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Features

The DCS-942L has four IR LEDs, which give it 5 M of night illumination distance according to D-Link's specs. I'll be testing this later in the In Use section. Live Video viewing has digital zoom options of 1x, 2x, and 4x, with the amount of pixelation increasing in relation to the amount of digital zoom. Video codecs supported are H.264, MPEG-4, MJPEG at resolutions of 640x480, 320x240 and 160x120, all at 30 fps. JPEG is used for still images.

In my testing with the Blue Iris Video Security software ($29.95 for one camera or $49.95 unlimited), the 942L held very consistently to its advertised framerate of 30 fps. My other IP cameras often drop down to 6-10 fps, when they supposedly support 15 fps. The higher framerate can often provide more detail when motion detection is activated.

Within the camera's firmware version 1.01 admin interface, there are several useful features and many image settings that are highlighted in the gallery below. If you chose to do router port opening either due to lack of uPnP on your router, the camera firmware offers D-Link's free DDNS service at www.dlinkddns.com to keep the internet host name consistent. To use this, you will need to open two ports on your router, one for HTTP, typically port 80 and the other for RTSP, for streaming using QuickTime or mobile devices.

Motion detection settings are available in the camera's web admin interface (Figure 8). You can restrict motion detection to only certain areas of the camera's field of view. Sensitivity can also be adjusted from 0% to 100%, which simply means the percentage of change from one picture to the next to trigger motion. Passive infrared (PIR) can be used to detect motion. This simply means that an object enters the field that the sensor has determined to be normal.

Setting the motion detection area

Figure 8: Setting the motion detection area

Traditionally, I've found the motion detection in IP cameras a little quirky to use and the DCS-942L was no exception. While using the passive infrared option for motion detection, the Motion Trigger Indicator was lit 100% of the time, no matter what sensitivity I used!

With passive infrared off, settings were a bit more reasonable and I was able to set sensitivity to about what I thought was right. I should note this was simply by trial and error. There is no indicator on the motion detection page that allows you to see thresholds are met, which would have been nice to have.

As an example of what D-Link should have provided, look at Figure 9, which is Synology's Surveillance Station interface. Detection sensitivity and threshold can be set, with the graph on the left of the image illuminating as motion is detected. Motion by Surveillance Station can be monitored as it happens and set accordingly when the threshold trips your specified level, in this case filtering out movement of the ceiling fan.

Synology Surveillance Station image showing realtime feedback of motion detection parameters
Figure 9: Synology Surveillance Station image showing realtime feedback of motion detection parameters

I had the admin interface set to email me a video clip if motion was detected. As Tim pointed out in his mydlink.com cloud review, the email options seemed awkward for a camera connected to the cloud. Rather than using a D-Link email server, I was required to enter my own. I used the same settings that I use for my Synology NAS and many monitoring scripts, but never received a motion detected email.

You may notice that a "Test Email" option is also curiously missing. Once email settings are entered, there is really no way I found to test it. I simply waited for motion, checked my email, found nothing, changed settings, rinse, repeat.. I never could get it to work. I did try FTP and recording to a local SD card and both worked well. FTP was also missing a "Test connection" function, leaving you to wonder if it could communicate with your FTP server.

D-Link DCS-942L email options, no cloud-based email server, and no test function
Figure 10: D-Link DCS-942L email options, no cloud-based email server, and no test function

If you are serious about using the camera for motion detection, my recommendation is to skip this camera's (or most IP cameras) motion detection functions. Instead, invest in a dedicated video security software such as Blue Iris ($29.95 for one camera or $49.95 unlimited) or the network camera support available with many NASes such as those from Synology and QNAP. This will give you more consistent options and a richer feature set.

Among the options for alternative IP camera software is D-Link's own D-ViewCam software. Although this comes on the installation CD, it doesn't install by default, it's not in the Quick Install Guide and even the manual has only a short paragraph on it in the introduction. I spent only a brief time with it after it took me 10 mins to even find where to add the camera and got frustrated with it.

Jim Buzbee has a few more comments about D-View Cam over in his DCS-930L review. Granted that D-ViewCam is free, but it pales in comparison to Blue Iris and other options available.

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