January 2, 2011

Choosing Panasonic, Axis IP Cameras for Home Monitoring

Home automation (HA) solutions such as ADT Pulse, MiCasaVerde , Comcast , Verizon all integrate IP cameras to enable monitoring the home remotely. But, they offer limited camera choices. What if you wanted more cameras or more features for monitoring of the home? Whether you use one of the above services or not, you can still add IP cameras on your own for monitoring your Home. Continue reading on how to choose a Panasonic or Axis IP camera for Home Monitoring.

Home Monitoring is an important part of Home Automation and Home Security. New IP cameras make it easy for anyone to add video cameras at home, all that is needed is an Internet connection at home. With a large number of camera models available and a long list of camera manufacturers, how do you choose an IP camera for Home?

While a long list of companies provide IP cameras for home use, Panasonic and Axis are the leaders in this space and the discussion below will focus on them. The benefits of picking these two brands are
  • a large range of models with different features, price
  • quality, stability, ease of use
  • cameras are available worldwide
  • compatibility with major platforms - PC, Mac, iOS, Android

The full lineup of IP cameras from these vendors are at the link above. Camera models most suited for home use (price, features) are discussed below.

The main choices to make while picking a camera

  1. Indoor or Outdoor – Most people use the camera indoors and an indoor camera will be fine. If the camera is used outdoors, an Outdoor camera which is weatherproof will be needed. Pick according to the location.

    Indoor cameras are less expensive than Outdoor cameras and often can watch the outdoors from behind a window.

  2. Wired or Wireless (WiFi) – Pick according to the location where the camera will be placed. Wireless is typically the best choice, as it does not require any cables. Wired camera require running an ethernet cable between the camera and the router, are less expensive and give higher bandwidth (i.e. better video quality).

    Wireless IP cameras can also work in the wired mode

  3. AC adapter or PoE – Most locations will have a power outlet nearby and a camera with AC adapter will be enough. However, power outlets may not be available outdoors, here a camera that supports PoE (power-over-ethernet) will be required. For PoE, power for the camera is carried over the ethernet cable itself.

    PoE adapters are included with some of the PoE cameras, while others will require a PoE adapter.

    Wireless cameras use an AC adapter.

  4. Audio – Cameras with audio will allow you to hear sounds in the vicinity of the camera remotely. Cameras that also include speakers will allow you to speak to a person near the camera.

  5. Motion Alerts – All cameras include motion sensors and can immediately alert you on detecting motion (via email). This is a big plus, as you do not need to purchase separate motion sensors. Some cameras also include sound alerts (alert email sent on detecting sound) and integrate a loud audible alarm. On an alert, the cameras can record video clips for a few seconds around the alert event. The recording is done on the SD card.

  6. Fixed or Pan-Tilt-Zoom – A fixed camera works well for most cases and these are also less expensive. For locations where you want to be able to move the camera remotely and see more of the scene, use a pan-tilt-zoom camera.

  7. Mounting – Cameras can be mounted on the wall or ceiling or simply placed upright. Most cameras include the mounting kit for these different options

  8. Wide Angle lens – A few cameras integrate a wide-angle lens, this allows seeing more of the scene.

  9. Night-vision – All cameras perform well when the scene has good lighting. When you want to be able to see in low-light conditions, pick a camera with night-vision (low lux ratings) and/or integrated LED/IR lights. An alternative is to install standalone LED or IR lights with the camera which can be turned on to illuminate the scene

  10. H.264, MPEG4 or MJPEG video – When available, pick a camera that supports H.264 video. Alternately MPEG4 and lastly MJPEG.

    H.264 video is the highest quality video and is the same standard used by iPhone, iPad, Mac’s and newer PC’s.

    MPEG4 – also produces high quality video but requires high network bandwidth to do so.

    MJPEG – is supported by all cameras. It can produce high quality video but requires the highest network bandwidth to do so.

Axis M1011 – $170, indoor, wired, AC, no audio, motion alerts & alarm, fixed, normal-vision, h.264

Axis M1011-W - $180, wireless version of M1011

Axis M1031-W – $275, indoor, wireless, AC, audio & speaker, motion-sound alerts & alarm, fixed, LED for night-vision, h.264

Axis P1311 – $500, indoor, wired, AC & PoE, audio & speaker, motion-sound alerts & alarm, fixed, night vision, h.264

Panasonic BL-C230 – $220, indoor, wireless, AC, audio, motion-sound alerts & alarm, pan-tilt, h.264

Panasonic BL-C210 – $150, wired version of BL-C230 & uses PoE

Panasonic BL-C140 – $160, outdoor, wired, PoE, no audio, motion alert, fixed, mpeg4

Panasonic BL-C121 – $140, indoor, wireless, AC, audio, motion alert, fixed, mpeg4

Panasonic BL-C101 – $100, wired version of BL-C121 & uses PoE

Panasonic BB-HCM581 - $750, indoor, wired, AC & PoE, audio & speaker, motion alert, pan-tilt-21x optical zoom, night vision, mpeg4

  • IP cameras connect to your home network (via your router). Instructions on how to setup the cameras with your home router are included with the camera and can also be found on the Internet, YouTube.
  • When the cameras are viewed remotely, they use your Internet connection. Any number of cameras can be setup on your home network. When viewing the camera(s) remotely, your Internet bandwidth determines how many cameras can be viewed concurrently.

[ home photo via FurnitureInHome ]