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What IP Cameras are Mac Compatible?

January 11th, 2007 by Kevin Bowyer

So you’re looking for an IP camera, but you want make sure that you can view it through your spanking new Core 2 Duo 13″ MacBook.

Thankfully, your options are many. For the most part you won’t need to worry since there is nearly always a way to get a live view from any network camera on your Mac. However, there are usually compromises to be made.

Often, a manufacturer will provide few options for viewing the video feed from the camera. For instance, the Panasonic BL-C and BB-HCM ranges provide two viewers – a built-in ActiveX control and a static image refreshed every x seconds through the standard http meta refresh mechanism. Your only option for a ‘streaming’ video feed is to use the Motion JPEG feed or ActiveX control in Internet Explorer and since Microsoft no longer develop IE for the Mac, this 2nd option is out. You cannot (without a LOT of faffing around) install an ActiveX control in Safari or Firefox.

This, though, is a small price to pay when the quality of the view is more important than how many frames per second you can squeeze out of the camera. The BL-C range will always deliver an image to you and your lovely new Mac.

And what of cameras from other manufacturers? With Axis and Sony your options are slightly better as both manufacturers offer Java-based viewers alongside their ActiveX and other viewers. Unfortunately the non-default viewers are often feature-poor and less user-friendly than the default.

It is also common for cameras to offer a Motion JPEG viewer which gives streaming video in Safari or Firefox. On top of this many key features are often supported through Java (like the setting up of motion detection windows etc). Conveniently, in Safari/Firefox/Mozilla no plugin is needed to view a Motion JPEG stream, but depending on bandwidth you may find it a bit jerky.
Viewer technology is not the only problem. Initial installation, video recording and audio support are all given scant consideration. This will change, we are sure, and is changing.

To all those waiting for a camera to become fully Mac compatible, they won’t. There just is not enough pressure for this. At the very most we can expect many more cameras to support Macs in their core feature set but we are unlikely to see true Mac compatibility including all features and software. Still, there’s plenty of choice in the market for us.

There are many pros and cons to be considered here and we will consider them in later posts. As Mac users we sympathise and we implore manufacturers to consider beefing up their support for Macs. We know what they need to do. They only need to ask.

Update May 2012: These days the majority of top vendor IP cameras do have out-of-the-box support for Mac/Safari, but still few bundle any camera discover or VMS software suitable for use on a Mac. As a previous commenter has pointed out the SecuritySpy software is ideal for Apple Mac users and can be used to discover cameras on the network as well as record them.

30 Responses to “What IP Cameras are Mac Compatible?”

  1. Simon Hulse says:

    Good info – keep it up!!

  2. Mike says:

    I really like the Panasonic BL-C range, but what if I wanted to go up-market to the Panasonic BBHCM381 (or the PoE equivalent)? That seems to run a nice webpage for remote control but I don’t know if it is all ActiveX and since I’m on an Apple Mac network, no controls would be a bad idea. Anyhow, thanks for the pointer to Axis and Sony… I’ll be checking them out.

  3. Joelle says:

    I am looking for an outdoor security camera to mount on my garage to keep an eye on the front of my house while I am on vacation and watch my kids at the bus stop on my corner. I want one that can wirelessly connect to my Airport Extreme and only needs to be plugged into an electrical socket. I know it exists, but I want a reasonable price and all of the bells and whistles-moveable, automatic recording, zoom, etc.

  4. KB says:

    Hi Joelle.

    Please contact us directly so we can get a better understanding of your camera requirements.

    Network Webcams Ltd.

  5. Ashley says:

    Joelle,

    The stuff mentioned above are quite cool but I don’t think it would be great as an outdoor wireless security camera. Unless, of course, it is inconspicuous enough to not be easily noticed by kids who fancy these kind of things.

    -A

  6. Jim McDonald says:

    Joelle,

    There are much better cameras to use outdoors. Many work well in both bright light and dark conditions. Unless you absolutely have to have color, I would recommend saving some $ and going with a B&W camera.

  7. Joelle says:

    Thank you Ashley for your good point about hiding it. Also to Jim, good point-color is not necessary for my needs. The search continues

  8. Tycho says:

    Hi all,

    Like so many others Mac users (I know at least 20) I refuse to pay for an overpriced “activeX” ip camera that isn’t fully Mac compatible !

