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Unifi Cameras / Protect Review

PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2019 9:19 am
by RogueProeliator
As some of you know, I've had a few posts/discussions with various folks over various security camera options over the last few months - Blue Iris, Ubiquiti, standalone NVR, Arlo, Nest, etc. After enough internal debate and over thinking and rethinking, I finally just bit the bullet and went with the Ubiquiti solution. I know several of you were also debating and curious, so I wanted to let you guys know my thoughts and review.

The Reason/Decision
So I made my decision based on a few factors, knowing that nothing was perfect and, in fact, nothing "best" for everyone and everyone's situation. Here were my important points -- first, no cloud reliance for recording (okay if it enhances the service, but must work without). Second, it just needs to freaking work well -- I am sick and tired of chasing down issues in cheap (@$*#!$%#. Third, I want it seamless and easy to use as my previous (and still somewhat in use) system is the furthest thing from it. Lastly, the WAF is huge because the security cameras are basically her favorite thing in HA and they haven't been working well.

Existing / Previous Solution
The new system was to replace an aging DVR/NVR system that served a handful of legacy analog cameras and a handful of IP cameras. At one point there were 16 active I believe, but several analog cameras had degraded to the point that I just shut them down as they were lagniappe anyway. The IP cameras were all standard 1080p HikVision or similar cameras, all POE. The NVR was the standard Chinese based software that all of them have - it is awful and the mobile app is maybe worse. Then you have to use their thick client on OS X which is even worse still. The only good thing is that it recorded forever (2 HDs in there, but had room for 4).

New Setup - Ubiquiti's Unifi Protect
I decided on Unifi Protect for a few reasons -- first off, I love their networking equipment. @DaveL actually owes me over a thousand dollars because he "made" me go down that route. But I thank him for it rather than fault him (still want my money, though!) Networking equipment has been solid and the controller software really is some of the best/easiest to setup for the complexity allowed. I figured if they put the same emphasis on the Video/Protect then it would be a good thing.

Second, example pictures from people here were really good... and of course watched many YouTube reviews and comparisons. Image sensors look good, I had no doubt on the camera and build quality.

Third, the mobile app looks easy enough to use and the wife would be happy with it.

Equipment
I purchased a Unifi CloudKey Gen 2 Plus... this has the controller and NVR software embedded and has a rack mount accessory.... which is overpriced but well built and looks nice. Could have gone the build-your-own route, but the CloudKey G2 is low powered, compact and, well, just works. Incidentally, I turned off the controller as I have one running on my network already and wanted this dedicated to security.

Camera-wise, I bought a G4 Pro (4k), a G3 Micro, and have a G3 Pro coming Monday.

Initial Setup
Hands down the easiest setup ever for an NVR and cameras. Was up and running in like 5 minutes after install, which itself took maybe 5-10 minutes per camera (which includes the taking down of old camera...). VERY impressed with this part of the process. They nailed it.

Software Review
The Protect software overall is good... camera setup and configuration is super easy, including motion zones, RTSP feed, etc. The only thing really missing was that I had to login to the cameras directly to enable an anonymous snapshot. But even that was easy as the Protect software can support a single security model (only 1 password needed for the cameras themselves).

Positives - setup and config super easy, the live view configuration is awesome and works in all browsers (yay!), notifications and motion are easy to setup. Mobile app is easy and intuitive and fast.

Negatives - No digital zoom on the web, but you can on mobile. That is stupid as you don't always have a monitor that shows the full camera resolution (for 4K cameras especially). Motion sensitivity is easy to set but seems hard to get fine tuned... I haven't settled on a value that I am totally happy with for some zones.

Hardware (Camera) Review
The cameras are great! The 4K (G4) replaced a decent HikVision 1080p camera. The far-field details are (obviously) clearer and much appreciated. I honestly expected a bit more but I think that is more the hype of 4K. I can make out WAY more fine details at the mailbox (maybe 80-90' away) than before. The HDR is good w/ shadows as there are a bunch around there in the late afternoon with a bright horizon. Keeps more shadow details than my old which would almost black that out. Has a 3X optical zoom but no panning so I don't really use it -- on tests it was good quality though. The FOV is wider (at full zoom out) than my old which was nicer. My only complaint thus far with this camera is the night vision -- the distance is great, the clarity is great, but the IR puts a pretty big spotlight in the image which, within that area, blows out the subject with brightness even at 30'. I think I can adjust that and may.

The G3 Micro is used in one spot where I need a small camera w/ large FOV. It is showing the porch at the side of the house and gets a better view than my previous Foscam. Quality is great, but we are talking a viewing distance under 15' at the furthest point. It is using WiFi even though I have it powered using POE. Which is weird, but I knew this coming in. The nice thing is that the camera attaches to its base magnetically so adjustments or taking down to clean lens is easy. Very small and light so in specific instances might make sense.

I have not had my hands on the G3 Pro, but should Monday. I have another 4K camera to install too but needed to compare the G3 Pro and G4 in the same spot to decide which to put where.

The biggest downside is the cost -- these are way more expensive than a similarly spec-ed HikVision or even more so a few of the others. I do believe the image sensor is better in these, but probably not the same increase as per the cost increase. Note that this is a huge factor if you have many cameras like I do... which means you might be upgrading one or two per month instead of all at once, at least in my case.

Conclusion
DEFINITELY the best camera system I have personally had experience with... but also the most expensive. I have no regrets at all in choosing this system.... save in the wallet which means I am running both the new system and the older one while I make the transition slowly. Is it worth the extra cost? Hard to say... if ease of use and a solid system are you main goals, I would say yes. If cost is a factor, or you really want to tinker the heck out of things, maybe you should avoid this and go with a Blue Iris or Security Spy or the like.

Adam

Re: Unifi Cameras / Protect Review

PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2019 10:54 am
by Korey
Nice review!

I as well have a Protect system since it was Beta, has been working great, I still pull the RTSP streams from the protect into SecuritySpy for my Indigo automations.

Hoping one day that UBNT will release an API for the Protect and Karl could add it to his Fantastic Unifi Plugin. :D

@DaveL might pass the buck over to me as I had recommended Unifi to him years ago! :shock: :lol:

Re: Unifi Cameras / Protect Review

PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2019 12:16 pm
by DaveL17
Korey wrote:
@DaveL might pass the buck over to me as I had recommended Unifi to him years ago! :shock: :lol:

Yeah, yeah. That's the ticket. It's Korey's fault!

Re: Unifi Cameras / Protect Review

PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2019 12:39 pm
by kw123
just to dampen the enthusiasm a little.

I have 12 Cameras, 2 failed in 1 year (they replaced them, I had to pay one way return $12)

The dome cameras are really bad - the IR sometimes does not click in, and the color balance is off, sometimes have the pic is red.

the regular G3 are nice, no complains
the micro (wifi) looks cool and works fine
the micro is may favorite for inside

have not used the G4 or the pro. don't know if I need that kind of resolution.


but I would go again with them

the NVR on linux works fine.


Karl

Re: Unifi Cameras / Protect Review

PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 5:00 am
by agame
I've also migrated from Foscam (and a few other assorted cams) to Unifi (mostly G3) cams, on two sites. I'm really impressed with picture and stability.

I also have full Unifi network infrastructure however at least for now I've stuck with Security Spy for NVR functions and Indigo integrations. It works fine, and I like the indigo integration provided by the Security Spy plugin, as well as the ability to run everything on a dedicated Mac.

I'm intrigued by the Ubiquity Protect software but I wish there was a native Mac version.

The real goal for me is object recognition (cars, people) as half of the cams are in a rural location where simple movement detection is not a lot of use for incident detection (giant moths highlighted in infrared; moving vegetation, inquisitive wombats...). Ive had some success sending candidate shots off for cloud-based image processing (thanks to various Indigo plugins particularly Image Analysis)...a more consumer-accessible approach has great potential.

Re: Unifi Cameras / Protect Review

PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 10:22 am
by peszko
I migrated from foscam and securityspy to hikvision cameras and NVR and its been very stable so far (over a year now). I don't use any of the image analysis like motion and people identification. I found those to be unreliable in my tests. I use pir motion sensors to identify motion and then have indigo send out notifications with images. I find the cost of hikvision cameras to be quite reasonable and the video quality very good. My 2c.

Re: Unifi Cameras / Protect Review

PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 12:52 pm
by chase
I have a different opinion..

I have used unifi, Dahua PVR's, Security Spy and Blue Iris...

Blue Iris is the only solution I would recommend to a friend. All the rest have areas in which they are lacking that makes them pretty much garbage.

unifi - Proprietary system, ubnt very slow to fix gaps and bugs, camera hardware selection is extremely lacking and over priced (don't even think about using any starlight or darkfighter grade cams from unifi) . (this is from a guy running 16 unifi devices and 8 airmax devices in house so I am a Ubiquiti fan and understand the product)

Dahua PVR;s - Proprietary system, hard to set up, limited future expandability, and China based firmware/software

Security Spy - way too expensive for what you get, much too resource intensive, clunky interface, old fashioned

Blue Iris - dirt cheap ($60), uses industry standard camera interfaces, great app, web hosting built in, API's, interface to Sentry for AI image processing (face/object identification), advanced alarm detection, support for up to 64 cams, hardware acceleration where available , indigo plugin available, made in America.

I haven't met anyone that uses Blue Iris that would use anything else or regrets the choice to use it.

Re: Unifi Cameras / Protect Review

PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 1:58 pm
by jay (support)
chase wrote:
made in America.


I should point out that we have quite an international community here, so that particular argument may mean less than you think.

Re: Unifi Cameras / Protect Review

PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 3:46 pm
by norcoscia
This is a picture that has my arlo camera on top and my new hikvision on the bottom - hikvision works great ands pretty cheap. I'm sure there are better and worse cameras out there but that is what I ended up with :-)

Re: Unifi Cameras / Protect Review

PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 11:51 pm
by RogueProeliator
Here are two images from the same camera position... taken on different days but at nearly the same time of day (approximately noon). I am pretty sure the G4-Pro image was prior to turning on HDR mode which shows a bit more in the shadows (not a ton difference at noon w/ the brightness around though).

HikVision 3MP Dome 4mm JPG
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1LZKiR ... xNNebFr8p6

Unifi G4-Pro 4K (Zoomed out to ~4mm) JPG
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Touus ... 9XqMXMDzab

One thing to note, the G4-Pro mount doesn't allow it to go completely horizontal... for our application that was fine because you can see more of the near field activity, but might be a concern for some. You can see the difference in the two images. Hard to tell since they are slightly mis-aligned to each other, but FOV is approximately the same.

Neither gets the colors exactly right... the true color is somewhere between the two images. The G4 is probably more accurate in this regards, and I could probably adjust the saturation to get it closer to reality on both of them, just never bothered.

Adam

Re: Unifi Cameras / Protect Review

PostPosted: Sat Jul 06, 2019 12:59 pm
by durosity
jay (support) wrote:
chase wrote:
made in America.


I should point out that we have quite an international community here, so that particular argument may mean less than you think.


Even to a lot of Americans..

Re: Unifi Cameras / Protect Review

PostPosted: Sat Jul 06, 2019 2:46 pm
by petematheson
I made a YouTube vid for work on the Unifi Protect - for anyone intrigued as to a general overview.

Ubiquiti UniFi Protect, Cloud Key Gen2 Plus Mega Review and Comparison with G3 Pro and G3 Flex Cams https://youtu.be/a_RRxfh8WPs

I’ll be replacing my security spy install with this when I next get a chance - only thing it’s missing is on the integration side of things with Indigo I believe?

Things like, on motion, imessage photo of camera 1 to...



Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Re: Unifi Cameras / Protect Review

PostPosted: Sat Jul 06, 2019 9:16 pm
by RogueProeliator
I’ll be replacing my security spy install with this when I next get a chance - only thing it’s missing is on the integration side of things with Indigo I believe?

I read somewhere that someone found an API address but that it was not supported yet so limited; haven't investigated yet but plan to do so after I get another one out the door that I've started. Even if just to see what they have planned...

Adam