Covert cameras were one of the last holdout areas for analog cameras. However, in the past few years, IP / HD covert cameras have become commonplace across many major manufacturers.
However, which ones are better or worse? We bought 5 covert camera systems with a total of 10 imager / lenses to understand this.
We tested image quality in four separate scenarios, as the graphic below demonstrates:
We tested at ranges from 2' to 40' to see how cameras capture both close range details common in ATM applications and further distances needed for general covert surveillance, as the graphic below shows:
The downside is that it can, in very bright backlight, wash out the background. In our scene today it's not bright enough to wash out (~3,000 lux, tops), but if it were sunny and south-facing, you'd see more of the effects of high SSDR.
We've added feedback from Axis on their ATM compatibility. Axis states that they have worked with specific manufacturers to include mounts for their cameras, but models change too quickly to create custom mounts.
I'm seeing odd differences on the Hik models I have as well on the WDR setting. The newest one I have claims 140 dB WDR, but it does worse than some others that have the usual 120 dB WDR claim. It does have the matching 40 to 41 setting number transition point that makes a huge change like at least one other model.
While I have not to used the FA series but we have many F series and P12 series working with ACC including VM and analytic events. Surprised to see that motion and analytic events do not work with the FA. What version of ACC did you test with?
Good report Ethan, well presented and using real-world methodology.
Could you add the country of origin of the devices as this seems to have dropped off on recent IPVM reports at a time when there is a real focus on "domestic" manufacturers exploiting cheaper labour markets under the America First radar?
First, in addition to the four channel FA54, they offer the single-camera P12 series, which is a more cost effective option for one-off cameras (~$320 online vs. $550). Current P12 models use the same imagers as the FA series, with similar performance. However, some features, such as WDR partly depend upon the base unit, and will perform somewhat better on the FA series which uses a newer chipset.
Axis also pointed out that the lenses of the FA series imagers are indeed refocusable, but may be difficult in the field. For those needing to refocus their cameras for longer distances, contact Axis for a lens adjustment tool which fits into slots on either side of the FA imager lens for adjustment. This is similar to tools included in past series, such as the original M30s with optional longer focal length lenses.