Linksys Wireless G PTZ Internet Camera review

£141
Price when reviewed
Axis Communications may be the heavyweight champion for network cameras, but it’s now seeing significant competition. Linksys’ new IP camera ups the ante, as this compact package delivers PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) functions, adds 802.11g wireless support and audio capabilities, and comes in at a price reserved for fixed-lens cameras.

Linksys is aiming this product at small businesses looking for an affordable surveillance device. Although sacrifices have been made to get the price down, there aren’t as many as you might think. At 1/5in, the CMOS sensor is small, but pan and tilt coverage is good and compares well with more expensive PTZ cameras. Optical zoom isn’t available, and all the camera offers is a 2x digital zoom, which didn’t impress during testing. The camera operates down to 2 lux light levels and also incorporates an IR filter, so will work at night with an IR illuminator.

The camera body is well constructed from solid plastic and has an LCD panel that displays the camera’s IP address. This is useful for initial configuration and can be switched off from the web interface. The camera supports both Motion-JPEG and MPEG4 compression, and either can be selected from the main live view screen. Linksys provides a search utility, making initial setup a breeze, and then you can move over to the simple web interface, which, incidentally, supports only IE.

The interface opens with a live view and control pad, providing quick access to the various functions. However, it’s clear where costs have been cut, as image quality isn’t the best. On default settings, it coped poorly with fluorescent lighting and the auto-iris had trouble handling the camera being pointed at a large window with strong sunlight coming through. This caused it to close down so much that you couldn’t see any details in the room – Axis’ cameras cope far better with this situation.

Colour balance was good, but we had to shift exposure to maximum, as on the normal setting the indoor image was far too dark. The focus mask also required tweaking to the max before we could see any appreciable detail on distant objects. For zoom, you select the option on the side bar and click within the image to apply it, but the resultant image is so unfocused as to be largely unusable. It all looks a bit gloomy for Linksys, but with the right image settings it does deliver superior quality to cameras such as Panasonic’s BL-C10 (see issue 130, p176).

Pan and tilt can be controlled from the keypad or by pointing within the image area. Up to nine lens positions can be saved and used for the patrol function, which moves to each position after a set number of seconds. Motion detection allows you to email images at preset intervals once capture has been triggered, but you can’t modify its sensitivity. Linksys also bundles a handy utility for viewing multiple cameras and running scheduled recordings.

If you want the best image quality, Axis is the name to go for, but you’ll pay a premium. Otherwise, Linksys’ new PTZ camera provides a good range of features at a very low price.

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