Testing MP USB Cameras for Video Surveillance

Author: Benros Emata, Published on Jul 25, 2010

A frequently cited downside of megapixel cameras is their cost. Even a 'cheap' megapixel network camera is $250 or more (compare that to cheap SD cameras which can be under $100 or analog cameras that can be under $50).

Recently, we were scanning online for USB cameras and were impressed to see how inexpensive even HD webcameras have become - less than $50 for a 720p HD USB camera. This piqued our curiosity and led us to buy a number of USB cameras from Amazon.

In this test, we share our results from tests of Microsoft LifeCam Cinema (720p) and Logitech 2MP HD Pro Webcam Pro 9000. We bought a total of 5 USB cameras plus (5) 5 meter active USB extension cables (to test maximum distance from the USB camera to a PC). We then integrated the USB cameras with a number of VMS systems.

In the video below, we overview our approach:

While our tests show that application is limited to small scale applications, we were impressed at the video quality and the relative inexpensiveness of using HD USB cameras for limited surveillance solutions.

* ********** ***** ******** ** ********* ******* ** ***** ****. Even * '*****' ********* ******* ****** ** $*** ** **** (compare **** ** ***** ** ******* ***** *** ** ***** $100 ** ****** ******* **** *** ** ***** $**).

********, ** **** ******** ****** *** *** ******* *** **** impressed ** *** *** *********** **** ** ********** **** ****** - **** **** $** *** * **** ** *** ******. This ****** *** ********* *** *** ** ** *** * number ** *** ******* **** ******.

** **** ****, ** ***** *** ******* **** ***** *********** ******* ******(****) *********** *** ** *** ****** *** ****. ** ****** * ***** ** * *** ******* **** (5) * *********** *** ********* ******(** **** ******* ******** **** *** *** ****** ** * PC). ** **** ********** *** *** ******* **** * ****** of *** *******.

** *** ***** *****, ** ******** *** ********:

***** *** ***** **** **** *********** ** ******* ** ***** scale ************, ** **** ********* ** *** ***** ******* *** the ******** *************** ** ***** ** *** ******* *** ******* surveillance *********.

[***************]

HD *** ******* ****** ** **** ******* ********** *****

* *** ****** *** ** ******** ** * ********* **** camera **** *** **** ***** ************* (***** ***** ******, ** mechanical ** *** ******, ******* ******, ***.) . ** *** are ********* *** ***, ******** *** ********* ********:

********** *** ********* **** *******
******* *** *** ******* ** ****** **** **** ********** ***********- $50 - $** ***. **** ** *** ********* ****** ** about $* *** *** ****.** **** ******* *** ***** ** ***** **** $*** - $400 ***. **** ** ******** ***** ** ***** $*.** *** per ****.
Distance ********* ******** *** ***** ******** ** **' / **.**, ***** five, **' / *.** ****** ********* ******, ********* *** *** cams ********** *****. ********* *****.***, * ******* ** **.*' / *** ***** ****** *** be *** *** * **** ***** ******.***' / **** ** *** ******* ****** *** **/*** **** ethernet.
3rd ***** *** *********** ****** ***** ********** ******** ******* *** ****. ****** *** 'professional' *** ******* ** *** ******* *** **** (**. *********, Genetec, ***** ** *** *******).***** ******* **** '************' ** '******' *** *******. *******, '******' VMS ******* ********* **** ******* *****.
Bandwidth ************* *.*** ******* *** *** *******, ** ******* *********** *** get ** **** ** ****** ** ****, ********* ** ***** complexity. **** ** **** ******* **** ******** ***** *******, ********* *.***.
Image *********** ***** ******** ****** **** **** *** ******* **** **** as **** ** * ** **** ******. *** ***** ************ are ****, *** **** *** ****** **** ********* ****** *****.

** **** ******* ********* **** **** ******** ***********, *** **** in *** ***** ************.

********** ** ******** ******* *** *** ****** ** *** *** bus ** *** **. ************ *** ***** ***********.

**** ** **** ******* ** *** ******* ***, ***** ******* an ****** *** ********* ******. *** *** ********* ****, ********** a *** ******** ***** ** ********.

***************

** ********* *** *** ** ** *** ******* *** ***** deployments (* ******* ** ****) **** * ***** ******, *********** store, ** *********. *** ************* ***** **** ** *** ******* ($50 ** $***), **** ***** ********* ** ******** ****** ***** for ********* ****** (*** $** *** ** ****) *** ******* distances *******, *** ***** **** ***** $*** ** **** *** a *-* ****** **********. **** ******* ********* ******* ********* ** a ***** **, ****** **** **** ********. *******, ******* ** a *** ****** **** ** ******* ** ***** ******* ** unnecessary *** ********* *** ******* ** *** ** '**** * play' ***** ** ****** ********* *** *************, ** *** *****, can ** ***********.

