Why the webcam?
Many people running weather stations also run web cams to provide an outside view. So runs my introduction to the Foscam FI8918W but that proved unsuitable for my needs being an indoor camera and operation through the windows gave unsatisfactory results.
Next up was an unbranded wireless dome IP camera which I attempted to weatherproof although whether or not that weatherproofing would have worked I’ll never know as I stupidly bricked it by installing what turned out to be the wrong firmware and was unable to recover from that. I did intend to use the housing for this camera with different innards and to that end I dug out an old O’Rite IP camera I’d had ages ago but that was a bit too large. I spotted a dirt cheap USB webcam and bought one with the intention of waterproofing it and using that.
Cheap USB webcam
This looked like it would tick all the boxes – it was tiny and would mount easily inside the old dome, it had a wide angle lens, the quality looked plenty good enough for a weathercam. Before going to a lot of effort though I fortunately gave it a quick try outside. The Foscam camera interface has three settings – two indoor ones 50Hz and 60Hz for reducing flicker from electric lighting and Outside. If you try to use one outdoors without setting it to Outside it will just white out. That is exactly what this USB camera did and I had no means to tweak the auto exposure through the drivers so it was useless as a weathercam.
Undaunted my next camera was a Foscam FI8905W wireless IP camera. This is an excellent camera for the money but not ideally suited to weather camera use as it has a longer focal length lens than the other cameras I’d tried and so gives a rather narrow field of view. At the time of writing this I am undecided whether or not to continue to use this as a secondary weathercam.
Fourth Time Lucky?
I recently bought a USB video capture device so I could convert some old home VHS camcoder tapes to digital while I still can – i.e. before they disintegrate and the VHS player which has lived in a box in the loft for years fails. I picked a model that would run on Windows 7 and was impressed with the quality given it cost less than £8 delivered from an eBay seller.
Did I speak too soon?
Well a few months down the line and this unit failed. Initially there were problems with it being recognised and then it I just got Windows messages saying it had malfunctioned. I toyed with the idea of buying a CCTV DVR which would suppport multiple cameras but they start at £70 and I’m not at all sure if each individual camera can be viewed at the same time other than in a quad display so I decided against it. USB EzCap devices can be had for less then £4 delivered from China on eBay now but I chose to pay a UK seller with good feedback £6.99 for my second one. I guess I’ll find out if I was just unlucky or if they are substandard tat soon enough.
USB video capture dongle
A brief aside. I often receive emails from companies (incorrectly) assuming DigitalHam is selling equipment and the manufacturer of this video capture device somehow found this page and contacted me. As I reckon their device is an absolute bargain and works well for me I’ll give them a mention here…
It is an EzCap168 USB 2.0 Video Grabber with Audio manufactured by
Forward Video Co., Limited
Meihua Road 207#,
The capture device allows me now to try a much cheaper at £26 delivered dome CCTV camera. I think this one finally cuts the mustard. The casing and mounting are metal and it is advertised as waterproof to IP66. It has a wide angle lens, some IR LEDS which for my needs are irrelevant, and as it is essentially just a ball the cup type housing can be mounted just about anywhere and you can still get an upright picture with no need to re-orient the CCD to allow wall mounting as I had to with the other dome. Unlike most cheap consumer kit it actually looks like a quality item (so much so I won’t be watching the next Crime Watch in case they are featured).
Weatherproof Dome CCTV camera
You can judge the results on my Cumulus display page which now shows the weather camera as well as the WH1090 weather station data gathered by the Cumulus weather station software. I was using the Yawcam freeware program to act as a server for the images but have moved on to WebcamXP after some problems maintaining 24×7 running with Yawcam.
It has taken a long long while to get there but I’m now quite satisfied with the results which this camera give. Hopefully if you are planning your own weathercam you can learn from my mistakes and get there a lot quicker and more cheaply than I did. That said I have no real regrets – if everything was completely straightforward all hobbies would be tedious indeed.
If you don’t care where you are then you ain’t lost.