Subscriber Discussion

Alternative To Axis: American Dynamics Or?

I am working with a very small and rural school system. Money is tight (T-I-G-H-T) tight I can hear the squeaking shoes of their CFO from underneath his desk.

This is just a sign of the times. Their support from the state was cut $2M and for them, this is huge. But, they still want cameras.

I usually like to standardize in a deployment and have had great luck with Axis and a few of the other higher premium camera and VMS lines.

They cringe though when I discuss how much it will cost. I can recommend American Dynamics and standardize on their cameras and VMS to save licensing costs. Anyone with experience using American Dynamics? How is the reliability? Support? VMS ease of use? Their boxes are reasonable and I have heard good things (but only from one person).

BTW: I am a consultant and not an inegrator. That said, I have no dog in this fight. Only want to support the school system.

Thanks much!

When did American Dynamics become a low cost solution? :)

AD is typically above averaged price for average offerings. They use to be a powerhouse and are still a mainstream player but are declining in prominence/market share.

If you want to save on licensing costs for a camera/VMS combo, and want something less expensive than Axis, then Avigilon is likely a much better choice.

Btw, if you can share some high level info (like total cameras, existing infrastructure you want to keep, etc.), that might help in recommendations.

I guess cost is relative (at least for my wife ;-)) As for cost, I have been tentatively quoted one of their 32 camera boxes at $3k. Their cameras seem to be in the same range as the Axis M series. Not dirt cheap but reasonable. With their box cost as reasonable and no licensing if we used their cameras...thought it was at least worth a look.

I have not seriously looked at Avigilon for 5 + years. I never could get past the support limitations of JPEG2000. I probably should though take a 2nd look since they have other options now.

Perhaps they did all along but a rep once focused on the JPEG2000 codec as a great thing and I viewed it as just locking me into their VMS. Then, he quit responding to me my requests for other info so I walked. That was a long time ago though.

Right now we are not locked into a VMS or recording appliance. However, I have just found out that their analog cameras (which were not working) are not even connected. We might be able to get these running and then add to the existing system with IP.

If that is the case, then AD is not the way to go.

James, you and I are both not fans of JPEG2000. However, all Avigilon's 5MP and under cameras are H.264 now with support for JPEG2000 dropped (only their super high res cameras are still JPEG2000 only).

A 32 camera box for $3,000? That sounds pretty cheap. Which model? Any storage?

As for the cameras, which models?

Below is what was shared with me as MSRP. I negotiate a decent discount so thinking I can get the 32 camera version for my customer at a little more than $3k. But when negotiating for clients I set the bar pretty high. That might be too high but it would be close.

  • Compact MSRP $2800 16ip cameras 1TB HDD
  • ADV version $3800 MSRP 32 IP cameras 3TB HDD (Comes with 1 Free Camera License)
  • Both have E-SATA ports for additional storage

These are their cameras. I am sure you have seen them, but I haven't.

I have not even seen MSRP on these yet. The cost comparison to Axis M series was conjecture on my part based upon what I was told.

Again, just looking for brand name alternatives. Something that would not trap them to just one integrator and with a company that will still be around in 5-7 years.

James, looking at their minidomes, AD's price point ranges roughly from $500 - $1000 (using online pricing, lower than MSRP).

That's pretty comparable to the Axis P (professional, higher end) series. Axis's M series domes are roughly $200 - $400.

The exact price differential depends on specific model match up, but, on camera cost alone, Axis is likely similar, if not lower.

As for the recorder, how big / complex do you need to go? This has an impact on VMS options and pricing. Do you anticipate eventually expanding to 100+ cameras with access control integration, etc. or is this going to be a smaller, simpler setup?

My two cents, maybe consider Digital Watchdog. They have analog and IP solutions. Their new DW-Spectrum is still in it's infancy, but so far seems well received, and it can be used for both the IP and analog equipment, so you only have one viewing platform to worry about. The analog equipment is 5 year warranty. Their IP cameras I think are only 2 or 3 years, but they're Onvif compliant so that won't lock them into a VMS if they want to change to something more robust later. Their pricing seems to be pretty low and I think without re-curring cost, but I'd talk to their rep for your area on specifics.

For a lower cost alternative to Axis but maintaining a high level of support and reliability Panasonic may be a good option. They don't have the higher res MP's that Axis has though which depending on your situation may eliminate them. But we've been very pleased with their image quality and support for us has been top notch. We've paired Panasonic with Exacq very successfully for budget oriented projects. I think Panasonic is pretty widely supported across other VMS's as well.

Usually what I offer for my low end solution is an exacq VMS ($150 per licence) with Acti D51 Dome Cameras (Aprox $180) or D61 (Aprox $280).

If you are trying to save on servers you might want to see if the school board has a VM Ware Server with SAN storage and get the IT department involved to host the VMS.

