Compro makes TV adaptors for computers alongside other PC video hardware. Its Compro IP55 is a compact IP security camera for use with Windows PCs.
In contrast to many products which have embraced cross-platform compatibility, Compro is more entrenched to the Microsoft platform. While you can just about view its video output on other computers, there’s no provision to control or record video until you install the company’s ComproView for Windows software, or use Microsoft Internet Explorer. And for the latter, you’re still asked to install an ActiveX plugin first, with the attendant security risks these plugins introduce.
The camera itself is a basic model using wired ethernet to connect to a local network. A protruding right-angle USB socket on the rear of the white plastic case also allows you to add an optional WL150 wireless adaptor. On one side is a microSD card slot for dumping recordings straight to these mini storage cards.
Also in the box is a handy table stand with ball-joint mount that works well to allow secure positioning at any angle. Or you can screw this platform to a wall or ceiling in a permanent room installation. There’s no provision for focusing this fixed-iris camera, although from the low-resolution images we saw, it seemed to be correctly adjusted for anything over 0.5m distant.
Initial setup is probably best started through the included iWizard program, which finds the camera’s IP address (it’s set for DHCP by default, so is assigned an address by your router).
After finding the camera on your network, you can use the ComproView software to view camera output, and setup for recording. But there’s also some scope for viewing through some web browsers.
To upgrade the camera’s firmware, you must use a web browser. Our sample of Compro IP55 started with v1.499, which we upgraded to the latest available 2.02.
You can access the camera’s video feed from an iPhone, we were informed during the setup process, using a P2P community webcam-sharing service called Seedonk. During the camera setup, you can opt to sign up for this service, which requires free registration.
After downloading the ad-sponsored Seedonk iPhone app we were able to see the output from the Compro IP55 by simply logging on with our registered name and password and selecting the camera on the phone’s screen.
You’ll need a UPnP-compatible router; and make sure you enable 3GPP streaming first in the camera’s configuration page. We were also able to see a live picture in QuickTime X on a Mac by using an RTSP link, which we spotted on the Internet Explorer config page.
By default, the camera is set to a low QVGA (320 x 240) resolution. (NOTE: Compro tells us that the firmware has now been updated so the resolution should be SXGA by default.) We left it at that initially; then found that when we wanted to record footage through IE directly to the computer’s drive that our "video quality setting is too high for your internet bandwidth. Please lower the resolution to QQVGA’".
We were perplexed since we weren’t yet streaming over the net. And going to 160 x 120 would be too low for practical use; as it was, images at QVGA were too pixellated to see much detail.
Best image quality from the camera was hard to judge due to the difficulty in recording a stream with the ComproView software at the camera’s native resolution. Ultimately we found the software hindered our use of what may be a usable and cheap IP camera.