Integrators: Manufacturer Recommended Lenses Or Pick Your Own?

Interested to hear from the group regarding the matching of cameras to lenses. A few questions:

1: What percentage of installations do you provide cameras with default lenses versus matching a camera and a lens?

2: For what reasons would you decide to do the mix and match versus the out of box vendor solution?

3: How must of a cost difference does this make to the purchase price to the customer?

Vasiles, interesting question. I have added a poll to it (above).

Also, this typically is only a decision in box cameras as bullets, domes and speeddomes almost all come with integrated lens from the manufacturer.

I suspect most use the manufacturer's recommended lens (often because the manufacturer sells them as a combined kit - Axis, Sony are two that come to mind) but I see two 'types' that use / pick their own:

  • Money savers: Some integrators have a preferred low cost lens supplier where they can reduce lens cost by ~$50 (compared to a name brand / manufacturer OEMed lens).
  • Quality preference: Some integrators will swear that a certain lens (or lens manufacturer) provides the best imaging quality and will only use that lens.

our installations are mainly domes and bullets... with that being said our cameras come with from the manufacturer with the lenses mounted and are auto focus so they cannot be removed... we have been using it that way for about three years now and i haven't compared pricing to the other way of purchasing lense seperately... and again tha would have been mainly on block cameras... i know there is a labor savings in using a manufacturer mounted lens with autofocus...

To clarify and expand on that, with box cameras, since they typically use auto back focus (sliding the imager back and forth inside the box for fine focusing), you can still use third party lenses.

When i was an Integrator we typically used domes. When we did use box cameras we used whatever the manufacturer was reselling except for a few cases where we used Immervision.

That's a good example. Immervision (CS lenses) are an edge case (panomorph / 360) that does not come standard on third party cameras.

The only time I sell box cameras is when the dome version of that Axis camera doesnt come with a long enough lens... so by default I guess its "mostly picked our own"...

It's usually an additional 100-200 depending on how crazy a lens we need.

Another good example. Stock lenses are usually ~3-9mm so if you need a longer one for a more telephoto shot, you get your own.

The price factor for the manufacturer branded/boxed lenses is higher than sourcing them out form the OEM which would be the primary reason, the panomorph lens is a second reason.

And, the range of offered lenses might not be wide enough, ex: we had a football stadium to be equipped with Arecont 10 mega cameras, the longest range we got from Arecont for the 10M was not enough to give the optical zoom required identification on the stadium seats @160p/m.

We tested a few OEMs (Computar, Fujinon, Mega Pixel and Tonika) for vari-focal lenses up to 120mm and found out that they worked just fine although they were not 10 meg certified.

So, in this case it was a need that was not available with the manufacturer.

Arecont's an interesting example because they do not ship lenses with their box cameras.

Despite that, from dealing with Arecont in the past, I am pretty positive they would blame you if you came back and said you were not satisfied with the overall image quality ("our cameras are great, you picked a bad lens").

Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility. Most manufacturers have a paltry selection of lenses and some of their choices are both puzzling and frustrating, to say the least. The typical 3-9mm lens may be suitable for some applications but in my applications, they typically don't go wide enough to cover a 90+ degree HFOV or narrow enough to cover a table game or gaming machine properly. In other words, the worst of both worlds.

Other issues I've typically encountered, especially with manual lenses we typically prefer are poor fine focus (the focus jumps in discrete steps), adjustments that are too tight (hard to move) or too loose (hard to lock without affecting the setting) and the most vexing - zoom rings that act like focus and focus rings that act like zoom.

For analog cameras, we typically use three lenses: 2.8-12mm (works for maybe 80-85% of applications), 1.8-3.6mm for smaller rooms and area overviews and 5-50mm for longer shots. Wide angle lenses appear to be a rarity for megapixel cameras (except Theia) and the reason for that eludes me. I would think that megapixel offers huge advantages for wide angle shots and wonder why that capability is not utilized often.

In fact, we were so frustrated by the lens options on IndigoVision cameras (Computar 3.1-8mm A-I and Kowa 9-20mm M-I) that we tested our standard definition Computar T4Z2813CS-IR lenses with surprising results: two out of three performed as well as the megapixel lenses with one shortcoming - focus was incredibly difficult to optimize; we often had to get focus as close as possible then utilize the zoom ring to tweak focus.

Related to focusing, the easiest lens I have ever manually focused was the Pentax Plus (see test results). It's weird though, despite its uniqueness, it seems to have never caught on.

By the way, we tested an Arecont MPL33-12 yesterday and were pretty impressed with its image quality, ease of adjustment and particularly its small size. I think I've traced down the OEM: it appears to be a rebadged Evetar M125VM3312IR lens. Pictures and specs of the two appear to be exactly the same, even down to the f-stop discrepancy - some specs say F1.6 while others say F1.4. The demo lens has F1.6 printed on it. Perhaps the "A" revision has a lower f-stop?