in length, less than I'd like.

I plugged in the power and fired up the camera, then assuming it would utilize DHCP to acquire a network address from my home router, I scanned my network using the handy free utility, Advanced IP Scanner, to ascertain its IP address so I could point my browser to it and configure it. No joy, the MAC address of the camera didn't appear to be detected by the software.

I uncharacteristically decided to consult the manual, which instructed me to pop the included CD into my drive and run the IP Camera Tool utility to help detect the camera on my network. Upon doing so, the camera was indeed detected, but strangely its TCP port had been set to 88 at the factory rather than the industry-standard 80 for http traffic. 


I accessed the camera's interface, and promptly changed the port to the standard port 80. So far, so good.

Next I tried to configure the wireless network settings on the camera. The interface isn't terribly helpful, for one, it seems Foscam expects your wireless network's SSID to be broadcast rather than hidden. I prefer to keep my SSID hidden to minimize the chance some passerby might see it and gain access, but as was the case with the FI9820, this new model wants your SSID to be broadcast.

Despite setting my SSID to be broadcast, this camera seems to NOT want to connect to my wireless network. This as of the most recent firmware update.

I simply cannot review this camera any further until I'm able to connect it to my wireless network. I've contacted Foscam support, hopefully they'll address this issue sooner than later.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Foscam FI9820W Review

I recently purchased a pair of Foscam FI9820W wireless IP cameras to augment my existing pair of FI8918W ones.

Featuring 720p video resolution, H.264 video compression, pan and tilt capability, SD card support, and IR cut to help filter out distortion in the camera's daytime mode, wireless IP cameras like these are very handy because they can be placed anywhere within the reach of your wireless network and a household power outlet, and transmit images and even live video wirelessly. 

In addition, if a burglar happens to break in and swipe or disable the cameras themselves, there's a fair chance that before this happens, the camera will have gotten a nice face shot of the perpetrator discovering the camera, and then send it via email or FTP if configured to do so, for you to later submit to the police.

This newest, more expensive camera in Foscam's lineup unfortunately suffers some significant shortcomings. Compared to the more mature FI8918W model, the web interface is still disappointingly ugly and Internet Explorer-centric, utilizing an ActiveX control to render live video in a browser and a few hoops need to be jumped through to get the interface functional in a more mainstream browser like Firefox or Chrome.

As if that were bad enough, a serious security issue arises with the FI9820W's lack of full WPA / WPA2 passphrase support. If your wireless network happens to be protected with one of these security protocols and uses anything other than an alphanumeric passphrase, you'll have no choice but to compromise your wireless security by making your password simpler to accommodate this camera.

Although the picture quality is outstanding in the camera's grayscale night vision mode with all its H.264 sharpness, the daytime mode leaves much to be desired. Even in a well-lit room the image appears blurry and washed out in spite of the included IR cut feature.

Night vision engaged, the image is relatively sharp and clear.

Another downside, whereas with the FI8918W you could set up its motion detection to optionally take a variable number of snapshots, the FI9820W allows no more than a single snapshot per activation of the motion alarm. Add to that the fact that the camera shares the similarly short AC adapter cable as its predecessor, there isn't a lot to make this camera in its current form worth the higher cost.
Daytime, even with IR cut the image is disappointingly grainy and washed out.

To summarize...
  • High video resolution.
  • Sharp night vision.
  • SD card support.
  • Nonstandard WPA / WPA2 passphrase support.
  • Grainy, washed-out daytime video.
  • Internet Explorer centered, 1990s-era web interface.
  • Short AC adapter cable.

I contacted Foscam's U.S. based technical support about the camera's disappointing features and anemic firmware, who responded to my inquiry on the FI9820W's shortcomings:
"Your suggestions will forward to our R&D team, we'll try to fain [sic] these features in the future software. Highly appreciated your feedbacks. Thanks a lot."

Let's hope they will!