Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor With Interchangeable Optical Lens, White/Biege

The Best PTZ Baby Monitor

 

Best PTZ Baby Monitor: Infant Optics DXR-8 Review

Last updated: November 3, 2017. Best Bet: PTZ baby monitor. The Infant Optics DXR-8 ($170) is the best of the PTZ (point/tilt/zoom) baby monitors—it features crisp 3.5″ screen, two-way talk and interchangeable lenses, which is unique among baby monitors.

 

What is a PTZ monitor?

There are three types of baby monitors: fixed, PTZ and streaming. Fixed monitors feature a camera that doesn’t move and is intended to monitor a fixed area.

PTZ stands for point-tilt-zoom—as the name in implies, the camera can move left and right, up and down to capture a wider area of a room. Most cameras also have a zoom feature, letting get a closer look in an area.

Streaming baby monitors can stream video over the internet to a smartphone, tablet or computer.

Which one is right for you?

Fixed baby monitors are the most popular choice on the market today, due to their simplicity and relatively low cost (our top pick is $100). However, PTZ monitors are a close second and are closing the gap.

At first blush, it may appear that PTZ monitors are overkill—if you are monitoring a newborn in a crib that can’t even roll over yet, what is the point of having a monitor that can scan the entire room?

Well, the answer is: toddlers. Your newborn will soon be crawling and walking—and when that happens, having a PTZ camera that is monitoring a baby’s room or play area would be more helpful than a fixed camera. By panning and tilting the camera, most PTZ monitors let you scan an entire room.

The downsides? First, these monitors are more expensive than fixed monitors—some $50 to $150 more. Our top PTZ pick, the Samsung SafeVIEW clocks in at $230, vs. $100 for a Infant Optics DX5, our top pick for fixed monitors.

Fans of PTZ monitors counter that the extra life of a PTZ monitor (to be used later for toddlers or even a security camera at a front door) makes the extra expense worth it.

Another downside: PTZ monitors are a bit more complex to use, since you have to hit a few buttons to make the monitor pan, tilt and zoom. The motors in PTZ monitors are another possible negative, as they are another point that can break or malfunction.

Finally, let’s talk about the Z in PTZ monitors—the “zoom” feature. Be aware that most cameras have a digital zoom. This means the pixels in the camera are enlarged when you zoom. As a result, the picture becomes grainy. Hence, the zoom feature is less helpful than you’d think.

FYI: More expensive PTZ cameras that are designed for home security have a optical (vs. digital) zoom. That enables the camera to have much more clarity when the picture is zoomed in. While the technical aspect of this is behind the scope of this web site, here is a link to an article that goes into more detail on digital vs optical zoom.

Note: our picks for PTZ cameras are not streaming cameras—they don’t connect via WIFI and can’t be viewed on a smartphone, etc. The camera is paired with the parent unit for a secure transmission.

How we picked a winner

We evaluate baby monitors with hands-on inspections, reviews by our readers and online feedback. We do not accept free samples from manufacturers—if we purchase a baby monitor to review, we buy it from the same sources we recommend on this site (Amazon, stores, etc).

We do this to remain independent. Manufacturers know if they provide a free sample to a blogger or review site, they most likely will be getting a positive review in return (otherwise, why would they do it?). That probably explains why most of the baby gear reviews you read online are positive. By refusing to take freebies for the 20+ years we’ve been researching baby gear, we have built a reputation for being tough but fair.

We have been researching and writing about baby monitors since 1994. In the 90’s, video baby monitors were primitive and expensive—they had clunky analog TV monitors, poor resolution and big price tabs ($400 or so in today’s dollars).

Infant Optics, the brand

Infant Optics sells just one type of product—video baby monitors. And don’t go looking for these monitors in stores—Infant Optics mostly sells its monitors online (most notably, Amazon). Founded in 2010, Infant Optics is part of San Francisco-based importer Genexus.

Infant Optics debuted its first baby monitor in 2012 (the fixed camera DXR-5). The PTZ monitor (DXR-8) debuted in 2014. As of this writing, Infant Optics only has these two models.

Our top pick: Infant Optics DXR-8

Infant Optics DXR-8 has three swap-able lensesInfant Optics best-selling model is the DXR-8—this $170 unit has pan/tilt/zoom and interchangeable lenses (the normal and zoom lense come in the box; wide angle is sold separately). The swappable lenses are unique and you might think, at first blush, what is the point? Why would you need to swap the normal angle lens with a zoom?

