Lower prices pretty much always translate to poorer image quality and so it is with the PT7137. In daylight, the image is reasonably clean with good colour accuracy but focus isn’t sharp leaving a slight softness to the image. We were impressed with how well the camera handled very low light levels and general movement at 30fps on maximum resolution was reasonably smooth. We also found the internal microphone worked well as it didn’t introduce the customary one second lag often found with IP cameras. As expected, the digital zoom was of little value. We tested this by viewing a car park around 100 metres away and at maximum zoom none of the car’s number plates were even vaguely readable.
During testing, we were surprised at how noisy the cameras’ motors were, as they’re clearly audible during high speed pan and tilt operations. You can remotely disable the camera’s LED indicators but any intruder will hear the camera whirring and clicking as it moves to focus its gaze on them. Nevertheless, Vivotek does provide a metal ceiling or wall mount bracket to keep it out of harm’s way and motion detection options are good. For the latter you can create up to three windows in the main view, set sensitivity levels for each one and send a specific number of images on triggering via email or to an FTP server.
Remote surveillance using mobiles is becoming increasingly popular and the PT7137 offers this feature. Due to the bandwidth limitations of 3GPP, selecting the mobile option drops resolution down to 176 x 144 pixels. Security options are somewhat limited, as although you can create a list of twenty users, you can’t decide what functions they are allowed to access. Essentially, all logged in users can use the camera pan, tilt and zoom controls simultaneously, which could make for some interesting online arguments.
Vivotek’s software surveillance package is good as the bundled DVR utility can take the feed from up to sixteen IP cameras and display them all in the same window. Recordings can be run from selected cameras and played back and their firmware remotely upgraded but, alas, we couldn’t get it to work with Windows Vista.
For the price, the PT7137 is offering a fine selection of surveillance features along with support for wired and wireless networking. Pan and tilt ranges are very good but it’s a noisy little camera and image quality is average at best.