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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wireless IP Camera

Article from http://forums.hardwarezone.com.sg/pc-speakers-printers-keyboards-mice-other-accessories-255/wireless-ip-camera-thread-2966892.html

The first wireless IP camera I bought was the Linksys WVC200. Essentially, I was searching for a better alternative to an audio only baby monitor. I wanted to be able to see what my baby was doing while I am working in another room. As you can see later, the WVC200 is quite a suitable camera for monitoring young kids, especially in the dark, since it has a built-in infra-red (IR) cut filter.

Subsequently, I bought a LevelOne WCS-2040, followed by a Dlink DCS-6220G. Functionally, the WCS-2040 and the DCS-6220G are identical. In fact, they appear to be coming from the same OEM, since the specs are identical and the user interfaces are similar.

During one of the computer exhibition, SMC introduced their latest wireless IP camera: the SMCWIPCAM-PZ. I then decided to do a simple comparative test of three of the cameras that I have: WVC200, DCS-6220G and SMCWIPCAM-PZ.

Here are some pictures taken of the test.

First is a picture showing the 3 cameras under test. From left to right, they are the Linksys WVC200, the Dlink DCS-6220G and the SMC SMCWIPCAM-PZ (in black).
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Here's of picture of the test set-up, which comprises of the SMC camera box and some coloured pens that I bought for camera colour test. Note that the distance of the objects from the camera is about 1.5 feet. Note also the desk lamp that I used to achieve best (but artificial) lighting. The study room is well light with 4 18w PLC bulbs, and the attached bathroom has another 2 18W PLC bulbs.
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Next, I use each camera's snap image function to obtain a picture of the objects in test. At 1x zoom, the SMCWIPCAM-PZ shows some barrel distortion. I have to manual focus the lens on the WMCWIPCAM-PZ to achieve good focus (expected, given the short object distance). Note that the vibancy of the colours.
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Next up is the DCS-6220G. The DCS-6220G allows for manual iris control via the browser. Here, I use the auto-iris function at the minimum 1x zoom. The colours are less vibrant than that of the SMCWIPCAM-PZ, but this may be because I didn't try to tune the iris to achieve better colours/brightness. Barrel distortion is minimal.
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And finally, the WVC200. With the WVC200 mounted on its own stand, the WVC200 gives a higher point-of-view than the other 2 cameras. There is also some barrel distortion. Note that the WVC200 gives a good vibrant colour.
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And in case you are wondering how the image looks like, here's a photo of the object, taken with my Canon 20D and the kit lens (18-55), using auto settings.
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 Next I increased the zoom of the camera to 2x and then snap the picture using each cameras.

On the SMCWIPCAM-PZ, I got the same image. This seems to suggest a bug in the firmware in that it is still showing the original 1x image rather than the digitally zoomed 2x image.
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The DCS-6220G has optical zoom of up to 10x. Here, I increased the zoom (optical) to 2x.
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Finally, the WVC200, with a 2x image snap. WVC200 can provide only 2x zoom, while the SMCWIPCAM-PZ can provide up to 3x zoom.
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It's a shame that the snapped image of the SMCWIPCAM-PZ cannot show the zoomed image.

The next test, I switched off the desk lamp and use only the room lighting. The 4 18W PLC bulb are white as sunlight tone (865) and I would consider the room to be fairly bright.

With the SMCWIPCAM-PZ, the IR sensitivity seems a tad too aggressive. The image seems to be showing in a B/W IR mode. Is it a case where the light detector is too sensitive in considering that the room isn't bright enough, or not sensitive enough to detect that there is still ample light?
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The DCS-6220G is showing less colour vibrancy than before. The picture is slightly more grainy. Again, I didn't manually tune the iris to get better image.
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Last but not least is the WVC200. Like the DCS-6220G, it is showing less colour vibrancy due to the reduced light. But still the room is fairly lit, and it hasn't switched itself to the IR mode yet.
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Next up, I switched off the toilet lights, leaving what would have been a dark room. The only ambient lights were coming from my laptop screen and the routers.

The SMCWIPCAM-PZ shows the same image as before.
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The DCS-6220G now shows no image at all, save for some tiny specs of reflected ambient light.
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Given the advanced controls of the DCS-6220G, I decided to 'tune' it to get a better image. Messing around with the settings (iris, contrast, B/W mode in low lux etc.), I managed to get a grainy B/W image using just ambient light from the laptop screen and router.
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The WVC200 is now showing a very dark picture, although I can still make out the test objects. It seems to be benefiting from the IR LEDs of the SMCWIPCAM-PZ.
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To prove this, I covered up the SMCWIPCAM-PZ's IR LEDs, and I got a completely dark image.
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And finally, I tried to cover up all ambient light sources (laptop screens, routers LEDs etc) to achieve a completely dark room. Believe me... it's very difficult to work under these conditions.

