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REVIEWS – HOME SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS

 

INTRO

There used to be only two ways to go with video surveillance cameras, the see-and-be-seen approach with prominent, highly visible installations and at the other extreme, hidden or ‘covert’ cameras. Now there’s a new generation of video camera, designed to be seen, and blend in with modern décor

 

1. MERIT LI-LIN ‘EYEBALL’ CAM, £95

 

At first glance the PIH-772 could be mistaken for a miniature spot light, the sort fitted in false or suspended ceilings, but that’s assuming that you even notice it. It’s a very discrete design with a small camera module mounted inside a metal sphere or ‘eyeball’ that can be swivelled to point in any direction (360 degree pan/180 degree tilt).

 

Several versions are available, ranging from a black and white model with good low light performance to high-performance colour types. The one we’ve been testing is the latter, using Sony guts in the shape of a /4-inch Sony Hyper Had image sensor chip. Low light sensitivity is rated at just 1.5 lux, which is quite gloomy and equivalent to a living room lit by a 20-watt table lamp, or the light from a TV screen. The camera is fitted with a F2.0 3.6mm lens, which gives a wide field of view; a narrower view is also possible with an optional 4.3mm lens.

 

INSTALLATION

Whilst not specifically designed for DIY installation it’s quite easy to fit using simple tools and some basic savvy. The camera and its mounting plate slots into a 62mm hole and the supplied fixing kit clamps it into place. There are only two connections, a single cable emerging from the ball splits into two with a connector for a 12 volt DC power supply (a mains adaptor is supplied) and a standard BNC type bayonet socket for the video output cable. Hook up the mains adaptor and connect the video feed to a TV or monitor and it’s ready to go. Aim the camera, tighten up the fixing clamp and it’s done! There are no external controls but inside the ball (it splits apart easily) there’s a switch for setting automatic gain control (AGC) for brightly lit or dull surroundings and white balance, to ensure colour accuracy in natural or artificial light

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution, or the camera’s ability to capture fine detail is rated at 380 lines, which puts picture performance somewhere between a high-end analogue camcorder and satellite TV. In good light the picture is sharp and full of texture with a good range of contrast and natural looking colours. Noise levels are very low but they increase very quickly as light levels fall, and as it approaches normal living room levels it starts to look quite muddy. The claimed 1.5 lux minimum illumination level will produce an image or sorts, but don’t expect to see very much…

 

VERDICT

If you’re looking for a camera to work in dimly lit surroundings then it might be better to opt for the black and white version, or a specialist low-light camera, otherwise the colour model copes well with a normal range of lighting conditions. The big selling points though, are ease of installation and the way it blends in unobtrusively with modern decorative styles.

 

MERIT LI-LIN  PIH-772

Price                 £95

Lens                 F2/3.0 or 4.3mm

Low Light            1.5lux

Resolution            380 lines

Features            Switchable AGC and white balance, pre-wired power and video output cables, suspended/false ceiling installation kit and AC mains adaptor included

 

Dimensions            diameter 92mm

Weight  310g

Contact             Merit Li-Lin UK, 08702 05550, www.meritlilin.com/

 

 

2. ENEO VHP-2 ‘BENDY’ CAM,

 

Video surveillance cameras are by nature ungainly looking objects, though the actual camera ‘head’ is usually a fairly innocuous beige box, it’s the ugly mounting brackets and dangling wires that spoil the view.  It can be distressing prospect for interior designers, seeing a carefully manicured creation spoilt by large chunks of ironmongery hanging off walls and ceilings.

 

The Eneo VHP-2 ‘Candid Junior’ marks a welcome break with tradition, a surveillance camera that manages to be both functional, and elegant in fact it from some angles it doesn’t look like a camera at all and it could easily pass for some sort of designer wall light. The actual camera is housed in the cylindrical section, the flexible corrugated section contains the mounting hardware in the form of a double-jointed metal stalk that allows the camera to ‘bend’ through 220 degrees and twist round 360 degrees.

 

Several configurations are available, based on a combination of colour and black and white camera modules and lenses. The monochrome cameras can operate down to 0.1 lux, which is close to pitch darkness; the colour cameras require at least 2.5 lux – a dimly lit room -- to produce a useable image. The lens options go from a 2.9mm wide-angle to a 4-8mm tele/wide type. In front of the lens there’s a toughened glass window and this, like the hidden end cap on the back of the cylinder is hermetically sealed to provide the camera with a degree of weatherproofing, though it’s not actually meant to be used outside.

 

INSTALLATION

The are only two connections, one for power the other for the video output, unfortunately the cables are not fitted with plugs or sockets, so installation is best left to teccy types who know their away around such matters. Fitting the camera should pose no problems, though. It is held in place using a couple of screws, which hold the mounting plate onto the wall or ceiling. Pulling back the flexible gaiter reveals the mounting arm and this can be positioned, then locked into place using an Allen key, which is supplied with the camera. It’s a plug-and-go design with no controls or adjustments to worry about

 

PERFORMANCE

We tested both monochrome and colour versions and the ability of the black and white camera to produce a useable image in very low light conditions was most impressive. In normal light the picture was crisp and detailed with hardly any noise and it handled sudden changes in brightness without any problems. The colour camera works best in daylight and well-lit surroundings and the picture isn’t as sharp and there’s a fair amount of noise when light levels drop but colours are natural looking, even in normally tricky florescent tube light.   

 

VERDICT

Picture quality is good but unremarkable, marking it out as decent general-purpose camera. However, it’s the ease of installation and radical styling that sets the VHP-2 apart and provides interior designers and home owners with an elegant and discrete alternative to boring standard-issue security cameras.  

 

ENEO CANDID JUNIOR VHP-2

Price                 £220

Lens                 F2/2.9, 3.6 or F2 4-8mm tele-wide

Low Light            0.1, 0.5 or 2.5 lux

Resolution            380/470 lines

Features            toughened glass window, weatherproof design, fixing kit supplied

 

Dimensions            55 x 44 x 204mm

Weight  480g

Contact             Videor Technical www.eneo-security.com, 08707 749944

 

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Ó R. Maybury 2003, 3001

 

 

 


 

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