Panasonic WV-NP472E review

£795
Price when reviewed

A big feature of Panasonic’s WV-NP472E camera is its simultaneous support for digital and analog feeds. This allows it to be accessed over the network or via a coaxial feed. Aimed at 24-hour surveillance, it also stands out as being one of the few cameras able to accept a variety of lenses. Panasonic offers options for high-speed, powered remote zoom, auto-iris and auto-focus functions.

However, while it’s big on features, it remains to be seen whether the latest version of the WV-NP472E is clever. It failed to impress us on its last visit to PC Pro Enterprise. The original model suffered average picture quality and support only for JPEG compression, which resulted in a low refresh rate and a comparatively high price tag. This revision doesn’t offer any big improvements, but it does bring Motion JPEG into the frame for a greatly improved refresh rate.

The camera is well built and the lenses screw easily into the front of the body, with the power cable plugging into a small receptacle on the side. At the rear, you have 10/100 Ethernet port, a coaxial cable socket and an I/O contact block. The latter can be used to add devices such as recorders or for linking external alarms. The camera uses a two-pole contact block for power connections and, as with Sony’s SNC-RZ25P, you’ll have to purchase a 12V supply separately.

Installation is easy, although compared with the likes of Axis, Sony and even D-Link the web interface is looking a tad boring. Configuration isn’t as easy either, as the more complex settings such as movement detection can only be accessed from the camera’s own menu, which has to be overlaid on the live view image. However, the camera does also have a manual control pad on its side, which allows you to modify most functions locally.

In JPEG mode, the camera fires an image off at predefined intervals and you can choose from a fast mode, which offers around 5-6fps, to very slow, which only sends an image about once every three seconds. The new Motion JPEG feature only supports viewing using Internet Explorer and also requires the supplied plug-in to be installed on each PC that will be accessing the camera. However, it provides a much smoother image playback. Although Panasonic doesn’t quote a speed, we’d estimate it to be no more than 20fps.

We found overall picture quality to be reasonably good, although there’s nothing here to worry Axis Communications, whose cameras still deliver better image quality. Colour balance is accurate, but we found it tricky getting a sharp focus using the manual controls on the lens housing. We also tested the camera using the analog feed to an Axis 2411 Video Server. In general, there was little to separate analog and digital feeds for quality, although the latter handled motion far better, with little delay.

We can see this camera appealing where there’s a requirement for analog and digital feeds. If not, we recommend network cameras such as the Axis 221. This offers PoE support, Motion JPEG and MPEG4 playback plus superior image quality.

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