Much to my surprise, it seems that China based Xiaomi don't only make attractive, low cost phones with high end specs, they also make decent looking IP cameras (among other things!). I was recently on the lookout for a couple of cheap cameras so that I can see what's happening around the house whilst I'm out. Whilst browsing the EU warehouse at GearBest I found stumbled across these for £20/$30 for the top of the range model (they do a model that looks identical but without the night vision) so I thought I'd take a punt.

The Hardware

The camera came in a very neat little package with a set of what I can only assume are instructions in Chinese, a white 2m micro USB cable and a mains charger (US style sadly). The camera is mounted on a rubber base that can be rotated forwards and backwards about 180° and will hold the camera at what ever angle you try without tipping (I guess you could also wall mount it with some adhesive if you wish). Moving onto the camera itself, it includes a microSD slot for recording video (only when motion is detected), 8 IR LEDs for night vision and a 1280x720 F2.0 111° glass wide angle lens. A nice touch is that the black lens and main part of the camera rotates in the white casing so you can adjust the angle if needed.

The App

When it comes to the app, I had a couple of issues trying to get my cameras to add to my account and share between my devices (but this may have just been me). First of all, there are links dotted over the internet that tell you to get your app from this website. Now, the problem is when I go through that website I get taken to the Play Store listing for the app. This version of the app doesn't seem to want to play nicely with another version I have (forget where it's from now but I have uploaded it here for all to download) so I couldn't share my cameras between different devices. The version I uploaded let me share my cameras between different android devices.

Once registered and signed into the app you can begin adding your cameras to your account. To do this, click the plus in the top right corner of the app. I found the QR config the simplest option for adding a new camera - simply enter your WiFi settings and hold the QR code up in front of the camera. Piece of cake eh!? You will then be presented with a list of all of your cameras. From here you can view each camera in real time. You can add PIN protection to cameras if you don't want anyone to be able to grab your phone and look at the cams. If you have recording enabled and a microSD card installed you will be able to tap the camera view to show a timeline which will let you rewind to points in time where motion was detected. You also have an Activity Alerts tab in the app where you can get a summarised view of detected motion in short, 6 second clips.

Hacking

The original version of the camera came equipped with a firmware that allowed access to the camera via RTSP - this however has since been removed in a later version. Luckily, there appears to have been some work done to re-enable RTSP through the use of a script that can be loaded onto the microSD card. Head over to this page and grab an RTSP enable script that matches your version number. If like me you find there isn't a script for your version of the firmware it is possible one of the older versions will work. My cameras are currently on the 1.8.5.1N release but I modified the 'M' release and is working as expected. The changes I made to the equip_test.sh file are as follows;

Line 7: 

my_tz=GMT+7

becomes (for UK timezone)

my_tz=GMT+0

And line 37:

M) file='M'

becomes

M|N) file='M'

Once you have made those changes, copy the entire test directory onto the cameras microSD card. Now, before you put the microSD card back into the camera, power up the camera and push and hold the reset button on the back of the camera for a couple of seconds until the light on the front turns orange. You then may hear some Chinese speach. You can now unplug the camera and insert the microSD card before plugging it back in.

Once you turn the camera on, you will likely hear some Chinese again. All you need to do is wait until the light on the front begins flashing orange.  You can now use the QR config option from the app on your mobile device to get the camera onto your WiFi network. Once the QR code has been scanned by the camera the light will start flashing blue. Once the light becomes a solid blue, the camera will be configured and you can continue the setup from the app. 

If you have applied the RTSP script, you should now be able to access the camera using software such as iSpy or VLC using the following addresses (replacing the x.x.x.x with the IP address of your camera);

  • Main stream: rtsp://x.x.x.x:554/ch0_0.h264
  • Minor stream: rtsp://x.x.x.x:554/ch0_1.h264
  • Audio stream: rtsp://x.x.x.x:554/ch0_3.h264

In order to find the IP addresses of you camera, you will either need to look on your DHCP server or on your router for a device with a name similar to 'ANTSCAM-0000-...'.

Should I Buy?

All in all, its a nice bit of kit and for the price you can't really go wrong. It would be ideal if RTSP streams were baked into the current firmware and the last bits of Chinese were removed from the app but for £20, its a steal!