Avigilon Dumps CCD & JPEG2000 For H4 LineBy: John Honovich, Published on Mar 31, 2014
[Update: March 31, 2014 with new information on sensor choice, frame rate and performance.]
Avigilon has announced a new series of cameras, the H4, claiming these, "deliver exceptional low light performance and increased frame rates for smooth video capturing of moving objects." Along with it, they are announcing HDSM 2.0.
The cameras will be available in 8, 12 and 16MP versions along with the addition of H.264.
H.264 In / JPEG2000 Out
Long a fierce and lonely proponent of JPEG2000, they are now embracing H.264, noting:
"While JPEG2000 provides coding flexibility and high imaging performance, it also produces higher average bitrate streams and less overall compression than H.264, and is not a widely used standard within the video security surveillance industry."
Their H4 data sheet / brochure indicates that JPEG2000 is being dropped, which is an interesting change of events, since for years they have argued JPEG2000 quality was critical to their company mission, delivering 'the best evidence'.
CMOS In, CCD Out
In another surprise to 'traditional' thinking, Avigilon is using CMOS imagers in all 3 new cameras with a "27.2 mm (1.07”) progressive scan CMOS" for the 8MP and 12MP version and a "28.4 mm (1.12”) progressive scan CMOS" for the 16MP one.
Additionally, they are claiming these cameras are Lightcatcher, their marketing term for super low light. Specifically, Avigilon is rating the new H4 cameras at 0.005 lux, notably better than their previous generation CCD pro cameras (even the monochrome ones were rated at 0.01 lux with color at .1 lux).
On Board Storage
These will be the first Avigilon cameras to support on-board storage. This is a catch up feature as every significant manufacturer, save for Arecont, already supports this.
The max frame rates specified for the 8MP and 12MP H4 cameras are 12, while for the 16MP unit, it is 10.
Multi-Streaming / HDSM
For their current H3 H.264 cameras, HDSM is simply multi-streaming. However, Avigilon is making some strong claims about novel ways of streaming H.264 with H4. Their example mentions saving 3 size resolutions (full, intermediate, and poor) and then be able to select only parts of each stream to display on the client. This is the first we have heard any vendor claiming to do this with H.264. On the other hand, they may be transcoding as they emphasize that this is done server side but do not mention how they implement it.
[Update: Avigilon says "it's not quite transcoding at all" just a processor intensive method of converting one video stream to another - which is, of course, transcoding.
Like their JPEG2000 forefathers, we are being told these will not support ONVIF and will be proprietary to Avigilon. This makes sense from a competitive positioning standpoint as they use these cameras as a way to block out rivals.
Pricing will likely remain relatively high ($3,000 or more), given the premium chips they use and the requirement for Canon EF / E-S lenses.
No Increase in Resolution
This does go against a historic pattern of Avigilon pushing on higher and higher resolution. The H4's max resolution will actually be lower than the JPEG2000 HD Pro cameras (H4 max - 16MP, JPEG2000 - 29MP). Thankfully, it does not include any claims about how many traditional VGA cameras they can replace.
There are still not a lot of 10MP or higher cameras on the market so while Avigilon has not increased resolution, only a few manufacturers even provide cameras in this range.
However, 4K cameras are clearly on the horizon. Those cameras will typically support 12MP max at ~10fps, using H.264 and be open, so when they are announced (in mass around ISC West), we suspect this will make for a very competitive market.
[Update 3/31/14: Avigilon and Axis' entries to 8MP / 4K are fairly contradictory. Axis has taken a low cost, high frame rate, poor low light approach while Avigilon's low light is likely to be dramatically better but also at far higher prices (given their large sensor and EF lens requirements).]
While this is a good incremental advance for Avigilon, it undercuts their historic JPEG2000 myth making / marketing and does not address the budget side of the market, where their cameras are increasingly undercut by good enough Chinese and Taiwanese companies.