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Panasonic BL-C101E IP Cam- Wireless, Digital Input

Features and some setup information

This page is a "leaf" on a tree with information about remote sensing. It is a leaf of the branch about putting an IP camera (a bit like a webcam, or CCTV) on your LAN, either for local viewing, or, if you want to "open the doors", viewing from afar across the internet.

If you are just getting started with using IP cams, you may want to visit an overview of using IP cams I have provided.

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But! Back to the point of this page: Information about a specific IP cam. (IP cams are like webcams, but they connect to a LAN via TCP as opposed to connecting to a single PC, e.g. via USB). Here you will find information specific to one camera... see the parent of this page for more general points on using IP cams.

Features of Panasonic BL-C101E- why buy one?

N.B.: The BL-C101E is a" wired only" camera... but the Ethernet (network) cable also brings the camera its power. If you are buying via eBay, be sure your camera comes with the proprietary power injector (a simple block with 1-power in, 2-LAN in and 3-LAN out sockets.)

Be sure when connecting to the block that you put the LAN cable into the socket for the LAN cable, and the cable to go to the camera into its socket.... it would be easy to reverse those connections, and probably not good for the items involved.

A quick note about the "digital input" mentioned in the heading: This camera can accept inputs from, for example, a simple "doorbell type" switch. You do not need to... indeed should not... feed a voltage into the digital input, unlike other cameras which only recognize the input if you do feed a voltage in.

The camera does not have an output to turn on external electronics, e.g. a "bell". (I also offer a page on the general considerations of digital inputs and outputs on webcams.)

I like the system implemented by Panasonic in this camera for managing what inputs the camera recognizes, and what it does when it sees an input. It can take a picture on a schedule, when it detects motion, or when there's an event on the digital input. And it can FTP it, email it, AND (if you wish, optional) send an email to say it has FTP'd or merely seen an event. In various combinations. The management of the various related settings is the best I, with limited experience, have seen.

The system uses a small table. It seems almost as if you are given a way to set up a selection of "presets", so that you can switch between them according to current wants. I'm not sure how successful the camera would be with implementing some potential combinations of "trigger event/response" settings... but a little common sense will probably stand you in good stead here. Start with something simple, and build that as far as you can, in stages.

Manual

A manual is, hurrah, available online. It was not, sigh, to me, easy to find or set up in August 2013. Here are the "secrets"...

Go to http://panasonic.net/. Drill down "Consumer", "Home Communication", "Network Camera".

Search on "BL-C101E". Don't be dismayed by the results page. When I did the search, the first result...

Download Contents | Download [CE/E/CN] | Network Camera |
Office Products | Business & Professional

... was, regardless of the unhelpful text, the right one.

That took me to a more usual support page. From there, for the full manual, you want (whether you do or not) the HTML version. But we're not done with warnings and help yet.

As I said, you want the HTML file: "Operating Instructions and Troubleshooting Guide of BL-C101CE/C101E/C121CE/C121E"

After you download that and save it on your disk, you will have a 2 gig .exe file. Run that, and you will, with very little indication of what is going on, get a folder inside your downloads folder called... must have been "obvious" to someone... "om01". Navigate to that, double-click on "index.htm", and you are "in".

CHEEZ! Hasn't Panasonic heard of .pdfs? Or install programs which let you choose where YOU want the install to take place??? (But it is, mostly, a good camera for the price!)

ANYWAY... there IS a manual, with, I imagine, plenty of Good Stuff. I couldn't, at a glance, see anything on the parameters allowed with a snapshot request.

The examples which follow assume that your camera is not using your LAN's DHCP server, but rather has a fixed local address of 192.168.0.254

It assumes that your router has an external, WAN, IP address which is known to the internet generally by means of MyRouter.dyndns.org, by the magic of DDNS, or "dynamic directory name server" services.

If you have only one http server on your LAN, it can be at the standard port, 80, and you do not need to explicitly specify it. For the sake of the examples, we will assume that you camera has been put on port 81, so explicitly specifying a port can be illustrated. Just drop the ":81" which appears in many of the lines below if you are using the default port 80... or use ":80"... it will do no harm, and remind you to put the port in, if you go beyond one server. Which you would do if you added another camera, for example.

