Depending on the situation at hand, home surveillance cameras can either be a life / property saving tool or a fun way to just keep an eye on things. Families with a new baby might want to put a camera in their child’s room so that they can monitor them while they sleep. Then people like me who have their office in the basement, might like to have a camera focused on the front door so that they can see who is knocking before they hike up the stairs. A few weeks ago Brando sent me a package that included the ZTV 2.5GHz Wireless Camera Kit Available in 2 configurations, I was sent the ZT-830E kit which included a wireless rechargeable camera. For $30 less, the ZT-822E kit includes a typical ball style web-cam that is not wireless. From the box, this kit looked pretty cool. Unfortunately, you can’t always judge a product by its box…
Horizontal Resolution: 380TV Lines
Minimum Illumination: 1.5 Lux
4-Channel options select, power on and off with knob switch
Built-in slim Rechargeable Li-Battery (ZT-830E only)
Battery capacity: 500 mAh
Working time: > 5 hrs
Frequency: ISM 2.4 – 2.483 MHz
2.5-Inch TFT LCD Display
Resolution: 480 x 234
Built-in Rechargeable Li-Battery
Receiving Sensitivity: -80 dbm
1 Unit Wireless Camera
1 Unit 2.5-Inch TFT LCD with 2.4 GHz Wireless Receiver
1 Unit Universal Camera adaptor
1 Unit Universal Receiver adaptor
1 Unit Earphone
2 Units Li-Battery for Receiver
1 Unit Video Connecting Cable
1 Unit Camera Stand
1 Unit Bag
1 Unit User Manual
From all appearances, this is a great kit. Let’s look at the camera first. The ZT-830E has a small black plastic wireless color camera with a lens that can be adjusted for the sharpest focus possible. A nice black metal stand is also included. With this stand, you can set the camera on a flat surface, and adjust the viewing angle up and down. Holes in the padded base allow you to mount the camera on wall or ceiling.
The camera has a built in rechargeable battery. When fully charged, the camera can transmit its pictures for ~5hrs before powering off. A small AC adapter is included that can be plugged into the back of the camera for charging. Also on the back are 2 status LEDs for power and charging, and the power / channel selector switch. A bendable wire antenna protrudes out the back of the camera.
Since the fully charged camera battery can only transmit for 5 hrs, it begs the question as to what purpose you would use it for in a wireless configuration… I guess you could charge it and set it on the night stand in your child’s room while they were taking a nap, but you would most likely just plug it in to the AC adapter and not worry about it.
The other half of this wireless camera kit is the handheld receiver. This receiver has a 2.5 LCD display and like the camera, can be used wirelessly when the battery is charged. One small problem is that the battery in the receiver does not last as long as the battery in the camera… One good thing is the fact that included with the kit is not one but two batteries for the receiver. But, like the camera, most people would probably just plug the receiver into the included AC adapter (a separate one is included just for the receiver) and be done with it.
The screen is small but bright and easy to see. Unfortunately there aren’t any brightness, or contrast adjustment controls. On the front of the receiver is an arc of 4 LEDs that show which channel is selected. A large button to the right of the LEDs allows you to change the channel. I assume it is possible to monitor 4 individual cameras if you had that many…
On the back of the handheld is a flip out plastic stand. On the left side of the device is a video out jack. You can use this and the included cable to turn your TV into a giant camera monitor. Below the video out jack is the power input.
On the right side of the handheld is the volume control and power switch. The wireless camera has a built in microphone. Audio is transmitted along with video to the handheld. A headphone jack is located on the top of the handheld. The sound output is not stereo, but mono. In addition, the audio out jack is not a standard 3.5mm sized jack. Instead it is a mini phono jack.
In use the camera appeared to work quite well. At least it did when I had both the camera and handheld receiver in close proximity to each other… As long as I didn’t separate the two by more than 10-15 feet max, the picture on the receiver was steady and quite viewable. Add any more distance and the image began rolling and jittering like an old UHF/VHF portable TV. At first I thought the problem might be due to interference as I put the camera upstairs and then had the receiver downstairs in my basement where all my computers are located. Nope, the computers really had no effect on the receiver image. I also thought that maybe having the camera and receiver plugged into or out of the AC adapters may be the culprit. Nope… Distance between the two appears to be the whole problem. This really limits the usefulness of this kit if you can only separate the two devices by a maximum of 10-15 feet.
As if the picture rolling and jittering problems weren’t enough, the audio capabilities with this kit are pretty dismal as well. If you turn up the volume at all, you will hear annoying pops and crackles. This pretty much rules out using this device as an audio monitor…
It’s too bad that this kit doesn’t work well. If it did, I would say that the $185 price tag would be justified. As is, I have to say look elsewhere for a home surveillance camera kit.