The X100C is a compact IP security camera slightly larger than a pack of cigarettes, for wall or desk mounting.
In this wired world, it’s now relatively easy to train a webcam on your home or property and keep tabs on activity through a PC on your local network.
Y3K is a British company specialising in just such CCTV equipment, including this Xvision entry-level internet-protocol (IP) camera. It supplies many different cameras, up to weather- and vandal-proof cameras for outdoor use. You can even find covert cameras disguised as smoke alarms and motion detectors.
The Xvision X100C is a reasonably compact video camera, slightly larger than a pack of 20 cigarettes, designed for wall or desk mounting. It connects to a PC over a wired ethernet or WiFi wireless link.
Like many such modern IP cameras, this model has 1280 x 1024 resolution, to capture – in broadcast-video terms at least – high-definition video. Or indeed ‘megapixel’ video, as the compound of the horizontal and vertical pixel counts is 1.3 megapixel (Mp).
You setup the Xvision X100C camera as you would a router, through a web browser from any computer. Or there’s Windows software on the supplied CD, which we found to be somewhat flakey. We had some issues through the browser as well, though: Safari 5 wouldn’t render screen buttons properly, and Firefox 3.6 would often crash after a few minutes’ operation.
Initial setup of the Xvision X100C requires a wired connection; afterwards you can rely on just wireless, up to 802.11n standard.
Viewing the output of the camera is possible on any PC’s web browser, although you may receive a downgraded version of the stream. The device itself can output H.264 or MPEG-4 video up to SXGA resolution (1280x1024) but for most browsers you get a Motion JPEG (MJPEG) version at just 4fps, with visible compression artefacts.
The exception is Microsoft Internet Explorer, where the camera takes advantage of Microsoft’s proprietary ActiveX system to stream MPEG-4 into the browser.
Setting up and using the Xvision X100C
To setup the Xvision X100C for recording video, you use the supplied X64W Lite software. This arcane Windows-only interface can potentially allow scheduled recordings, such as during a business’s working hours, or be set to record ‘round the clock’.
You can also arrange for the camera to only record when there is motion within the camera’s field of view – or even just part of the view, using the region of interest (ROI) mode to marquee a doorway, for instance.
Other features on this Xvision X100C camera include a circle of white LEDs around the 4mm lens, to give illumination at night, and a built-in mic and small speaker for basic intercom use. Note that the lens is not auto-focus and may require some twiddling after installation.
You can also set the Xvision X100C camera to record directly to a card, with a microSD slot mounted on the camera’s side.
In use, we found the video to be quite clear and colourful, and low-light use was also possible thanks to reasonable sensor sensitivity. The software’s foibles were harder to overcome; we’re used to cranky software and setting up various IP products, but still needed a day to learn setup and operation of this camera. And that’s without getting into router port forwarding, required to access the video stream from outside the local network.
If you should successfully get port forwarding sorted, you can then monitor the Xvision X100C camera using a smartphone over 3G. The camera recognises access from a phone by sending a mobile-optimised small-screen window; or you can opt to view the full-size image if you have a faster WiFi connection.
You must also be prepared for less than explicit monitoring and recordings. Indoor use will allow you to clearly identify people within a room, for instance. But despite the 'HD' tag on this camera, it’s not going to show so much detail beyond that.
If you point this Xvision X100C camera out of the window to monitor passing traffic, for instance, the resolution will be insufficient to reveal many cars’ number plates. Try it yourself: dust off a 1 megapixel digital stills camera from ten years ago, take photos of cars parked 20m away and see if you can read their numbers. This is not Spooks – zoom in on the picture and you’ll just see a mass of blurry pixels.
If you do need to monitor a company car park, for example, there are more suitable cameras. They’ll still probably be limited to SXGA resolution, but appropriate telephoto lenses will enable clearer distant monitoring, at the expense of limiting field of view.
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