The SMCWIPCAM-PZ image in a completely dark room with no ambient lighting.
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The DCS-6220G has now lost its image. Comparing to the previous, it would seem that the DCS-6220G's CCD sensor is very sensitive to light, and could even make use of ambient light to obtain an image. But DCS-6220G is about 3 times the cost of either the SMCWIPCAM-PZ or the WVC200.
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The WVC200 image in the completely dark room, again benefitting from the IR LEDs of the SMCWIPCAM-PZ.
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And finally, what has led me to conclude incorrectly that one of the IR LED is not working. [Note: The SMCWIPCAM-PZ has only 7 IR LEDs. The last one is a light sensor.]
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Hope you guys find the comparison useful.

The DCS-6220G offers the best performance, especially given the features it has (optical zoom, manual controls etc.). But this is to be expected since this is 3 times the price of the other 2 cameras.

The WVC200 offers great image under different lighting conditions. Considering that it is the oldest (maybe not technology wise, but at least in my inventory of cameras), it is still the one to beat when lighting conditions are difficult. The downside is that it doesn't have its own IR illuminators. Given that the SMCWIPCAM-PZ has 7 IR illuminators, and the image that I am getting from the WVC200 is not as clear as the SMC's, it would suggest that the WVC200 needs to have stronger IR illuminators to get a good image. I bought my IR illuminators from SLS @ close to S$100, and it has like more than 25 LEDs on it. With that, I could see a complete B/W picture (not like the partial picture you see using the IR illuminator from the SMC). Alas Linksys has discontinued the WVC200 and replaced it with the WVC210, but the WVC210 is not IR capable and will show up a completely black image when there is no light.

The SMCWIPCAM-PZ offers an integrated package, particularly for night-viewing. I buy it as a baby video monitor, so B/W or colour images doesn't really matter that much to me. The firmware seems a bit raw, and tweaking of it will only improve the camera (e.g. save zoomed image, volume controls etc.). Functionally this is similar to the Trendnet IP-422W camera, but I don't have that and can't comment if the Trendnet offers better firmware.

While I am typing this in my study, my kids are sleeping in their room, and I have the IP camera to show me (video and audio) if something is amiss. I personally find the SMCWIPCAM-PZ B/W images to be sharper than the WVC200. I have 2 WVC200 and two SMCWIPCAM-PZ. I intend to use both SMCs as baby video monitors, and redeploy the WVC200 for more general usage (in the level 2 and level 3 living hall... level 1 already has the DCS-6220G, and ... err.. Level 2 has the LevelOne WCS-2040... nevermind).

Many of us who have wireless IP cameras at home would like to be able to view the images when we are not at home. To do this, one way is to use a Dynamic DNS service such as dyndns.org. To those looking to use dyndns.org service or something similar, you must first understand the theory behind this.

For those on ADSL, whenever you logon to the Internet, the internet service provider (ISP) will assign an IP address to your line. So if you are wishing to access your home network from the WAN side (i.e. from outside your home), unless you can type the IP address directly (169.24.224.43 or something), it may be better to use a named IP address.

That is why dyndns.org or dynamic DNS service provider comes in. If you set up your router to use DNS, each time you (i.e. your router) logon to the Internet, the router will inform the DNS service provider the IP address that your ISP has assigned to your router. Thus, if you set up to use dr_archer.dyndns.org, then all you need to know is that dr_archer.dydns.org is the URL of your network.

This is the first part, which is to give yourself a named URL via the DNS service. Next, you must configure your router to allow you access to your camera (or any other equipment) from the WAN side (i.e. the internet side). Basically, this means doing port forwarding. On your home network (LAN side), each PC/gadget has its own IP address. For example, your IP camera might have been configured to be 192.168.1.50. You will need to set the port forwarding such that any request on the WAN side be redirected to 192.168.1.50. Typically, you would set up a port such that any reference to the port on the WAN side will be redirected to 192.168.1.50. Finally, you may need to create filter rules to allow for inbound traffic.

Using the DIR-655 as an example,

(1) First set up the Dynamic DNS page. In this example, I am setting up the URL to be archer.dyndns.org.
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(2) Next set up the port forwarding. In this case, I am using DIR-655's Virtual Server function. The Local IP address of my IP camera has been configured as 192.168.1.50. By setting up the public port as 33350, it means that if I want to access the camera, I will have to type http://archer.dydns.org:33350 (note the 33350 after the colon on the URL).


(3) Finally, set up the inbound filter. Here, I set up the filter to allow all WAN IP addresses (0.0.0.0 to 255.255.255.255) permission to access the network. You may want to restrict the IP address to certain ranges only (e.g. your company's IP address).


If you are using a camera (via 3G) to access your camera, you will need to get the right app. Typical information you will need is

a) URL of your camera. In the above, the URL would be http://archer.dyndns.org:33350. If you are required to indicate the port, in this example, it would be 33350.
b) The login username and password used for your camera (e.g. User: smc, Password: smcadmin
c) Camera model. Choose the SMC model from your app. If you can't find the SMC camera (it is after all quite new), you can use Trendnet IP-422 model, since this seems to be functionally identical to the SMC camera.

Happy baby monitoring with your SMC!

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