After playing around with this monitor for while, the most obvious answer is ease of installation. Depending on the configuration of your nursery, your only option may be to put the camera on a dresser across from the crib—then the normal lens might do. But if you mount the camera on a wall above the crib, the zoom lens might be better. (Always make sure cords are at least three feet from the crib). Side note: The VuSee is an affordable corner-mount ($15) that enables wall mounting of this monitor above a crib.

Most folks repurpose a baby monitor later to monitor a toddler’s room or play area—then the wide angle lens ($10, sold separately) might be the better bet. Of course, interchangeable lens means you might also lose the lenses (at least, that’s what would happen to us)— but you can buy replacements from Infant Optics’ web site.

Beyond the standard intercom and temperature sensor features (common on many monitors in this price point), we also liked the Infant Optics screen off, audio-only mode which is most useful during over night hours. Infant Optics estimates the battery life at six hours (when the screen is turned on)—our research says that is relatively accurate. Obviously, it would make most sense to have the parent monitor plugged in (instead of using battery power) overnight, but the audio-only mode should get you through the night on a fully charged battery if you forget.

One nice feature: you can recharge the lithium-ion battery in the parent unit with any USB plug—computer, USB power cube, etc.:

Charge the DXR8 via a computer or wall outlet or USB port

Need to monitor twins? Or quads? The Infant Optics DXR-8 lets you link up to four cameras to a single display, which will then cycle through the additional cameras every 12 seconds.

Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor With Interchangeable Optical Lens, White/Biege

Our Pick

Infant Optics DXR-8

A point-tilt-zoom baby monitor with interchangeable lens and 3.5″ parent unit.

$170.70* at Amazon

* Prices change daily. Shop carefully.

Night vision on the DXR-8 is impressive: here’s how it looks compared to the Samsung SEW3043W (on left). The DXR-8 had an overall crisper and brighter picture when using night vision:

Side-by-side comparison of the Samsung SEW-3043W and Infant Optics DXR-8

 

How’s the range? The Infant Optics DXR-8 uses 2.4 Ghz technology—that provides secure transmission (the parent unit is paired with the camera) to prevent eavesdropping. The company claims a range of 700 feet line of sight. Real world tests indicate it works well in two or even three story homes, with few dropouts, say readers.

Flaws but not deal breakers

To Infant Optics credit, the company has tweaked the monitor over the years to address user complaints. Example: there used to be an audible beep when the monitor went into sleep mode or low battery—that obviously drove folks crazy at 2am. So Infant Optics enabled these beep alerts to be toggled off in the menu settings for units shipped after March 2015.

Here are the other key complaints:

• No VOX. Voice-activation mode (VOX) turns on the video screen when a certain level of sound is detected. This is a relatively common feature on baby monitors today, but Infant Optics omits it. We should point out that VOX has both its fans and detractors—folks who like the VOX mode appreciate the battery savings, since the screen only turns on when sound is detected. Detractors says VOX can wake them out of a sound sleep when the screen turns on, even if there is just some random noise (not the baby crying). We should point out that the DXR-8 does have an audio-only night mode (described above) . . . but that means the audio is on all the time, not triggered by noise.

• Somewhat bulky parent unit. Compared to the parent units of competitors like Summer or Samsung, the Infant Optics parent unit is kind of chunky. Here’s what it looks like from behind (it ain’t no iPhone 6):

parent unit DXR-8

• Which brings us to flaw #2: notice the back of the parent unit has a stand but no belt clip. Hence carrying this unit around requires you to keep it in a pocket—and a large one at that.

• No remaining battery life percentage indicator. Summer has a this feature; Infant Optics just has an icon indicating battery life, but a percentage remaining would be more helpful.

• Smallish screen, no HD. Competitors like the Samsung BrightVIEW are rolling out five inch parent unit screens. And actual 720p HD resolution. By contrast the Infant Optics DXR-8 is old school at 640 x 480 resolution. Of course, the HD cameras are more expensive (that Samsung unit is $230—35% more than the DXR-8). And most of our readers found the lower rez on the 3.5″ screen to be adequate enough to do the job. Plus there is the trade-off in battery life—the higher the resolution and bigger the screen, the less battery time you get—the Samsung BrightVIEW is about only four hours versus six hours for the DXR-8.

