Axis New Lowest Cost Dome M3044-V Tested
It has been 4 long years since Axis launched new low cost domes.
In that time, the industry has changed massively, with massive price drops driven by Chinese manufacturers.
Now, Axis' new dome release claims better low light, true WDR, and Zipstream, addressing key weaknesses of the previous generation.
In this test, we bought the 720p M3044-V comparing to its predecessor, the M3004-V, along with super low light and low cost integrated IR cameras (from Hikvision and Hikvision), to see how much improved this new line really is.
Note: This is the first of our tests of the new M30s. We also plan to release tests of the 1080p M3045 and 4MP M3046 soon.
The Axis M3044-V offered huge improvements in low light, WDR, and bandwidth consumption over the M3004-V in our tests, as well as installation improvements (more freely movable gimbal and no cable whip), all at a lower price than the previous model.
Low light and WDR performance were near that of more expensive super low light/WDR models such as the Samsung SNB-5004. However, low cost integrated IR models (such as Hikvision's 2012 tested here) still offer superior low light images (at ~1 lux and below).
On the plus side, this is a very good camera compared to what is available in 2016 in the under $200 price range, with strong low light for a non-IR camera, solid WDR, and very low bandwidth.
On the negative side, Chinese manufacturers are now selling 4MP cameras, with integrated IR, in the same price range as this new Axis 720p.
For those who want to stick with a premium Western brand, this new Axis generation's significantly improved performance will definitely be attractive and reduce further defections. However, the relative price premium is still quite large, so most who have already switched to Chinese manufacturers will likely not be motivated to switch back.
However, this is substantially more expensive than many low cost IR cameras, such as the Hikvision DS-2CD2012-I and Dahua HFW11A0SN [link no longer available] (both ~$140 online). Additionally, non-IR indoor domes, such as the Hikvision DS-2CD2E10F or Samsung SND-L5013 sell for less, both ~$100 online.
There are two key physical changes to the M3044-V compared to older M30 models:
No Cable Whip
Most notably, the cable whip found in the M3004/3005 has been replaced with an Ethernet jack. Our surveys found a 3 to 1 preference for no whips.
Greater Tilt Adjustment
Past M3004 and M3005 models were limited to 54° tilt, requiring that they be wall mounted in many cases, as the camera could simply not look "up" far enough to capture long hallways or other areas (covered in our original M30 shootout). The new M3044/45/46 do not have this limitation, with the gimbal able to tilt up further, near horizontal.
We look at these and other physical features of the new M30 vs. old in this video:
Huge Low Light Performance Increase
Low light performance of the M3044 is greatly improved over the past generation M3004, shown below. The M3004 produces no usable image of the scene, essentially just black. The M3044 displays details of the subject and his surroundings.
Compared to others in this scene, the M3044's performance was near that of more expensive super low light leaders, such as the Samsung SNB-5004. However, the low cost integrated IR Hikvision 2012 produces better details of the subject and chart.
Better WDR Performance
We tested WDR performance against an open warehouse door and the dark area beside it, seen here:
The M3044 was one of the best performers in this scene, and much improved compared to the M3004, with clearer details of the subject, chart, and background. Note that the Hikvision 2012-I (not a true WDR camera) was better in the dark areas beside the door, but washed out the subject and object beyond in the bright areas of the scene.
Full Light Image Quality
Finally, we tested full light image quality against others in this interior test scene:
The M3044 provides better detail than the M3004-V in this scene, with more even exposure and less noise on the subject's face.
The M3044-V's bitrates were the lowest of all cameras tested in all scenes except low light, where the integrated IR Hikvision 2012 was lowest. Note that none of the other cameras in this test used smart CODECs, only the M3044-V. The Hikvision 2012 does not include their H.264+ smart CODEC, though newer, higher resolution models do.
M30 series configuration is nearly identical to past cameras. However, these cameras include true WDR (simply named "wide dynamic range" in the web interface) as well as Zipstream, not found in past models.
WDR controls consist of a single dropdown for on/off, seen below. Other camera settings options have remained essentially unchanged.
For full details on Zipstream configuration, see our Axis Zipstream Test.
All cameras were tested using default settings unless otherwise specified, with the following applied to all cameras:
- H.264, 10 FPS, ~28 quantization was used
- 1/30s maximum shutter speed
The following firmware versions were used for this test:
- Axis M3044-V: 6.15.1
- Axis M3004-V: 184.108.40.206
- Hikvision DS-2CD2012-I: V5.3.0 build 150513
- Samsung SNB-5004: 3.00_140903