    No way I’ll EVER buy anything “micro$hit”… Even less if it’s only purpose is controlling an ip camera…

    Some day a manufacturer will understand this… The one who writes a real “à la Mac” Mac driver with all functionality will earn the jackpot !

    I’ll rather wait for another couple of decades …

    Regards

    Tycho

  9. Greg says:

    Hi Tycho,

    I suppose it comes down to what you actually want an IP camera for. Many cameras on the market work fine using MACs if the most important aspect of a camera purchase is picture quality and some home security functionality, such as image transfer by email or to an FTP server on triggered alarms.

    There are also Mac based recording solutions out there which work with IP cameras, the most notable being an application called Security Spy.

    But, yes we totally agree with your frustrations. The manufacturers of these cameras pay no notice to Mac users when they develop their initial setup tools, recording software and camera drivers/plug-ins.

  10. djimsum says:

    i have a totally useless white elephant of a DCS900W which i cannot figure out how to set up with my G4 or new MacbookPro… sigh… anyone out there any wiser? or shd i just chuck it out at eBay?

  11. Claes says:

    Have anyone tried the software from Securityspy?

  12. Peter says:

    I have a requirement for an IP camera to show full motion only on a Mac mini.
    It is for a dental office. By law, the technician that takes a digital X-ray of a patient, needs to view the patient just before the radiation is engaged. Typically this is done by the technician standing outside of the room and viewing the patient through a series of adjusted mirrors.

    In today's age, this is positively Byzantine!!!

    So, with the mini running Leopard 10.5 OS, what simple choices do I have for a IP camera that can be viewed on the screen just before the exposure switch is engaged?
    I do not need anything else from this camera, just the full motion viewability. Wire less is not necessary, nor is colour.

    Any suggestions?

    Thank you

  13. Kevin says:

    Any of the Panasonic BL or BB range cameras will do this for you Peter. There are a number of other camera types which will for for you too such as Axis or Mobotix, but the Panasonic ones are probably the easier to set up and to use.

  14. Peter says:

    Thank you Kevin. I will look into this series.

    There was a camera that I thought may do the trick – CNET CIC-930w. If you would care to comment about it, it too would be very much appreciated.

    Did you have an Panasonic BL or BB camera in mind Kevin?

    Thank you,
    Peter

  15. Kevin says:

    Oddly enough, I have had experience of the CNET camera (though a home monitoring system) and the quality and reliability were extremely poor.

    With the Panasonic range the quality is high from the BL-C1 right up. Really, it's up to you and your budget. If you've only go $100 to spend then the BL-C1 will do the job for you. Personally, I would go with a megapixel camera like the BB-HCM515, but that's a lot more expensive.

  16. Peter says:

    Once again Kevin, thank you for this valuable feedback.

    Being a PC guy, I am not familiar with the MAC Leopard software (OS X). I am assuming that Safari is the browser that MAC uses or is it Firefox? I know that using Internet Explorer, IP cameras normally rely on ACTIVE X controls, but it appears that the Panasonic does not use this methodology. Is the MAC brower Safari and if so would you have any idea whether this camera will easily set up with this browser? The Panasonic specs only make reference to a PC. Very frustrating…

  17. Kevin says:

    Macs use Safari as their native browser, but you can load Fifefox onto a Mac easily. The Panasonic cameras have a built-in system for detecting which browser type you are using and displaying an approrpiate viewer for the video. These cameras will work in all browsers.

  18. Peter says:

    Well, I am going to go for it Kevin. I am not sure about your last reply, whether the cameras will work in Safari, as you mentioned Firefox, but also mentioned that they will work with all browsers, which includes Safari.

    I look forward to “fooling” around with this. Kudos to you Kevin for taking the time to share your knowledge and experience with me.

    Gratefully,
    Peter

  19. Kevin says:

    You're welcome Peter, and yes, all cameras from the Panasonic BB and BL ranges will work in Safari.

  20. Anita says:

    Kevin, have you had experience with the BB-HCM371A. I need outdoor wireless camera for my front porch. I’d like to see who is at the door and decide if I want to answer it and I also had a (drunk) man try to come in my house the other night.

    I have an Airport Extreme in the living room and an old Titanium Mac running Tiger. Hoping to get new MacBook Pro soon. I usually use Firefox, but have Safari installed also.

