Sony Fixed IP Camera Guide

Author: Antony Look, Published on Nov 20, 2010

Like many camera manufacturers, in the last 2 years, Sony has rapidly expanded its IP camera lineup. For instance, in our Camera Finder, we are now tracking 45 Sony IP cameras. With so many models, it starts getting difficult to discern the key differences and tradeoffs. What features do you get with this model at what price premium over that model?

In this guide, we break down these differences and provide guidance on strengths and weaknesses.

Specific to Sony, we examine a number of key questions:

  • What is the difference and tradeoffs between their new 5th Generation cameras and previous generations? When should you use the new vs the old?
  • What is the difference and tradeoffs between Sony's new V, E and X series? When should you use one vs the other?
  • What models are the most and least competitive vs other industry offerings?
  • What does the naming/numbering convention actually mean?

This is the first in a new series where we provide guides for each camera manufacturer with more than 20 models.

This report focused on Sony's fixed IP cameras. A companion report on Sony's PTZ IP cameras is also available.

Model Naming Conventions

Sony's latest generation of IP cameras consists of 26 models across 3 series: the premium V, mid-tier E, and value-tier X series. The V- and E- series each have 10 models that are in many respects equivalent, but differ on several key features. The X-series features a total of 6 models (1 already released, the remainder to be released Dec 2010/Jan 2011).

While the sheer number of cameras can be confusing, naming patterns do exist:

  • All Sony IP cameras start with SNC for Sony Network Camera, distinguishing the cameras from the analog versions that start with SSC
  • After "SNC-", the next position indicates the form factor (C, D, or R) - C stands for box (or CS mount), D stands for dome and R stands for rapiddome/PTZ - e.g., SNC-CH110, SNC-DH110 and SNC-RH44N
  • After the form factor position, the resolution is indicated: H stands for High Definition (all V, E and X models are HD) while S represents Standard Definition (for previous generation cameras) - e.g., SNC-CS11
  • 1XX - Supports 720P / 1.3MP, e.g., SNC-CH110
  • 2XX - Supports 1080p HD / 3.0MP, e.g., SNC-CH210
  • Last two digits of name - 10 is X-Series, 20 or 60 is E-Series, 40 or 80 is V-Series (e.g., SNC-CH210 and SNC-CH110 are both X series)
  • Models ending with a T are IK10 Vandal Resistant - e.g., SNC-DH120T
  • Note models ending in 60 or 80 feature IP66 and Built-in IR - e.g., SNC-CH160 and SNC-CH180

V-Series

The V-series is Sony's premium class. They offer both 720p and 1080p models, mechanical IR cut-filter, View-DR (WDR), interchangeable CS-mount lenses (for box cameras only), auto back-focus, three power options (PoE/24VAC/12VDC), two-way full-duplex audio, and XDNR (noise reduction). The line-up includes a total of 10 models (2 box, 2 bullet, and 6 domes), some of which feature built-in IR, and IP66 outdoor ratings. The V-series also offers on-board storage and wireless capability on box/bullet models.

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V-series domes and bullets do not feature interchangeable lenses, however they feature a motorized 2.9x zoom lens that can be adjusted remotely.

The V-series models include advanced DEPA functionality. The advanced version of DEPA allows for the analytics to operate independent of back-end VMS support or interaction. Basic DEPA is available in the E and X series, which require some level of back-end VMS support to work.

E-Series

This mid-tier class of HD cameras, includes 10 models (2 box, 2 bullet, and 6 domes), like the V-series. The E-series features both 720p and 1080p models, mechanical IR cut-filter, interchangeable CS-mount lenses (for box cameras only), and auto back-focus. However, they don't include features such as View-DR (WDR), XDNR (noise reduction), and an alternative AC/DC power option (PoE only). Like the V-series, the E-series offers built-in IR and IP66 domes/bullets. The E-series also excludes two-way audio, on-board storage, and wireless options.

E-series domes and bullets do not feature interchangeable lenses, however they feature a motorized 2.9x zoom lens that can be adjusted remotely.

X-Series

With the X-series even more features are excluded, such as an IR cut-filter, auto back focus, View-DR (WDR), XDNR (noise reduction), interchangeable lenses, and auxiliary power (PoE only). There are only 6 unique models in this series - 2 box and 2 domes, and 2 vandal domes. The series includes 720p and 1080p HD resolutions. The vandal domes feature an IK10 rating in a discrete 2-1/4" diameter compact form factor.

720p  / 1.3MP vs 1080p / 3MP

Each of the new generation Sony fixed cameras (the V, E and X models listed above) provide two resolution options - the 100 models (such as the SNC-CH120) support 720p / 1.3MP while the 200 models (such as the SNC-220) support 1080p / 3MP.

For the mid level E and entry level X, the online price premium is about $150 between the lower and higher resolution options. For the high end V series, the online price premium is about $250.

As we examined in our pixel test, unless you are monitoring areas with a FoV wider than 20 feet / 6 meters, 1.3MP is likely sufficient. At this Fov, about 60 pixels per foot is delivered which will provide clear faces and license plates. More pixels (or a higher resolution camera) is likely over-kill. If you have a scene with uneven or strong lighting, it's likely better to consider using a V series cameras for better WDR rather than 'throwing more pixels at it."

