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To use wireless access the camera must be physically disconnected from the LAN and restarted as it doesn’t support both modes simultaneously. The reason for this is that the camera uses the same IP address for the LAN and WLAN interfaces. Wireless mode functions in either Ad Hoc mode for a direct connection to a client or in Infrastructure mode where it needs to know the SSID of a wireless access point. You can also implement 64/128-bit WEP encryption for either mode. We had no problems linking the camera to a ZyXEL Prestige 2602HW access point in Infrastructure mode and accessing it via a wireless equipped notebook. As our test access point had LAN ports as well we could still access the camera from our wired clients although with an 11Mb/sec link to the camera performance will suffer as more clients use it. Using AirMagnet’s wireless network analyzer software we saw a single wireless client connection drawing around 1.5Mb/sec of bandwidth.
So far so good but on first contact with the live view screen it’s abundantly clear that this camera’s Achilles Heel is its image quality. For such a big name in the imaging industry we were surprised at Sony’s inability to deliver a decent picture. We tweaked the image quality settings in both MPEG4 and JPEG compression modes but in both cases we found the image poorly focused, responding badly to both high and low light levels and with a slight case of the blues as well. As you can see from the accompanying screenshot D-Link delivers a far better quality with a much sharper focus and better colour balance.
Sony’s software bundle includes a smart utility that displays live feeds from up to four SNC-M series cameras in the same screen. It’s a handy tool that provides access to all pan, tilt and audio functions and can run manual and scheduled video recordings and store the resultant files in a destination of your choice for playback and analysis.
It doesn’t matter how many features a network camera has as its ability to deliver a good picture is paramount. Sony’s SNC-M3W certainly has the look and delivers a fine range of capabilities but at this price we would have expected image quality to be much, much better. If you can do without wireless support then check out Panasonic’s diminutive BL-C10 as this offers a similar level of features and image quality but costs a lot less.