Axis P5544 Panoramic PTZ Camera Examined
In this note, we examine the Axis P5544, Axis's first panoramic camera and one of the most novel offerings in the market - combining both optical/mechanical PTZ functionality and panoramic / 360 degree imaging. The big question we focus on inside is: What practical use does this product offer given its relative capabilities and pricing?
[UPDATED November 2011 on product availability schedule. See details at end of note.]
Let's start with a review of the key features of the product:
- According to Axis, the product has two lenses but only one camera. Axis describes it as follows: "When the operator is looking through the 360° view, that is the lens that the image sensor is using to create video. When the operator clicks on the point of interest, then the PTZ lens is enabled and the 360° view becomes dormant. So: one camera, two lenses." See an image illustrating the two lenses, the physical deisgn of the camera and the resulting views [link no longer available]. We've never heard of anything like this previously.
- The 360 view provides a bird's eye overview but not an immersive viewing experience such as Grandeye, Mobotix Q24, etc. Axis says that the 360 view will cover about "10,000 sq feet, which is about the size of two side-by-side basketball courts." At this distance, we expect the 360 view would provide outlines of people and objects but not fine details like license plates, facial features, etc. Operators would need switch to the PTZ lens for finer details.
- The camera uses a special user interface that allows operators to dynamically select areas of interest between the 360 overview and the PTZ. See an image/overview of the camera's UI [link no longer available].
- The camera's max resolution is 720p for either lens - 360 or PTZ.
- The camera has a mechanical IR cut filter and provides 'true' day/night capability.
- The camera is designed for indoor use only and does not fit into 'normal' outdoor PTZ housing
- The PTZ is 18x Optical / 720p resolution. In terms of PTZ capabilities, the most similar existing Axis PTZ is the P5534 with an MSRP of $2499.
- This new product, the P5544 has an anticipated price of less than $3,000.
For best fits for this camera, Axis suggested mounting the camera high in large indoor areas such as 'airports, malls, sporting arenas, train stations, lobbies with high ceilings, etc.'
We see 3 factors impacting the breadth of the camera's use:
- 3rd party VMS support: Since the camera requires controlling / toggling between the 360 view and the PTZ view, we anticipate VMS systems needing to make some modifications on their UI side to maximize usability. While no integrations are announced yet, given Axis's prominence and release a few months off, we would not be surprised if a number of vendors added support (similar to Corridor View).
- Usability: until we (or other outsiders) use the product, it is hard to tell how good or bad the usability is and how much of a practical advantage the camera provides. Conceptually it should make it easier for operators to monitor large areas as the 360 lens functions like a built-in overview camera.
- Relative cost: On the plus side, the marginal cost increase of this product to the 18x HD PTZ looks minimal (about $500). If someone wants an indoor HD PTZ, for a relatively small additional price, they can gain the 360 viewing capabilities. On the other hand, relative to traditional IP (i.e., SD) PTZs, this camera is going to be fairly expensive. For instance, Axis itself just announced a low cost SD 18x PTZ (the P5522) that has an MSRP of $1499 (roughly half of the P5544).
Video Sample of the Camera
Axis provided a short video sample of the camera in action. In the clip, notice a women in red on the lower half of the sceen walking 'down'. The video starts in 360 mode and then the operator clicks on the bottom portion of the 360 view, triggering a switch to PTZ mode, zooming the camera out to capture the woman in great detail.
When the product was first announced in Spring 2011, availability was projected for Summer 2011. Now, Axis says they are resolving an unforeseen technical problem and that Axis is projecting shipping the product in March 2012.