IP cameras have traditionally been an expensive luxury that only the most security conscious individual would consider investing in. However, TRENDnet has been looking to change this by introducing a range of low cost basic IP cameras for the general techie public.
I looked at its mid-range fixed position camera, the TV-IP201W, a few weeks ago and was quite impressed by its feature set, performance, and most of all, price. However, by its very nature, once installed it could only monitor one fixed angle. So, if an object moved out of shot you were out of luck. The TV-IP400W I'm looking at today tackles this by having the ability to pan and tilt the camera enabling you to follow the onscreen action.
The TV-IP400W incorporates a 1/4inch colour CMOS sensor that has a maximum resolution of 640 x 480, operates at light levels as low as 2.5 lux, and can capture video at up to 30 fps. It has a 6.0mm F1.8 lens that is manually focused and has no optical zoom capability. Finally, the camera can be remotely rotated through -156/+156 degrees in the horizontal plane and -40/+40 degrees in the vertical plane.
For the price this is a good feature set but for anyone serious about remote controlled surveillance the lack of optical zoom and auto focus will be major turn offs. That said, the low light sensitivity should help for capturing those shady types in dark alleys.
Following the pattern set by the TV-IP201W, the TV-IP400W is not the best built piece of kit. The entirely plastic body is just a little too flimsy for my liking and just handling the device was awkward for fear of it breaking. The TV-IP201W got away with it because it was just a solid brick of plastic but this camera has several moving parts so it suffers a lot more from its cheap production methods. The fact this camera is at the budget end of the scale makes this forgiveable though.
The TV-IP400W can be just sat flat on its back on a shelf or wall, and has little rubber feet to ensure a non-slip contact, but its primary function is to be mounted upside down either from a ceiling or using a case attached to a wall. For this purpose you'll find a basic bracket in the box for mounting the camera indoors but for external mounting you'll need to couple this camera with its dedicated external housing which is available separately. You are slightly limited as to where you can place the camera, though, as its power cable is only two metres long.
One area that the TV-IP400W is particularly lacking in is audio because, well, it doesn't have any, so you can only monitor visual goings on. Also it doesn't have any external triggering I/O ports so you cannot set off an alarm when motion is detected or turn the camera on when an IR sensor is tripped, for instance. Neither of these factors are deal breakers but they do relegate this device from a one piece does all surveillance kit to a constituent part.