Harddrive-based camcorder as standalone security camera?

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I'm looking for a simple, fairly portable standalone security camera
setup.  Something that could be loaned out on a temporary basis, is
located indoors, and records things outdoors (say, car break-ins)
through a window.  And not too expensive, hopefully less than $600 or

Looking at these new harddrive-based camcorders that have come out this
year, I wonder if they might be a workable solution...

For example, the new Toshiba Gigashot 60GB camcorder ($450) can record
up to 55 hours on its lower-quality setting, not bad!  There's also the
Sony DCR 30/60GB Handycam models with the infrared nightvision setting,
which could be handy.  You could just let it run, and reset it every
day or two to make sure the hard drive didn't fill up.  It's obviously
a lot more workable than a MiniDV camcorder, where you'd have to swap
tapes every few hours.  If an incident occurred, then we'd download the
video file to a PC to view and edit as needed.

Has anyone tried using one of these camcorders this way?  I'm wondering
if the camcorders would run reliably nonstop for 24 or 48 hours without
a problem, recording to a single giant mpeg file.  Also, would they be
OK running 24/7 for a few weeks.  Ideally, there'd be some way to set
the camcorder to record nonstop indefinitely, such as recording to a
new file every 12 hours and deleting the oldest file on the hard
drive... but I'm guessing none of these camcorders have such a feature.

I know there are other setups I could go with, but I'd rather not lug a
monitor and PC (or DVR) around.  The nice thing about the above setup
is that you just use the camcorder viewfinder as your viewing screen.
And you get better video quality and zoom capability for the money with
camcorders than you do with dedicated security cameras.

I think these are my options:

1. Use a harddrive-based camcorder by itself, as described above.

2. In an ideal world, hardwarewise I'd be able use a cheaper MiniDV
camcorder such as the Canon ZR500 ($235), and buy my own external 200GB
hard drive for $150 or so and plug that into the camcorder via firewire
and just record video straight to the hard drive, with the camera
controlling the hard drive.  That would be awesome, and pretty cheap.
I assume there aren't any camcorders that can do this?

3. If none of the above setups are workable, I guess I could get a
cheaper MiniDV camcorder and then a used laptop for $400 or so with a
decent sized hard drive and firewire connection, with software to
record straight to the laptop?  With that setup I'd guess the camcorder
should be able to run indefinitely, and I could have motion detection
and some other nice features.  That's more of a hassle for someone to
borrow and figure out how to use, though.

Thanks for any input.

- Doug

Re: Harddrive-based camcorder as standalone security camera?
If you have never used one of these this might be someting to look at, the
VIP X1. The VIP X1 features DVD-like quality MPEG-4 video, at up to 30 FPS
over IP networks. Either PAL or NTSC video can be received and displayed
with  a standard web browser. Bosch recommends the use of a purpose-built
external USB hard drive, with a capacity of 250 GB and which can be used on
Bosch's VIP X1 and VIP X2 plus their audio and PoE derivatives. This would
be easy to lend out and set up and you could use most any camera you wanted
to complete the set up.
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Re: Harddrive-based camcorder as standalone security camera?
Thanks Roland.

I have to say, the VIP X1 looks very useful for what it does, basically
converting an old composite analog video or security camera to an IP
network camera with a web server (like an Axis camera, etc), for a
pretty cheap price ($130 or so).  I might need one of those at some

I don't think it will help that much for this set up, though... I
didn't see anything about a purpose-built external USB hard drive in
the VIP X1 manual.  The manual indicates that a computer of some sort
is needed.  (Do you know what the name of this purpose-built hard drive
is?)  Also, I don't think USB 1.0 would be fast enough to transmit a
decent video signal anyway.

Right now, for my standalone setup, I think I'm resigned to my option
#3.  I don't think the hard-drive based camcorders are quite there yet
in terms of being used as a security camera, but they're getting close.
 I have to wonder if sometime soon there will be some sort of Linux OS
which could run on one of these camcorders, which could then have some
custom security-oriented software to record non-stop to the hard drive,
use motion detection, etc.  That would be the ultimate standalone
solution... maybe in a few years.

On the plus side, I did find a dirt-cheap DVR recorder on the net that
I'm tempted to try, the GadSpot GS760, 250GB 4-channel DVR for $260.
(Oh crap, now the site says they're sold out, they weren't yesterday.)
Anyway, some kind of decent 1-channel DVR is all I really need.  I
guess I'd also need a cheap LCD monitor & adapter to hook up to the DVR
to be able to view recorded video, although I might be able to get away
with not setting that up at the temporary setup location.  Although
maybe it would be best just to get the LCD monitor too, because then I
could just buy a regular security camera (without viewscreen) instead
of a camcorder.  I see cheap 14" LCD monitors are availabe at WalMart
for $125 or so... of course, a composite (BNC) video to VGA adapter is
another $75.  Still, I may still be able to get something going for
less than $600 total.

- Doug

Roland Moore wrote:
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Re: Harddrive-based camcorder as standalone security camera?
There are other encoders on the Bosch web site. Anything on the Bosch IP
site with the word "Jet" in the title does edge recording.
VideoJet 10 via CF
or: look here for more details:

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Re: Harddrive-based camcorder as standalone security camera?
Ok, I see now where it indicates that the VIP X1 supports a
purpose-built USB hard drive... interesting, thanks.  I'm still haven't
found what the name of this hard drive product is or how to set it up
with the VIP X1, though. (and whether it supports motion detection,

The "recording at the edge" concept makes sense, and it's basically
what I'm doing... just recording straight to a hard drive before
worrying about going over an IP network.

Anyway, after some more research, I've figured out that my best option
is probably a standalone DVR plus a simple (composite video) security
camera or two.  The cheaper DVR's are well within my price range, and a
lot of them come with 4 channels instead of 1, but they're not any more

So I took a chance and ordered the Gadspot GS760 4-channel DVR w/320GB
drive for $300.  It's just composite video inputs and video monitor
output, but it also has motion detection, built-in web server with
ethernet connection, etc.  Seems like a great deal... not sure if it
will be as rock-solid as something like Bosch or Axis (I have a few
Axis cameras on my home network which are great), but Gadspot isn't a
total no-name brand either... we'll see how it goes.  I'll let you all
know if it craps out in 3 months. ;-)  (Jim -- I checked out the sites
you mention, and there are some DVRs a little above this price range,
but the GS760 seems like my best option for now.)

Also, the composite video cameras are cheaper than IP cameras, so
there's some savings there too.  The DVR plus two cameras (one color
and one IR) came out to around $500.  Might as well try more than 1
camera since I have 4 channels.  And there's no real reason to get an
IP camera if I'm just recording straight to disk... I can hook up the
DVR to the network if I need to.

For a monitor, I'll probably just lug around my spare 12" color tv for
now.  Or, whoever is borrowing the setup could use their own spare tv.
If I do order something, instead of an LCD VGA computer monitor as I
mentioned below, an LCD TV (w/composite video) would probably be a
cheaper option, something like this:

I gave up on the camcorder idea for now.  Thanks for the everyone's

- Doug

Roland Moore wrote:
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Re: Harddrive-based camcorder as standalone security camera?
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It works on many USB 2.0 Hard Drive set ups. The product is set up through
the standard web browser interface. It does support record on motion. It
also supports a different form of detection know as intelligent video
analytics. There aren't many DVR units that have that feature at this time,
and none in the low end market segment.

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Re: Harddrive-based camcorder as standalone security camera?

Doug Way wrote:
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Try these websites. I think I've seen equipment like this in their
catalogs, already in kits.


I get catalogs from these companies all the time but I can't attest to
the quality of their products.

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