Sony has never made a big song and dance about its surveillance products but it has a surprisingly large range of network IP cameras and with prices to match most pockets as well. The SNC-M3W is a fine example as this eyeball camera offers wired and wireless capabilities, pan and tilt, a maximum 30fps, internal and external audio functions plus motion detection and all at a price that competes very strongly with D-Link’s DCS-5300G.
If there’s one thing Sony excels at it is design so it's no surprise that the camera not only looks good but is well built too thanks to the lens and golf-ball style mounting protected inside a clear plastic shell. However, D-Link wins out on general coverage as the DCS-5300G can pan across 270 degrees and tilt through 90 degrees whereas the SNC-M3W can only manage 120 degrees and 70 degrees respectively. D-Link’s wireless support is also better as Sony offers 802.11b operations whereas the DCS-5300G is one of few network cameras that supports 802.11g as well. At the rear of the SNC-M3W is a small clip-on cover while underneath are Fast Ethernet and power ports along with external microphone and audio out sockets for two way communications. During testing we found the internal microphone was sensitive enough to pick up all audio sources in the surrounding area.
For installation Sony provides a small utility that scans the network for cameras and displays them in a list ready for configuration. From here you can select IP address settings, modify the HTTP port number, set the date and time and add some useful network bandwidth restrictions from 0.5Mb/sec to 4Mb/sec or allow it unlimited usage.
The web interface opens with a live view complete with a set of image controls to the left. These enable you to select one of three resolutions, take a snapshot and open a control pad to operate pan and tilt functions. For the latter the camera can also be controlled by using the mouse pointer within the image window. A rudimentary digital zoom feature is also provided where you can select an area in the image and zoom in to around 2X normal size. Access security extends to a list of up to nine users where you can allow them to view and control the camera or stop individuals from fiddling with the pan and tilt controls. Up to four customizable windows can be placed in the viewing screen for motion detection and slider bars determine how sensitive each one is to movement. This feature only functions with MPEG4 selected and when a trigger is activated the camera sends an email alert but cannot attach an image snapshot to it.