Panoramic: Fisheye vs Multi-Imager Usage

By Ari Erenthal, Published Jun 09, 2017, 08:13am EDT

Panoramic cameras are a growing trend within video surveillance. The two main options are fisheye cameras using a single imager with an ultra-wide angle lens and multi-imager cameras using (typically) 4 imagers in a single housing / unit.

Both received strong support from 150 integrator respondents but one had a clear edge on the other:

Inside, we examine the three factors that cause integrators to choose fisheye, the two factors that cause integrators to choose multi-imager, and the least trusted camera manufacturer. 

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Note - ******* ** *********

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Fisheye - *****

*** ****** *** ****** integrators **** ** **** primarily ****** ******* ** price. 

  • "******* ** **** **** to ** ******* ****** and **** ********* **** Multi."
  • "******* ******* ** *** price ******."
  • "******* **** **** *** support. ***** **** *** bandwidth."
  • "***** ** * ***** selection *** **** **** effective ********* ***** ******* cameras ** ******* ** Multi-Imager."
  • "********* ****** **** *******. Primarily **** ** *** to * *********** ** cost, ********* ********* ************."
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  • "*******. ******* *** ******* to ******, *** ***** cost"
  • "*******. ***** ************ ** the ******** ****** *** our *********."

******* - ***** *******

**** *********** ********* ******* cameras' ******* ** ***** into ****** ************. 

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  • "**** *** **** ******* they *** * **** low ******* ****** *** retail *****."
  • "*******. ** ****** **** in ******* ****** ***** such ** ******** *******, reception *****."
  • "******* ********* ******* *** smaller *** ***** ******* areas"
  • "*** ******** ******* **** we ********* ****** ********* fish ****."

******* - ******** ****** ****** Than ******* ******

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  • "*** ***** **** *** have ** ** ******** together ** **** **** spots."
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  • "**** ***, ******* ** image ***."
  • "*****-****** ******* ***'* **** as **** ******* *** can *** *** ****** stitching."

*****-****** - ******** ****** ****** Than ******** ******

*** ****** *** ****** integrators **** ** **** primarily ****** *****-****** ******* was ***** ******* ** dewarped ******. 

  • "*****-*****. ****** ***** ** view ******** **** ****-***. Makes ****** ****** *********."
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  • "**'** *** ****** **** dewarping ** **** ** their *********** ** *****."
  • "**** **** * ********, fisheye **** *** ******* a ******* *****."
  • "*****-****** *** *** ******* and *** *** *****'* do *********."
  • "******* *** ************ **** too ***** **** ********** to ****** ** *** edge ** *** ******, even **** *** **** dewarping."

*****-****** - ******** ***** *******

**** *********** ********* *** greater ***** ******* ** multi-imager *******.

  • "*****-****** ******* ***** ******* is ******."
  • "***** ******. ******* *** ******* too ***** *** ******* to ** ****** ******, except *** ***** ************."
  • "**** ********* **** **** options (*** *** ***** of **** *******) ******** think **** *** ** with ******* ***** **** actually *** ********* *** put **** ***. **** the ******** ***** ** re-evaluate *****-****** **** ****** they **** ****."
  • "*****-****** *** *** ****. Fisheye ******* *** *** a ***** ******** *** to *** **** **** you *** ******* *** pixels **** * **** larger ****, ******** **** pixel ******* *** ********* a ******** *******."
  • "*** *****-****** ******* ******* our ******* **** * greater ***** ** ****** within *** *****."
  • "**** *** *****-****** *** get **** ****** ******." 

**** *****

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  • "****, ****** ****** *******, outdoor ************* * ****** multi-imager *******."
  • "******* ***********, ****** *******"
  • "*** *******, ***** ** buildings, ** ********* *****-****** panoramics. *** ******** ******* area ** ********* ****** megapixel **** ****."
  • "** *** ****** ****** split ******* ******* *** multi-imager."
  • "** *** ******* **** limited **** ******** *** multi-imager *** ******* ** large ******** *****."
  • "******* ********* ******* *** smaller *** ***** ******* areas. *** *****-****** ********* cameras *** ****** ** higher ******* *****. *** general ******** *** ******* areas *** ******* ******* provide ********** ********, *** as ******* ****** *** larger **** ******** ** needed *** ******* ******* resolution ** *** ******. In ***** ***** * multi-imager ** ******** ****** coverage ** *********."
  • "**/** ******* **** *** ceiling ******* ***° ***** (mostly ******) *** ***** Imager *** **** ** pole ******* ***° ***** (inside *** *******) ** use **** ***° ******** however, *** ****** *** foot ** ***** ****** out ***** * ***. Using * ******* *** a ***° ********* ****, waste ****** ** ***** that *** *** ****** i.e. *** *** ** ceiling."