Less than stellar audio. One thing Infant Optics could do is beef up the audio quality of the DXR-8. We found the sound to be kind of tinny, especially compared to Samsung and Motorola’s offerings. Again, most readers tell us the DXR-8 was adequate to do the job . . . but that is somewhat underwhelming for a $170 monitor. On the plus side, we found the video signal from the Infant Optics unit to be better than Samsung (see the night vision comparison above).

No online streaming. The Infant Optics DXR-8 only can send a signal to the parent unit—it can’t stream video online to be viewed by a smartphone. Read our pick for the best streaming baby monitor here.

Also Great

VTech VM343

$150.00* at Amazon

* Prices change daily. Shop carefully.

The VTech VM343 ($150) comes with a larger parent unit (4.3″)—but the trade off is battery life: just two to three hours. The picture is crisp, however.

VTech VM343 Safe & Sound Video Baby Monitor with Night Vision, Pan/Tilt/Zoom and Two-Way Audio

Also recommended

The VTech VM343 ($150) has one of the better parent units (4.3″) with a crisp (but not HD) picture. There is a two-talk feature, but the battery life is shorter than our top pick above (two to three hours versus the Infant Optics’ six hours). Good quality overall.

PTZ monitor competition

The our rating for Samsung video monitors to a B-. We see complaints about dropped signals, short range and battery woes that crop up after just a few months of use.

The Motorola MBP36 ($136) is similar in specs to the Infant Optics DXR-8, but has a more clunky interface to navigate when changing settings. And the night vision on the Motorola camera is poor in comparison. Motorola baby monitors have also been beset with quality woes in recent months, leading us to lower their rating to an F.

Summer is another major player in this segment—their Sharp View HD monitor features a huge 5″ screen parent unit, HD picture, PTZ, two-way intercom . . . for $200. But the Summer brand of monitors only earns a C- rating in our overall evaluation—long term reliability issues dog these monitors, leading to numerous complaints.

Other video monitors makers include Levana, Phillips Avent and Lorex—read reviews of these brands here. None measure up to Infant Optics in overall quality, in our research.

A word on safety

As baby video monitors sales have boomed, so has a new safety concern: cords. Since cameras are positioned near a crib for the best picture, some babies and toddlers have become tangled in the cords. “Since 2002, seven children were strangled in baby monitor cords and three infants and toddlers nearly strangled,” says the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Here is the CPSC’s safety advice for monitors:

  • Immediately check the location of all monitors and other products with electrical cords– including those mounted on the wall–to make sure cords are out of your child’s reach.
  • Place cords at least three feet away from any part of the crib, bassinet, play yard or other safe sleep environment.
  • Never position a monitor inside or on the edge of a crib.
  • Remember, at least three feet away is where your monitor should stay.

Finally, let’s talk about baby monitor hacking. Several high profile cases of this have splashed across the media in recent years. The problem: defects in the camera’s software have allowed hacks to gain access to a monitor feed.

This issue has rose in concern with the increased sales of streaming monitors—monitors that are connected to a home’s WiFi and hence could be monitored by someone hacking into that network.

Non-streaming cameras have a closed radio loop—the camera broadcasts a signal to the parent unit, but not online. Early video monitors used analog signals that could be intercepted by someone nearby who had the same parent receiver. Newer models, however, offer secure digital transmission. When you set up a digital monitor, you have to pair the camera and parent unit—this prevents eavesdropping.

If you decide to go for a streaming monitor, consider these safeguards:

  • Change the default password. When you set up a monitor, you often have the choice to change the default user name and password—do it!
  • Make sure you download the latest firmware. Like any network device, it is best to have the most up to date firmware when you set it up. These updates typically close security holes. Unfortunately, few folks bother to do this.
  • Don’t stream your monitor online. Just view it on your WiFi network. Outside viewing of your camera is often an option—if you don’t need it, don’t enable it.
  • Make sure your WiFi is secured with a password. Some folks who had their monitors hacked had open WiFi networks—that is, they weren’t password protected. While that sounds like a no brainer, a recent study revealed 40% of American home WiFi networks have no password (source: WeFi).

Check out this blog post we wrote for more on hacking of baby monitors and how you can stay safe.

Wrapping it up

The Infant Optics DXR-8 combines the key features you need in a video monitor—decent picture, good battery life, sound-only night mode, sharp night vision—for an affordable price of $170.

Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor With Interchangeable Optical Lens, White/Biege

Infant Optics DXR-8

A point-tilt-zoom baby monitor with interchangeable lens and 3.5″ parent unit.

$170.70* at Amazon

* Prices change daily. Shop carefully.