- 1/3in. day/night CCD
- Voice Alert
- Date/Time Superimposition
- Privacy Zone Masking
- CompactFlash card slot
- Power over Ethernet
- DEPA enabled
- Wireless connection costs extra
- Doesn’t support two-way audio
- No digital I/O ports
Sony is a relative newcomer in the network surveillance/CCTV market, but that's no excuse for the company not wanting to make up for lost time and market share. Aggressively expanding its product range to become a force in security, the company's SNC-DF80P shows just what network cameras can offer. With its built-in intelligent video features, this mini-dome camera delivers a solution that should fulfil many companies' needs for proactive video surveillance.
The SNC-DF80P, which measures 165mm by 166mm by 135mm and weighs 1.5kg, has been designed for both indoor and outdoor use, featuring a vandal- and weather-resistant design to guard against damage, dust and water ingress. The camera delivers high sensitivity levels and relatively clear images, and has built-in intelligence that allows it to identify threats and alert security staff quickly. For instance, the camera can spot potential security threats such as an abandoned bag and automatically alert an operator.
The camera is based on a 1/3-type CCD imager with SuperExwave technology. This delivers a resolution of 752 by 582 pixels, or 540 TV lines. But the real crux of the camera is Sony’s Distributed Processing Architecture (DEPA) platform. This efficient and intelligent processing method comprises built-in camera functions such as Intelligent Motion Detection (IMD) and Intelligent Object Detection (IOD), in addition to rules or filters that determine which images should be recorded or when an alarm should be triggered.
The multi-codec camera supports three compression formats: JPEG (best choice for high-quality still images); MPEG-4 (for clear moving images over limited-bandwidth networks); and H.264 (the alternative for severely limited-bandwidth networks, providing twice the efficiency of MPEG-4). The camera can also generate JPEG and MPEG-4 images simultaneously. Furthermore, the Day/Night function means the camera can switch from day to night mode (colour/monochrome) automatically, replacing the infrared cut filter with a clear filter. It switches modes using an external sensor or automatically in response to light conditions. For zero-lx operation, it can simultaneously switch to night mode and trigger near-IR illuminators. Equipped with a 3.6x zoom vari-focal lens, this camera can cover a relatively wide range of viewing angles.
DynaView technology helps to improve the camera’s dynamic range to reproduce clearer images in extreme high-contrast environments. The technology works by capturing the same image twice — first with a normal shutter speed, and then with a high shutter speed. The dark areas captured at normal shutter speed and the bright areas captured at high shutter speed are then combined into one image using an advanced DSP LSI. Additionally, as these high-contrast scenes may have different lighting conditions, two white-balance circuits, one for normal and the other for high shutter speed, are employed. This advanced technique helps to produce high-contrast images with more realistic colours.
The SNC-DF80P is not your typical desktop webcam, so installation is more complicated and requires you to dust off your real-world toolkit. Sold as a wired solution (the CompactFlash card slot does allow wireless connectivity as an optional extra), you need to feed power and LAN cables from your computer or router via a ceiling (or wall) and fix the supplied bracket. Once the bracket is mounted, you then have to remove the camera’s dome housing, connect the power and LAN cables to the camera, and finally fix the camera unit to the ceiling bracket using the supplied screws. Camera focus and viewing angle can be adjusted manually using the ball-joint lens mount or by using the secondary video output and a monitor (not supplied). Unlike conventional cameras, a simple single action is all that's required to adjust the and tilt angle.
Once the camera is physically connected to a ceiling or wall you can then set it up on your network. Using the supplied driver software CD, you need to assign an IP address (unless your router offers DHCP). From then on you can manage the camera using a regular web browser. The HTML interface is uncluttered and intuitive, and makes altering settings such as image size, format, and brightness straightforward. You can also set access rights for the camera, so only those with the correct password can make alterations to the camera’s settings. Otherwise, users will only be able to view camera images live via their web browser. Other notable features include a Voice Alert function, Date/Time Superimposition and Privacy Zone Masking.
Sony’s SNC-DF80P is a very good mini-dome security camera. It does have some limitations, though. In particular, it lacks two-way audio support — there’s only an external microphone input. Having said that, you can connect an external microphone in order to pick up audio from a preferred location. The camera is also equipped with active speaker output, enabling you to send an alert or to make an announcement from a remote location. The Voice Alert function also lets you upload (there’s 16MB of built-in memory) up to three pre-recorded audio files for playback upon an alarm trigger.
Perhaps more limiting is the lack of integrated digital input and output ports, which on some other products (such as those from Axis Communications) enable connection to external devices, such as doorbells, detectors (e.g. smoke, movement, sound, temperature and humidity sensors), lights (including infrared lamps), switches and alarm relays, and which are manageable over a network either from a remote PC or automatically using the camera’s built-in logic. Even so, for 'straightforward' video monitoring over a 10/100Base-TX network, the SNC-DF80P does its job very well.