Zmodo Pivot – 360° Rotating Camera and Smart Home Hub ★★★½
I like that this camera has the ability to rotate, a step above several other motion recording cameras I have tested, but it comes with some disadvantages as well. For instance, when rotating, there is a loud motorized whine that accompanies it. Not quiet or stealthy at all. The Levana Astra baby cam I have, for instance, while not a recording device, is much quieter when moving. Not only that, but the Levana Astra can move up and down as well as side to side, where the Zmodo Pivot is limited to only a vertical rotation. Granted, it is a rotation that goes fully around, but unless you place it in the center of a room, that is less useful.
That said, the Zmodo Pivot captures a much larger area of the room, making a need for vertical adjusting less necessary. If you are familiar with photography, you may have heard of a fisheye lens. This is basically an ultra wide-angle lens that creates a panoramic or hemispherical image, sort of like looking through a bubble. If you watch NFL Football you will often see aerial shots of the stadium like this. The great thing about a fisheye lens is that you can fit a large visual area into a small space. I was able to view three walls in a room (even a large room) with the camera placed in the corner of the fourth wall. Many portable cameras are limited to two walls at best. The negative of this is that it comes with some distortion, especially on the sides of the camera, which look almost rounded. (There were some shots where I looked like someone walking past those funny-mirrors at a carnival.) But I think Zmodo made the right decision here, prioritizing visibility over a perfect image. Plus they minimize the intensity of the distortion fairly well, which isn’t nearly as intense as a true fisheye lens on a DSLR camera.
The temperature monitor is an interesting feature; provides an average temp of the room for the current day and/or month. Humidity is also recorded, which can help if you are worried about overly moist or dry conditions.
Having internal storage is a nice feature too. Some competitor cameras, such as the Logi Circle, rely on an internet connecting with cloud storage. Having internal offline memory is a big plus. 16GB isn’t too bad — it’s the standard internal storage of most smartphones — but video files can add up quickly, especially if using HD resolution. I would have liked to see a micro SD card slot on the camera to allow added storage, but Zmodo did not include this feature. Oddly enough, the app I download previously showed an option to use my phone’s external SD card, but that seems to have gone away with the update. (Which is just as well since the app wasn’t able to detect my phone’s SD card anyway.) There is an option in the app for using cloud storage, but as of this review [03/17/16], Zmodo doesn’t appear to have this service available. Which means the subscription fees for such service are unknown as well. You can record live video or take photo snapshots using the app, but there is no way to have it record automatically to your phone by detected motion.
I do like that — in the app — the device storage history is laid out using a traditional calendar, so selecting a previous day with recorded video is a breeze.
Speaking of the app, I found it to be a bit buggy at times. That said, I was glad to be able to view the camera using two different phones at the same time. This is handy if you have a spouse checking on it the same time you are. The only problem comes when both of you are trying to rotate it; ends in a tug of war battle.
As far as I can tell, there is no on / off button on the camera. What I thought was turning it off — by holding the button down at the top for several seconds — was actually a reset. Meaning, I had to go into the app and add the camera as a new device again. There isn’t even a way to shut if off in the app (unless you count setting a schedule beforehand). The only way I found is by unplugging it from the wall. There are times where — in a private home, ehem — a camera isn’t best left running. It would have been nice to have a more “official” way of shutting it temporarily off.
At times, the captured video was a bit laggy, with gaps between movements. For instance, I was at my office chair then suddenly it showed me sitting back checking my phone. The movement between leaning forward and sitting back wasn’t captured. As far as detecting initial movement, it seems to be a little hit and miss. And for whatever reason, the camera does not pan with the movement. As an example, when someone walks into the room, it does not rotate to follow them. Instead, it does a full 360° pan of the room. This means you might end up staring at the wall for a bit and missing the important action. (Thankfully, you can turn this off under “360 detection.”) The camera somewhat makes up for this by having the door / window sensors, but it means installing these ugly plastic clips to your house, and there are only two — what if you have a room with five windows and the burglar chooses the one that isn’t triggered? This feature is a unique idea, but somewhat limited. I do like that Zmodo added the ability to record video — regardless of motion — at a particular time of day. This is helpful if, say, you are expecting your kid(s) to be home at a certain time, or if you want to check to see if your pet is sleeping. Whatever the reason, this can be a handy ability.
There is no software to access the camera from a PC, but you can log into your user.zmodo account online and view it in a web browser. You can also send a share request through the app that uses the meshare website, which will let friends view your live camera feed (and, optionally, recorded history) through a browser. Thankfully they had the sense to give you the ability to turn off sharing as well as delete (or disable) users you no longer wish to have access.
Speaking of ability, the Zmodo has a built-in bluetooth speaker, but take note that the sound quality is awful. Expect music to sound flat and muffled, with poor treble and no bass. I will say it does get loud though, just expect poor quality sound.
Overall, I think the $199 retail price of this camera is a bit high for what you get, especially since it lacks motion tracking and does not have an internal battery (it only works when plugged into the wall), but it is a decent device with some unique features.
Note that the minimum mobile requirements for using this device is iOS v.7.0 and up or Android v.4.0 and up. You also need a password-protected WPA/WPA2 WiFi internet connection (802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz).