TESTED: D-Link Wireless Pan & Tilt Day/Night Network Surveillance Camera (DCS-5020L)

Staples Connect offers a great home automation platform, and over recent months I’ve tested and reviewed a cornucopia of accessories for their smart home hub.  One of my favorite reviews talked about some D-LINK CAMERAS that could be easily called upon when the system detects motion and other triggers.  In this installment I’ll add two more cameras to my home, both which are D-Link Wireless Pan & Tilt Day/Night DCS-5020 units.

Like the other cameras before them, the D-Link Wireless Pan & Tilt (DCS-5020L) is a cloud connected wifi camera.  Technically you don’t even need a Staples Connect hub (or for that matter a SmartThings Hub or Wink hub).  Although you get a more enjoyable experience when you choose a smart home hub to aggregate all of your products, the D-Link family of devices require nothing more than a home wifi connection.

When I got my first cameras going (the  D-Link Wireless Day/Night (DCS-933L) units) the size of the units had me smiling, but their rather narrow field of view left me wanting more in a few places at my home.  Since I was using this to augment my existing home alarm setup, and to limit the number of cameras needed, adding the D-Link Wireless Pan & Tilt (DCS-5020L) units now provide me more view of a single space.  This is particularly useful in my L-shaped family/dining area, where I can now easily see both my rear french-doors as well as the foyer that leads to my front door, all with a single camera.

Unboxing and hardware photo gallery- click for larger views
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Similar to my first review of similar devices, you don’t get a whole heck of a lot in the box, but that is actually a good thing.  D-Link keeps it simple, providing the unit, power cord, a LAN patch cable, and then the mounting bracket and hardware.  Inside the “start here” packet are just some basic instructions to get you going, and a screw template.  Of course, you will need a computer or smart phone to actually setup the device.

If you’re luck enough to have a newer D-Link router that is already configured for your My D-Link account, then their is an optional quick install process that will auto configure your new camera for you simply by plugging it into the router.  For the rest of us installation is done either via logging into your D-Link account on your laptop, or using the D-Link application on your phone.  As I covered that in my prior review, I’ll simply show some screen shots here for your enjoyment:

Installation photo gallery- click for larger views
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Once you have added the camera to your D-Link account you can then add it to your respective smart home hub if you have one.  (Again you don’t need one to use these units).  In the case of the Staples Connect system, make sure you remember the password you assigned BOTH to your specific cameras, but also for your D-Link account itself, as you’ll need to enter BOTH into the SC system.  Adding a device there is done through the Device Assistant and works quickly and easily (no photos here for that process, sorry).

From a mounting standpoint, you are given two options with this model.  As you can see in my one photo, I used the wall bracket which worked nicely in my living room.  This unit is rather large compared to the fixed-view brethren they offer, and using this mount calls that much more attention to the unit.  Hence for my second unit I utilized their three-screw twist-and-lock option, mounting it near the ceiling.  Although this works nicely, be sure you are mounting to a flat surface otherwise you may find issues (as I did) getting the setup just-right.  Either mount works solidly and provides a sturdy attachment.

There has been an occasional hiccup pertaining to D-Link in how it interfaces with the Staples system.  For some reason there has been occasion where the pan/tilt features does not seem to want to work when accessing a camera from the Staples hub, but it works fine in the D-Link app from my iPhone.  By removing the the D-Link Wireless Pan & Tilt (DCS-5020L) from the Staples Connect hub and then re-adding it the problem resolves itself, though sometimes it just takes care of itself the next time you re-open the app as well.

My favorite feature set when using these cameras in conjunction with the SC hub is that you can call up a camera when a trigger alerts you.  As the first example, my front door has a Schlage Connect Camelot Touchscreen deadbolt lock on it.  When that door is unlocked during certain hours, my smart home alerts me of this.  Now, with a camera that monitors that door, I can simply swipe that alert on my iPhone lock screen and it will open right into the Staples app, and go directly to the camera I specified.  Secondly, the same camera also monitors the Ecolink Z-Wave Door/Window Sensor on my back doors, so that trigger offers me the same camera which I can of course pan-over to see better an intruder, if one did exist.  (Usually it is just my wife letting the outdoor cat in the house, haha!)

Obviously you can customize these alerts, which gives you endless possibilities when using your smart home hub.  If you don’t already have a hub, don’t worry– the  D-Link cameras  offer alerts of their own– monitoring sound, and motion.  And all of that can be controlled and monitored right from the D-Link app.

iOS app interface photo gallery- click for larger views
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As the photos above show, there are some differences between the view within the D-Link versus Staples app.  From a pan/tilt aspect, the touch-screen interface of the D-Link application is far superior.  And you obviously also get deeper views there into settings, screen capture, audio, and other things that are limited within the Staples software.  If you want to dig deeper, D-Link does allow you to access an HTML-based settings page for advanced controls via IP-address in your browser.  This allows you to do things like adjust color/saturation, flip the image (if installed upside down), etc.

Be aware that during monitoring (when you are viewing the camera) the LED on the front of the actual unit blinks.  That green flashing bulb brings attention to the camera, especially when the room is extremely dark.  And while these cameras do have great night vision (I’ll update photos of that down the road, sorry forgot to grab any thus far)– if there really is an intruder in the house, they’ll be quite aware you are watching them by means of the flashing LED.

In conclusion, I’m quite pleased with the D-Link Wireless Pan & Tilt (DCS-5020L) camera setup.  My home now has a total of four units monitoring every door, even my garage.  Given the price point of these units they are on my “great buys” list of devices to help add monitoring and security to your home.  Although the fixed-view cameras are smaller and less intrusive visually, what the DCS-5020L adds in features is well worth the premium.  Yet the cheaper DCS-933L is equally a smart buy, and for many, sufficient.  Either way you can’t go wrong, as both D-Link cameras are excellent!

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