Prices for IP cameras are gradually dropping making them a reality for home and small business users that want to set up their own surveillance system. The XIP3001 from UK-based Xvision is a prime example as this IP camera delivers wired and 802.11b/g wireless surveillance, motion detection and much more at a very tempting price. We put it through its paces to see if any sacrifices have been made in the quest for value.
The XIP3001 is a compact little unit and comes complete with a wall or desk mount bracket and swivel head. The 3.6mm lens has a 1/4in colour CMOS sensor that can deliver resolutions up to 640 x 480 pixels and a small ring around it is used for manual focus. The supplied wireless aerial is fitted at the rear where you also have a 10/100 Ethernet port and power socket. The supply only has a 1.8m cable and as PoE is not supported your deployment options are more limited as the camera will need to be close to a power outlet.
The camera delivers up to 30fps but one feature missing is support for MPEG-4 compression as the XIP3001 only offers Motion-JPEG (MJPEG). The main difference is that MJPEG soaks up more network bandwidth as it simply transmits all captured images as a constant stream of compressed JPEG images. For video storage it'll also use up more hard disk capacity as well.
MPEG-4 is a lot smarter as it only sends the changes on successive frames thus reducing bandwidth substantially. During periods where nothing happens in the area under surveillance it'll send very little data at all whereas MJPEG will still send complete frames. The XIP3001 also doesn't support RTSP so you can't use your mobile to check in and view the camera feed.
Camera installation is a pleasantly simple affair as you load the supplied IPFinder utility which hunts it down on the network and offers options for changing the IP address and a direct link to its web interface. The camera defaults to DHCP and it also supports UPnP so we could also access its web interface directly from its icon in Vista's Network Explorer view.
The interface opens with a live view which, we have to say, looks pretty good considering the price. The XIP3001 can't match the clarity, sharp focus and good colour balance of Axis' latest IP cameras but it was better than expected. The manual focus is a bit fiddly to set up as there's a wide range of travel on the adjuster ring and our best efforts still left a slight softness to the image. We used it to watch a car park from around 50m away and couldn't make out number plates or see any recognisable facial details of individuals.