[UPDATE: We can no longer recommend this camera due to problems with the camera’s account management and a lack of response from customer support] Cameras are a big deal nowadays. We’ve got phone cams, cameras for security, dashcams for the car, action cams for the sporty types, spy cams… and the list goes on. Everyone needs a camera. Now an interesting new product from a major player in the camera arena has hit the shelves and it’s really offering something quite innovative.
The FLIR FX is not just one camera, but a whole stable of cameras rolled into a single unit. Depending on how you mount it, it can act as an outdoor CCTV type security camera, an indoor home WiFi security cam, a sports action cam and a dash mount camera for your car or even your bicycle. We’ve never seen such a versatile beast before.
The product comes in a fairly hefty box, and contains a bunch of accessories to get you going. You can actually buy the camera in any of the various configurations, but the one we tested was the standard home indoor security model, which is probably going to be the most popular. Inside the box you get the camera and a swivel stand, along with a very long USB power cable, a power block, battery and user guide.
Setup of the indoor model is fairly straightforward. You can run the camera straight out of the box as a standalone camera which you can use as it is, anywhere you want. Or you can connect it to the swivel stand, download the free phone or tablet app and set it up properly as a cloud connected security cam. One of the things we like about the FLIR FX is the fact that it’s not just a cloud camera, you can also switch it over to be a local camera, at which point it saves footage to the on-board microSD card. Nice to have options. Check out the video below for our overview of the product and some test footage.
We found set up to be OK, better than most, but definitely not as seamlessly easy as the Piper unit we tested a while back. We got lost in the set up once or twice, and had to restart the whole process, but in the end we managed to get the app and camera paired up OK via the WiFi. It’s something the company really should work on a bit more.
A lot of the cleverness of the camera kit comes from the little sensors on the connectors which tell the camera which mode it’s supposed to be in. So for instance if you add it to the security housing optional extra, then the on-board infra-red lamps turn off and the longer range bulbs on the housing are activated, giving you a longer night time range. We weren’t that impressed with the onboard IR lamps, but then we discovered they’re switched off by default (presumably to save battery) which explained it. It really pays to explore the app before you start using the camera, to set things up properly!
It’s the software, stupid
The camera and app also come with a set of rather cool features which we’ve not seen on any other camera of this type. The first is called RapidRecap, which lets you see a huge amount of activity on review in a short space of time. It does this by using some big computer crunching code on the cloud to cram together a day’s worth of footage in a few seconds. It’s very cool and something that more camera makers should try.
As you can see from the video above, it’s most useful for tracking who’s doing what in small numbers, any more than a few objects or people and the whole thing gets a little more difficult to decipher. But it’s a nice touch, designed to make it easier to scan a day’s worth of video in a single clip.
The other feature is something called SmartZone motion alerts. This means you can set up specific areas of the scene to trigger motion alerts, rather than having the whole scene ‘live’. This is great for setting up a camera looking out of your house and only triggering alerts when someone comes up your driveway, rather than triggering for passers-by on the sidewalk. Again you’ll need to use the cloud service to take advantage of this feature.
If there’s one thing the FLIR FX excels at it’s picture quality. We slotted it into the optional bicycle mount and used it to take some footage out and about in town, and the results were superb (as you’ll see in our test overview video above). The resolution was top notch, and we even captured a faint amount of audio from within the sealed and waterproof mounting. This is the same case you use for the action cam mode, so it’s a testament to the camera that the resolution is this good.
Producing something different in the camera market at the moment is not easy. There are a lot of cheap cams, and expensive ones too, which deliver a very basic functionality, with or without apps. So it’s nice to find something that clearly focuses on delivering value over and above just adding a lens and a memory card.
The fact that the camera is so versatile with the different mounts is also a huge plus, although we’re a little worried about the battery standby life on the product, at times it seems to be rather too short for comfort. We also experienced a couple of connection problems which we feel are just teething problems with the rather ambitious app software. We’re also not sure how many people are going to be able to use the camera features to their fullest (e.g. things like humidity and temperature monitoring) when there are so many other options for the camera. Could the product end up suffering a little from feature overkill?
But at the end of the day, this is a really innovative product, and it’s easy to forgive the glitches when you take into consideration its abilities. Sure you can’t remotely control the swivel mount, and it lacks the fabulous ease of use of something like the Piper, but then again, you can’t take the Piper out with you in your car with full dashcam functionality. This is a very clever product, and while we feel most people will barely scratch the surface of its feature set, it’s definitely a great first consumer camera from the FLIR organization.
Price: $199.99 (optional extras from $49.99)
FOUR-HOUR BATTERY (with indoor mount, 2 hours camera only)
1080P ONBOARD RECORDING (with included SD card)
NIGHT VISION UP TO 65 FT (20M) (with outdoor mount)
DIRECT WIFI CONNECTION (up to 500 ft)
HDR VIDEO AND STILLS
SUPER WIDE 160° LENS (with dewarpping)
QUALITY 2-WAY AUDIO
STREAM LIVE SECURE VIDEO
WATERPROOF SPORTS CASE FOR ACTION CAM MODE
DASH CAM MOUNT FOR CAR USE
FREE CLOUD BASIC SERVICE – 3 x RapidRecap Reviews a Month, 48 hour event storage
OPTIONAL SUBSCRIPTION CLOUD SERVICE