Review - TOP-201 Super Mini 720P HD IP-Cam (The Cheapest IP Cam So Far !!)

Discussion in 'IP Cameras' started by lojix, Dec 13, 2014.

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  1. lojix

    lojix Getting the hang of it

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    This review has taken me a little while to put together, but it was inspired by another post in the forum Disguised/Hidden IP Camera Recommendations. While assisting the OP with a solution, I came across the TOP-201 Super Mini 720P HD IP-Cam at a well-known ‘free-shipping’, China shopping website (linked below).
    The main reason for doing this write up on a fairly no-name product is to provide an analysis of the quality of product that can be produced at such a ridiculously low cost. After the amazement that this kind of technology can now be produced with such little value, my initial thought was… What possible kind of IP camera can be offered to the low-end retail market at just over $20 USD?

    A year or so ago, I purchased 4x similar cams for a client’s office setup but they were not IP capable, AV only and can be seen here. They were in a similar casing and many of the cam specs were comparable. They came at a cost of about $50 AUD each and I remember being pleasantly surprised by the ‘cost V’s quality’. This was another reason that I got curious enough to find out how this TOP-201 IP version stacked up.

    * The TOP-201 - video capture at the bottom of the review.

    [​IMG]

    Features As Described By The Distributor

    • Ultra mini size, it's one of the smallest IP Camera’s.
      • I agree with this. There are many other smaller pin-hole cams, but none that I know of which are available to the low-end retail market are IP capable.


    [​IMG]


    • Advanced image sensor and great video quality.
      • Surprisingly good quality image. There is no noticeable jitter, no ghosting and remains fairly clear with hardly any pixel grain at all. There is not really a huge difference between the image quality of the 2x Foscam’s running alongside it and In fact, is better than the Wanscam which is also connected and can be seen in the attached images.
      • Image Sensor =1/4" Sony Super HAD CCD I cannot confirm the validity of this. Compared to other cams I have worked with, the image quality seems to be about right. There is nothing obvious in the image quality that identifies this as being false.
      • Shutter = 1/50(1/60)s - 1/10,000s I can only assume this to be correct.
      • Min. Illumination = Colour: 0.1Lux@(F1.2,AGC ON) – I have to admit that the TOP-201 works very well with low-level illumination. This cam has NO IR capability, so is obviously suited towards specific situations where that is not a requirement. However, in a very dimly lit room, the TOP-201’s image remains clear, doesn’t suffer increased noise, is well contrasted and keeps fairly vivid colour. This is also a good indication of the image sensor being at the quality of the Sony SHAD CCD.
      • Image Setting = Brightness and contrast adjustable via web browser and client – The OEM software and browser client both allow for various aspects of the image to be further optimized to your specific conditions. There are actually many image settings to tune, providing more flexibility than many other standard model IP cams. This is largely responsible to the choice of firmware/software chosen by the manufacturer. The cam uses a common DVR software, simply branded ‘H.264 DVR’ and many people who have worked with various DVR’s will have likely come across this software. Various functions that cannot be supported by the TOP-201 are simply greyed out and unavailable to configure.
      • Max. Image Resolution = 1280*720 (720P) – The Image 720P, when scaled up to 1280, it is not as crisp. As you can see from the recording taken from the stream, the image quality is decent.
      • Frame Rate = 50Hz:25fps (1280*720); 60Hz:30fps (1280*720) – In my live streams, I have 2x Foscam’s running at 2Mp, on average 10fps and at a bit rate of 160kBs. The TOP-201 is averaging 12fps and average bit rate of 60kBs. This equates to about 50% and correctly indicates that stated 1Mp. Without accounting for any up-scaling of the image which I suspect may have been done to talk up the cam’s specs a bit.

