Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/4534/compro-ip-70-network-camera-review



Surveillance cameras are increasingly moving away from the analog to the digital domain. Advances in image and video processing silicon, emergence of efficient video compression standards and abundance of cheap storage have all contributed to bringing surveillance cameras to the consumer mainstream. As connected homes become more ubiquitous, surveillance cameras are tending to become network enabled. These IP cameras are used to record surveillance videos while also finding application for casual home monitoring, baby monitors etc. Their networked nature enables users to keep track of the video over the Internet (at work and on-the-go).

We have already reviewed a couple of IP cameras at AnandTech. The Dropcam Echo came across as very consumer friendly, while the Compro IP540 with the Pan-Tilt-Zoom feature was more professional and catered towards businesses.

We have Compro's entry level offering, the IP 70, in our labs today. While the hardware itself has been around for quite some time, firmware updates were provided recently to bring support for Seedonk. Seedonk is a generic webcam / IP camera service supposed to make the devices more consumer friendly. We will start off with the package contents, cover the setup impressions and talk in detail about the Seedonk service and the ComproView software. A separate section will be devoted to the video and image quality.

 



The IP 70 review unit package came bundled with a proprietary 802.11 b/g/n wireless dongle, the WL155.

The package contained the essentials to get the user up and running.

  • Camera unit
  • Ethernet cable
  • 10W power adapter
  • Mounting screws
  • CD containing the setup software.

From top to bottom, the front of the IP camera contains the following components:

  • Light sensor
  • 6 IR lamps
  • Lens
  • Speaker
  • LED light
  • Microphone


At the back of the unit, we have the following:

  • USB port for wireless adapter dongle
  • Audio output
  • Microphone input
  • Power adapter input
  • Reset button
  • I/O port
  • RJ-45 Ethernet port

There is also a microSD card slot on the left side of the unit

The I/O port at the rear can be used to interface with home security systems. The input ports supports passive IR sensors, smoke detector other such sensors. The output ports can trigger external indicators like sirens.

 



If you do not wish to setup the Seedonk service, and you are comfortable with port forwarding on your router, there is no need to use the softwares on the CD to setup your camera. The initial configuration has to be done with the camera connected to the router in a wired manner. DHCP is enabled by default and the IP camera promptly picks up one from the router. Visiting the IP address using a web browser from another machine on the network presented the login screen. With the default username / password (admin/admin), we were soon up and running.

A gallery of the setup options available on the web page is provided below. There were some mild annoyances such as the requirement of the VLC plugin to use Firefox for viewing / configuration. Also, there were frequent prompts of some functions not being supported in a non-IE browser, but the functions seemed to work OK even in Firefox.

The wealth of setup options provided make it clear that the IP70 also caters to users wanting more analytics and management features. Some of the advanced features provided by Compro that is not usually found in other entry level IP cameras are:

  • Dual stream encoding (with user configurable stream properties)
  • User configurable tradeoff between higher frame rates and better picture quality
  • Configurable brightness / sharpness / saturation / white balance and other video parameters
  • Multicast setup
  • Analytics (motion detection / trigger and event setups / scheduling / IO response / audio detection etc.)
  • Recording to NAS (SMB/NFS) / local storage in case of network failure

All in all, the Compro IP70 seems to have got the feature set right, making it an attractive option for home users as well as professional home automation system installers. There is also a comprehensive guide online [PDF] describing each and every feature of the Compro IP 70.



The Compro IP 70 was very easy to setup and configure over the web browser. However, Compro did realize the need to make the day-to-day operation more consumer friendly in both the home and business markets.

For consumers, they have tied up with Seedonk, a platform for viewing, managing and sharing cameras over the Internet. In the Dropcam Echo review, we noted that the live feed of the stream could be viewed by logging into the Dropcam website. Seedonk provides a similar service for the Compro IP 70.

Managing multiple cameras in a business setting is quite cumbersome when using the web interface. Compro has developed ComproView, a software meant to handle streams from multiple cameras. Cameron covered the features of the ComproView software in the IP 540 review, so I won't go into the intricate details here.

In order to install the Seedonk service and ComproView, the installation CD had to be used.

The Seedonk PC client is just like any other IM program. It can be downloaded from the Seedonk website for free. The user needs to either register for an account through the installation program in the CD or sign up on the website.

One can link multiple cameras to a Seedonk account, and set the viewing permissions appropriately. Cameras can also be shared with selected people (provided they also have a Seedonk account). In this respect, the Seedonk service could see some improvement (similar to how Dropcam enables users to share their cameras with other people by just providing the email ID).

The PC client provides support for recording the IP camera stream to the local disk as a WMV file. It also provides an interface to configure the various aspects of the IP camera itself (such as the properties of the video streams, IR lighting configuration etc.)

Seedonk also provides Android and iOS apps for viewing the feed from the cameras linked to the account. The gallery below provides some screenshots of the Android app in action.

The app replicates most of the features of the PC client (even the two way audio feature). However, the recording time on the Android app is limited to 2 minutes (there are no limits in the PC client).

An interesting aspect of the Android app is that it appears to try and establish a direct P2P connection between the viewer and the camera. If this succeeds, the video stream can be watched for an unlimited duration. Sometimes, however, the P2P connection doesn't materialize. In this case, the video goes to the Seedonk servers and then to the client app. The app helpfully flashes the message that the video stream might timeout in 5 minutes.



The Dropcam Echo review used the Handsome Case to gain an understanding of the image and video quality. We dusted off the case again to evaluate the Compro IP 70.

The gallery below indicates the stream info and video settings used in the evaluation (30 fps VGA @ 1 Mbps as the primary stream). Note that we didn't choose the HD resolution (1280x1024) because of the low max frame rate.

Stream 1

At different light levels, the 100% cropped screenshots are shown below.

.Note the contrast in the images below at different illumination levels:

In the next picture, we have a test case for skin tone handling:

For both contrast and skin tone, the camera seems to perform best at 250 lux (nominal light levels). In the course of our experiments, we found that IR kicked in at 100 lux. The Dropcam Echo kicked in IR at much lower illumination levels, so this is something we are not entirely happy about with the Compro IP 70. This also meant that we couldn't evaluate the chroma noise under low lighting conditions because of the black and white nature of the IR video.

Stream 2

The second stream is meant for watching on mobile devices, and so, we just have a look at the composite picture.

The Compro IP 70 has barely acceptable image and video quality (when compared with the Dropcam Echo).
We are also not impressed with the supported frame rates and resolutions (despite being better than the Dropcam Echo when considering the paper specifications). Considering the price point of the unit ($159), one might be tempted to overlook these shortcomings for certain applications.

 



The Compro IP 70 is recommended with some caveats. For casual applications like baby monitoring, the unit makes a compelling case with its price point. The bitrates of the streams are quite low (maximum of 6 Mbps in total) and the optional wireless dongle has no problem in keeping up with them. The unit is also very configurable for the advanced users, but the performance of the camera in other aspects (such as IR kicking in too early) might render it unattractive for that audience.

We also managed to gather some technical data about the Compro IP 70. Compro PR confirmed that the  IP 70 uses a 1.3 megapixel Aptina sensor and an ARM9 based SoC for DSP purposes. The power consumption of the IP camera hovered around 8 - 10 W.

We would like to see some of the missing features such as Power-over-Ethernet and PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) support even in the entry level models in the future. A better sensor and SoC combination might also help Compro cater to a wider audience.

One of the issues we had with Compro during the IP 540 review was the absence of dealers in the US carrying the model. Thankfully, Compro has moved forward and set up a dealer network in North America now. The IP 70 can be purchased online from Amazon, mWave and GridConnect amongst others.

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