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Installation is a cinch as the bundled IP Installer software hunts down the camera on the network and offers a quick link to its web interface. The home page opens with a live view and it is abundantly clear that Axis is the still the one to beat for image quality. Once the focus is adjusted properly the image is very sharp and clean with good colour balance under natural and artificial lighting. With the frame rate set at 30fps for both H.264 and M-JPEG we found motion was conveyed smoothly with no jerkiness.
The P3301 can work in light levels as low as 1lux so it will need a light source during night time. It switches to mono mode as light levels fall and we found we could see surprisingly good levels of detail in the lab with the lights turned off and a single TFT screen providing the light source.
Axis delivers in the features department and its motion detection is one of the best available. You can configure up to 10 windows in the viewing area where you want to include or exclude motion and when events are triggered, images can be sent to multiple email addresses plus FTP and web servers. Axis has improved the detection sensitivity so it's less likely to get triggered by activity outside the 'include' windows, and a new anti-tamper alarm warns you if the lens is obscured.
To test Axis' performance claims for H.264, we used a system loaded with Network Instruments Observer to monitor bandwidth usage. We used five client systems to access the camera simultaneously over Fast Ethernet and with the M-JPEG feed selected and activity occurring in the viewing area, we saw an overall utilisation of 44 per cent.
With H.264 selected on all clients, utilisation fell to below 10 per cent. H.264 handles scenes with minimal activity better as it only transmits detected changes. With no movement in the viewing area and the clients using M-JPEG we saw an average utilisation of 43 per cent and this fell to only 3.5 per cent for H.264.
With the P3301 IP camera, Axis scores yet again on image quality and surveillance features. At this price point there's little competition to this camera and its support for H.264 delivers significant benefits for network utilisation.
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