The SNC-M3W is the wireless version of Sony's recently released SNC-M3 IP (or Network) Camera aimed at the consumer market. It retails in the UK for around £300 including delivery and VAT.
Full spec is in the brochure, which can be found here:
The first thing to impress me on opening the box was a leaflet advising that the camera was covered by a Prime Support contract:
- 2 years warranty.
- Freephone telephone helpdesk.
- Repair of faulty units, including labour, parts and logistics.
The next thing to impress was the ease of camera set-up.
A. Plug a Cat 5 cable (from your router) into the port, then the power supply. B. Load the supplied CD-ROM software onto your PC. C. Use the IP Configuration programme to detect the camera and all the relevant network settings. D. Type the default IP address into your browser - and hey presto! You are viewing full-motion video at 30 fps on the LAN.
In my opinion the picture and sound quality are very good for a unit in this price range. But naturally the more light there is, the better the picture. The camera uses a CMOS sensor - currently not as good as a CCD. But, you pays your money etc.
Viewing the camera on the Internet was more problematic. You need to enable 'port forwarding' on your router, which can be more or less difficult depending on the model you use. I've got a Netgear DG834G and, after getting into a terrific fankle, I called Netgear technical support. But no joy. After about an hour and a half of remotely accessing my router and fiddling around with the settings, these guys could not see my camera. They suggested in might be faulty - but I wasn't buying that. So I gave up and continued fiddling around myself.
Eventually I called the guy at Sony who, in less than five minutes, narrowed the problem down to 'port 80' (the default camera port, which either the router or my ISP wasn't for having a Sony camera on). When Mr Sony changed the camera port to 'port 1024' everybody from outside my LAN was able to log on /see the camera output/pan and tilt/and hear all sounds.
It's been quite spooky actually - working away and hearing the camera panning around and tilting up and down the room. Then you know someone is watching. But they usually phone for a chat. No 'Peeping Toms' so far ;-)
Viewers can hear you talking thru the camera, but, of course, they can't talk back (tho that could be arranged via MSN Messenger or summat similar).
With regard to 'port forwarding...' Basically you have to tell the router to direct all inbound TCP traffic on the camera port (in my case port 1024) to the camera's static IP address, which might be something like 192.168.0.8. Then all outside viewers have to do is type: http://123.456.789.345:1024 (which could be your global IP address as assigned by your ISP, followed by the camera port number) and they can view the camera output - that is, after downloading and installing an Active-X control from the web server inside the camera itself. Cool.
But why did I buy this particular model...?
Well, I was initially in the market for a Panasonic BLC-10, which also does the remote pan and tilt bit and is around a hundred quid cheaper. What swung me to the Sony was the sound facility and the fact that the SNC-M3(W) does up to 30fps as against the Panny's top whack of 15 fps. Also the SNC-M3(W) has external microphone and speaker ports, which the BLC-10 does not.
All the same, IMHO the picture output from the Panny is just as impressive. Judge for yourself on the site below by clicking the appropriate link.
- haven't had a chance to check so far).
Moreover, you should know I am just on bog standard broadband ADSL:512k down, 256k up. And The SNC-M3W works well with that. You should also not confuse the SNC-M3(W) and similar products with much cheaper so-called 'Webcams' that people plug directly into their PCs. These latter devices MUST be connected to PC hosts. Whereas true IP/Network cameras (like the SNC-M3(W) and Panny models mentioned) can be connected directly to the network. Your PC doesn't need to be switched on at all. This is why they're dearer than simple webcams that don't have web servers inside.
Meanwhile, if you already own a decent CCTV type colour video camera (with either composite or S-Video output) you can turn that into a true IP/Network cam by purchasing what's called a 'video server'. This is a box into which you plug any analogue cam and then plug the output from the box into the network. The box acts as the web server and streams video (and sound too if 'the box' has that capability) to the Net.
A third way of turning any existing analogue cam into an IP/Network cam is to use a DVR (Digital Video recorder) with Network capabilities. VISIX is one well-known company that makes these devices. But there are loads more. Sadly though, network DVRs are quite expensive
Otherwise, if you're just starting out, either of the two cam products discussed herein might be best.
I hope the above has been useful for those wishing to put some live video on the Net.
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