    [​IMG]



    • Advanced H.264 video, low bit rate with better image.
      • Video Compression = H.264 High Profile, JPEG snapshot
      • Bit Rate =100Kbps-6Mbps – In my live streams, I have 2x Foscam’s running at 2Mp, on average 10fps and at a bit rate of 160kBs. The TOP-201 is averaging 12fps and average bit rate of 60kBs. This equates to about 50% and correctly indicates that stated 1Mp. Without accounting for any up-scaling of the image which I suspect may have been done to talk up the cam’s specs a bit. I don’t think up to 6Mbs is correct.
    • Hassle free, plug and play.
      • The TOP-201 was easy to configure. Not quite “plug n’ play”, but definitely no more complicated than setting up most other IP cams. There is a ‘config tool’ which finds the device on the network after connection, which is excellent if you have a network like mine. I have 2 subnets across 2 routers and a switch with everything manually configured for security. No DHCP and IP’s bound to MAC’s, as well as double port forwarding for various services… So in my case, it makes things a bit easier by not having to temporarily change things just to connect an extra device, move it of DHCP and onto the correct IP/port range. However, the config tool on the supplied disc did not execute, as is the case with many of those cheap mini-disc’s (they are not burned correctly). It only took me 10 minutes or so and I tracked down a working version on the web (I am happy to save others the trouble and provide it for download upon request).

    [​IMG]


    • Multiple browser supported. Easy configuration.
      • The TOP-201 utilises UPnP, and it actually works (unlike many Foscam versions) making for a no fuss set up if you choose to have UPnP enabled on your network. The built-in browser client uses Apples, QuickTime. And runs from within IE, Firefox and Chrome. Although beware of compatibility issues that may be faced with different versions. I did no extensive testing across versions, but it would be a good point to note.
      • Storage = Network or Local storage – The TOP-201 will record to a location on the network of your choice. It runs more like a DVR than a traditional IP Cam, in that the built in client want’s access to a partition of its own to use and abuse. There is a ‘Local’ config and a ‘Remote’ config. Local is happy to just store in a folder of choice for on demand recording/snaps. Whereas Remote wants the more dedicated storage partition.
      • Intelligent Alarm = Motion detection, video loss, cable break, IP address conflicts – All the usual DVR type alarm functionality.
      • Basic = anti-flicker, dual-stream, heartbeat, password protection – Okay, I am unfamiliar with whatever “heartbeat” is, but it does have dual-stream and password protection.
      • Net Interface =One RJ45 10M/100M (Ethernet Cat5e min.)
      • Protocol = TCP/IP, HTTP, DHCP, DDNS – Pretty much what defines it as being an IP camera.
      • Power Supply = DC12V±10% – Note that the TOP-201 does not come with a power supply. These are usually in abundance in most device-riddled homes, just beware of the Amp output of the power supply as to high will make the cam run hot. I used a generic 12V 1A power supply and could probably swap it down to a 12V 0.5A.
    • Working Temperature = -20? - 60?
    • Size / Dimensions: 3.6cm x 3.6cm x 3.6cm - 1.42inch x 1.42inch x 1.42inch.


    [​IMG]



    Conclusion:

    Firstly, this is a camera was $20. It has a massive range in application and if you use a software NVR such as BlueIris, iSpy or Xeoma etc. you will find this cam will integrate into the mix fairly easily. As long as you have applied it to the right situation, it will work well and for the cost it is worth the risk on account the value of the technology has basically been made disposable. By the time it no longer serves it purpose for you, you will be ready to throw it away and replace it.

    The one negative I must note, is that the cable running out from the back of the cam was poorly finished, the connection itself is strong and bonded well. However as I have shown in the close images at the top, there is no protective rubber grommet secured onto the metal housing of the cam. For me, this is not a problem. There are dozens of ways to correct it, but it must be highlighted as it is clearly a poor quality control point. Some silicone bonding will easily take care of it though.

    I am happy with the cost V’s quality, and after analysis, I actually think the quality completely outweighs the cost. If you found this review interesting or helpful, please click the “Thanks” and “Like” the recording clip at the link.
    Please post any questions and I will do my best to answer them. I hope this Post is informative and has help others ...or at the least, has provided some interesting information.

    Go To The TOP-201



    [​IMG]

    (Sorry for the large res images, but I hate it when you want to see the detail of an item and the uploader has used useless images that don't help).
     

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    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 13, 2014
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  2. fenderman

    fenderman Staff Member

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    Great review, Thanks!
     
  3. Zxel

    Zxel Getting the hang of it

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    This looks like it came from Aliexpress, however, there is no link (no a picture does not qualify) to where you purchased this. Can you please provide a url for where you purchased this - thanks!
     