******* *********** **** **** the ******* *** *****-****** camps ****** *** ******* by **** ** ******* of ************ ******* ******.

  • "****** ******* *** ********** hate **** *** ***********."
  • "*** *** *****-****** **** been *******, *** ******* of *** ******** **** we ***********, ** *** real **** *** ** install ****."
  • "** **** **** ****** for **** ******* ** use *** *******. ******** experience **** **** *******."
  • "** **** ** *** a *** ** ******* cameras, *** *** *********** started ******** ** *****."
  • "*'* *** ******* ** multi-imager, *** *** **** ones * **** ********** with *** *******, *** I ******'* **** **** on *******."

Comments (41)

I will never (nor should anyone else) suggest a fisheye camera because Genetec (and other VMS's from what I have been told?) still scale down the decoding/dewarped image resolution when zooming into a warped image, it is silly.  

The concept, in my opinion, is suppose to be that the full resolution image is recorded and then the customer can zoom into the area of interest during review of a recorded stream or live stream review. They can do this multiple times and create and muti view that makes them happy, again even with recorded video.  This is an awesome concept and works except for...

But again what's the point of a high resolution (some up to 12MP) image resolution when no matter what the area/size one selects dynamically gets automatically scaled to a crappy fixed resolution.  That is exactly what the Genetec client does.  I have been told that they fixed the resolution to a low resolution because of a concern related to the workstation processing power etc.  But shouldn't that be the integrators concern...

Every one we have installed has turned out to be a disappointment to the customer and us.  

I have a school that loves the M3007 in intersections. I have not noticed this scaled down capped resolution, how are you determining this? Mine still show up as 2048x1536.

UD #4 what VMS are those screen shots taken from?

Genetec Security Center

It used to be a configurable setting in Genetec (the dewarped view resolution) and by default it was set to a really low resolution, something like 320x240 so you had to manually change this in config tool under camera settings/hardware tab, under the lens setting. I know for sure it was there in 5.2 and we used to bump up this resolution to match the recording resolution for each M3007.

Somewhere along the line this was removed since i just went there on a 5.5 system and don't see the option anymore, so i think now by default it will use the full image resolution since i haven't noticed this either.

We've had similar results. We installed about half a dozen in a jail at certain hallway intersections and near process windows, and they later requested we replace them all with wide angle fixed lenses.

To clarify based on Manufacturer #3's question, our VMS was not Genetec. I was commenting mostly on the use of the Fisheye camera.

Are both bad experiences with Genetec as the VMS?  

I have found that when we show customers fisheye cameras for the first time they either love them or hate them.  Once I spend the time to show them how the de-warping works and for live, recorded and exported video the haters go away.  I have yet to have a complaint from any customers after we install them and in fact, after we get a couple installed they typically call us and order more. Schools, Hospitals, Arenas, and Hotels/Resorts have been very interested in fisheye cameras. 

I can see that. We also installed them at a hospital and the person there understood the technical tradeoffs and they were ok with it. And in understanding the limitations, they also use them sparingly.

We explained it to the jail and showed how to use them all day long; didn't make a difference.

Our customers are looking for total room coverage with no blind spots which fisheyes do very well and a lot of times reduce the camera count since you many need 2 or more non-fisheye cameras to cover the rooms.   We typically install one non-fisheye camera with WDR to only cover the entry way so they can get perfect ID shots of everyone that enters the area and then they can use the fisheye cameras to follow people where ever they go. 

I also have found that operators like fisheyes when they get a call for an incident and have to hunt through cameras to find the event.  With fisheye cameras, you can see the whole room without having to jump between many cameras to get an idea of what is going on.  Fisheyes make it faster for them to get eyes on the situation. 



