Avigilon HD Multisensor Camera Tested

By Ethan Ace, Published Dec 14, 2015, 12:00am EST (Research)

Avigilon has released 9MP and 12MP HD Multisensor cameras, adding reposition-able sensors with remote focus and zoom, features not before seen in the expanding multi-imager market.

However, with Arecont no longer the only game in town, and Axis (33MP) and Pelco (Optera) releasing their own multi imager models, the question is whether these novel features are enough to set the HD Multisensor apart.

We tested the camera against Arecont's SurroundVideo Omni 12MP, Axis Q3709-PVE 33MP, and Pelco Optera 12MP to see how it stacks up, in day and night scenes, WDR, installation, and more.

Here are the 4 entrants mounted side by side:

These are the key advantages and disadvantages of the Avigilon HD Multisensor versus competitive multi imager models:

Advantages

Avigilon's Multisensor offers flexibility in repositioning imagers similar to the Arecont Omni, allowing it to cover fields of view aside from typical 180 and 360 views (which are still available), such as 270° when corner mounted, or interior T or X hallways.

Additionally, due to the integrated motorized varifocal lenses, users may adjust these views from the camera's web interface instead of changing and refocusing M12 lenses as in the Arecont Omni, which can be touchy and difficult to properly focus.

Because each imager uses an independent 3-axis gimbal, Avigilon does not suffer from the tilted images/wasted FOV of the Axis Q3709 when set in a 180° view, since individual imagers may be rotated to remove this issue. This is not possible with the Q3709-PVE.

Finally, Avigilon sends a separate stream for each imager, unlike the Pelco Optera, which stitches imagers in the camera, producing warped "bowtie" shaped images without a special plugin, but also uses only one IP address, unlike the Axis Q3709-PVE, which requires three (one per imager).

Disadvantages

There are limitations in how imagers may be repositioned, due to the size of their motorized zoom mechanism, making it less flexible than the smaller imagers used by the Arecont Omni, which may be fitted closer together. 

Because of these limitations, only three imagers may be used when configured for a 180°, making total resolution 9 MP instead of 12 MP found in Arecont and Pelco. Note that Avigilon's 360° models are 12MP.

Finally, 3MP is the maximum pixel count per sensor in the HD Multisensor, with no higher resolutions available, such as the 20 or 40MP models from Arecont or Axis' 33MP Q3709.

Key Findings

Here are the key findings from our test:

Imaging/Bandwidth

Low light performance moderately worse than Pelco 12MP Optera, similar to Axis Q3709-PVE, and better than Arecont SurroundVideo 12MP.

Much better WDR performance than Arecont and Axis, though moderately weak compared to Pelco Optera, especially in darker areas of the scene.

Total bitrates lower than other 180° multi imager cameras in all scenes.

Imager Position/View Flexibility

Imagers are quickly repositioned using a thumbscrew to adjust tilt and lever to adjust pan, without the unscrewing/screwing required by the Arecont Omni. Angle of view is simply adjusted via the web interface.

There is no simple/automated way to set up the 3 imager Multisensor in a 180° angle of view, the most common use case for multi-imager models.

Users may achieve a roughly ~195° angle by moving the outer imagers as close to center as possible, though PPF is reduced compared to others due to the wider AoV, as well as the use of three imagers instead of four.

270° view capability is useful in capturing wide areas from building corners, not available when using other multi imager models (with the exception of Pelco Optera).

Pricing

Estimated street price of the HD Sensor ranges from about $1,500 USD (three imager indoor) to about $2,000 (four imager outdoor).

This pricing is similar to moderately higher than Arecont and Pelco 12MP models, both ~$1500-1600. It is lower than the Axis Q3709-PVE, which sells for ~$2,300 online. 

Physical Overview

The camera heads of the Avigilon multi sensor are larger than other multi imager options, such as the Arecont SurroundVideo Omni, due to the inclusion of motorized zoom lenses instead of fixed lenses found in others.

