On the 27th of May 2020, I finally took the plunge and decided to upgrade my home CCTV system. For the past 3 years I have been using Netgear's Arlo Pro cameras and whilst they were good to start with, they have started to go downhill rapidly. Shocking video quality, massive lags when connecting / talking through the mic and it lacking basic features has left me with a CCTV system that is frankly useless.
So I needed to find something that was not only reliable but more importantly didn't require an external provider to stream the video. I needed something that:
- Recorded video straight to my own hard drive (not a cloud somewhere).
- Was excellent video quality (not a camera that is 1080p but then uses high compression and in turn equals poor quality playback).
- Did not need a power cable attaching (didn't want to have to call out an electrician, especially at the moment due to the Covid-19 pandemic).
- Videos could be accessed via an app on my Android phone.
- Supported push notifications.
- Supported Zones (the Arlo did support this but only when hooked up to a mains power supply).
- Be completely waterproof (IP67).
So why did I mention the date at the beginning of this blog? One word: Ubiquiti.
You see, I currently have a full Ubiquiti network setup in my house using their Unifi Range. Setup whilst sometimes a bit buggy is generally painless but more importantly so far everything I purchased from them just works. Yes as a 'geek' I love the smooth GUI they provide, the apps they offer and the sheer volume of features available but when it comes down to the crunch, you just want something thats stable and works.
For a home CCTV system you need reliability. It's not a want but a need and as soon as I saw the ubiquiti G4-Pro camera ticked all the boxes above (well almost, power is a slight cheat but I'll cover that later), it was a no brainer. Yes it is expensive but it's 4K and frankly if it just works then it's worth the extra for lack of hassle.
So again, why did I mention the date above? Again, Ubiquiti. You see from getting insanely angry at my Arlo cameras to hitting the 'buy now' button on eu.store.ui.com took 1 day. It's the fastest I have ever made a decision on an electronic purchase. Usually I would shop around and see what else is on offer and compare the features but in this instance, the 'brand loyalty' got them the sale. The companies Unifi ecosystem had sucked me in hook line and sinker and any decision I thought I'd made, had in reality already been subconsciously made years earlier.
So on the 28th May 2020, the order was placed for a G4-Pro directly from ubiquiti and whilst I was ordering, I decided to upgrade my USG (the security gateway) and Cloudkey (which runs the unifi software) to a UDM-PRO (an all in one device).
Six days later, UPS showed up at my house with a Unifi branded box of goodies. The nerd inside me had a 'Happy Christmas' moment and I leapt down the stairs. I stared at the box in his hands (from 2 metres away!), he placed it down, stepped back, took a picture then walked away. I looked at my Arlo camera above my door, good bye you piece of $#!#, this is the last video you will likely miss recording ever again!
Chapter 2 : Ah crap!
Three hours later, I had re-arranged my server cabinet and hooked up the UDM-Pro. Why did it take me three hours to mount the Unifi Dream Machine Pro? Well.... I had completely misjudged the sheer size of the thing! It was over 6cm deeper than I had expected and since I had run out of money, I needed to improvise with my old cabinet!
Yes I cut a hole in the back of it. Not elegant I know but it's a temporary solution (eventually the whole kit will be going into the attic).
So, with the UDM-PRO hooked up and the Unifi Protect software installed on the HDD, it was time to hook up the camera.
I plugged one end of the ethernet cable into my Unifi POE switch and the other end into the camera...the glorious white halo illuminated, inviting me to adopt the robust metal cased camera into my Unifi network. A few clicks later and the camera was mine...all mine... HU HU HU HAR!
Chapter 3 :
G4 Pro Camera Features Ah crap again!
Now this is the point where the review takes a little misty twist. You see, this section was supposed to be all about the excellent array of features the G4 Pro provides. It was supposed to include pictures of day and night time video quality, motion testing, zone setups and much more. Instead, it now has this....
Yes, after only a few hours of being online inside my house, condensation had built up inside the lens. Now don't get me wrong the camera feels like a quality device, it's heavy and metal (not like the plastic Arlo) and the IR lights look like they have some power to them but to see condensation inside the lens was a massive letdown and one that shattered the perception of 'high quality' that my brain associated with Ubiquiti.
Now at this point, I'm sure some of you will jump onto the comments to slag off Ubiquiti or poke fun at me for associating them with quality but the truth is, they usually are good quality. So far, I've never had any faults with any device mechanically speaking, only software wise which to Ubiquiti's defence was fixed with firmware updates.
However, no firmware update was going to fix a misty camera. I quickly jumped over to the Ubquiti community forums to see if anyone else had had the same issue recently. Sure enough a search for G4 Pro condensation on their forums brought up 17 topics with people reporting the same problem. The only 'solution' that I could see was to leave it on for 48 hours as "condensation will typically subside on its own after 48 hours". That doesn't sound like a solution to me personally, if anything it sounds like supports way of getting rid of you. It reminded me of Apple's iPhone issue when users were told to "just avoid holding it in that way" to resolve a signal problem.
Now I'm no expert in camera manufacture but what I do know is that the G4-Pro met my waterproof requirements of IP67 that I specified as a necessity at the start of this post. It's worth breaking down what the IP67 means. The first number is the 'solid protection" status which in this case is 6 and means "protection from contact with harmful dust". The second number is the important one and is the "moisture protection". A rating of 7 is the second best you can get and equals "protected from immersion in water with a depth of up to 1 metre (or 3.3 feet) for up to 30 mins".
So if a camera can survive for up to 30 minutes in one metre of water, there is no way (in my eyes) that turning it on for 45 minutes will allow the condensation in the lens to escape. If it could escape then how could the camera be IP67 rated? Surely one statement is incorrect and I doubt it's the IP67 rating.
At this point I was a bit angry that a £370 camera had passed Ubiquiti's QC (as stated on the box) with a clear manufacturing defect.
I opened a post on the community forums and had a few interesting responses from some other users. One user pointed out that "The moisture doesn't really "escape" when the air inside the camera heats up on powering up. It is suspended in the enclosed air because the heated air has more capacity to hold moisture"
A quick check online and a skim over Wikipedia pretty much backs this up.
At this point, I had resigned myself to openeing a RMA with Ubiquiti to get the item swapped but before I did I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt and run the camera for 48 hours. After 48 hours I got this:
So, as expected the moisture had heated up and was now either suspended in the camera or it had escaped somehow. Part of me wanted to call it a day and accept the item was now working and could be mounted. I turned the device off and allowed it to cool down for 40 minutes (to simulate a power cut). I then re-connected the POE cable and within 10 minutes I saw:
To try and simulate a 'cold' night outside, I put the camera next to my window (it was reasonably cool that night) and turned the heating off in that room. Even with the camera on constantly, the lens still fogged up. It's not a foolproof test but I think it is safe to say if it got frosty outside, the moisture would condense on the coolest part aka the lens, no matter how long the camera had been on for.
Chapter 4 :
Optical Zoom test The RMA
With little options left, on the 8th June I opened an RMA to get the camera swapped for a new one.
In Ubiquiti's defence, they did not put up any fight. Whereas other companies would have tried to fob you off hoping you would give in, they simply stated they were "sorry to hear that" and offered to replace the camera free of charge.
On the 9th, the UPS courier arrived and my camera was on its way back to Czechia.
Chapter 5 :
Nightime Infared mode review Ah come on!
On the 12th, I received a notification from UPS that the package had been received and I logged into my Ubiquiti account to check the status. With any luck it would be processed and a new one sent out the same day. Then I saw it... "Backordered".
A quick check on their website confirmed that it was "sold out" and as such I was now stuck waitng for new stock. It would seem the gods were destined to stop me climbing my ladder anytime soon to fit this camera!
Chapter 6 :
Setting up and testing zones The future!
At this point (the 15th) we have caught up with the present and there is very little else I can report. I have reached out to Ubiquiti on the forums and asked via e-mail for the person/s to contact regarding a statement on the camera issue) but as of yet I've not had a response. Hopefully they will get back to me explaining the cause of the condensation issue and I will update this post accordingly.
It is worth noting that even after this, I haven't been put off buying ubiquiti products. Perhaps the whole Unifi software ecosystem has me sucked in so deep now that I ignore obvious warning signs but I'm still hopeful Ubiquiti will get back to me with a clear explanation of the issue and the replacement will be the end of it.
For now, it would appear that the G4 Pro review will need to wait and I need to apologise to Arlo, I have a horrible feeling we may be together for a while yet!
Have you had issues with your G4 Pro? Let me know in the comments below. Also If you have a G4-Pro, please comment below with the test date on the back of the camera box (mine was 28th Feb 2019) and if you have had any condensation. With any luck, we may be able to find a pattern that may help UBNT diagnosean issue.
If this guide has helped you or if you feel it could be improved, please let us know in the comments below.