UD I#2 which VMS are fisheye camera are you using?


just so everyone is clear regarding my attempt at a point earlier, when you use a browser and interface to a fisheye camera directly and/or have the fisheye camera perform the dewarping, this is a completely different experience than using one of the major VMSs to dewarp said stream(s) through either their client/server (if that is possible from the server).

But when you have the camera handle the de-warping your only recording what you are looking at.  This negates one of the major advantages that fisheye cameras have IMO.

Some fisheye cameras and VMS combinations can give you the best of both.  You record the full resolution fisheye image.  This allows you on playback to dive in to the video anywhere.

For live view, use a lower resolution stream that uses camera-based dewarping.  This allows you to view a panorama, etc., and if you need to do PTZ, etc., the camera performs it.

That is cool though it would eat up more bandwidth since your pulling more streams from the camera correct?

In general, yes, but that additional stream is usually much smaller than a full-resolution warped image and if that smaller stream goes directly to the client's workstation then you have a bandwidth decrease between camera and the client's application.

Can you still de-warp the recorded and exported video?  What VMS supports this way?

Geutebruck and Mirasys are two I know of that can de-warp exported and post recorded video. (Using their players, of course.) I'd think the other big names should be able to.

Sure, but because you are doing dewarping on the client side (video player) then you need a "special" video player for that and not just a common one as Windows Media Player.

But keep in mind that the camera-based dewarping is not coming for free. It requires a lot of processing power on camera and as result the camera will have to operate in "lower performance mode" (for example, 15pfs only instead of 30fps without dewarping).

It's all about purpose and objective. What is the objective of the camera?

For movements and behaviors, the fish-eye lenses work wonders. You are able to monitor where an individual or object goes, across a broad field of view. 

For more specific surveillance like recognition or identification of individuals, or where your pixels on target requirement is far out from your installation location (i.e. exterior, parapet, large parking lot, etc.), the multi-sensor panoramics get the job done. Especially so when you can individually select focal length in the field.

I've designed a number of projects where I make use of both types. 


- Undisclosed Consultant!

What is/are your preferred VMS/VMSes if I may ask?  

Depends on the Client and the application, but our most common specifications include Genetec, S2, Avigilon, OnSSI, or Salient.

All things being equal, a multi sensor solution is better in my opinion. But, it's hard to make the comparison because of all the variables. 

First, most VMS platforms will charge you 1 license for a fisheye while you will pay a license cost for each sensor with multi sensor. This is changing now with competition.

Second, unless the camera manufacturer supports dewarping you'll be stuck looking at a bubble looking camera. Some manufacturers like IndigoVision also offer different views. If you have a 12 megapixel fisheye you can digital zoom into different areas and create saved views. Now your image is clearer and your one 12 megapixel camera now looks like 3 or 4 different cameras. They also support dewarping.

Last, if we are doing a all things are equal comparison outside of the lack of reliability from specific manufacturers the multi sensor camera has better performance and more options. Of course you are going to pay more for a multi sensor than you are for a single sensor option.

Second, unless the camera manufacturer supports dewarping you'll be stuck looking at a bubble looking camera.

Danny, can you clarify what the camera manufacturer has to do with dewarping (which is a part of the client side software capabilities)?

the multi sensor camera has better performance

Can you also clarify what you exactly mean under the "performance" term? Otherwise, I can see it in exactly opposite way.

Hi Valery,

Dewarping for multiple fisheye cameras is in the camera properties and not in the VMS client side application.

By better performance I was referring to what someone else mentioned up above. Many fisheye cameras have reduced performance once they are dewarped. Using a digital zoom to create views is often a better tactic than dewarping and losing pixels.

Hi Danny,

It is so confusing.

If you do a video dewarping on camera itself then that camera will stream a "normal" (flat) video and there is no dewarping on the client side. However, the majority of cameras do not even support the camera-side dewarping as it requires a lot of processing power on a camera itself.

If you do not do dewarping on camera itself and camera streams a fisheye video then you have to do dewarping on the client-side and it does not matter what it is - VMS client, device web page, etc. it has to happen on the client-side and not on camera.

