Three netcams let you monitor the scene from afar

NETCAMS: Veo, Mobotix, and Axis Network cameras are shrinking in size and in price, making them feasible for more people interested in remote monitoring through a local network or the Internet.

I looked at shipping versions of three new network cameras--the Axis 205, the Veo Wireless Observer, and the Mobotix M1D--and appreciated each for different reasons. Each unit delivered good streamed video over my local-area network at home, and streaming speeds were adequate through my broadband connection to the Internet.

About the size of an Altoids tin, the indoor-only Axis 205 was the smallest of the three test cameras. I connected it to my network via an ethernet cable, and the unit's 640-by-480-resolution video streamed at about 15 frames per second on my local network. While that's hardly TV quality, it is acceptable, given the camera's low $200 price.

For $100 more, you can move up to Veo's Wireless Observer camera--a larger, wireless indoor unit with pan and tilt functions. Built-in 802.11b wireless connectivity simplified the hookup, and the unit streamed 640-by-480 video at a smooth 30 fps on my local network while offering limited pan and tilt through its viewing page.

Mobotix offers a range of high-end security cameras; I tested the $1325 outdoor-ready M1D, which came equipped with both infrared and standard lenses, built-in speakers and microphone, and an infrared motion sensor. On my local network, the camera's 640-by-480 video streamed at more than 30 fps, and the unit's infrared capabilities offered clear pictures, even in pitch-black conditions.

The Veo and Axis models will work well in a networked small business or home, while the Mobotix is suited to more-complex security needs.

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