Panasonic SmartHD Fall 2010 Release Examined

By John Honovich, Published Nov 29, 2010, 07:00pm EST

In Fall 2010, Panasonic announced 4 new IP cameras as part of their emerging 'SmartHD' line. The new cameras include 2 bullets and 2 PTZs, adding to the company's existing 3 box and 3 fixed dome cameras. 

Key differentiating features of SmartHD are:

  • Facial recognition (face capture and watchlist matching). The facial recognition feature is available in all SmartHD cameras except the bullets. The facial recognition feature is only supported in one of Panasonic's line of NVR systems (WJ-NV200 [link no longer available]) and only one IP camera input can be designated to perform the analytics.
  • Distortion correction: mitigates the 'barrel' effect common in very wide angled lens 'shots'.  The bullet form factors only feature the distortion correction, since these cameras ship with a fixed non-interchangeable wide-angle lens.

The two new PTZ models are both 720p/1.3MP with 18x optical zoom offering the same fundamental features except for housing: The WV-SC385 is an indoor model while the WV-SW395 is an IP66 rated outdoor model featuring a heater/blower for harsh weather conditions (the indoor model is currently shipping, the outdoor is scheduled for January 2010). The two models improve upon the existing Panasonic WV-NS202A PTZ (online $1000). While the WV-SC385 is $250 more (online) than the WV-NS202A, the older model does not support H.264 (MJPEG/MPEG-4 only) and is not HD (VGA only). A few other key advantages of the newer models include auto back-focus, true day/night operation, and ONVIF.

The Panasonic HD PTZs are relatively inexpensive compared to current HD PTZ options. While the indoor Panasonic HD PTZ (the WV-SC385) has an online price of $1250, the comparable indoor Sony (the SNC-RH124) has an online price of $2100. Additionally outdoor models, like the Pelco Sarix HD and the Axis Q6034E, have an online over $3000. We expect the soon to be released Panasonic outdoor HD PTZ to have an online price about $1000 less than competitors (based on the much lower cost of the indoor model). On the other hand, the Pansonic PTZ only has 350 degree pan and 120 degree tilt while rival PTZs offer continuous 360 pan and tilt at or over 180 degrees.

Compared to Panasonic's other professional series cameras, the key limitation of the two new bullet camera models WV-SP105 (online $300) and WV-SP102 (online $235) are built-in fixed focal length wide angle lens. However, with an online price of $300 the WV-SP105 provides an attractive price-point for an HD 720p IP camera. When comparing to Panasonic's WV-SP305 HD 720p box camera (online $400) - note that the WV-SP305 does not include a lens - the WV-SP105 matches up on many of the key features such as H.264, 30fps at 720p resolution, non-day/night, and basic WDR functionality. The key determining factor for choosing the more expensive box cameras would be the need to adjust the lens for a more telephoto FoV. Also, if the scene is particularly dark (nighttime application) then a true day/night camera would be more appropriate - such as the Panasonic WV-SP306.

Note that unlike most bullet cameras, the new Panasonic models are neither outdoor rated nor do they offer integrated IR. Given this, you may want to compare them to cube or box cameras with fixed lenses. For bullet cameras compare to the Vivotek IP8332, which is an HD camera (slightly more expensive - online about $385) but offers IP66 housing, integrated IR and true day/night capability.

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