  4. fenderman

    fenderman Staff Member

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    Zxel likes this.
  5. Zxel

    Zxel Getting the hang of it

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    Thanks, I re-read that post multiple times and didn't cache that (I thought that was a "go to the top" link).

    This looks like it might make a good dog house camera (no that is not a joke - I have 8 dogs and want to spy on their activity in their dog houses).

    It would have been usefull in the review if it mentioned the sensitivity (and what wave leangth) of the camera to IR, even though it doesn't have IR's.
     
  6. hkim

    hkim n3wb

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  7. lojix

    lojix Getting the hang of it

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    Sorry I didn't make the link more obvious. I didn't want my review to come across as an advertisement for another website, that's all.

    Yes, it's a standard center positive connection.

    [​IMG]

    I also forgot to mention that the lens is changeable. It comes with a 3.6mm lens which is a good balance between width and length in the field of view. With the option to customize it to a more specific application if needed.
     

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  8. hkim

    hkim n3wb

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    Thanks!
     
  9. LittleBrother

    LittleBrother Getting the hang of it

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    Great review!

    The "infrared waterproof" on the box is hilarious. It's obviously not waterproof.

    For $20 this thing is producing an amazing image, and it's very small as well. I feel I must have one.

    Would it be possible to post a screen shot of its web server? I don't use any DVR products at all. My current hikvisions I manage directly on the cams. I assume this thing can send to an FTP location?

    Too bad it lacks POE. I wonder when a $20 cam like this will support that, then I'd truly have no excuse not to get it.
     
  10. lojix

    lojix Getting the hang of it

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    I know!! ...as soon as I saw it I laughed :laugh:

    I sure can ...and I will note that this image was taken in very low lighting. The light in this room is turned off, and only ambient light from my PC monitors and the next room is what illuminates the camera.

    [​IMG]

    Yes... I have not tested it, but I assume that it works fine. As you can see in the 'Net Services' menu below, there are some options such as 'WiFi' which are not applicable to the TOP-201, and just remain dormant (As the manufacturer has simply adapted this NVR software to work with the device).

    [​IMG]

    Another point I will mention (which is something that bugs me)... is the CMS client window is not scalable. It allows only 3 options - minimized / full screen / and half-size window. On a positive note, the web interface is good. All options / functions are accessible and it's actually more flexible than the CMS client. So it should would work well in your situation.

    True! ...Make sure you let us know if you come across one :friendly_wink:
     

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  11. LittleBrother

    LittleBrother Getting the hang of it

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  12. pal251

    pal251 Getting the hang of it

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    Looks like the same software as nellys ion nvr and empire security nvr. I'm going to order one and try it out. Looks pretty nice
     
  13. lojix

    lojix Getting the hang of it

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    I just saw it, It was in my email ! ...few extra dollars gets you the 'uber lens' :D

    [​IMG]
     

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  14. lojix

    lojix Getting the hang of it

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    This is the path I am using in BlueIris:

    RTSP on 554 - rtsp://IPADDRESS:554/user=[USERNAME]_password=[PASSWORD]_channel=1_stream=0.sdp?real_stream

    ...and the software disk comes with firmware on it, but I think you can understand my hesitation to play around with it. It's very poorly documented as well. I accepted the "implied" tech support opt-out for the price... but I am going to have a look into this now, thanks for the tip!
     
  15. RevCo

    RevCo n3wb

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    Hello everyone, I recently got the Top-201 ip cam you have listed above and have alot of experience with IP cam's in general but with this one I am at a loss. When I try to access the cam via its IP info on the back, the info is completely in chinese. Also, further research says I need some sort of active X running as well. My fear is that this unit has some sort of back door access to my network(sorry I'm abit paranoid). Could someone provide some facts/steps on how to access this unit before I put in the garbage please. I have managed to get working via Ispy but it crashes alot(assuming I'm not using the proper type of ip cam) tho I have spent countless hours just getting it to this point. Again, any assistance and references, as well as software links to access and change its internal settings would be awesome. Thank you in advance and happy holidays to all.

    RevCo
     
  16. lojix

    lojix Getting the hang of it

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    Sorry to here you have had some trouble getting it up and running, your experience with it is quite different from mine. I hope I can be of some assistance and change the situation for you.

