From supercars to smartphones, some tech is meant to be marveled at.
We can appreciate complex engineering and intricate designs that border on fine art. Other times, tech should simply do its job and get out of your way. The latter is the category that D-Link’s DCS-2530L Full HD Wi-Fi camera falls into. It is a product devoid of sex appeal, but bursting with oh-so-sweet practicality, including a built-in wall mount, night vision, motion detection, sound detection, and a 180-degree lens. For the most part, it even manages to stay out of your way – provided you survive the potentially frustrating setup process.
In a simpler time, a customer would buy a product, take it home, and just use it. If it was available for sale, it meant it was actually ready to be used as intended. In the age of the internet, things have changed. Day-one patches are common and some products are rushed to market with features disabled, leaving users to wait for a promised firmware update before they can use the product as advertised.
Having just tested the sublimely easy-to-use, HomeKit-enabled D-Link Omna 180, we found the setup process for the DCS-2530L to be a bit cumbersome. The app is easy enough to navigate and walks you through the steps, but the process is more involved than many other smart cameras. You will need to connect your phone to the camera’s Wi-Fi network in order connect the camera to your home Wi-Fi network. Other cameras automate this process, and with HomeKit on the Omna 180, you never have to enter a Wi-Fi password at all.
A built-in wall mount, night vision, motion detection, sound detection, and a 180-degree lens makes it highly practical.
However, since setup is usually a one-time thing, this isn’t really worth complaining about. Except, it wouldn’t be worth complaining about if it worked the first time we tried it. Unfortunately, our test camera did not power on properly when we first plugged it in. The flashing LED light we should have seen never came on, but the camera did broadcast a Wi-Fi signal that we were able to connect to. Despite that, the setup process continually failed.
We finally decided to track down a mechanical pencil so we could press the reset button on the back of the camera. They say 99 percent of tech support issues can be solved by resetting the device, and fortunately we were among the 99 percent here.
However, even with a freshly reset camera and a now-working LED light, the setup procedure still failed, with the iOS app telling us it was unable to locate the camera, despite having a direct Wi-Fi connection to it. Applying the same logic as above, we force-closed the app and re-launched it. Voila! Success!
But we weren’t out of the woods yet. The DCS-2530L can be used in two basic modes, local and remote. Local mode doesn’t require you to register the camera or create an account with D-Link, but you can only access the camera when you’re connected to your home Wi-Fi. Otherwise, local and remote modes offer essentially the same functionality – or at least, they’re supposed to.
We initially set the camera up for just local mode, believing this would suffice for our hands-on report. However, we were getting an enigmatic error when trying to save files to the MicroSD card (any manually triggered photos and videos are saved to your phone, while videos triggered by motion or sound are saved to the memory card). We tried formatting the card, but this caused the camera to not recognize it altogether. With another force-close/re-launch of the app, fortunately the card came back.
We correctly hypothesized that a firmware update was required, but it wasn’t immediately clear how to install such an update. We tried to create a Mydlink account to see if that would help, but the first three times we tried to sign up through the app, it timed out. On the fourth try, we got through, set up an account, and loaded up the camera in remote mode.
Lo and behold, we were greeted with a message advising us to update the camera’s firmware. A couple minutes later, the firmware was downloaded and installed. (We actually got an error message saying the install had failed, but after the camera automatically reset itself, it was successfully running the latest firmware. The reset ability is the hero of this story.)
With the new firmware loaded, the MicroSD card error vanished and we were finally able to record video. So while D-Link may say the camera can be used without an account, signing up for Mydlink is pretty necessary if you actually want to keep your device updated and be able to use it as intended. To be clear, Mydlink is totally free, and it includes the added benefit of being able to access your camera through a web portal, so we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
Actually using the darned thing
Once the camera turns on properly, and you’ve been able to create an account, and the firmware has been updated, the DCS-2530L finally gets out of your way and just works. You can easily set it up on a desk or table, or mount it to a wall with the included hardware. Its small size and wide lens make it easy for placement anywhere it has a clear view of any important areas – or an entire room. The camera is powered via a Mini USB port and draws just 4.5 watts of power.
Keep in mind, DCS-2530L is intended for indoor use only and is not weather sealed or battery powered.
While it isn’t a home security camera, the DCS-2530L fits the bill for a variety of home monitoring uses.
Night vision, motion detection, and sound detection all work well. Night vision can be toggled on and off manually, or left in auto-switching mode. By default, motion detection is set to a rather low 30-percent sensitivity, which failed to register us walking in front of the camera. Through trial and error, we landed on a setting of 60 percent, which captured our movement and didn’t set off any false positives. Users can also define the active area for motion detection, with the frame divided into 25 sectors that can be enabled in any combination by dragging a finger over them.
Sound detection can be set at a desired decibel level, with a nifty bar graph that displays the current level of ambient sound in the room. You can clap or shout to see spikes in the graph, which may help give you an idea of where to set the detection volume.
Strangely, while sound and motion detection can be set to automatically start recording video, both cannot be active at the same time. If motion-trigger recording is turned on, it will automatically turn off when you enable sound-trigger recording, and vice versa. We’re not sure why this is.
In addition to the ultra-wide lens, the camera can record up to Full HD resolution, with additional options for 720p and 480p that may help with bandwidth constraints when logging in remotely. Like other smart cameras, video quality isn’t exactly great, but it will suffice for keeping tabs on your kids, pets, or perhaps the occasional burglar (but this is not advertised as a security camera).
When it works, it works. We hope our messy setup process isn’t the norm for most users, because otherwise the DCS-2530L functions as advertised. We appreciate its small footprint, built in wall mount, and the enormous field of view, all of which make it easy to install just about anywhere.
If a true home security camera is what you’re after, then this isn’t it. It doesn’t offer any options for automatically turning on or off based on a schedule or your location. Furthermore, it has no option for cloud storage, nor is it compatible with D-Link’s networked video recorder (NVR) solutions.
At $150, the DCS-2530L is priced in the midrange of a very crowded market segment. It is just $50 shy of more full-featured security cameras like the Canary Flex (which offers, but also requires, cloud storage) and D-Link’s own Omna 180, which becomes increasingly useful the more HomeKit devices you own. However, if you like the idea of local storage, don’t mind manually switching on motion and sound detection when you need them, and want a camera that stands on its own without a hub, then the DCS-2530L fits the bill for a variety of home monitoring uses.
- Small footprint
- Ultra wide angle lens
- Motion and sound detection
- MicroSD card slot
- Potentially complex setup process
- Motion and sound recording can’t both be on at same time
- No cloud storage
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