Key ********

Setup: USB cams were not difficult to setup, because of the plug n' play nature of USB. Consideration will need to be taken on wall or ceiling mounting, because of the non-standard mounts on most USB cameras. In addition, a powered USB hub may be necessary if your USB bus is not adequately powered or if not enough free ports are available.

System **** : On our 2.13GHz Intel Core2 Duo notebook, we were able to connect 4 USB cameras with active extension cables and record video at full resolution in the background, but the reported CPU usage was at 95%. Although system load was high, all 4 streams ran smoothly and exported video without problems. On the other hand, 95% system load caused issues with multi-tasking, so if your computer is not dedicated for surveillance, consider limiting the camera count to 2 - 3 units.

Bandwidth: We calculated the bit rate from 10 second sample clips exported out of a single USB camera, and found that the bandwidth can range from a simple indoor scene running at 3Mbps to a more complex outdoor scene at 10Mbps.

Daytime ***********: The daytime quality of both cameras are comparable to professional IP camera images. The Microsoft Lifecam and Logitech 9000 both excelled at outdoor and indoor daylight images, with the Logitech, being a 2MP camera, having a slight edge in clarity when compared to the Microsoft camera.

Nighttime ***********: For both USB cameras, we had difficulty in making out facial details in an indoor environment with light levels at 1 lux and below, but at 1 lux, environmental details could be discerned. Both USB cameras do not have a b/w mode or IR cut filter.

Third ***** *** *******: All of the budget VMS systems we tested had support for USB cameras, but the extent of support may vary by model/manufacturer. Most professional VMS systems do not include USB camera support, except for Luxriot's VMS. Although Luxriot did support the Logitech, we were unable to get live video from the Microsoft USB camera.

Frame ****: Video from both cameras ran at 15fps when exported directly from their own driver applications. Results may vary depending on what VMS is associated (eg. On Blue Iris VMS system, both cameras ran at a maximum 10fps).

Product ********

** ******** *** ********* ******* ****** ***** ******* ** *** testing *** *** ****** ******.

Microsoft ******* ******

**** ** **** ** $**.** *** *** ********* *** $********, *** ***** ******** ****:

  • ******** ******* **********
  • ********** ***** ** **** *********** *** * *******; *** **** to ********* * ******** ** *** **** ** **** *****
  • ***** ** **********
  • *** ********* ** ***** ** **** **** ****** ** **; LED ****** ** ******* ***
  • *' ********** *** *****
  • ******* *** *** ****** ****** **** **** ******; ****** *** unable ** **** ** ****** *****
  • ** *******, ***** ** *** ** "****" ** ****** ********, which ***** ** ********* ** ****** ******* ** *** ***** scenes; ** ********* ** **** **** ***** ***

Logitech ** *** ****** *** ****:

**** ** **** ** $**.** ***, *** $*************, ** ******** **** *** ******** ***:

  • ********* ******* **********
  • ***** ** **********
  • *** **** ** ***** ** **** ** ******** ****** ** on; *** ****** ** ******* ***
  • ********** ***** **** **** ** ** ****** ********** *** ******** on **** ** *******
  • *' ********** *** *****
Tripp **** *** *.* ****** ********* *****
** ******* ****** ********, ** ** ** ****, ** **** a ***** **** *** ****** ********* ***** **** *** ** MSRP ** $**.** ***, *** *** ** ****************** ************* $** *** (****: ** ********* **** *** $** a *** ***** ***** ** ****).
  • ********* ***** ** **'
  • **/** ***
  • *** **** * **** ********* ** *** ***, **** * female ** ***** ***
  • ****** *** *** ***** *** *** ***** **** ********* ** USB ******
  • ** ****** **** ****** *****-******* ******** *** * ***** ****** of **'

Hardware / ******** ***** & ************ **************

*** ********* ********** ******* *** *** *** *********, ******** *** software, **** ** ********* ** ********* *** *** ******* **** a ************ ******.

*** ****** *******:

  • **** *** ********** *** ********
  • ******** *** ****** **** ******* ****, **** **** ******* ********
  • ******** *** *** ******* ** * **** ** ******* *** require * *** ********
  • ******** ** **** * ****** ** **** * **** *** 2.0 ***
  • ** *** *****, ** **** **** ** ******* **** *** cameras
  • *** ****** ***** ****** ** ********* ******* ** *'
  • ** *****-******* ****, **' ****** *** ********* ****** ******** ** create ** **' ***** *** (+ *' **** *** ***** of *** ******)
  • ****** * ******* *** *** ** **** ** ******'* *** bus **** *** **** ******** ***** ** ** ******* ** free *****
  • **** *** ******* **** *******, ****-******* ******** *** *******
  • **** ****** ******** *** *** ** ********* ****** *** ***; Access *** ************'* ****** ******** *** **** ********
  • **** *** ******* **** **** ****, **** *** ****-****** *** cameras *** **** **** ** ** ***** ******** *** ****** manually
  • *** **** ****** ****-******* *** ********** *** ******** *** *******, but **** *** ****** **** ****** *****

Image ******* ********

** *** ********* **********, ** ******* *** ***** ******* ** the ******** ** *** ****** *** **** *** *** ********* Lifecam ****** *** *** *******. ** ******* **** ******** ***** clips ***** ** ******* ************ *** ******** **********.