Sensors may be adjusted from horizontal to nearly vertical. Horizontal angle of movement is more limited, as sensors are locked to a "track" which only allows ~90 degrees movement. The larger size of the sensors also prevents them from being angled too tightly as they physically bump into each other.

This video review the physical construction of the camera:

Configuration/Web Interface

The web interface of the Avigilon multisensor is similar to other Avigilon cameras, though with added tabs in most menus for individual configuration of each sensor. Exposure/white balance/etc. may also be set globally.

We review configuration in this video:

Imager Positioning Flexibility

The heads of the Avigilon multi imager may be repositioned, similar to the Arecont SurroundVideo Omni, to cover views outside of typical 360 and 180 angles.

For example, the 3 imager multi sensor ships in a 270° configuration. This allows a single camera on the corner of a building to cover multiple angles which typically require separate cameras. This is not possible with most multi-imager cameras (aside from Pelco's 270 Optera models).

The image below demonstrates this view:

Imagers may also be respositioned to cover T or X hallway intersections, elevator lobbies, etc. Avigilon provides several examples of these applications, with corresponding sensor setup on their multisensor camera demo.

No Simple 180° View

However, unlike other cameras which ship in a fixed 180° configuration, there is no simple way to configure the camera in a 180° degree FOV. 

The sensors of a 3-head camera may be configured close to an 180° field of view by centering the middle sensor, and moving the outer sensors as close to it as possible. Zooming roughly halfway in on each sensor, with some height and level adjustments, actual angle of view is about 190-200 degrees.

We show this process in this video:

Test Notes in 180° Shootout

In this test, our competitive image quality testing focuses on using a 180° field of view, as this is the most common/most requested application for multi imager cameras.

Because of Avigilon's sensor size and positioning configuration compared to other models, only three imagers are used in this setup, reducing total resolution to 9 MP compared to 12 MP in Arecont and Pelco, reducing PPF across the FOV. 

Note that when using 360° views, this limitation is not present, as the four imager/12MP model may be used, with the same sensor AoV as others. Additionally, users may choose to narrow the FOV to increase PPF or zoom in on "hotspot" areas in the scene if a full 180° is not needed.

Image Quality

As noted above, the image quality comparisons below were performed using a 3 imager Avigilon multisensor using a ~180° field of view. Note that there are some differences in FOV due to how the camera must be physically mounted, seams between imagers, etc., but all are viewing roughly 180°.

Day

In daylight, the Avigilon multisensor provides slightly reduced details compared to the Pelco Optera, due to its wider individual sensor AoV, though moderately better than the Arecont 12MP Omni. The Axis Q3709 provides clearer details of the subject and chart due to its higher PPF.

Moving further from the cameras, PPF drops, with the Pelco camera delivering better details of the subject than Avigilon.

Low Light

In low light, the Avigilon multisensor performs similarly to the Axis Q3709-PVE, with similar details of the subject and chart. The Pelco Optera produces slightly more detail in the test chart than Avigilon and Axis.

In a wider FOV, none of the cameras produce usable details of the subject, nor the test chart. 

Wide Dynamic Range

We tested the cameras in a warehouse scene with open overhead door to test WDR performance, seen here:

The Avigilon multisensor performs well against strong backlight in this scene, but is weaker next to the open overhead door compared to the Pelco Optera, which clearly showed our subject in both areas.

Bandwidth Consumption

The Avigilon Multisensor had the lowest bitrates of all the cameras in this test by a solid margin, both day and night. 

 

VMS Compatibility

Not surprisingly, the Avigilon multisensor was best integrated with Avigilon Control Center, with only one VMS license used and full access to camera configuration through the VMS.

The camera used only one license in Milestone XProtect, as well, when added via ONVIF, due to Milestone's one license per IP policy. Camera side VMD was also supported in XProtect.

The camera added successfully to Exacq and Genetec via ONVIF, as well, though both required three licenses and did not support camera VMD.

Test Parameters

The following settings were applied to all cameras:

  • H.264, 10 FPS, ~28 quantization was used (except Arecont, due a max 6 FPS framerate)
  • 1/30s maximum shutter speed

Other settings were left at defaults unless otherwise noted.

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