Sony IPELA SNC-RZ25P review
Design and build quality are two areas where Sony has always excelled, and its latest IPELA family of IP network cameras have both by the bucketful. The SNC-RZ25P is one of a group of four cameras aimed at general surveillance and security applications, and delivers a range of features that belies its low price.
For starters, you get pan, tilt and zoom functions with an area of coverage better than most of the competition. The Sony can pan across a full 350 degrees and tilt through 120 degrees. Zoom capabilities are also good, as the camera offers an 18x optical zoom plus a 12x digital zoom to give a maximum 216x magnification; however, since digital zoom doesn’t add any detail, it’s the optical zoom figure that matters. For instance, Axis’ compact 213 PTZ does offer a higher 26x digital zoom but can’t quite match Sony’s overall field of view. Local image storage gets a boost, as the SNC-RZ25P has a CompactFlash slot behind a cover at the front. This accepts CF media cards, but wireless is another option, since it can also accommodate Sony’s optional SNCA-CFW1 802.11b wireless network card. Two-way audio is supported with line in/out sockets, and motion detection is available too.
Installation won’t take long. The bundled IP Setup utility searches the network for Sony cameras and allows you to modify their IP addresses and the HTTP port used for browser access, after which network bandwidth restrictions can be applied. However, note that a power supply isn’t included and the camera has a two-pole contact block at the rear that requires bare wire connections. Included was a separate Vista VPSU1000/12 supply, which worked fine. In common with most IP camera manufacturers, Sony supports only Internet Explorer. The homepage has a tidy interface with a live view and manual image controls to the left. One of three resolutions can be selected, you can take an instant snapshot and open a separate control pad to operate pan, tilt and zoom. Movement can be fine-tuned by pointing and clicking within the live view. Particularly clever is the panoramic preview underneath, allowing you to zero in on any location within the entire viewing field. The image needs creating first and Sony provides a simple utility that takes control of the camera, builds a panoramic view and downloads it directly to the camera.
MPEG4 and Motion-JPEG video modes are on offer. MPEG4 mode allows you to have ten simultaneous viewers, while Motion-JPEG mode (which has lower bandwith) accommodates 20 simultaneous viewers. Access can be restricted with nine password-protected user accounts. Image quality isn’t up to the standards set by Axis’ cameras, though, as at full wide angle and the highest 640 x 480 resolution the image is slightly blurred with digital artefacts evident. If you want the full 25fps rate, you must drop down to 320 x 240, but picture quality does improve. The camera scores well with its optical zoom, as the level of detail at the highest setting is very good.
PTZ cameras tend to command premium prices, but the SNC-RZ25P is one of very few that are on the right side of four figures. It offers an excellent range of features backed up by above-average image quality, and the optional CF add-ons make it even more versatile.