The Panasonic BL-C101E has an excellent approach to its initial admin user name and password. After you force a reset of the device to the factory defaults, the first time you access it, you are asked to supply an admin user name and password. Other manufacturers please take note!

To fetch a "snapshot" from the Panasonic BL-C101E, the "magic code" MAY be what follows. This is not an easy subject!

In the following, you will see "usr:pw@". This is a way to pass a user ID and password to the camera while accessing it. (You have to replace the usr with a user ID the camera knows, and replace pw with the password for that user. THIS IS A VERY INSECURE METHOD! You might as well list the user name and password on a webpage. Be sure ONLY to use a very limited "see the image only" user for this purpose. And only use it with a camera which does not monitor anything sensitive.

http://usr:pw@192.168.0.254:81//SnapshotJPEG?Resolution=640x480&Quality=Standard

or

http://usr:pw@MyRouter.DynDns.org:81//SnapshotJPEG?Resolution=640x480&Quality=Standard

... the first being the code you use if you are on the same LAN as the camera, the second being the code to access from afar, over the internet. (The second will also work "across" the LAN, but you will be "going around the houses".) (I won't be repeating the two variations after this, you have to remember they are there, use them as needed. The ":81" can be left out if you are using the standard port 80 for your IP cam, as discussed earlier.

The settings "640x480" and "Clarity" are not, of course, the only possibilities. If you know where there's a good list of all the options, I would be grateful if I heard from you.

N.B. Some specifics regarding using the above with a Panasonic BL-C101E, specifics which may give you hints about overcoming similar issues in other cameras.

To view a snapshot from the IP cam on a given computer, either that computer must have been "authorized" to call for snapshots, or, you must first have changed one of the default setting in the camera. We will discuss both.

If the camera is in its factory default state, or mostly so apart from an admin user having been set up, then you will not be able to change settings or access a snapshot from the camera (via the simple URL-in-browser route) without supplying your credentials. Without authorizing yourself by means of saying which user-known-to-the-camera you are, and supplying the relevant password.

Sounds good. Sadly, even after you tweak the camera's state, the authorization scheme is pretty simple minded.

If you have logged on to the camera previously, and not closed the browser used in the meantime, you will still be logged on. The authorization does not time out. (This can lead to confusion when you are testing some of the tweaks I will explain.) If you close the browser, that MAY be enough to de-authenticate you. (Just closing the tab you accessed the camera through will not be enough.

But! There are all sorts of Good Things you can do.

Log into the settings interface for the camera.

Go to Account/ General User.
Click on GuestUser in list, then click "Modify"
Tick at least the box for "Capture Image Button", even
    though you may not be interested in using the BUTTON.
    (You MAY also need to tick the box for "View
       Buffered Image page".... try doing all this
       without ticking that second box, let me know
       if the first alone is enough?)

   .... AND click the SAVE button at the bottom
   of the page.

Now, without further ado (no need to restart anything), the snapshot URL should work from a "foreign" machine, i.e. one not previously authorized to access snapshots. There is no need to pass "GuestUser" to the camera in the snapshot command.

(The "GuestUser" account is always present, and, I presume, used (as tweaked by you) by default for serving users who are not logged on.)

You can also set up other users, with their own user ID and selected- by- you sets of privileges.

So... that's how you set the camera up to allow users to request a snapshot with a browser. If you have the camera on a LAN, the following little "webpage", saved as a file of type .htm, on any computer in the LAN "should" allow the computer's user to "watch" the camera, with a new snapshot every 15 seconds. (Beware the implications for traffic on your LAN.)...

<head>
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="15">
</head>
<body>
<img src="http://usr:pw@192.168.0.254:81/SnapshotJPEG?Resolution=640x480&Quality=Standard">
</body>

Again... the "usr" and "pw" need replacing. (See above), and this method of logging on is VERY INSECURE.





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