Avigilon H3 Series Reviewed

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Mar 26, 2012

Improved low light and WDR performance are two of the year's biggest megapixel camera trends. Avigilon's H3 series continues this trend with the company's new 'platform' supporting H.264 3MP and 5MP cameras. In this note, we examine the key feature and pricing of this release compared to Axis, Sony and Arecont multi-megapixel offerings.

Overview of H3

Here are key features and claims of the H3 series:

  • Claimed improved low light performance and reduced low light bandwidth consumption
  • Wide Dynamic Range for the 3MP model
  • Offered in dome and box form factors
  • All cameras have integrated lenses
  • 3rd Party Support via ONVIF
  • MSRP:  Avigilon 3MP box: $835 MSRP; 5MP box $955 MSRP
  • Shipping: May 2012

Key Improvements

Relative to their existing H.264 line, a number of key improvement are claimed:

Lower Bandwidth consumption: Avigilon claims that the new cameras require 'four times less bandwidth in challenging light conditions than previous H.264 cameras' by more efficently filtering raw image noise at low light levels, reducing bandwidth needed to compress noise. However, the bandwidth reduction claim is relative to their own cameras. Our test results of their existing H.264 HD cameras were among the worst low light bandwidth consumers. As such, reduced consumption in the new series should certainly reduce a competitive disadvantage, it may not necessarily make them market leaders in this dynamic.

WDR for 3MP model: The 3MP, but not the 5MP, supports Wide Dynamic Range. The new sensor incorporates a multi-scan WDR process that exposes the sensor to two images at different levels and combines them. Avigilon refers to this as a 'true' WDR process. However, we will need to test this as WDR claims relative to performance are all over the place.

Improved HDSM: Avigilon's H.264 HDSM allows dynamically switching from a high or full quality stream to a low or reduced quality one. While the previous generation H.264 cameras supported this for live viewing only, the H3 series supports for both live and recorded video. This feature can reduce bandwidth consumption when watching multiple video streams simultaneously (e.g. a 3 x 3 or 4 x 4 matrix playback).

Competitive Comparison

As typical for Avgilon, the pricing is attractive for the feature sets. Both cameras MSRP is under a $1,000 including lens.

  • That's close to or less than many major vendors 720p cameras (Axis P1344, Q1604, etc.). 
  • The H3 cameras are significantly less expensive than comparable 3MP from Sony (e.g., the WDR Sony CH240 street price is ~$1,100 and the new 5MP Axis P3367 is ~$1,300.
  • Arecont offers the closest price 3MP and 5MP offerings. After lenses are purchased, pricing between Avigilon H3 and Arecont models (AV3115, AV5115) should be close with perhaps a modest price advantage to Arecont.

Ultimately, the key factors for the H3's positioning is (1) how good is WDR? and (2) how much has low light performance improved? Avigilon cameras will definitely cost less than the big brands and likely slightly more than the Areconts of the world. The key question is whether H3 can match the improved performance of the newer series from Axis, Bosch, Pelco, etc. We look forward to shooting out the H3 in the near future.

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