About 6 months ago, I started my search for a wireless network camera that would allow us to watch our little girl while she slept (or didn’t sleep) in her crib. My list of requirements were pretty simple: I wanted it to work in complete darkness and I wanted it to work with the Firefox web browser. My search turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated, as pretty much every camera from every major vendor (such as Linksys) was Windows Internet Explorer-only and most of them didn’t have Infra-Red lights for night-mode usage. Additionally, many camera models had very negative reviews due to persistent bugs there were never resolved by the manufacturer.
I finally found the Zonet ZVC7630W camera and the features seemed to be everything I was wanting, so made the purchase. In summary, I’m very pleased with it. It does everything I need it to do very well. There are some advanced features that I haven’t been able to get working but, truthfully, those are features that I don’t really need. In my experience, this is the best network web camera available. Here is my usual list of pros and cons:
- IR (Infra-Red) LEDs for viewing in total darkness.
- The included mounting hardware worked well for wall-mounting.
- Works for wired and wireless networks.
- Worked with my WEP and WPA2-PSK encrypted wireless networks.
- Support for multiple users and multiple user roles, so you can give different people different access rights.
- Support for multiple image protocols: MPEG4, MJPEG, 3GPP
- Works with all browsers (Java Runtime Environment required.)
- The basic features are Java-based and work with any operating system that supports Java, which is pretty much all of them.
- The flashing network activity LEDs can be disabled via the web configuration page.
- It was simple to setup. All I did was plug the wired network cable into my network, found the IP address it acquired, entered that into my browser, entered the default username and password (admin, admin), and it was working. No manual required.
- View away from home. Dynamic DNS allows you to assigning a domain name to the camera so that you can find it and view it when you are away from home. Support is provided for a large number of providers, including DnyDNS.org. Unfortunately there is no support my new favorite provider DNS-o-matic, which can update multiple domains names and services. Because of this, I used the Dynamic DNS update service in my router instead and had it update the netcam account as well as the other accounts that point to the same network.
- uPnP support is provided, which should enable the camera to automatically open ports on your router to allow you to view the camera when away from home. I didn’t try this feature and instead assigned a static IP address to the camera and manually opened ports. (The default is port 80 for the web server and port 554 for the steaming video.)
- Motion detection feature that allows monitoring of a spercific area of the an image. When motion is detected, the picture is e-mailed, FTP’d, or saved to a flash drive (via USB port on camera).
- A built-in microphone and a speaker jack for 2-way communication. (I didn’t test this feature.)
- USB port for adding a flash drive or exteranl hard drive, to allow storing of motion capture events.
- Ugly navy blue color. Why not white? Or even silver? The color should try to match the surroundings of a typical home, not stand out like an ugly blue gadget.
- No audio support within Firefox browser (Java client).
- Username and password is sent a clear text and is not encrypted.
- It was not possible to change the administrator user name. For security purposes, it’s better to use non-default user names so that a curious third-party has to guess both the username and the password to gain access.
- I never could get RTSP (real time streaming protocol) to work, though I tried QuickTime, Windows Media Player, and VLC. According to the manual, it is supposed to work by viewing the url rtsp://your.camera.ip.address/mpeg4. I was hoping I could use one of these programs and not even have to user a browser to view the video. Unfortunately, the camera wouldn’t work with either. If I went to the root URL, I was prompet for a password and if I went to the /mpeg4 url, I was not prompted for a password and received only a “not found” error message.
- Non-intuitive RTSP URLs; you shouldn’t have to enter “/mpeg4” or “/3gp” to the end of the URL, the camera should auto-forward RSTP requests to the correct address.
- No default NTP (time) server specified in the firmware for auto-setting of camera time. (I just entered pool.ntp.org)
- The Motion Detection screen was very confusing to configure and gave very inconsistent results. There are “threshold” and “sensitivity” areas on the config screen, but I have no idea which slider position makes it more or less sensitive.
- Overlay of motion event name is on top of date and time overlay, making it difficult to even understand what this setting does.
- No firmware updates from the manufacturer, which makes me wonder how committed they are to improving their product.
So even though I found several issues with advanced featues of the Zonet ZVC7630W, it does all of the requried basics very well and it doesn’t have the “only works with Internet Explorer” problem that most other cameras have. I highly recommend this network camera.
Check out Ben’s Zonet review for some additional details.