Using Exacq with Vivotek, ACti or Axis's M series you can't wrong with a budget IP solution. That is much cheaper than an Avgilon solution. Panasonic has worked out well for us too with Exaclichen mix and match to keep cost down. I think Sony's DH-110 and DH-210 are inexpensive as well.

@Duncan How have those new ACTi cameras worked out for you? Low failure rate, easy to install, image quality better than pervious ACTI cameras?


THe ACTi cameras aren't bad for the price. I have only done one install so far with them as they were just released this year. Time will tell if we have any issues with them.

AD has a massive perk for a school system in that they can handle 800MB of through put where Avigilon has typically been restricted at 250MB (causing the end user to settle for less resolution or frame rate). For stacking large amounts of cameras (64 per server) at the maximum resolution and frame rate, AD Becomes a fantastic value - especially for a school district.

Additionally, if your needs can fit inside of 2MP cameras, all of the camera licenses are free when buying the AD product line. However, the AD VideoEdge has an open architecture if you need specialty cameras for high megapixel or panoramic solutions.


What AD device are you talking about that has a 800Mbps throughput for recording and at what cost? The low end video edge server only has a 100Mbps through put for recording and the high end video edge server which is a re branded dell server has a 400Mbps throughput. Most schools would never need 800Mbps of throughput or even 100Mpbs. If they did the storage requirements would be insane.

David, Duncan, on the VideoEdge product page, it notes, "Each 19” rack-mounted NVR supports up to 128 dual-streaming cameras, and a total of 800Mbps of video throughput (400Mbps to disc/400Mbps to clients)"

Btw, with Tyco paying $150 million cash for Exacq, I think buying VideoEdge NVRs is risky. There's a very real chance that Tyco will deprioritize or drop VideoEdge in the future (I don't have any inside information, I simply suspect this because of the clear overlap of the two lines).

In 2008, we really ramped up our IP camera deployments in public schools. At the time, our goto interior camera was the ACTI 3401, which was truly a low cost solution at about $300 our cost each. Hundreds of these were deployed from 2008-2009. Camera prices began falling for HD cameras, and the noise/motion abilities of these cameras became inferior. Since then, our budget domes (to win bids) moved to Axis M series and then Vivotek domes. I look back at these installs and noticed that the original large projects, which we still monitor, have had almost no failures of the 3401 cameras. We can not say this for any of the other cameras we switched to (Axis M3204 and Vivotek FD8134 for example). Now we come full circle in 2013 with ACTI now providing cameras such as the E51 (comparable to the 3401 for < $200). Difference is that now the camera supports high profile H.264 and has improved image sensor. You never know when you design and deploy a system what the long term life of these products is.

For a truly low lost reliable system, OEM a good server, and maybe even think about using the Vivotek/ACTI VMS software (it is free and you could always upgrade/purchase VMS software later since you have no costs to this point for software).

Duncan and John thanks for the response.

Yes, 800MB of throughput is comprised of 400MB dedicated to incoming raw video, and 400MB to client requests (read/write). This is the enterprise model is built on the Dell R720 server with the JeOS Linux Kernel... very stable platform, very secure. Usable storage can range from 6TB to 33TB and the sales price can range from $8500 - $18k or more. (MSRP much more of course.)

The VideoEdge hybrid models are can be purchased with as little as 2TB of storage and support the following throughput:

8 Channel 100/100 (200 read/write)

16 Channel 200/200 (400 read/write)

32 Channel 300/300 (600 read/write)

The VideoEdge hybrids can range anywhere from $2500 - $10k depending on storage requirements. These are great first step appliances for clients migrating to IP servers, but still getting the full software platform.

John, thanks for bringing up the Exacq purchase. This was a strategic purchase by AD because their lower H-DVR models were built using the Exacq software, customized of course for AD. Once folks realized it was the Exacq software, many decided to just buy from Exacq instead. I have no doubt that AD will continue to use the Exacq product line, but it will remain in the lower levels for H-DVR sales, and provide better economics for AD in the end.

The VideoEdge software for the IP Hybrid and Enterprise servers will always remain a more advanced solution than the rudimentary Exacq software supplied on the HDVRs.

Yes, I think we may have just witnessed the beginning of the end for Exacq.....destined to be used primarily on the lower end Tyco/AD lines of DVRs. (How did hybrid/analog become part of this discussion?)

In response to Duncan's earlier note, the VE Enterprise version does support 128 cameras, but only 64 if you want to enable meta-data.

James, i have a couple of questions regarding the school system... is the district networked so that multiple schools are sending their video feeds to one location, via fiber, etc...? If so, an enterprise model with the higher capacity throughput might be more cost effective.

Of course this leads to the follow up question of how many days/months are they looking for in data retention? Not all servers are going to get you what you need here either.

Architectural design will be everything in order to truly understand your server needs.