At a Glance
The picture quality may not be impressive but it’s about par with similar budget cameras. Yet the system as a whole with the DVR makes this an attractive proposition for the money. Also the ruggedness of the camera unit and its low-light performance are commendable. If better imaging is needed Swann also offers dearer 2Mp (1080p) cameras.
With the addition of a computer monitor or a suitable
TV with VGA port you can use the system without a
PC or network. However the interface and recording features are accessible after ethernetting the DVR to your network. See all
The DVR has a graphical interface with which you interact by an included mouse. Any typing is performed on a virtual keyboard, although typing is rarely actually required. The camera and DVR connect by a cable (18m) which carries power and an analogue video signal, connecting to the DVR with BNC plugs. The monitor output is a familiar VGA port, so if you intend to connect to a television you’ll need this computer video input.
The easy setup of this system is one of its strongest features. Simply connect a monitor and the mouse to the DVR box and connect the camera cables and you’re nearly there. Apart from setting the time and date on the DVR no additional setup is required to use the system.
Its default mode should be fine for the majority of home users: the system records video after sensing motion, and stops a short time after the motion has ceased – 23 seconds by our stopwatch – which should prevent anyone pacing in front from being split into multiple files.
There are controls to alter the brightness, contrast and saturation of the video. Sound is not directly covered though: there’s a microphone input but no built-in mic.
Where this system shines is in customisation. As with most security cameras the sensitivity of motion detection can be set to suit your installation, helping prevent false-positive triggers from pets or moving foliage. The area of motion detection can also be set to exclude an area with regular movement, such as a busy road.
Picture quality is not the best. The camera’s rated resolution is 644 x 488 pixels according to the specification, while the sensor is a 1/3in CMOS, which is relatively small. As a result fine details are pixellated and the image is noisy however it does maintain good contrast which makes identifying moving objects easy but not faces at a distance. The lens gives a field of view identical to a 28mm lens on a full frame camera and has no barrel distortion. Where this analogue camera benefits is with its decent framerate and immediacy of motion viewed by the camera. With the camera connected directly to the DVR there is no network lag; but when using Swann’s software on a PC you will experience latency as is typical with IP-based network cameras.
The camera is claimed to be weatherproof. We ran it under a cold shower for 10 minutes, where the camera remained functional and water just beaded off the lens. The low-light performance is impressive too, with IR LEDs lighting up areas of total darkness. And areas of near-total darkness were still discernible even beyond the range of direct illumination.
The playback of recorded footage is handled well. You can watch the camera’s recording history from a monitor’s screen, or use a dedicated playback menu. Here you can search for videos by date or time; but most interesting is the SmartSearch facility.
SmartSearch allows you to specify the areas of the screen you would like to scan for movement, then search the current recording for movement in just that area. All movements are then highlighted on the timeline, reducing the amount of time required to scrub though the video.
Swann DVR4-1500 4 Channel Compact DVR & Pro-510 Camera: Specs
- Security camera and recorder
- camera: 648 x 488-pixel resolution
- 3.6 mm focal length
- 1/3in CMOS sensor
- 69º viewing angle
- IR-illumination LEDs
- 50 x 50 x 70 mm
- DVR unit: 4x BNC for composite video input
- 320 GB HDD
- 2x USB 2.0
- RCA stereo audio input
- 200 x 200 x 45 mm