******** *** ****** *****(**.* ** ********)

*** ****** *******:

  • ** * ******* ****** *****, *** ********* *** ******'* ******** image ** ***** **** **** ***** **************
  • ** *** ******* ****** *****, *** ******** ******'* ********* ***** is **** ***** *** ** *** ****** **********
  • ** * *** ***** (* ***) ****** *****, ** *** Microsoft *****, *** *******'* ****** ******** *** ****** ** **********, but ******* ** *** *********** ** *******
  • ** *** * *** ****** *****, ** *** ******** ****, the ******* ** ******** ******, **** ********* *** ********, *** facial ******** *** ********* ** ********

Login to read this IPVM report.
Why do I need to log in?
IPVM conducts unique testing and research funded by member's payments enabling us to offer the most independent, accurate and in-depth information.

Related Reports

Milestone Ends Development of "Enterprise" VMS on Sep 22, 2016
Milestone 'Enterprise' was one of the first enterprise video management software offerings, selected by many early adopters of IP video. However,...
History of Video Surveillance on Sep 22, 2016
This is a concise history of video surveillance covering the past decade.  The goal is to help professionals newer to the industry understand...
Totally Wireless IP Camera (IPVideo Corp NomadHD) on Sep 21, 2016
Wireless battery powered cameras have been a surveillance pipe dream for years, limited by camera power consumption, battery technology, and...
Tagged RFID Object Search Recorded Video on Sep 20, 2016
Video analytics has gotten fairly good at tagging people in video, but it does not solve the problem of finding items like specific merchandise or...
How to Measure Video Quality / Compression Levels on Sep 16, 2016
Two cameras have the same resolution, frame rate and scene monitored but camera A consumes half the bandwidth than camera B. Is Camera A better?...
Camera Course September 2016 on Sep 15, 2016
This is the only independent surveillance camera course, based on in-depth product and technology testing. Lots of manufacturer training exists...
Milestone Kills Go, Slashes Express Pricing, Launches Enhanced Version Free on Sep 12, 2016
Milestone is shaking up the industry again with enhanced free software and a major price drop. 6 years ago, Milestone launched their first free...
Axis / Canon Launch 20MP Avigilon Rival on Sep 12, 2016
For years, Avigilon has essentially owned the 'super high resolution' single imager market. And Axis has resisted, most famously in 2012, when...
Milestone VMS Adds H.265, SVQR, RAM Video Optimization on Sep 09, 2016
Milestone is rolling out enhancements to XProtect to support H.265, enhanced edge recording functionality, and potentially allow users to reduce...
Hikvision 4K Camera Tested on Sep 09, 2016
Hikvision is the most common choice for low price entry level products but they are also competing with low light models, smart CODECs, WDR...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Nest Cam Outdoor Tested on Sep 23, 2016
After years of claiming an outdoor model was "coming", addressing their biggest user demand, Nest has finally released their Outdoor Camera, an...
ACTi Refuses Race To The Bottom, Shifts To Solutions on Sep 23, 2016
The original low cost IP camera disruptor was ACTi. Back in the 2008 - 2010 time frame, Taiwanese manufacturer ACTi challenged the Western and...
You Get Robbed, Canary Will Pay You Up To $1,000 on Sep 22, 2016
Canary is trying to break the status quo in DIY security, first by raising over $40 million, and now a revamp of their monthly services package...
Milestone Ends Development of "Enterprise" VMS on Sep 22, 2016
Milestone 'Enterprise' was one of the first enterprise video management software offerings, selected by many early adopters of IP video. However,...
History of Video Surveillance on Sep 22, 2016
This is a concise history of video surveillance covering the past decade.  The goal is to help professionals newer to the industry understand...
Access Control Course Fall 2016 on Sep 22, 2016
IPVM offers the most comprehensive access control course in the industry. Unlike manufacturer training that focuses only on a small part of the...
Totally Wireless IP Camera (IPVideo Corp NomadHD) on Sep 21, 2016
Wireless battery powered cameras have been a surveillance pipe dream for years, limited by camera power consumption, battery technology, and...
Axis Launches IP Speakers on Sep 21, 2016
First, Axis introduced an IP horn, then it was video intercoms, and now it is Networked Speakers? While IP-based Public Address systems are not...
Tagged RFID Object Search Recorded Video on Sep 20, 2016
Video analytics has gotten fairly good at tagging people in video, but it does not solve the problem of finding items like specific merchandise or...
FLIR and Geovision Join the Hikvision Price Cut Race on Sep 20, 2016
Hikvision's price cuts are clearly a trend setter. After numerous and increasingly large cuts, the destructive cycle is accelerating. Last month,...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact