Outdoor webcam for construction site?
July 22, 2012 5:01 PM   Subscribe

I need an weather proof outdoor webcam. I have intermittent power and wifi. What are my options?

We will be renovating and building onto a house here in Germany. We would like to install a webcam to make a time lapse movie at the end and also to check up on things as we live about an hour away. It will also let my family in the US see what's going on.

I would like to take about 1 picture an hour and upload it to a server. I might be able to use the neighbor's wifi, but they are on vacation right so I won't be able to ask them until next week. I also have a USB UMTS stick at my disposal in case I need to use the 3G network, but I would prefer not to.

If Internet, wifi UMTS or otherwise, is not an option, it would be OK to store the pictures on an a card that is in the camera and then unload it every few days or so. I would like to stay under 300€ if possible. I have seen a few options but they seem to be mainly for industrial building sites, our rigs, etc and way out of my budget.

If I have stable power and WIFi, what should I get?

If not, what are other affordable options for UMTS or on-camera storage?
posted by chillmost to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
UMTS will cost you 10-15 Euro a month plus the stick.

Please be advised, that it might be illegal to just install a camera if you monitor anything but your own house. You can try this with google translate...
posted by yoyo_nyc at 7:41 PM on July 22, 2012

Mike Davidson did something similar on a building site in the States. From memory there's a description of his setup in an early post on his blog about the project, A House By The Park.
posted by impluvium at 8:31 PM on July 22, 2012

Best would be a Eye-Fi compatible weathersealed DSLR with a timer attachment and Eye-Fi card. That's out of your price range.

Using a webcam on a computer is doable but would be difficult and unwieldy.

I would use the current TimelapseCam8. It is made just for the purpose of easy time lapse images and videos. Here is a video review and samples from an earlier slightly lesser version which was called Plantcam.

Here is TimelapseCam on Amazon UK. (One review says the Plantcam is the same as the TimelapseCam. It is not, the TimelapseCam is an upgraded version.)

With this camera and a plain SD card, you would have to go to it and retrieve the images whenever you can.

The Eye-Fi SD card may or may not be compatible with this camera. This card would automatically connect to wi-fi whenever available to upload pictures to one of many popular photo album sites, then delete the images from the card, and keep going. If wi-fi is not available it is no problem, the Eye-Fi will just check later. Most likely it is not compatible, but there is a chance, and either vendor may be able to confirm it. (You must configure it connected to a computer. The Eye-Fi sold in Europe is somewhat different than the one sold in US.)

The TimelapseCam makes taking photos at intervals easy - except it does not have a digital image display, only a viewfinder and laser pointer. To be absolutely sure of framing, you would have to check its aim and the images it takes on a computer before leaving it.

If you get this, don't use the "8 megapixel" setting, because that is only interpolated. The camera is actually 5 megapixels at its best. That should be good enough. Be sure to set the focus correctly, and note the warning in the manual to set the date first, and use Lithium AA batteries, not alkalines or rechargeables. Otherwise, its default settings are just what you want. One picture per hour.

All of this stays well under your budget and will be very easy to use. After the construction, you may find other uses for it, or you could sell it or pass it on.
posted by caclwmr4 at 8:59 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Please be advised, that it might be illegal to just install a camera if you monitor anything but your own house.
Of course. Before doing anything remotely cool, exciting or fun in Germany, one always asks, "Darf ich das?"

Any and all legal issues have already been clarified.
posted by chillmost at 10:58 PM on July 22, 2012

Thank you caclwmr4. I'm reading through your links to see if this is an option.

Any other ideas?
posted by chillmost at 1:26 AM on July 23, 2012

There are a variety of standalone digital cameras marketed to hunters as "game cameras" for the purpose of tracking game moving through an area and planning hunting. I believe most operate using a passive infrared motion detector to detect movement, but perhaps some of the better models also allow time-lapse recording? In any event they are all weather-tight and fall nicely in your budget, I've seen models from 60-300 USD. All record to SD cards and operate on batteries. I can't say how available they are in Europe. Also regarding any "darf Ich" issues they are quite discreet/camoflauged.
posted by werkzeuger at 11:05 AM on July 23, 2012

I got the TimelapseCam8 after talking with their support team. The new cameras that have just been manufactured support the Eye-fi SD cards.

I have an Eye-fi card but I do not have an available network yet. I'm still working on that.

The camera has quite a few options and is easy to set up. In USB mode the camera shows up in OSX just like an external hard-drive.

There is software that comes with the camera that can be used to stitch all the photos together into a time-lapse film, but it is Windows only. I will have to find a OS X application that does the same.

The only beef I have with the camera is that the angle is to narrow for my purposes. It is mainly designed for closeups of flowers blooming and whatnot.

For a construction site you need to get a lot of space between the camera and the subject. Depending on the size of your property, it might not be so easy.
posted by chillmost at 7:47 AM on August 13, 2012

First video can be seen here
posted by chillmost at 12:25 PM on August 22, 2012

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