Testing: Axis P1347 5MP Camera

By Benros Emata, Published on Jan 24, 2011

Up until 2 years ago, a common criticism of Axis was a relatively weak megapixel camera line. Since then, Axis has rapidly and broadly expanded their megapixel offerings. One of their most interesting and controversial approaches was their emphasis on HDTV [link no longer available]. This was (and remains) a departure from most surveillance companies emphasizing the megapixel aspect of higher definition surveillance cameras. It also triggered an important question/discussion on HD vs Megapixel.

While Axis now has a broad range of HDTV cameras, their multi-megapixel lineup remains limited. Their highest resolution camera is the P1347, a 5MP camera. Like other 5MP cameras, it supports 1080p HD but the resolution is far higher than any commercially available HD camera.

In this report, we share out test results of the Axis P1347 5MP camera. In this report, we focus on the fundamentals on day and night video quality. 

Another interesting aspect of the camera is its included support for P-Iris lenses, a new type of lens (and an alternative to auto iris lenses). We tested this but we are going to examine the results separately as it goes beyond the use of this camera. Those results will be published in the beginning of February.

Recommendations

The P1347 is suited for applications requiring strong image clarity and details.  Outdoor applications can consider the P1347-E version, which provides an IP66 rating.

Because the P1347 offers WDR and true day/night it will generally produce good image quality in challenging lighting situations. However, WDR and low-light tests using default settings indicated only a modest level of performance. Thus, for especially challenging lighting conditions some trade-offs may have to be made in fine tuning the P1347 camera settings (e.g. exposure rate, WDR strength, gain, BLC etc.). Other manufacturer WDR/Low-light technologies may provide a more specialized approach to solving difficult lighting environments as well. For example, Sony's View-DR and Panasonic's MegaSuperDynamic are some strong performing WDR technologies.

Organizations looking to integrate video surveillance onto the corporate network will benefit from the P1347's robust set of networking features. For example, both HTTPS and 802.1x (both features found on the P1347), are common network security strategies.

Integrators and specifiers should appreciate the wide and varied features on the P1347. Some are very rare (e.g. p-iris and corridor format) and others somewhat rare (e.g., 802.1x support), and can be used to uniquely distinguish the camera from competitor offerings. For example, it's network security options might be a bid requirement in more security conscious networking environments.

The big constraint (as is common with many Axis cameras) is the relatively high price (around $1500 online). While all 5MP cameras are going to be more expensive than 720p/1080p counterparts, the P1347 is especially expensive. This is balanced by a rich feature set. However, it could be overkill for users with simpler needs (i.e., just higher resolution). Axis does not have a mid-range / entry level alternative (an M series product) for 5MP (or 3MP for that matter).

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Key Findings

  • Strong overall picture quality in both daytime and nighttime
  • Modest WDR and Low-light performance
  • Only a handful of manufacturers offer 5MP or greater products
  • Beneficial for networks that require/desire IT security features on video surveillance equipment
  • Highly robust and unique feature set; strong differentiation from competitors
  • Feature rich but expensive
  • ONVIF support not available until firmware 5.20 (we tested with 5.11, 5.20 is the next upcoming release)

Product Overview

The Axis P1347 at 5MP is the highest resolution offering within Axis' P13 series box cameras (and highest resolution throughout Axis' entire portfolio). There are two other P13 megapixel models at 1MP and 3MP. Each of the P13 series boxes are available in -E versions for outdoor environments (IP66 rated).

A unique feature of the P1347 is the P-iris technology (also available in the 3MP P1346 model). The p-iris has been proclaimed as a more finely controlled iris mechanism that in turn produce higher quality images. However, the camera can also work effectively with a traditional dc-iris or manual iris lens if required.

Other common premium features such as true day/night, WDR, interchangeable lens, and auto-back-focus are found in the P1347. At around $1500 online, however, the P1347 is among the pricier options in the 5MP market. The average 5MP is roughly $1100 online, with Basler (BIP2-2500c-dn) and Arecont (AV5105DN) presenting some interesting alternatives at lower price points (both around $800 online).

The P1347 also offers ONVIF, but requires a 5.20 firmware upgrade, which was not available during the time of this report. Our review of the P1347 used firmware version 5.11, and as expected we were unable to connect via ONVIF to any ONVIF compliant VMSes within our lab (e.g., Axxon Smart, Exacqvision, and Milestone Go).

Physical Overview

In this video we provide a physical overview of the P1347. The auto-iris jack on the underside of the unit is able to accomodate p-iris lens connectors, as well as other types (e.g., dc-iris).


Administration and Configuration

The Axis P1347 configuration options are numerous, as the camera offers a robust feature set. In this video we examine key settings such as p-iris, WDR, day/night, and exposure. We'll also demonstrate the auto-back focus feature which allows automatic focus and even a manual focus adjustment. We'll glance briefly at some interesting networking features such as HTTPS, 802.1x and on-board storage.


Image Quality Analysis

In these videos we examine the video quality of the P1347 under both daytime and nighttime conditions. Download the entire P1347 video sample ZIP files [link no longer available] (60MB) to review for yourself.

In the busy daytime traffic scene we note 'crisp' images of the scene and objects moving through the scene (i.e., vehicles and humans). The overall picture quality is quite good and we can nearly read a traffic sign at 150m FoV when digitally zooming in. The nighttime scene reveals a loss of detail, but the overall picture quality is very good. Noise does not appear to degrade our picture quality and the overall b/w contrast is remarkable as evidenced by the ability to distinguish a 'man-hole-cover' from within the street. However as we zoom in digitally it's now become impossible to read the traffic sign that was almost legible during the day.

Here's outdoor daytime reviewed:


Here's outdoor nighttime reviewed:


Low-Light Performance

In this video we perform a low-light (1.0lux and 0.3lux) test of the P1347. Both 1.0lux and 0.3lux scenes appear fairly well illuminated. However, when our subject enters the scene he appears underexposed and facial details are hard to determine.


Bandwidth Analysis

Bandwidth testing at full resolution and frame-rate (12fps) revealed roughly 90% savings or greater when switching from MJPEG to H.264. This result was observed regardless of scene type (e.g., day or night; outdoor/complex, or indoor/simple).

Results:

  • Daytime/Outdoor/Complex - 6mbps (H.264) and 60mbps (MJPEG)
  • Daytime/Indoor/Simple - 500kbps (H.264) and 16mbps (MJPEG)
  • Nighttime/Outdoor/Complex - 3mbps (H.264) and 25mbps (MJPEG)

Interestingly, bitrates actually reverse when going from daytime to nightime outdoor/complex scenes. Typically bitrates will increase due to the noise producing AGC circuits found in many cameras. However, our nighttime scene evidently has sufficient artificial lighting to keep noise and subsequently bandwidths low. Note that in our low-light tests where lux levels a brought down to 1.0 and 0.3 lux, the P1347 starts to produce more noise.

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