Testing Basler's Megapixel Cameras (BIP-1300/1600)

By John Honovich, Published Nov 29, 2009, 07:00pm EST

Basler is a recent entrant into the IP video surveillance megapixel market. Leveraging its extensive expertise in machine vision [link no longer available], Basler's megapixel surveillance cameras [link no longer available] offer CCD imagers, H.264 encoding and a small form factor.

In this test, we examined the Basler BIP-1300 [link no longer available] (1.3MP) and BIP-1600 [link no longer available] (2MP) cameras, testing them in indoor and outdoor scenes under daylight and low light (sub 1 lux) conditions).

Our key findings include:

  • Setup was simple and straightforward
  • Day time video quality may be adequate but comparatively did not stand out
  • Low lux video quality (under 1 lux) displayed details but with some noise and significant motion blur (with camera defaults)
 
Compare to our other megapixel camera tests including: Axis Q1755, Arecont Vision 3105, Stardot SD500BN, and Vivotek IP7161

Product Overview

For surveillance, Basler offers a line of box cameras including SD resolution, 1MP, 1.3MP and 2MP. All cameras support MJPEG, MPEG-4 and H.264. Color and Day/Night options are available for each camera. For details, see their product brochure that includes technical specifications [link no longer available].

A few features stand out:

  • The cameras are all small. Dimensions are: 89.8 mm x 29 mm x 44 mm (3.5" x 1.2" x 1.7").
  • Input/Output on the camera is very limited. Only PoE/network and DC power connectors. There is no microphone or speaker inputs, no dry contacts, no coaxial output, no SD card, etc.
  • Frame rate for H.264 is limited to 7fps for the 1.3 MP and 4fps for the 2MP.
  • The 1.3 MP camera uses a 1/3’’ Sony EXview HAD progressive scan RGB CCD. The 2 MP camera uses a 1/1.8’’ Sony Wfine progressive scan RGB CCD.
Pricing
 
While pricing was not disclosed, the 2MP D/N Basler can be found on-line for $1,175 USD and the SD color only camera for $593.75 USD.
 
Testing Setup
 
We tested the cameras using the 1.4-2 firmware (the most up to date firmware currently available) and default camera settings. The test was done using Basler's web interface as well as the Exacq VMS software. Before shooting test videos, we reset the cameras to factory defaults. While we experimented with various optimizations, none uniformly improved the video performance. For instance, we could force the exposure to be shorter which reduced motion blur at night but resulted in a darker image.
 
Addendum: We added an additional test video / setup that features manufacturer's optimizations for low light. Key changes included limiting the exposure time to 1/8th of a second (contrast to 1 second by default) and gain to 18dB. At .6 lux (see the video in the package, motion blur and noise was substantially reduced). However, at .2 lux, the video was simply black (compared to default settings which where noisy and blurry but showed objects).
 
Bandwidth Consumption
 
For the 1.3 MP camera, bandwidth consumption tended to be under 1Mbp/s for H.264 and about 6Mb/s for MJPEG. This is measured using the default VBR and quality settings using full frame rate of the imager.

Image/Video Quality Analysis

Below is our screencast commenting and showing Basler's image quality, more importantly, is a ZIP package of video clips for you to review yourself.

Download the package of Basler test video clips and image snapshots [link no longer available] (55 MB total).

In various Basler marketing materials, they discuss the benefits of using a CCD imager and the improved performance at low light. We were not able to reproduce the perfectly crisp, high detailed images in those materials. Noise was higher and motion blur was significant at the camera's defaults (exposure at 1 second). With the manufacturer's recommended optimizations (1/8th sec exposure and 18dB gain), blur reduced substantially but the image was darker and noisier.

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Setup and Configuration

In the following 2 screencasts, we examine the physical features and the software configuration capabilities of Basler's cameras

Below is the screencast on software setup:

Competitive Comparison / Recommendations

The challenge with evaluating Basler's cameras is that the extremely small size is the only clear differentiator we found during testing. Pricing is similar to other megapixel manufacturers. We believe image quality was similar during the day to some cameras but worse than many during low light conditions.

One potential niche is for indoor use where aesthetic concerns and discretion is key. The small form factor of the camera may be attractive.

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