    In the files I received with the device, there was both Chinese and English. The Chinese documentation understandably seems to be a lot more thorough than the English translation. The English translation is pretty much what I would expect, it's a good attempt but poorly done.

    I have uploaded the 'striped' (Software and English only files) for you and anybody else who may want them. I have also included the 'Cam Config Tool' which I had to source separately as the included version did not execute for me. See the link below.

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-cxAbQ6UqEjR3dJb2dVaXFwVkU/view?usp=sharing

    I have not needed ActiveX to use the camera. There are various other methods to connect to it (some of which I have covered). I can connect to it through Google Chrome and Firefox using Java and the Apple Quicktime plug-in. The included CMS connects with almost plug n' play ease... and I can can assure you, with how tight my network and PC security is, it would have to be some really advanced malware bundled in there to get past me. I'm not saying that it's impossible, just that it's highly improbable. I honestly do not believe that would be a problem for you.

    I really think I have covered a fair bit about this cam, including the RSTP path in one of my comments (which may have saved you a bit of the time spent on iSpy). However if there is something specific you would like me to clarify further or any other information I can help out with, I am happy to answer what I can :)
     
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  17. gonzo here

    gonzo here n3wb

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    Hi everyone new to the board here, and I must start out by saying A very big thank you to you all .A little background,i am from the states and i wanted to get my feet wet with cctv.So i went straight to ebay and found this cam.I've doing some research and home work,and really have learned so much,But i must sat that is very easy to get bogged down in information when you are dealing with the networking side.Quite daunting and frankly can be frustrating with so many acronyms,protocols,and just outright data.You guys have my respect for offering out the info the way you do.Any who I loved lojix's review from that review alone i got the nuts and bolts for this camera and followed his link for the software (of course my disc came cracked) and it worked beautifully.thank you sir.
    Now to my problem i downloaded ispy.and as per overlords link i tried to get my cam up and running,well by using the wizard it gave me over 500 possibilities and my day was long enough just getting to that point,I know i took a wrong turn somewhere.If any one could help I would truly appreciate it
    As a side note I can't tell you guys how fun I had with something that was so inexpensive,And i was sure wasn't going to work,and how proud of myself i am (please don't mistake this as my being arrogant ) for having gotten this far.So from this side of the world I'll pat you guys on the back,And thank you kindly
     
  18. gonzo here

    gonzo here n3wb

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  19. pal251

    pal251 Getting the hang of it

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    I ordered one of these caneras off ebay for 24 bucks from a us place. Eager to see how well it works
     
  20. lojix

    lojix Getting the hang of it

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    Hi gonzo here,
    Great introduction, I think you are among good company here and I for one think that it's great that you have taken an interest in IP Cams. I'm sure if anybody can answer any questions you might have, they would be happy to do so.

    The amount of information that you are faced with when first working with IP cams can be daunting, especially for somebody who has little or no experience with networking protocols and devices. So it can be a lot to take in at first and yes, there are more acronyms than I'd like to remember :D but they do become familiar. Be persistent, ask questions and read all the great information that others have taken the time to produce.
     
  21. lojix

    lojix Getting the hang of it

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    :encouragement: Share your thoughts once you have received it
     
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  22. gonzo here

    gonzo here n3wb

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    Hello guy's thanks for the hospitality,you guys are proving to be a helpful bunch.as to my connection problems I stiil have them
    But as I am looking at the software config .(which by the way is turning out to be not so bad considering it was only 25.00) I'm noticing under remote access it has a port called media port which by default is 34567 and http port is 1025 which is my forwarded port on my router.Now my question,is this media port also called rtsp port?which by lojiks posting should be 554 and is that http port my forwarded port or I my just as lost as when I first started?please help.thank you
     
  23. phebous

    phebous n3wb

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    Alright, I will pipe into this conversation. First is a thanks to LoJix for posting the files! You saved me some time from tracking down the CD. It also validated that it is the same cameras that I have received.


    Here are the camera's I have purchased and installed.
    http://www.aliexpress.com/snapshot/6269915891.html?orderId=64037426733417
    http://www.aliexpress.com/snapshot/6269915893.html?orderId=64037426723417

    My assessment of the advertisement of these cameras is that they are not accurate. It says it support ONVIF, I have not seen any sign of support. From what I see from these camera, it provides access via their Active-X control, that I wish I had more documentation. Blue Iris does support them under various different brand names. I have not found any "name" on my camera. They are all the same camera systems. You can find the raw boards also on AliExpress. The only difference is the plastic which is placed around them and the lens attached.


