Top Five Low Cost Ethernet Cameras

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Ethernet based cameras that are Ethernet ready, also called IP ready, has become quite popular. Though sometimes used interchangeably, Ethernet ready means the camera has an Ethernet port through which it can communicate. While IP ready would mean that the camera has a built in web server that can be assigned an IP address, so that it can be found on the Internet easily and be able to communicate on it. These are mainly in use in the security area, where one can set up a camera that can send snapshots or alert messages over the Internet when there is movement in the monitored zone. With the increasing popularity of these devices, prices are falling. At around $200 or less you can get a capable unit. Though devices have started appearing with lower than $100 price tags, they may not have all the desired features.

Desired Features

Features that you need typically for security use can be summed up as follows. The camera should be connected through Ethernet to a network. In most cases that could be just your PC or the home network over Ethernet. You need snapshots to be sent based on a time schedule, upon detecting movement and upon detecting body heat (this feature may be exclusive to more expensive models). Video clips or frame grabs can be sent as emails or uploaded to FTP server.

The IPv4 protocol stack is common, although some have IPv6 as well. The ones that also implement IPv6 are going to have a longer usage life, as the Internet gradually upgrades to IPv6 addressing. Dynamic DNS support is required so that the camera can be accesses easily. You’d typically want the video to be encrypted. The field of view of the camera should be large and have pan and tilt controls that can be operated remotely to cover a larger area. Night vision would be desirable. Three lux or less illumination sensitivity levels are common and considered adequate for home use.

A camera viewing angle of 30 degrees horizontally and about 80 degrees vertically is desired. Video with MPEG4 compression is desirable, particularly with H.264 encoding if possible. VGA (640x480 pixels), quarter VGA (320x240 pixels), and SQCIF (192x144 pixels) resolutions at 30 frames per second are commonly found. At least one-way audio from the scene is required whereas two-way would be desirable if you need to talk to someone at the scene.

Some examples

Follwing are some top 5 cameras that should cost you around $100. These quick reviews look at the features available with these products.

IP-503 IP Internet Security Ethernet Camera w/Pan & Tilt Control: The IP camera has MJPEG hardware compression, 30 fps @ VGA resolution live video, has built-in pan and tilt, live streaming audio, and snapshot/video capture functions. These can be controlled from the camera’s on-board homepage. Capability for motion detection with e-mail notification at extra cost. No audio single or two way. Costs about $78

Low Lux Advance IP Kamera 9060A-SL Internet IP Camera (Blue): Video at 25 FPS, audio support, MSN and Yahoo! Messenger support, Low Lux Wide Angle & High Sensibility, motion capture, frame capture can be scheduled, 640 x 480, 352 x 288, 176 x 144 resolutions. Costs $60.

D-Link DCS-910 Network camera, Ehernet::Video with MJPEG compression, plug-and-play operation, manual and scheduled recording, low light sensitivity upto 1 Lux. No pan or tilt.Up to 15fps at 640x480, 30fps at 320x240,10fps at 160x120. Costs $99.99.

Axis 207 Network camera: MPEG4 and MJPEG video, UPnP support, also wireless network support, 640x 480 resolution, fixed design, no pan & tilt. Prices vary over a wide range, $65 at Amazon but goes up to $250 from other sources.

D-Link DCS-950 Network Camera: Video resolution upto 640x480 at 30 FPS, MPEG4, one way audio. No pan & tilt control,no motion detections or warm body detection. Costs $82 to $172 deopending on where you buy it.