- ✓Good value
- ✓Interchangeable lens
- ✓WPA2 & QoS (WMM & 802.1p)
- ✓Built-in Web server
- ✓Secure control over HTTPS
- ✓IO ports support external devices
- ✓2-way audio
- ✕Sub-par video quality
- ✕No optical zoom
- ✕Wired only
Video surveillance is quickly becoming a critical application for businesses, whatever their size, to secure and monitor after hours or show remote images of offices or parking facilities. However, poorly used or installed video surveillance systems dramatically limit the ability to recover crucial evidence during the investigation of a variety of incidents that occur at business locations. Although many businesses have installed security video systems, if the systems are not properly used, the videos yield very little useful information.
Linksys’ new surveillance solution has been optimised for many different applications. The box-type form factor allows the camera to be used as-is or put inside an outdoor enclosure for interior or exterior applications. The camera also uses removable CS-mount lenses and can be customised with zoom, wide-angled, vari-focal, auto-iris, or other types of lenses as required for the specific application.
One of the biggest selling points of the PVC2300 is its power-over-Ethernet (PoE) functionality that facilitates installation of the camera in places without reach of a power outlet. It can even be mounted on any PT base that supports the Pelco_D protocol and can be remotely rotated and controlled through an RS-485 interface. It supports two input and two output connectors which can be used for connecting to an alarm panel, siren, PIR, smoke detectors, light switch (on/off), door opener, and so on. The camera even comes with motion detection functionality, and can be configured to send notifications through e-mail (up to three addresses), or it can include a video or a preset time.
The PVC2300 incorporates a progressive scan CCD sensor, but video quality isn’t anywhere near as good as more expensive network surveillance cameras. On the plus side, the sensor has low-light sensitivity capability, meaning that video can be viewed when very low light (near darkness) is present. Additionally, it incorporates an IR Cut Filter switcher which, when used with a separate IR lamp, allows for viewing of video in total darkness.
Dual codecs are supported - MPEG-4 and MJPEG - and can be used simultaneously. MPEG-4 gives more efficient bandwidth consumption with decent quality compression and is optimal for real-time viewing of video, while MJPEG gives optimal video quality in lossy environments, making it better suited for video storage to a NAS device. The camera’s audio capabilities include 2-way audio, an embedded microphone, external speaker and microphone ports, and voice compression, all of which are excellent features for a camera in this price range. Other admirable features include IP multicast, RTSP, RTP, and 3GPP, so video can be viewed from multiple endpoints and client applications like 3G phones and Quicktime clients (on PCs or Wi-Fi phones).
The Ethernet port supports network speeds of either 10Mbps or 100Mbps, and can operate in half and full-duplex mode. Auto-sensing technology enables the port to automatically detect the speed of the device connected to it (10Mbps or 100Mbps), and adjust its speed and duplex accordingly. The Ethernet port supports automatic MDI/MDI-X operation, so you can use straight-through or crossover cables to connect to PCs, servers, or switches.
Support for IEEE 802.3af PoE enables DC power to be supplied to the camera using wires in the connecting twisted-pair cable. Any 802.3afcompliant device attached to the port can directly supply power to the camera over the twisted-pair cable without requiring its own separate power source. This capability gives network administrators centralised power control, which translates into greater network availability.
The supplied monitoring utility lets you configure and control the PVC2300 over a network. Among other things you can manually start recording a video stream, capture an image from the current video stream, magnify a section of the video playback window, and toggle the sound on or off. Video can be recorded while watching, and you can schedule (date, time, duration) recordings to occur when you’re on a bathroom break. Recordings are stored on the hard disk drive of the computer running the application.
Video quality was reasonable in our tests, but we were surprised at the amount of jaggies and lack of focus when playing back captured video. The camera’s maximum VGA (640x480) resolution is also a little restrictive, but it does capture video at up to 30fps for relatively jitter-free playback. A 4x digital zoom lens is provided as standard, but you’ll need to further budget for an optical zoom lens if you need more precision. Focussing has to be done manually, which is a hassle.
Two-way audio, IP Multicast, 3GPP, and lots of other impressive features make the PVC2300 a good introduction into network surveillance. Control over HTTPS, as well as WPA2 and QoS (WMM and 802.1p) protocol support, also add piece of mind.