Axis P3384 Lightfinder/WDR Domes

By Ethan Ace, Published on Aug 21, 2012

Low-light and WDR capability are perhaps the two most sought-after features in surveillance, but usually cameras are made to handle only one or the other well, not both. Now, Axis has announced the latest in their P33 series domes, the P3384, featuring both WDR and Lightfinder low-light capability. In this note, we look at the features of these cameras, their potential impact, and how they compare to other WDR and low-light models from Sony, Pelco, and Panasonic.

Overview

The P3384 adds Lightfinder low-light capability, as well as wide dynamic range support to the existing feature set of the P33 series:

  • Available in indoor and outdoor vandal-resistant models.
  • 720p/1MP resolution.
  • H.264 Main Profile/MJPEG streaming, 30FPS at maximum resolution.
  • SDHC slot for local recording.
  • Remote focus and zoom.

These cameras will be available in Q3 2012, with MSRP prices of $999 USD for the P3384-V and $1,159 for the P3384-VE. These prices are only a moderate increase ($100) over recent P33 series domes without low-light or WDR capability. Based on MSRP and online pricing of current models, the P3384-V has an estimated street price of $900-950 USD.

Compared to Current Models

The key differentiator of the P3384 is its combination of strong WDR and low light capability in the same camera. As our tests of Axis' Q1602 (with Lightfinder) and Q1604 (WDR) cameras have shown, these two technologies are some of the strongest in the industry.

The current Axis P3364-V, which features Lightfinder, but not WDR, sells for about $800 online, a $100-150 premium for WDR. Users should be aware of this, as WDR may not be necessary in many areas, and this increase (12-18%) will add up across multiple cameras.

Competitive Comparison

The P3384-V is overall moderately more expensive compared to other big brand low light or WDR dome models.

  • Notably Lower: Pelco's IM10LW10-1V vandal dome with SureVision (low light/WDR) sells online for about $700, significantly less. However, previous IPVM tests show concerns with Pelco's overall perform.
  • Similarly Priced: The Panasonic WV-SW355 [link no longer available] SuperDynamic HD vandal dome sells online for around $800+. In our tests of Panasonic's current generation, they were solid, but not exceptional, falling in the middle of the pack in performance.
  • Much higher: The Sony SNCDH140T, featuring WDR competitive with Axis' Q1604, but poorer low-light performance than the Q1602, sells online for about $1,000. Note: this is the oldest camera in the comparison and we expect Sony's upcoming series to narrow this gap.

Based on these pricing comparisons, Axis' P3384 models are likely to be solid competitors. With WDR and low-light conditions being some of the most challenging conditions in surveillance, combining the two at a price competitive with other models will make the P3384 attractive.

Axis Image Quality Transformation

This culminates a very important shift over the last year for Axis that has major implications for the market. Until a year ago, Axis's overall image quality was fairly mediocre competitively - not particularly bad but not outstanding compared to rivals. Since then, introducing Lightfinder and WDR plus its expansion to box and dome cameras has given Axis another important edge. This will certainly put pressure on rivals to match those enhancements and specifically on Panasonic and Sony who historically centered their positioning on better image quality (which they do not have today against Axis). That said, given the ongoing progress in sensor development, we expect significant improvements from rivals over the next year.

On the image quality side, the most notable limitation is Axis's focus on 720p image enhanced cameras (i.e., no Axis WDR over 720p, only Lightfinder on one 720p+ camera - the 5MP dome). We would expect competitors to emphasize comparably positioned cameras at 1080p. Ultimately, testing will show the tradeoffs but this will certainly be an important aspect to consider.

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