The Axis 2100 Network Camera
Manufacturer: Axis Communications
Reviewer: Jason Schumaker
Axis bills the 2100 as a “plug and watch digital camera with direct network attach”. Accurate enough. It truly does have an “appliance” feel. A PC is not needed—the camera operates stand-alone, requiring only a LAN or modem connection. It has a built-in web server, which allows you to view images through a browser and throw those images directly out on the Internet (or not). So, you can interact with friends, jazz up your web page, create small movies, monitor your home/office or, ahem, start a business.
The camera weighs, excluding mini-tripod and power supply, a mere half of a pound. There is a feeling of fragility to the thing—one of the few “bad things” about the camera (see Sidebar). Axis does have an industrial strength camera in the works, but no release date has been set. I actually knocked the camera down at one point (please don't tell the folks at Axis!). It fell about two feet and landed on the floor. The images on the screen froze. After two hours and a $500 transfer from savings to checking, I pushed the camera's reset button, which reboots the camera. Everything was fine after that. A heavier, more durable version will certainly be needed, especially for brutes like me.
For $450-$499 you will get the camera, a mini-tripod, one 12V AC adaptor, a null modem cable, a PS-D extension cable, along with the user's guide. The price seems quite fair, considering the myriad of functions it can serve, not to forget the entertainment value. The lens can be replaced with any standard C or CS lens, which I would recommend. The factory lens is fine, but having more lens power is always good.
The Axis 2100 is itching to be used. The set up is painless and quick, though personal error, lack of certain permissions and little patience on my part added time. Linux/UNIX users may need to be logged in as root, which might not sit too well with some sys admins. I needed to be root in order to use the arp command.
The camera can be installed on a network or to a modem. I went the network route, so will not be providing the modem installation procedures here. That method is a bit more complicated, but after a quick reading, I wouldn't think it to be difficult. Axis has made the installation process easy, unless you're completely unfamiliar with Linux.
It took nearly as long to free the 2100 from the packaging as it did to get it running. There were some “non-camera” related issues to work through. To begin with, plugging the AC adaptor into the outlet really helped. Then, choosing a working Ethernet port got me one step closer. And, finally, reading the enclosed “Addendum”, which informed of a possible need to “reinstate the Factory Default settings”, proved instrumental in getting the camera operational. What can I say, excitement got the better of me!
The accompanying “User's Guide” provided installation commands for both Windows and UNIX systems. The first command wasn't quite right for a Linux system, but a quick query to the LJ tech department provided clarification. The following commands are what worked for me and are different from those in the 2100 User Guide. To install the camera to my Ethernet network, I typed (in an xterm):
/usr/sbin/arp -s 192.168.3.72 00:40:8c:10:00:86 temp
where the IP address was issued from my sys admin and the Ethernet address is the serial number from the bottom of the camera. I then ping'd the IP address:
ping 192.168.3.72That's it. I opened a web browser and entered the IP address (i.e., http://192.168.3.72). A page quickly opened and there I was, caught in a side view, bad posture revealed. I was immediately struck by the quality of the image and the speed at which my movements were followed. This camera delivers between 3-10 images/second. Speed can be effected by bandwidth, your computer and browser type, monitor resolution and more. The images produced were close enough to real-time to amaze the entire LJ staff. Laurie Tucker, LJ's Special Projects person, described it best by saying, “It looks like a moving painting.” Images are a bit “trippy”, but the quality is one step closer to real-time.