Sony IPELA SNC-RX550P review

Price when reviewed

There may be plenty of PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) IP cameras on the market, but the majority have one thing in common: their limited coverage gives them blind spots. Sony’s latest IPELA SNC-RX550P aims to remedy this, as it’s one of the first PTZ cameras to provide continuous 360-degree panning plus a full 90-degree tilt.

Sony IPELA SNC-RX550P review

There’s much more to this camera, as it’s fast with a 300-degree/sec pan speed and it’s also designed to work in light levels down to 0.15lux. Zoom capabilities are excellent, as the camera offers a 26x optical zoom plus a 12x digital zoom, and local image storage gets a boost as the camera has a CompactFlash (CF) slot behind a cover at the front that accepts CF media cards. Low-speed wireless connections are available, as it can also use Sony’s optional SNCA-CFW1 802.11b wireless network card (£99). Two-way audio is supported with line in/out sockets, and motion detection also comes into the frame.

The bundled IP Setup utility makes light work of installation. It displays all available Sony cameras and allows you to modify their IP address and the HTTP port used for browser access, while network bandwidth restrictions can be applied. Note that the camera has a two-pole contact for power and Sony doesn’t include a power supply. However, Network Webcams advised us its price does include an external power supply.

The camera supports only Internet Explorer, and the homepage opens up a well-designed interface with a live view and manual image controls alongside. You can use a control pad to move the camera or simply point and click within the live image. We like the panoramic view underneath, as you can use this to zero in quickly on any location within the entire viewing field. Sony provides a utility that creates the panorama and uploads it directly to the camera.

Image quality has always been Sony’s Achilles heel, but at this price we can accept no compromises. Fortunately, the SNC-RX550P delivers a clean, sharp picture with good colour balance. The optical zoom offers remarkable levels of detail, although the digital zoom doesn’t add extra value. Up to 25fps is supported at the maximum resolution of 640 x 480 pixels, and we found motion was conveyed well at this speed. However, the camera didn’t handle low light levels well, and for this we’d recommend the Axis 221 or Panasonic’s WV-NP1000.

Motion detection gets a makeover, as an intelligent mode analyses the last 15 frames to reduce the likelihood of small movements triggering the camera. Alternatively, you can use intelligent object detection, which identifies objects that haven’t moved for more than 40 seconds and removes them from the detection equation. If you need to prove that an image was recorded from a particular camera, you can now use digital signatures, although this requires an optional firmware upgrade.

Sony’s IP cameras have never been particularly competitive on price and are usually beaten on image quality by Axis cameras. The SNC-RX550P is on the pricey side, but it offers a far superior picture and its high-speed, continuous pan allows it to reach those parts other IP cameras can’t.

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