Over the past year Panasonic has made serious inroads into the IP camera market by delivering a range of affordable products many with more than a few unusual features. We were impressed with the diminutive BL-C10 as although image quality wasn’t the greatest it still managed to combine remote pan and tilt controls with an infrared thermal sensor and all at a very low price.
The BB-HCM311 is the latest member of this rapidly increasing family and it offers pan and tilt functions teamed up with two-way audio capabilities. There’s much more though as frame rates get a boost to 30fps (the BL-C10 is only 15fps) and light gathering has improved allowing the camera to function down to only 0.2lux. Motion detection also comes into the picture and the icing on the cake is that the camera has an extra slot in the side allowing video to be recorded directly onto SD Memory Cards.
The BB-HCM311 is a well built slab of solid plastic and the SD card slot is covered by a rubber flap which can be screwed in place – this flap also protects the recessed reset button. The camera uses a golf ball style lens mounting with a small slot allowing it to move in either direction. Overall coverage is better that the BL-C10 as the larger ball allows the lens to pan 60 degrees horizontally on either side of its home position while vertical movement extends to 20 degrees upwards and 45 degrees down.
A Fast Ethernet port is provided at the rear along with sockets for an external microphone and speaker although note that the latter will need its own built-in amplifier. The camera also has an internal microphone which we found worked very well, providing that background noise levels aren’t excessive. A delay of around one second for audio transmissions to the web page also means it will be slightly out of synch with the video feed.