Weather Camera Purchase Guide: Weather Cameras, WebCams, WeatherCams, IP Cameras, Network Cameras, Live Weather Cameras, Weather Camera Reviews, Weather Camera Installation, Weather Camera Software.
The following is a guide to purchasing, installing and maintaining a weather camera. If you have additional questions, call Ambient's technical specialists at 480-346-3398 (M-F 8am - 4pm Arizona Time) or email us at support@AmbientWeather.com.
Camera Type (Editor's Choice): We recommend network or IP cameras. Network cameras allow you to post your image to the internet without the use of a computer by connecting directly to your network router.
Network cameras are IP-Addressable. Continuous live images and configuration menus can be viewed from anywhere by entering the cameras IP address in a web browser.
Network cameras also provide ftp (file transfer protocol) client capability, allowing you to automatically upload images to your own website or free hosting services.
Camera Brand (Editor's Choice): Our favorite network camera is the Ambient Weather AMBFI8906W Outdoor WiFi IP Camera.
The Foscam Wireless IP Camera features high quality video, waterproof and weather proof outdoor housing, remote internet viewing, motion detection, night-vision as well as a built in network video recording system.
This camera has 60 IR LEDs providing night-vision visibility up to 30 meters. In addition, it is smartphone compatible (Iphone, Android & Blackberry) as well as viewable over the internet network using the standard Safari browser (no app necessary).
Weather Cam Hosting Services (Editor's Choice): The Weather UndergroundWeatherUnderground.com provides free hosting services. WeatherUnderground.com features image archiving with a historical calendar, which displays month-long cycles of weather data, current conditions and time lapse movie animation of the day's weather.
WeatherUnderground.comintegrates near real-time weather cam images and live weather station data. Click on the image above to view the image hosting services.Installation Considerations:
1. Indoor vs. Outdoor. If you have a good vantage point from an inside window, you can save time, effort, cost, and camera life by installing the camera indoors. It is important to place the lens as perpendicular and close to the glass as possible to reduce interior reflections appearing in the image.
2. Power Requirements. Weather Cameras are powered by AC adaptors, or preferably, Power Over Ethernet (PoE). PoE avoids running seperate outdoor power cables.
3. Direct Sunlight. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight may cause some camera images to fade. Setting the iris properly will extend the sensor life.
4. Heat, Cold and Moisture. Most cameras require external enclosures to operate in extreme hot, cold and humid environments. The enclosure doesn’t help in cold environments unless the enclosure is completely sealed (which can cause condensation on the window) or contains a blower.
1. Digital Camera Resolution. The amount of detail that the camera can capture is called the resolution, measured in pixels. The more pixels a camera has, the more detail it can capture and the larger pictures can be without becoming blurry or grainy.
2. Exposure Range. Exposure range is a function of lens aperture (the amount of light it gathers) and shutter speed (how long light is gathered), expressed in seconds. A wide exposure range provides excellent contrast to high and low light levels.
3. Frame Rate. Frame rate is how fast an image updates, and is measured in frames per second. A high frame rate provides seamless live streaming video. Live streaming video is not easily accomplished over the Internet. A high resolution live still image is the easiest method and provides the largest clearest image.
4. Auto Iris Lens. An auto iris lens improves the image quality when the light is constantly changing. The iris automatically opens and closes according to the changes of the light conditions. If the light level is low, the lens iris opens up to allow enough light for optimum picture quality, and when the light level is high, it closes the iris so that incoming light does not overwhelm the camera and blur out the picture.
With a CCD (charged coupled device, a digital image processing method) camera, an auto iris lens is required to perform day/night imaging. If your camera will only be used for daylight imaging, a manual iris (set to a pinhole) will be fine (and will usually produce higher quality images than an auto iris lens, at a lower cost).
5. Saturation. Saturation represents the amount of color in the image. The higher the value, the more saturated the color.
6. Auto Haze Subtraction. Haze subtraction improves the contrast of an image automatically.
7. Jpeg Image Quality. Jpeg (Joint Photographic Experts Group) is a standard web image format.
Jpeg Quality provides a balance between image lossy compression and image quality. The higher the number, the less compression in the image, but the bigger the file size.
Wireless Network Cameras:
Wireless Network Cameras are compatible with standard 802.11 wireless devices, allowing you to install and operate a camera without running network cables. However, you must still run AC power to the camera, which reduces flexibility.
Wireless network converters are available to convert a cabled camera to an 802.11 wireless signal.
Some installations may be susceptible to interference. Make sure you purchase a camera that is returnable in the event you have issues. 802.11 communicates at 2.4 GHz and is designed to work with other 2.4 GHz devices, such as telephones and wireless computers. Note that metal siding can significantly shield radio transmission.
Remote Power Requirements:
If you install your camera remotely, where no power is available, you will need a solar collector with battery backup and enclosure for the power electronics. We recommend TyconPower.com for your remote power system requirements.
Live Streaming Video vs. File Transfer:
Streaming live video over the internet is difficult due to firewalls between your local area network (LAN) and the Internet. Live streaming video also requires a static IP address from your internet service provider.
Another issue with live streaming is bandwidth, especially when you’re trying to stream to many people at once. This requires a streaming video server on the backbone of the network (a paid service, based on bandwith). Streaming also requires a streaming media encoder (software running on a PC connected to the camera).
Most Weather Cams transfer jpeg files automatically based on a schedule using File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to a remote hosting service to provide near real time images and avoid security measures.
A good choice is Image Salsa, which will connect to your camera, create gif or jpg images and upload them (FTP) to your website or free hosting servers automatically.
Free Image Hosting Services:
You can host your own images, or take advantange of a number of free hosting services. Look for hosting services that archive your images, create daily time lapse images and integrate weather data with weather cam images. A good choice is WeatherUnderground.com.