Live viewing from anywhere over the web.
Swann's Max-IP-Cam ™ differs from the usual web or PC camera because it is a stand-alone device with a built-in CPU and web server, that allows you to access video and sound from the camera, from anywhere in the world.
The Max-IP-Cam ™ is ideal for monitoring the office after hours, the children in the backyard whilst you're on the computer and general security surveillance.
• Monitor what this color camera sees & hears via your network, PC, TV or VCR
• Plugs into any network, even without a computer running
• Connects to your existing TV or VCR for viewing and recording with TV-out feature
• Hear every sound with integrated microphone
• See in the dark with infra-red LEDs
• Simple to set-up, install software and plug 'n' play
:: TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
• Resolution 640x480 Pixel
• Sensor 1/4" High Quality Image Sensor
• Frame Rate 15fps @ QVGA / 10fps @ VGA
• Focus From 30mm to infinity adjustable
• Aperture F 2.8
• Lens view angle 54°
• Auto white balance
• Auto electronic exposure
• Auto gain compensation
• Image Compression JPEG
• Video Frame rate setting auto; 1,3,5,10 fps
• Video resolution 160x120, 320x240, 640x480
• Brightness/Contrast/Saturation Adjustable
• LAN Connector (RJ-45) 10BASE-T/100BASE-TX, Full/Half Duplex
• LED Indicator Power LED/LAN Activity LED
• SD Card Slot
• TV OUT
• IR LED x 6
• MICROPHONE (High Sensitivity Mic)
• Power Supply DC 5V
• Focus Adjust Ring
:: MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
• Network: 10/100
• Broadband: High Speed
• Communication: 10Mpbs / 100Mbps
• Communication protocol: DHCP, PPPoE, STATIC IP, DDNS, SMTP, FTP, NTP
On the basis of several reviews of the Swann Max-IP-Cam, I bought one, and returned it the next day. The camera is advertised as feature-laden (and it is), but is the cheapest of all IP-connected cameras I found, which is a dubious combination. I'll start with the things I liked:
1. The image quality was reasonably good, though the automatic brightness adjustment had to manually tweaked to get the best image.
2. The night vision feature worked well.
3. Inexpensive compared to other IP webcams. I paid $209, and the next cheapest was a D-Link DCS-900 at $290 (which I bought to replace the Swann).
Things I didn't like (and I'm qualified to present these; I'm a senior software developer and systems architect with over 30 years in the business).
1. The setup was not straightforward though it could be if everything worked out just right.
2. Installation required me to disable all security on my browser in order to install their Active-X control. It works with Internet Explorer only.
3. Video output didn't work at all. I don't need it so that didn't matter, but it's another minus. This fault was my basis for returning the product.
4. The software is buggy. Sometimes it doesn't save settings and it takes several attempts. Entering incorrect values or strings that are too long (such as a long username) causes wierd things to occur. It is slow and unintuitive. It feels like it was written by a teenager, closer to 13 than 20.
5. The FTP feature (which is the one I wanted to use) worked, but it was tricky to get going because there is no error log. Worst of all, the image that was transferred had very poor quality. I think this was probably caused by bad compression software. Surprisingly, the image displayed using a web browser directly was quite good.
6. I could not get the EMail feature to work. Maybe I didn't get it set up properly, but there's no way to tell what is wrong since it reports no errors.
7. The manual is pretty useless. I wanted to know what the term "Shutter speed" meant. The manuial tells me to "Use this field to enter the shutter speed". Thanks guys. After experimentation, it turned out to be the time it waits between motion dectections, before it does another capture. A value from 1 to 10 seconds the screen says, but it works up to 255. Enter 257 and it goes back to 1. Crazy.
8. It's big, probably necessary to fit everything in.
9. The image display using the web browser is reasonable, but controlling the image display (zoom etc) is clunky.
In summary, you get a lot of features for a moderate sum of money, but you need to be at least a little skilled in networking matters. It works, but don't expect much from the built-in software.
When I first read the specs on this unit, I thought "You have got to be kidding... how could they shoe-horn all that technology into something this small? It must weigh a tonne!" So you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I unpacked the unit and found that not only was it far lighter than I expected, but it did in fact contain more than I had first known about. I was unaware it contained an integrated SD card drive when I was first told of it. Yup, that's right, you can slap an SD card into the camera itself, allowing to you save snapshots and motion-triggered movie clips, even if there is no PC attached!
The camera has the ability, and supplied cables, to attach to a TV for display purposes. This is where the SD drive somes into play, allowing you to connect to the camera with a PC for configuration purposes, then detach it and make it a stand-alone sentry unit, and all the snapshots and movie clips will be saved onto the SD card. With a large-capacity high-end SD card, such as those from Kingston, you are assured of a good amount of storage to hold the evidence securely until you can download it into a laptop or PC for later processing.
Of course, you could always just connect it to your network, or even directly into a broadband router, for transmission down the internet to a centralised processing and/or storage facility. This of course is despite the live feed capabilities of the unit, allowing you remote viewing and administrative facilities. Imagine being able to grab your 3G-enabled cellphone, tapping in to your nearest internet service, and punching in the IP address of your camera... enter the password, and bingo, you are taking a sneak peek at your staff hard at work in chilly NZ, while you lounge around on the Gold Coast at your 'Executive Conference'...
But, there are a few niggles that need to be addressed... the camera defaults out of the box to NTSC format, and is set to use DHCP IP protocols on a subnet that is not part of the Windows default range. This can cause some issues during initial setup if you are not careful. The unit comes supplied with a CD containing a camera-seeking application that put out a huge broadrange 'ping', causing all available camera to report back their settings and locations. However, this will only work if you either disable your firewall temporarily and reconfigure it, or happen to have the range 192.168.9.X already open.
Another little niggle, and this one is a tiny one for sure, you can't have the camera outputting through the network port and the TV-Out port at the same time... this could be a useful feature for retail outlets who want to record everything, but still want to display the feed to the customers, as a little reminder of Big Brother Syndrome. However, let's face it, any good PC that will be running this sort of gear should have a TV-Out capable videocard anyways, so you can hack up a workaround easily enough.
The quality of the images is highly tunable, using the onboard controls, but the most important factor is to get the focus right when you set the camera up. It can either be a freely-movable unit, or you can use the supplied secure mounting braket to install it on a wall or ledge without any chance of slippage. I also think the NTP (Atomic Clock synchronisation facility) is a great idea, as it removes the worry and hassle of inaccurate timestamps on any saved images and movieclips. In a commercial environment, this can be a vital factor in any legal proceedings that may require the files as evidence.
Overall, I was very impressed with this unit... the only major improvement I can think of would be to remove the sometimes-floppy positioning pivot-mount, and replace it with a motor-driven servo system, allowing remote repositioning of the camera. Nothing beats the abilty to track a potential troublemaker as they move around the shop... it increases the odds of getting a clear facial shot for the records. However despite that, this camera would find use in both home and work environments. With it's automatic night-vision mode, it makes a great addition to a security setup as the lead indoor camera, and in a retail or commercial application it's uses are obvious.
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