The performance impact related to dewarping will be obviously on the side doing dewarping. In vast majority of existing systems the performance issue belongs to the client-side applications because the dewarping is usually done on the client-side.


Dallmeier Panomera® W8 Topline


** Disclaimer - I work for the distributor that sells Dallmeier in Aus **

Interesting what does that unit run? 

Editorial gripe: When posting direct quotes that contain obvious spelling and grammatical errors, could you please include "[sic]" so we know the editorial staff is reviewing closely and not inserting errors by mistake?


-Not quite a Grammar Nazi

not inserting errors by mistake?

Why we would insert errors? We literally copy and paste from the survey responses. Any errors are from the person responding, in terms of viewpoints, spelling or grammar.

We do, sometimes, fix obvious spelling mistakes but we generally strive to represent exactly what people said.

As consultant /end user - I personally prefer the multi-imagers.  They are easier for operators to use, standard viewing - easier to pull forensic data.  Fisheyes have their use too, but we tend not to use them as often even though they are like the article stated - lower cost, lower profile, etc.  Fisheyes do seem to be a fav by integrators - we see them offering them for the reasons mentioned.  Thanks for the article. 

We encourage integrators to design systems with products that are best for the application. The merits of hemispheric and multi-sensor cameras revealed in IPVM's research are right on with what we hear, but the only reason to choose one over the other would be the specific application for the camera.

When a hemispheric camera is best for the application, please take the time to compare the clarity at the edges and the amount of sensor resolution loss for the price.

With the increasing competition among multi-sensor cameras, please remember that frame-rate matters.

Oh, I can't ignore the comments about video management software and these versatile cameras. If you were all using DW Spectrum IPVMS, you would make your lives and your customers' lives easier and your hangups about managing either fisheye or multi-sensor cameras would be non-existent. 

Considering DW Spectrum does not make the top tier of popular choices for integrators, and it has been out now for what, 6 years, not everything about it seems to make people's lives easier or reduces every hangup.

Sorry, I couldn't ignore than comment.

Thanks for acknowledging DW Spectrum! That is something!

It is all anecdotal, but it is very rare that when someone is exposed to DW Spectrum that they are not surprised by its ease of use and the powerful way it handles video.

Your comment is well taken. If Digital Watchdog had government backing, we could flood the world with DW Spectrum messaging. As it is, we sell solely through distribution, supported by some devoted rep groups and stellar regional sales managers. Conversion comes one intergrator at a time.

Despite your shot at it, DW Spectrum is coming along. Our biggest barrier is that for integrators like yourself, odds are that you continue to think of Digital Watchdog as an analog company. Yes, years later, our success in analog can still sometimes be a barrier to our efforts in IP.

From our point of view, not only have we entered IP, we have industry-leading products:

  • DW Spectrum IPVMS will continue to add features and improve what is already disruptive performance and usability. Simply put, no other VMS handles video the way DW Spectrum IPVMS handles video. And the pricing structure is beyond compare.
  • IPVM recently reviewed our MEGApix 48 megapixel multi-sensor camera. For general surveillance, it is without peer (regarding total resolution and frame-rate).
  • Digital Watchdog introduced the first multi-sensor camera with IR.
  • Digital Watchdog indoor and outdoor hemispheric cameras have incredible edge to edge clarity. DW Spectrum dewarps with a mouse click.
  • Blackjack E-Rack Servers are serious iron and come with DW Spectrum recording licenses.
  • Digital Watchdog continues our commitment to analog with Universal HD over Coax DVRs and HD over Coax cameras, including the world's first multi-sensor HD-Analog cameras.

DW Spectrum does not solve every hangup (does that product exist?), but it handles a lot of them in very user-friendly ways. Anyone is welcome to try that themselves for free.

And by the way, you did not say that your personal experience with DW Spectrum was not positive. We understand that while integrators are usually impressed by DW Spectrum IPVMS, other factors go into the final buying decisions. Our goal is to be included in more and more of the conversations.

There are dozens and dozens similar products around and there is nothing special about DW Spectrum. This marketing\sales pitch has nothing to do with the discussion topic and it is basically unhelpful.

DW Spectrum is an OEM from NX.  I wonder how long DW Spectrum owns the writes to the software as soon as I can by NX in the US I will sell a lot of it. 

