The network camera is such a versatile device it can be used in a wide range of surveillance scenarios and monitored easily over the Internet, or an Intranet, using nothing more than a web browser. Swedish company, Axis Communications, has been at the forefront of network camera development ever since it introduced its NetEye 200 way back in 1996. and the 2130 PTZ puts an interesting spin on this angle by integrating pan, tilt and zoom functions in a single unit, which can all be remotely controlled from a web browser. Overall coverage is reasonable as the support arm can pan through 100 degrees, on either side of its home position, while the camera body can tilt through sixty degrees. If you need to cover a larger area then consider Axis’ ceiling-mounted 2130R but the best we’ve seen so far comes from JVC’s slick VN-C30U (www.jvcpro.co.uk) which can pan up to 160 degrees on either side of its home position and tilt through 90 degrees as well. However, the 2130 delivers the best zoom functions with a powerful 16X optical zoom lens behind the scenes. In common with all this company’s camera products, the 2310 uses Axis own ARTPEC-1 JPEG compression chip and is capable of streaming video at up to thirty frames per second. Although the largest picture size is a decent 704 x 480 pixels, selecting this will cause the frame rate to drop down to 10fps. Screwing it down
The 2130 has a single tripod screw-hole underneath for mounting on any flat surface or wall but it’s disappointing to see it still requires an external power supply. The 802.3af PoE (power over Ethernet) standard specifically targets surveillance operations as it does away with the camera’s requirement for a nearby power socket allowing it to be placed in a greater variety of locations and yet we haven’t seen one network camera product that supports this. Network installation only takes a few minutes as you can use DHCP or ARP (address resolution protocol) to manually assign an IP address to the unit. Alternatively you can use the bundled IP Installer utility, which scans the network for Axis devices and displays them ready to receive an address. First contact with the camera through a web browser results in a simple wizard-based routine that takes you through network setup, date and time settings and changing the system security parameters. The camera’s Linux-based, web server supports multiple user profiles and you can decide whether to grant full administrative access or only allow viewing privileges. The browser interface is simple enough to use and we found image quality was particularly good. The zoom function delivered high levels of detail even on the maximum setting. However, opting for a lower image size of 352 x 240 pixels delivers a much smoother video stream. Slider bars are located below and alongside the live view allowing you to pan and tilt the camera directly to the desired location or in small increments. The camera can be moved to a preset home position with a single press of a button and it supports up to forty custom positions that can also be selected quickly from the browser menu. A small 4-pin connector block on the camera offers some interesting options as it supports high or low voltage detection so you could, for example, connect a door or window sensor to the camera. If these are activated the camera will start downloading images directly to an FTP server or email address. You can also add day and time intervals when the camera alarms are active. The camera will only record the current view as, unlike the JVC alternative, it cannot zero in on a preset location in an alarm condition. However, you can also configure the camera to download images to FTP or email destinations on a regular basis without using the alarms. Overall, PTZ cameras such as the Axis are comparatively costly but they do open up much wider surveillance scenarios than passive network cameras. With a single unit in position you can extend your security territory, view it over the Internet or an Intranet, and with the image download and alarm facilities you can keep permanent records of activity in the area under scrutiny.

OUR VERDICT

The 2130 PTZ delivers an impressive range of features along with very good image quality. But check out the JVC’s VN-C30U as it doesn’t cost much more and offers greater physical coverage, MPEG-1 and JPEG compression, and better alarm options.