So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Swann Communications Night Hawk Camera Pack
- Wireless, cameras can be battery operated, very clear image, inbuilt microphone
- Poor wireless range, sound is barely audible, night viewing range is limited
A cheap video security system with excellent image quality, although it is limited by its wireless range.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
Swann's Night Hawk Camera Pack is a simple wireless video security system, consisting of two wireless cameras and a 4 channel wireless receiver. Easily set up within a few minutes, the Night Hawk Camera Pack provides good viewing resolution in both day and nighttime viewing. This setup would be suitable for anyone requiring a basic security system, ranging from home owners to small shop owners.
The wireless cameras come in a sturdy metal, weatherproof casing with a single power cord dropping off the back. For power, the cameras can either be plugged in to a wall outlet with the included power pack or they can be powered by a 9 Volt battery (with the included battery attachment cable). Running on the battery, the camera could transmit video for up to 3 hours with perfect transmittance, although once the battery was drained, the reception dropped off gradually, until it died. The cameras can be attached to any wall with the 3 screw mounts which are located on the base of the cameras, although of course, cameras must be installed within the range of the wireless receiver.
The set up of the video system is extremely easy and is basically a plug and play system. After plugging the receiving station into a TV through its composite video out port, it automatically starts scanning through the four available channels. The two included wireless cameras each take up one channel, allowing for two extra cameras which can be bought for an additional price. The interface for the base station is very simple, consisting of a power button, and a channel select button. The channel select button can be set to flick between each of the four channels, rotating every 3 seconds, or it can be set to view one channel at a time. Set up thus far only took a few minutes, which gives some idea of the simplicity of this system. Extra consideration was needed for positioning of the cameras, as the video quality dropped off dramatically when out of range of the base station.
The reception range of the devices is advertised to be up to 100 metres with line of sight. This means that for maximum range, the cameras must be setup in a position which can see the base station. This is often very hard to do, as the base station must sit next to a TV or video capture device (such as a VCR), which is usually located inside a building. In our indoor tests, the reception was perfect for up to 25 metres with line of sight, although after this point the video still functioned, but tended to flicker quite often. With a couple of walls in the way, the range dropped down to a measly 10 metres. On the front of the camera, there are jumper settings which switch the working frequency of the wireless system. This is a helpful feature, as it allows users to select a frequency which does not suffer from possible interference from other electronic devices.
The cameras also have inbuilt microphones which transmit audio back to the base station, although the audio signal seemed to suffer from poor reception to a greater extent than the video signal. Once close to the limit of reception, audio flickers on and off, becoming incomprehensible and annoying at times. The base station does have a directional antenna, which does amplify the reception slightly, although when using two cameras, there has to be a compromise to the direction in which it is pointing. Conversations could clearly be heard if the sound source is within 2 metres of the camera, anything past this comes through as an inaudible mumble. Background ambient noise also reduces the effectiveness of the microphone, rendering audio capture to be feasible only in very quiet environments.
Video quality is surprisingly clear. When we were within the reception range of the base station, we were impressed with the ability to distinguish faces on this security system. In daytime viewing, video is in clear colour and transmits at a horizontal resolution of 380 lines, which is similar to more expensive CCTV cameras. One of the main features of this system is the night, or low light viewing operation. On the front of the camera, users will notice 11 infrared LED's, which are automatically enabled when light levels drops. These LED's fire infrared (IR) light and the reflected IR light is then detected and displayed, resulting in night viewing capability. The night viewing capability is limited to the range of the LED's, and this works out to be around 4 metres. Within these 4 metres we could distinguish a faces, although once outside this range, our ability to determine faces became a guessing game.
Overall, the Swann Night Hawk security camera system is a satisfactory and simple video surveillance solution. For the advertised price, it is cheaper than a lot of commercial systems, and does do away with most wires (apart from the power cable). We did find the reception to be slightly disappointing, especially in indoor environments, although as long the base station is close by, this isn't an issue.
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