Without digressing too far on a side topic, but since you have brought it up...

it is very rare that when someone is exposed to DW Spectrum that they are not surprised by its ease of use and the powerful way it handles video.

It is. But I suggest you spend some more R&D on stability, less bugs on the backend, and better support when bugs are found. That's based on experience.

If Digital Watchdog had government backing, we could flood the world with DW Spectrum messaging

Exacq, Genetec and Milestone don't have the level of government backing I think you're alluding too, and they were the top 3 listed VMS system as per the article I linked. I'm not trying, honestly, to be short or brusque, but you segued pretty strongly from the topic of fisheye and panoramics to promote the DW Spectrum VMS.

Despite your shot at it, DW Spectrum is coming along

Yes it is, and I was not taking a "shot", as you frame it. My response was mostly due to your strong implication that people should realize Spectrum would make hangups non-existent. I'll say more on that at the bottom.

Our biggest barrier is that for integrators like yourself, odds are that you continue to think of Digital Watchdog as an analog company.

Maybe other integrators. Not us. You made quite an assumption there. Maybe a shot? No, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Let's not let succumb to the posturing and emotionalism that has infected political discourse. You did not intend anything negative about it, and I don't take it negatively.

Yes, years later, our success in analog can still sometimes be a barrier to our efforts in IP.

How so? Because you put more marketing into the analog side of the business than the IP side? Because the analog side works better than the IP side? I'm not trying to imply any of those reasons, I just want to be clear on what you meant as to the "why" of why success in analog has been detrimental to your IP products?

DW Spectrum does not solve every hangup (does that product exist?)

Not, it doesn't, you're right. But let's look back to your statement...

If you were all using DW Spectrum IPVMS, you would make your lives and your customers' lives easier and your hangups about managing either fisheye or multi-sensor cameras would be non-existent.

"Non-existent" I think being the key word here. But maybe you meant just only hang-ups in fisheys and panos.

And by the way, you did not say that your personal experience with DW Spectrum was not positive.

Well, you seemed to think, or imply, that we only deal with analog. Maybe that wasn't your intention, and if not, then I apologize for the mistaken interpretation.

We found DW Spectrum to be very promising, and very competitive for it's price. And it does handle fisheys and panos rather nicely. But there is more to a VMS and what it needs to than a nice looking interface. It still needs work. No, it's not perfect, but as you said no product is.

You made a pretty bold comment, I made a reply. You replied back stating your position, I replied back along with elaborating on mine. This will be the last I comment on this avenue as again, I don't want to sidetrack this into a long conversation about Spectrum, but you're free to continue.

Good luck, and as always, we'll continue keeping an eye on Spectrum.


Every bit of input we can get from the people who support IPVM is extremely valuable. Thank you, Michael Miller and Valery Dubovets.

  1. We and the people at Nx take comments about stability very seriously. While we at Digital Watchdog would like every product to be bulletproof, it should not be a surprise (it should be assuring) that DW Spectrum is in constant development as an ongoing, living, breathing software. The Nx programmers and our product management people do not release updates until everyone is in agreement regarding the stability. I am sorry that you have had issues. I really encourage you to try 3.0 when it is released. It is a major development in this process.
  2. That was a cheap shot. I apologize to all governments here and abroad. However, have you ever dewarped a hemispheric camera in DW Spectrum? Have you compared handling the bandwidth of high resolution multi-sensor cameras in DW Spectrum? "One integrator at a time." I think usability is exactly the issue of this thread -- how do you use fisheyes and multi-sensor cameras, or more specifically, why don't you?
  3. It is encouraging that you don't think this is accurate, but our success in analog video surveillance does still create challenges for us in being accepted in IP video surveillance.
  4. I am a marketing guy. "Non-existent" is the type of hyperbole you expect from me. I should have said, "almost non-existent."
  5. I again thank you for responding to DW Spectrum and especially for being so knowledgeable. We hope to one day win you over and earn your esteem as worthy of comparison to the big boys you mentioned.

I can take a hint. I am now out of this thread. Another manufacturer's representative with the courage to identify himself has been driven from the conversation!

I love IPVM. Seriously. I do.

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