Moved to www.NetworkCameraCritic.com
The Panasonic BL-C230A is a wireless network camera that is targeted towards the home market. A step up from low-end products from China that are common on eBay but simplified over commercial solutions. The Pan, Tilt and Digital zoom functions of the Panasonic BL-C230A enable you to monitor a wide area automatically using presets or sweep the area with a single click of the mouse. You can also have it email an alert with pictures if there’s any motion detected using the built-in PIR motion detector or by sound using the built-in microphone. Even has a privacy button on top of the camera, resembling a snooze button on an alarm clock. This prevents viewing the camera video for complete privacy.
The camera is home friendly as a cute white cube that resembles a small alarm clock.
Panasonic BL-C230A Features
• H.264, MPEG-4, MJPEG Compression
• 802.11 b/g Wireless and Ethernet (10/100) Connectivity
• Pan/Tilt Digital Zoom – Control Camera Remotely with PC or Cell Phone
• Sound Detection Sensor – With Event Triggering
• Auto Record, Snapshot, Email Alert, FTP Upload on Detection of Sound/Motion
• Privacy Mode with Privacy Button on Camera
• External Input Ports – Add Sensors or Switches
• SSL Support – Encrypted Data Transfer for Greater Security
• Up To 30fps at 640 x 480 Resolution
• 58 Degree Horizontal 45 Degree Vertical Viewing Angle
When you first connect to the camera, it runs a wizard that lets you setup basic things like password, network and such. Once setup, the initial screen looks like this. There’s tabs across the top. The key ones are Single for viewing this one camera, Multi for viewing multiple compatible cameras at the same time, and setup to change configuration options.
The first and most important tab is Single which shows you the camera at its full resolution (initially the camera is configured to 320×240, so you may want to change that permanently to 640×480 in the setup tab).
Here’s a day shot in its full resolution. The image is sharp, clear with no noise. This is a bedroom with not a lot of natura sunlight.
Here’s a daytime comparison with a popular camera from Axis, the M1031-W in the same price range. You can see that the focal length is not as narrow and there’s a small amount of noise as this camera struggles a little with available light.
Here’s a night shot. This camera is pretty much useless with very low light to no light. There’s no built-in illumination of any kind.
Here’s a nighttime comparison with the M1031-W. The Axis actually does much better in very low light, albeit with large amounts of noise.
One thing I suggest for people who buy day only cameras, is to leave a light on at night while you are away. Even with a simple 40-60W bulb, can be a CFL bulb, you can get plenty of light for viewing.
The Axis has a built-in light but frankly it’s like a weak flashlight in the middle of the image. I turned on the same lamp to show this camera in the same conditions as the Panasonic CL-230A.
The following 3 images show how well the pan feature works. It’s pointed at the center of the room straight ahead. When you click the scan button, it scans the room and the other two images are that of the extreme left and the extreme right.
Here’s some of the setup screens. What I like about Panasonic is many of the common functions exist on the main screen. But when you want to get into the details, this is where it’s done. Motion detection is simple and here’s the screen where you setup the sensitivity.
Display settings are done here. Setup the 640×480 here so it doesn’t go back to 320×240 each time you connect to the camera.
The camera has an alarm feature that you can trigger directly from the camera or when motion is detected.
You can set up presets for the pan/tilt and digital zoom feature here. You can setup 8 presets and 4 have been preset for you that go to extreme corners but you can delete and use as you wish. The advantage of a preset is for when you are remote viewing the camera, you can just click on a preset and it quickly goes there instead of many clicks of the manual pan/tilt/zoom controls.
This is a nice little camera for remote viewing and surveillance with some unique features. I briefly tried the included software for recording, but it’s neutered version of the full Panasonic software. Certainly worth trying. Also, Panasonic provides their own DDNS service which is handy for remote access.
This is a day camera, but can be used at night with supplemental lighting. Compared to low-cost camera in eBay with similar functionality, this is a well-built product from a dependable source that should last you many years. You can’t even begin to compare the image quality of this camera say to a low-cost cameras from China costing much less. Just the difference in the WiFi capabilities are worth the price difference.
The list price of the camera is $299 and can be found at Best Buy for that price. Online you should be able to find this camera for considerably less.
The pluses for this camera are;
• 802.11 b/g Wireless
• Pan/Tilt Digital Zoom
• Sound Detection Sensor with Event Triggering
• PIR Motion Detector
• 2 Way Audio with built-in mic and speaker
Drawbacks for the camera include;
• Does not work in very low to no light
• One could get a megapixel camera for about the same price
Recommended for those needing remote access to keep an eye on their house or a pet during the day.
The company website is here.