We think the best use for choosing 3MP over 1.3MP (and paying the roughly $200 premium) is for large areas (parking lots, large lobbies - 50+ ft wide FoVs) where the additional resolution can be the difference from capturing an indistinguishable 'blob' of a person vs. delivering basic details of a person (outfit, accessories, gender) that might help in identifying a threat.

Legacy Network Cameras

Sony's previous 3 generations (2nd, 3rd and 4th) of fixed network cameras total 13 unique models (6 box, 7 domes). Of these only the 4th generation offers low megapixel (one box 1MP and two dome 1.3MP) models. Be aware that these support only JPEG/MPEG-4 compression. The 3rd generation brought H.264 capabilities into the portfolio but only at SD resolutions. ONVIF support, Sony's EXMOR CMOS sensor, built-in IR, auto back-focus, and View-DR (WDR) are some features not present in earlier generations of Sony network cameras.

SNC-CM120 (online price $650) is a true day/night box camera  that can be compared to either an E-series SNC-CH120 (online price $500) or V-series SNC-CH140 (online price $845). All three comparsion models offer a 1.3MP maximum resolution.

Compared with the E-series SNC-CH120 the older generation SNC-CM120 is actually $150 more in cost. For the extra $150, the older generation megapixel camera provides two-way audio, multiple power options (PoE and AC/DC power), wireless option, and on-board storage. However, a key loss against the E-series is that no H.264 compression is supported - no ONVIF, or auto back-focus as well. For an extra $200 the V-series comparison model not only matches the two-way audio, multiple power options, on-board storage, and wireless capability of the 4th generation SNC-CM120, but also adds View-DR, auto back-focus, ONVIF, H.264, XDNR and advance DEPA.

The 4th generation SNC-CS20 is an SD resolution true day/night JPEG/MPEG-4 box camera that is priced online at $600. The E-series SNC-CH120 priced at $500 online, provides $100 of savings, 720p HD, H.264, auto back-focus, and ONVIF. The only key feature loss will be the auxiliary AC/DC power option. Compared to the newer models, the SNC-CS20 is not very attractive.

Price and Features Comparisons

The E-series 720p box camera, SNC-CH120, has an online price approximately $500, whereas the V-series counterpart, SNC-CH140, has an online price of roughly $840. For an additional $340, features such as View-DR, Advanced DEPA, XDNR, on-board storage, two-way audio, and wireless compatibility are available in the V-series, SNC-CH140. If these features are of lesser importance, a $300 savings would be realized while still maintaining key features such as true day/night, and interchangeable lens options in the E-series model, SNC-CH120.

The SNC-CH110 (not yet shipping) represents another step down in functionality. It is still a box form factor 720p HD IP camera. Online pricing is likely to fall in around $350. Thus, the cost is $150 less than the E-series, SNC-CH120, comparison model. However, this option not only dispenses with the V to E feature set differences, but also the true day/night functionality, and the interchangeable lens.

Summarizing the V, E and X comparison:

  • V cameras are for applications where customers are willing to pay top dollar for all the bells and whistles (whether WDR performance, analytics, audio, storage, etc.)
  • E cameras are mid-market choices that provide flexibility in adjusting the camera's FoV and seeing at night but without the more advanced features (except for auto back focus). For that you save about $300 relative to V series cameras.
  • X cameras are for those who can accept just HD video without use in low light situations and without the capability to adjust the FoV (without physically moving the camera). For that you save about $150 relative to the X series.

Notable Gaps in Portfolio

Be mindful of the following gaps in Sony's portfolio:

  • In their current generation, Sony is no longer producing SD resolution cameras.
  • Sony's maximum resolution is 3MP.
  • If you want audio or on-board storage, you will have to choose the most expensive Sony cameras which may be competitively expensive.
  • Sony has no cube cameras and, in general, nothing under $300 on-line price. For applications looking for $100-$150 IP cameras, Sony will not fit.

Competitive Advantages

The following aspects are likely to be competitive advantages:

  • Built in WDR functionality in the V series: HD WDR is rare and the functionality performed well in our tests.
  • Built in auto back focus for the E series: While the premium V series has this as well, the E series will be especially cost attractive as it provides auto back focus fairly inexpensively (e.g., the box SNC-CH120, has an online price approximately $500)
  • The price premium between 720p / 1.3MP and 1080p / 3MP is relatively small, compared to offerings from Axis and Pelco
  • Mini HD domes on the entry level X series: This will be one of the least expensive HD domes available and the only one from the 'big' brands of the industry

2 reports cite this report:

Examining American Dynamics' New Illustra 400 Series IP Cameras on Dec 06, 2010
In December 2010, American Dynamics announced the Illustra 400 series line of IP cameras. The cameras offer 30fps at H.264 with a unique resolution...
Sony PTZ Camera Guide on Nov 21, 2010
PTZs can be especially challenging to select as the price range amongst product options can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. In...
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