    Or is there some other camera you would suggest for my purposes.

  21. Kevin says:

    Yes, the BB-HCM371 is an excellent camera for this purpose. It also has audio, so you can hear what they're saying if needs be. There is a two-way audio function in the camera but for them to hear you, you would need an active speaker and the Internet Explorer browser.

    Another option is something like Mobotix <a href="/index.php?cPath=109" rel="nofollow">Mobotix</a>. They aren't wireless, but are PoE meaning you'd only need to run a single cable to it. The image quality is superb and the 2-way audio works a treat through the camera's built in speaker.

  22. Kathy says:

    I bought a Panasonic BL-C131A so that I could monitor my pets while away from home. It works very well wirelessly, so convenient! The setup has to be done using Windows, but after you get it configured, you can view it anywhere using a browser.

    I’ve had problems getting audio using Firefox or Safari, but it seems to work well on Windows (uses the Windows Media Player plugin).

  23. chia says:

    thanks for sharing Kevin, will the D-Link DCS-2120 or Trendnet TV-IP100-N compatible with Mac 10.5 under safari, with EvoCam 3.6.2 software? do the D-Link perform better than Panasonic BL-C1? i’m on low budget & Axis, Mobotix was not available in my region.thanks alot for your comments.

  24. Kevin says:

    In our experience Panasonic IP cameras are far more reliable than either Linksys or Trendnet cameras and this is borne out by plenty of user feedback around the net. Picture quality is also arguably better. I'm afraid I have no idea whether they will work in Evocam.

  25. Jim C says:

    Our street has recently experienced several unlocked (!!!) car “item removals” and one actual home invasion which required the thieves to call for a truck(!) to hall of their loot! Some much for “Neighborhood Watch!” 😉 Now, everyone is thinking about ‘security cameras.’ I’m sure there are many good systems that can be used with my Mac, but I really don’t want to use its cpus for doing this sort of thing, unless the software can remain ‘idle/asleep’ unless actually needed. And even with 1TB drives, we seem to always find things that we just can’t delete! 🙂

    What I want is a multi-camera, outdoor system, that doesn’t drain the cpus of my iMac (it’s on 24/7, but always running distributed computing software and the cpus are running as close to 99.9% all the time). That being said, would I be better off buying the many self-contained systems that don’t need/use a computer at all. With some of the prices I’ve seen for those things, I suspect their quality is on the low side…:-|

  26. Laura says:

    The LNE 3003 is mac and iphone compatible. You have to purchase additional software for $30 at EvoLogical link

    I don’t know how well it works with a mac and iphone, but with a PC, it is extremely easy and highly recommended. Hopefully, it will get the same reviews with the Mac crowd.
    link

  27. Kevin says:

    I have been using a Toshiba IKWB15 for the past six months at my vacation house. I am a mac user and was very frustrated with the Active x bs. I found security spy software through a web search. It has been flawless for me. The controls are better than the camera software. The motion detection and recording are excellent. It really opens up you options for ip cameras if you own a mac. My camera has a built in web server, so it run independent of the computer. The only caveat is that you have to use a pc to set the system up.
    Good luck
    Kevin

  28. Y-cam Solutions Ltd says:

    Just an update to this article, Y-cam Solutions Ltd have just released an updated firmware for its latest Y-cam SD range of wireless IP cameras making them fully Mac compatible.

    Our cameras are no longer reliant on ActiveX controls for motion detection setup and modification, instead our new software uses Flash.

    Live view with Audio is also now possible as our stream is Quicktime compatible, and using Quicktime Pro you can even take snapshots or record the live feed locally.

    For full news story and more info : http://j.mp/4Gr6SYc

  29. zayna says:

    Hi,

    I purchased a Panasonic BL-C230 and the set-up software does not run on my mac. I think my husband is molesting my daughter (she’s 2) and I need to be able to see what is happening in the room, remotely. Can anyone help me please find a camera that can work with my MAC. The only other computer in the house is his, and I can’t load the software onto it.

    PLEASE HELP

  30. Researcher says:

    The last comment shows how many IP camera manufacturers are still out-of-touch with customers and too profit motivated because they want to reduce costs by making their products work with PCs only.

    Come on. Just figure it out and complete the product with full Mac compatibility (and not just PC compatibility).