Examining American Dynamics' New Illustra 400 Series IP Cameras

By John Honovich, Published on Dec 06, 2010

In December 2010, American Dynamics announced the Illustra 400 series line of IP cameras. The cameras offer 30fps at H.264 with a unique resolution of 896x720 or 0.65MP. The 896x720 resolution is a 30% increase over commonly available SVGA (800x600) but a 33% decrease relative to 720p (1280 x 720).

AD cites 3 key benefits:

  • Some customers seeking HD/megapixel cannot afford the additional storage costs; Illustra 0.65MP cameras offer higher resolution (than SD) but with lower storage costs than HD
  • The market is 'neglecting' H.264 for standard resolutions
  • The Illustra series will expand to support a diverse array of resolutions up to 3MP in the near future

A few concerns:

  • The cost of storage and bandwidth for an additional 0.35MP (the difference between Illustra and standard 720p cameras) is not significance, especially given the relatively low cost per TB today. Maybe if you have to buy storage from AD but COTS storage for .35MP resolution more per camera is pretty cheap (maybe $30-$50 per camera).
  • The 5:4 aspect ratio is narrower than 4:3. Aspect ratios are trending wider (e.g. 16:9 HD) and most applications benefit from wider FoVs
  • 1MP/720p cameras will provide some future-proofing benefits as infrastructure costs (bandwidth/storage) decrease over time

There are four (4) Illustra 400 models:

  • Indoor Dome - built-in IR, built-in 3.3-12mm vari-focal lens (MSRP $1100)
  • Outdoor Dome - IP66, built-in IR, built-in 3.3-12mm vari-focal lens (MSRP $1275)
  • Box - w/o lens or w/ 1.7mm wide angle lens (MSRP $900)
  • Bullet - IP66, built-in IR, built-in 3.3-12mm vari-focal lens (MSRP $1000)

The cameras provide a number of premium features across all models such as WDR, PoE, day/night, full duplex audio and on-board storage. Additionally, outdoor domes and bullets provide IP66 and built-in IR. However, only box models allow interchangeable lenses.

3rd party support is planned both via direct API/integration and through ONVIF. ONVIF support is scheduled for release in Q1 2011.

Depending on the actual street pricing, for the features provide, the cost could be relatively attractive. AD uses a traditional security discount model so we would expect street price would be significantly lower than MSRP. Outside Taiwan/China manufacturers and to some degree the Sony E series, most IP cameras with similar feature sets to the Illustra will cost notably more (e.g., Pelco Sarix, Axis P series, Panasonic 502s, IQ Pro series).

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