Avigilon PTZs Reviewed

By Ethan Ace, Published May 08, 2012, 08:00pm EDT

While Avigilon has touted how their multi-megapixel cameras can replace up to 95 conventional one as well as replace PTZs, they have now announced their own line of HD PTZ cameras [link no longer available]. As such, this is an interesting and somewhat surprising move. In this note, we examine these new camera features, pricing and how they compare to options from Sony, Axis, and Panasonic.

Overview

The Avigilon PTZ line [link no longer available] consists of two models, based on their latest H3 camera platform. These cameras have the following key features:

  • Outdoor, IP66-rated enclosure with heater and blower, 802.3at PoE compliant. Note that no indoor, non-pendant models are available, which may present mounting challenges or aesthetic issues in certain environments, where recessed ceiling-mount PTZs are preferred.
  • 1/2.8" image sensor, larger than many typical speeddomes, which often use 1/3" or 1/4" sensors. This may improve low-light performance.
  • 1MP or 2MP resolution, 30FPS max, H.264 and MJPEG encoding
  • 20x zoom range, 4.7-94mm. This minimum zoom range is fairly narrow, as many competitors offer minimum focal lengths in the 2-3mm range. For those in need of a wide FOV, this may be an issue. On the other hand, those needing farther zoom range may prefer this.
  • WDR specified, same as 3MP H3 fixed cameras (100dB)
  • ONVIF Version 2.1 support recommended but older versions such as ONVIF Version 1.02 may be used
  • Specially designed optically pure dome bubble for 2MP resolution, not an off-the-shelf component bubble

This image shows the HD PTZ camera, with wall mount:

Avigilon's PTZs will be available in August 2012. MSRP will be $3,495 and $3,995 for 1MP and 2MP, respectively.

Latency Reduction

Avigilon claims latency reduction for controlling PTZs:

  • They use a "priority mode that’s enabled when a user activates a PTZ camera that prioritizes transmission of that camera's video all the way through the various pipelines and stages."
  • As for speed, Avigilon says their "Testing has shown less than 0.25 seconds delay from image capture at the sensor to display on the monitor." If they can achieve 250 milliseconds, that would likely minimize PTZ control delays that are a common usability problem.
  • Avigilon says that the latency benefits will be available for 3rd party analog PTZs that connect to their encoders. This feature is built into their VMS software, starting in version 4.12

Third Party VMS Use

Third party VMS use is limited and likely will have reduced performance:

  • Avigilon recommends ONVIF Version 2.1 for PTZ control. However, most VMS systems only support 1.02 and may not support 2.1 for some time. Basic PTZ control may work in earlier ONVIF versions but given ONVIF's shaky reputation for advanced functionality, 3rd party users should carefully test with their VMS.
  • Avigilon requires custom extensions to ONVIF for some PTZ features, such as on-camera PTZ tours. Unless a third party VMS adds this, functionality will be limited.
  • The claimed latency benefits are dependent on using Avigilon's own VMS and will be possible with 3rd parties.

Market Impact

Avigilon's PTZ model's pricing is in line with competitive products. Based on MSRP and Avigilon dealer discount, we estimate street pricing will be around $3,300 for the 2MP version, slightly higher than competitors such as the Panasonic WV-SW396 [link no longer available] and Sony SNC-ER580, and moderately lower than the Axis Q6035-E (around $3,800 online). However, this release does not set any groundbreaking low price points, unlike Avigilon's H.264 encoders and, to a lesser extent, their 1MP and 2MP box cameras.

Avigilon users will appreciate these cameras' pricing and features, as they may now install an end-to-end Avigilon system, instead of turning to third-party PTZs. For users of other VMSs, however, the lack of additional features gained by integrating with ACC, and potential integration complications due to using ONVIF with custom extensions, make these cameras less attractive.

Considering all the above, we see this announcement as a tactical product release to expand Avigilon's target markets, such as gaming, municipal surveillance, critical infrastructure, and other high-end systems where PTZs are required.

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