Web cameras have been around for a while and most of the time they are used for chatting online and other stuff like that. However, I have never tried using a web camera as a home security device. The Zonet ZVC7630 camera has several features that could make it great for security because it works in the day and night and has two-way audio capabilities.
- Two-way voice communication
- Capture video in low-light environment
- Motion Detection 3 scalable windows
- Supports Web configuration with password protection
- 640 x 480 Resolution
Night vision is an essential security feature. Since humans cannot see very well in the dark it is a good time for people to sneak around. If you are going to see these people you need to be able to see in the dark. Because of the ability to see in low-light environments, this camera is perfect outside. However, the camera is not weather proof so it must be kept in protected areas like under the eves of a house.
Two-way voice communication is great because you no longer have to yell through the door to talk to the person on the other side. This also means that you could be in another part of your house and still see and talk to who is at your door or gate.
The 640 x 480 resolution that this camera provides is great for transmitting across a network. It should provide a good balance between performance and quality.
The Zonet ZVC7630 is also web enabled. When you plug it into your network it will be assigned an IP address. If you visit that IP address with a browser then you can view the image, zoom and activate night vision. With this ability you can view your camera even when you are not home.
Each camera has its own web page. Through the web pages you can control nearly every aspect of the cameras functionality. The web page allows you to see the cameras video and hear the audio, if you have a microphone attached to your computer you can even talk through the camera using the web page. These pages are also the only access to many of the cameras internal settings. Using the setup pages you can configure the cameras IP address, name, internal time and date, set recording schedules, turn on and off motion detection, and setup email and FTP accounts for uploading images from the camera.
The camera comes with some software called UltraView. With this software you can view up to 16 cameras at the same time. This software is not required for using the camera or any of its functionality, it is only needed if you have more than one camera because it makes viewing and managing multiple cameras easier.
The UltraView software also provides the ability to record video. There are three different ways to record video. You can click the record or record all button. This will record a video and not stop until you click the button again or you run out of space. You can also set up a schedule for recording. This way, if you only want to record a couple of times a day, and on certain days it can easily be setup. The third way to record is to setup a motion recording. This will cause the camera to record whenever it detects motion.
Motion detection can be setup to start recording and to set off a beep or start playing music. This can be setup to act like a doorbell to let you know when someone is outside your door. This would not work very well if you are in an apartment building where people have to go past your door to get to your neighbors.
The front of the camera has the lens in the middle. Surrounding the lens is a white dial that is used for manually focusing the camera. Around that are a series of IR lights and a light sensor that are used for low-light video. In the top right are two lights. The top one indicates power and the bottom one blinks when it has a good connection to your network.
The right side of the camera has a USB port and a small unmount button. The USB port is not for connecting the camera, to a computer instead you can connect a USB storage device to the camera. The unmount button is for disconnecting the USB device. The camera can be configured to use the USB storage for saving all the images and video it takes.
The back has an audio out jack for external speakers, power plug, and Ethernet.
The cameras performance is all about how good the video looks and how well all the features work.
The camera is capable of showing video in low light, and at night. There is a sensor on the front of the camera which detects the light level and automatically activates the low-light mode. When viewing video in low-light mode everything is in black and white and the center looks like it is lit up. Low-light mode looks really good and things are clearly visible even when there is almost no light available.
The camera has a manual focus and this can be a pain if you move the camera because the only way you can tell if the camera is in focus is to look at it through a computer. If you don’t have a laptop then you have to make a small adjustment and then go look at it from a computer, then go back and make another adjustment. This process can take a really long time, if you have two people it could go a lot faster. I think an auto-focus or the ability to change the focus from the software would be a huge benefit.
You can view the camera through a browser. The camera supports most major browsers, I tried it out on both IE and Firefox. Using IE I had access to the full functionality of the camera, but if I used Firefox I lost out on the zoom, record, snapshot, browse, talk, and listen functionality.
The camera does not have a built-in speaker so if you want to be able to talk to people through the camera you must attach it to external speakers through the audio out jack. For reasons I will explain below, you will want to have speakers that have their own volume controls. This can make setting up the camera outside a little more difficult because you have to find a place for speakers, and a plug for power. One problem I found while using the camera in my office is that any sound coming out of your speakers will be sent back through the cameras microphone and it will be amplified. To explain this further, I setup the camera on my desk which is also where my speakers are located. If I turned on the ‘talk’ and ‘listen’ feature and then spoke, the sound would come out of my speaker and go into the camera microphone which would then come back out of my speaker and back into the cameras microphone. Each time the sound came out of my speakers it was amplified and the next time it would be louder. The key here is not to use the ‘listen’ and ‘talk’ functionality unless the camera is in another room or outside.
If you want to manage more than one camera you will need to install the UltraView software. UltraView installs quickly and is not difficult to use. Adding a camera is fairly straight forward. I did run into one small snag, the software recognized the camera, but when I tried to add it I was asked for a username and password, and the default was not recognized. However, after playing with it a bit and doing a factory reset things started working a lot better. The only complaint that I have about the software is that you cannot control the volume or gain of the audio you are sending and receiving. If you have speakers attached that do not have their own volume control then the sound comes out full blast and it can get distorted. It would also be nice to be able to adjust the gain so that you could filter out background noises.
With the motion detection feature you can setup the camera and software to do many different things. The camera and the UltraView software can use the motion detection in different ways. The software can be setup to play a sound and/or start recording video when something moves across the screen. It can also send an email indicating that motion was detected. You can even have the camera email you when it detects motion. Using the camera setups you can put images on any FTP server, network attached storage device, or send them in an email. All of these are great security features, and if you are buying this camera for security I highly recommend that you use them. I tested the FTP and email functionality and both worked great. Below is an email I got with a screenshot attached.
The camera does a good job with picture quality and audio. The most glaring problem is that the video is a bit delayed, by a second or so, and the audio is even more delayed, by about 4 seconds or more. I am not sure if there is a way to improve the performance of the audio and video, and get them synced up better, but if there is I could not find it.
If you are thinking of buying this camera as a personal webcam for use in IM clients and such, then you should know that I could not find a way to get the camera to work with an IM client.
If you were setting up the camera in a remote location, you may want to consider getting the wireless version of this camera. The ZVC7630W is exactly the same as this one, except it has built in wireless so you don’t have to run an Ethernet cable to every cameras location.
Warranty and Support
Zonet offers a 1 year warranty. This is a very short warranty, but since there are really no moving parts there is nothing to wear out. This means the camera should last a long time if you take care of it.
I am happy with the camera, it has a lot of potential and uses on a home or small business network. I didn’t have any trouble getting any of the features to work. I was a little disappointed when I tried to get the two-way audio working and realized that the camera need external speakers, but that is easily overcome by adding speakers or you can choose not to use it. As always compare prices before purchasing.
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