Axis's IR Add-On (T90C) Examined

By John Honovich, Published Jan 17, 2011, 07:00pm EST

In this note, we provide a detailed examination of Axis's newly announced T90C, an IR illuminator add on to their P33 dome series. We explore how this solution differs from traditional approaches and how it further signifies the growing adoption of 'easy' IR illumination.

Traditionally, IR illuminators were either built in to the camera (usually a ring of LEDs around the lens) or as a completely external, usually box device, mounted near the camera. Axis's T90C fits in between these two. While the T90C is not integrated into the camera, it is designed to on slide onto the bottom of the dome.

One of the most significant design differences is that Axis is not putting the LEDs near the imager. While this is common for integrated IR offerings, it is controversial as many claim doing so causes imaging problems. For instance, Axis cites that their solution eliminates performance issues caused by heat generation and reflections of IR LEDs next to the imager. We have not tested this but it is worth considering as we have heard these concerns from a variety of unrelated industry people.

Let's dig into some of the specific features / performance claims of the solution:

  • The T90C is both outdoor rated (IP66) and vandal resistant (IK10)
  • The T90C supports PoE and DC power. For PoE, the IR illuminator requires its own PoE port (in addition to the PoE port required for the camera).
  • The default viewing angle is 120 degrees. This can be adjusted to shift left or right via an internal screw within the illuminator body. The viewing angle cannot be adjusted.
  • The illuminator has its own visible light sensor and, therefore, does not need to be wired to the P33.
  • Axis reports 20 to 25 meter maximum distance in outdoor testing. As with all manufacturer IR specifications, you should test yourself. There is little consistency nor standards about IR distance measurements. See our IR illuminator test report for an example.
  • The unit only has 8 IR LEDs. However, Axis says these are high intensity SMT IR LEDs similar to the T90A / Raytec units.
  • The T90C is designed for wall mounting. Ceiling or pendant mounting will provide substantially reduced performance.
  • The T90C is only compatible with the P33 series but not the lower cost, color only M series domes.
  • The MSRP of the T90C is $349 USD. Given P33 are premium price cameras (around $1,000 online depending on model/resolution, the total cost of a P33 + T90C will be in the range of $1,100 to $1,600.

Compared to cameras with built in IR illuminators, the key challenge will be the additional expense. For instance, our Camera Finder shows about 30 IR domes with an average online price of just over $700. Relative to cameras from similar 'brands' and with similar feature sets, the pricing is closer. For instance, Sony has 4 domes with integrated IR, 2 of those in their high end V series (with WDR, audio, storage, auto back focus, etc.) and 2 in the mid line E series. The Axis P33 / T90C is similar in price to Sony's high end / integrated IR cameras. However, Axis is far more expensive than Sony's mid tier offerings as well as most every other dome with integrated IR.

While the T90C will clearly be attractive for those already using or considering the P33 series, we will need to see more test results / real world use to determine if the premium for the Axis solution over existing IR offering makes sense for switching over from other offerings.

General Trend

Just a few years ago, the consensus was that integrated IR was a low end feature that you would only expect from 'budget' brands.

However, since then, a number of larger brands have expanded IR offerings including the aforementioned Sony, Arecont, Avigilon and now Axis. We are seeing a new outlook on using IR that we expect will continue as other manufacturers see the momentum and add their own offerings.

We see this as a good evolution. While integrated IR has clear distance limits, it does help with low light problems that are common in real world surveillance deployments.

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