    With regards setting these cameras up, you can select any camera with a 34567 port in it's name. I am currently using "IPC H.264 Port 34567". I have tried various other ones but they all work about the same.

    My assessment on security is marginal. I notice that there are several ports open. They are port 23, 80, 554, 34567. Now I have not done an extensive port scan on these cameras. Port 23 is used for Telnet. Port 80 is HTTP. Port 554 is supposed to be RTSP but I have yet to get any data out of it. Port 34567 is the port that pulls the images and sound (if enabled). Although I don't have a login for the Telnet, I will continue probing that port for further hacking. It appears to be a Linux derivative but this is unverified at this time. This is the output:

    telnet 192.168.0.23
    Trying 192.168.0.23...
    Connected to 192.168.0.23.
    Escape character is '^]'.
    LocalHost login:


    Regards,

    Phebous...

    Edit: "Port 554 is supposed to be RTSP but I have yet to get any data out of it." - I have now been able to get both audio and video out of this port via VLC. In the Settings-> System -> NetService, there is an option for RTSP. This needs to be enabled. Now I have my data.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 28, 2014
  24. Jargo

    Jargo n3wb

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    Hello all. I'm a noob here and having difficulty setting up this TOP-201 IP camera. I have plenty of PC hardware and software experience, not much with networking and IP cameras.

    I have spent too much time on this and I would like to ask a few simple questions. I have tried to set up the camera via a router and directly to the ethernet port with no success.

    The CMS software provided with the camera detects it via the "IP Search" , but doesn't detect camera when I click "Add Device" says "Cann't Find Device" (see pics)
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    When plugged directly into PC's Ethernet Connector and I run "ipconfig" i get a different IPv4 address being "169.254.121.193" and the Default of the camera is "192.168.1.10" ????

    So.....
    1. Does this Camera have a browser interface to access at all like others I have seen on Youtube etc?
    2. Could this unit be faulty or "Am I doing it Wrong" :)
    3. Is there a simple test to see if the unit is functional?

    Thanks Lojix for your very detailed review and I am pretty impressed with the quality of the cam vision you provided, only if i can get it to work......

    * Using 12v 1A Power Adapter
    * No AV or Firewall active
    * Running Windows 7
    * Can ping 169.254.121.193 but fails on default 192.168.1.10

    Thanks to all for providing information here....
     

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  25. phebous

    phebous n3wb

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    I hate when I ask questions but fail to get answer so I will answer them first and then go into the logic of these camera.

    1) Yes, these camera have a web interface to them. They would be accessible via the port 80 with a standard web browser, but you will need to clear some hurdles before this would be true.

    2) Anything is possible but in this case, I think that you are doing something wrong.

    3) The simple test would be plugging in an Ethernet cable. Does a link light come on? If so, it passes the most basic test. What it appears is that you need to setup these cameras with an IP address that is compatible with your network. I will break it down for you now.


    These camera come with a default IP address of 192.168.1.10. You will have two choices with change the IP address. After this point, you will be able to access them via the web browser.

    Your two choices to solve this problem would be

    1) change the IP address of your computer to be on the 192.168.1.X network

    or

    2) Use the utility provided on with the camera to change the camera from 192.168.1.10 to an IP address on your computer's network.


    Only after you have completed either of these two options would you be able to access these camera via a web browser. When I first got these camera, I opted for option number 1. I have later found out that option number 2 is the easier route. This is why I posted a Thank you to LoJix for posting the files from the cdrom.

    It appears that the CMS software also embeds the Device Manager software. This is evident with the screen shot of

    [​IMG]

    This is very similar to the Device Manager software screen. More than likely, the reason you are getting the message "Can't get the device" message is because the software is trying to make an TCP/IP connection to the camera but it (your computer and the camera) is on the a different network. Try high lighting/clicking on the camera and then try clicking on Edit Device. This should produce a dialog box for you to change the IP address. Change it to a free IP address on your network and plug it into your network (and not just your Ethernet port on your computer). At this time, you should be able to ping it after you plug it into the real network and not just a spare Ethernet port on your laptop (just an assumption).


    If you have a DHCP server running on your network, you can change the configuration of the camera to use DHCP. More than likely you don't, since your computer is responding to the ping to 169.254.121.193 address. This address is the default DHCP address for an IP less device to broadcast to the DHCP server. This could be just your computer responding to your ping and not even the camera. The camera is currently on 192.168.1.10 as your software clearly states. These cameras come from the Chinese factory with a static IP address of 192.168.1.10.

    After you figure out the solution configuring the camera to be on the correct network, you will be able to ping and reference it via the web browser. I could babble on for hours about guessing what you need to do, but it will create additional confusion for you. They solution to your problem is simple, get the camera to operate on your network.
     
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  26. Jargo

    Jargo n3wb

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    Thanks phebous for your quick reply. I have it working!!!!
    [​IMG]

    ATM it's connected and working through the modem/router. Before I posted my question I was trying to connect by both direct Ethernet Port and Router with no success. For testing purposes I thought I could access the user interface via a web browser with direct ethernet connection only by using the default 192.168.1.10 address, but it didn't work.. as I was hoping to use this directly from the ethernet port.
    Anyway, now to repair the poor cable connection and start tweaking some settings.

    Thanks again phebous for your help and Lojix for starting this thread as I can assume many have gained invaluable help from it.
     

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  27. alastairstevenson

    alastairstevenson Known around here

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    Well, mine arrived yesterday, and today I had a chance to try it out.
    It's actually not bad at all - certainly good value for the money - though I'm not sure what I'll be doing with it, the purchase was just an impulse, for fun.
    This is the one I bought - with the varifocal lens. That's probably what attracted me to buying it.
    http://www.aliexpress.com/item/1280...-8-12mm-manual-varifocal-zoom/2019281843.html
    When accessing the web interface at the defaut IP address of 192.168.1.10 with IE11, I got video - but menu text was just lots of ??? with no language choices in the drop-down on the login page - but more of that later. Chrome wasn't a lot better - english but only a couple of menus available - device info and log out. No configs.
    ONVIF Device Manager (sourceforge.net - really handy tool) was very happy to talk to it. So ONVIF compatibility looks good. And it gives the stream URI for VLC (which plays the video absolutely fine) and the ONVIF port (8899) for connecting to my Hikvision NVR or QNAP Surveillance Station.
    The camera connnected with no problems at all using ONVIF model choice on my Hikvision DS-7816N-E2/8P NVR, and gave the expected camera settings choices.
    I used VLC to check out the extremes of the varifocal lens (2.8-12mm claimed) and that worked pretty well. The video quality is as good as you'd expect from a mass-produced 720p camera module in a metal box - it's not bad at all. The focus position on the varifocal lens is very sensitive - not helped by the lag due to buffering in the video. Does need a delicate touch ... And there is a noticeable depth of focus, but it's pretty uniform.
    Here are a couple of sample stills, snapshots from VLC.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    When going back to IE and checking out the menus - I had a look at the big javascript that comprises most of the interface - and could see that in theory there was multiple language and browser support.
    Which led me to specifying in IE11 'compatibility mode' for the camera IP address, and suddenly multiple languages were available, and all menus were fully accessible.
    Now I just need to figure what to use it for lol!
     

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  28. msantic

    msantic n3wb

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    Looks like great value for low price.

    I am waiting for mine :))

    Thank you for samples and info.
     
  29. lojix

    lojix Getting the hang of it

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    I'm glad to see the feedback is generally all on a positive note. The pro's and con's seem to be pretty well agreed on so far, thanks to all for the input !

    I Just caught up on the recent posts and it's great to see that you got it up and running :encouragement:

    Thanks for stepping up with the assistance, much appreciated.
     
  30. bigoreilles

    bigoreilles n3wb

    Joined:
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    Hello.
    I write from France and use Blue Iris from start of 2014 with 6 foscam cameras compatibles.
    (sorry for my English).
    I bought a TOP-201 from aliexpress and works fine with CMS and under IE.
    I would like to insert it in Blue Iris and test with a lot of parameters but I can't have picture (still No Signal).
    Somebody can tell me parameters in Blue Iris to run Top-201 Camera ?
    Thank you again.
    David
    [​IMG]
     

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