Tyco / Exacq Illustra Cameras Tested

By Ethan Ace, Published Mar 09, 2015, 12:00am EDT

Prior to Tyco acquiring them, Exacq was one of the leading independent VMSes.

Now, Tyco / Exacq is becoming a 'solution' provider, billing their Illustra cameras as:

"The Easiest High Definition Cameras with ExacqVision"

And prominently showcasing those cameras on Exacq's homepage like so:

We bought two dome models, the Illustra 610 full-size IR dome and compact minidome, to put this claim to the test, looking at these key questions:

  • Can Illustra camera's quality and performance compete with Axis, Bosch, Hikvision and Pansonic?
  • How well does this end to end Tyco Exacq/Illustra solution perform?
  • How does Illustra integration compare to third-party cameras?
  • How does it compare to other end to end platforms like Avigilon?
  • Here are our key findings from this test:

    Illustra 610 IR Dome

    • Full light performance similar to competitive 1080p models.
    • Low light performance similar to other 1080p integrated IR domes and well beyond non-IR super low light models.
    • Bitrates similar to other 1080p models in full light, much higher than Hikvision integrated IR dome in low light with IR on, though lower than both Axis and Bosch low light non-IR models.
    • Installation features including easily visible alignment markings, color coded screws, snap-on plenum cover, and integrated locking flush mount tabs may speed installation and reduce cost of recessed installs.

    Illustra 610 Compact Minidome

    • Full light performance similar to competitive 1080p compact domes.
    • Low light image quality moderately worse than competitive domes (Axis M3005 and Bosch Flexidome Micro).
    • Low light image quality significantly worse than low cost integrated IR models.
    • Bandwidth consumption lower than other compact domes in full light and low light (~3 lux), though moderately higher than integrated IR model in low light.

    Exacq Integration

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    • Multiple Illustra drivers (Illustra, IllustraFlex, Illustra3, Illustra Essentials, in addition to a general "American Dynamics" driver) in Exacq may cause confusion as to which one should be used.
    • Using the proper driver (Illustra for IR dome, Illustra3 for compact minidome), cameras connected to Exacq without issue.
    • Camera search properly discovered both cameras using the proper driver and provided the ability to change IP address directly from Exacq, without using other discovery tools.
    • Some advanced settings, such as VMD zones and sensitivity, autofocus, and corridor mode integrated via the Exacq client, but others such as advanced CODEC settings (I-frame interval, profile, etc.) are not.

    Pricing

    The 610 IR dome sells for about $700 USD online, lower than competitive options such as the Sony SNCEM632R (~$1,000) and Panasonic WV-SFN632L (~$800), 1080p models with built-in IR. However, this is about $200 higher than low-cost models such as the Hikvision 4132 (~$500) and Samsung SNV-6084R (~$550).

    The 610 compact minidome sells for about $300 online. This is slightly lower than competitive minidomes from Axis and Bosch, both about $350 online. However, this is substantially higher than low cost leaders such as Hikvision and Dahua, both of which sell comparable 1080p minidomes for ~$200 online, including integrated IR.

    Note that AD is releasing a lower cost line in addition to the 610 compact, Illustra Essentials [link no longer available]. However, it is not yet available through distribution, and pricing is not yet set.

    Recommendations

    Overall, the Illustra cameras offered average performance at average prices. Those looking for top low light or bandwidth performance will find better options elsewhere. And those simply looking for the low cost cameras will find less expensive options.

    However, with word of discounts or even free licenses when purchasing Illustra cameras and Exacq licenses, many integrators may find this end to end Tyco solution attractive. While Tyco's position is that there is no official discount policy, there have been multiple accounts of these incentives and we expect they will continue and/or expand.

    The Tyco End to End Solution

    As a total solution, Illustra cameras and ExacqVision work well together, but still have some limitations not found in other end to end competitors, most notably Avigilon. Exacq's Illustra integration simplifies installation somewhat, with discovery, IP addressing, and basic configuration all handled through the VMS client, not requiring the installer to use the camera's web interface in many cases.

    However, ACC includes more low level control of Avigilon camera settings, including advanced CODEC settings such as max bit rate and I-frame interval, as well as iris, exposure, IR illumination, gain, and more, seen here.

    Control of these details effectively eliminates the need to use the camera web interface at all, even for advanced setup.

    Tyco informs us integration development between Illustra and Exacq will continue to progress, but no details were given whether integration this deep is planned.

    Physical Overview

    In this video we review the physical construction of both cameras, fairly typical for their form factor:

    Installation Features

    The Illustra 610 IR dome includes two novel features not typically found in competitive models:

    • Integrated flush mount clamps eliminate the need for a separate back can or mounting hardware when recessing the camera into the ceiling.
    • Snap-on/off plenum cover accepts conduit or cable connection to maintain plenum rating when flush mounted. Most manufacturers require a costly plenum backbox.

    Configuration Overview

    In this video, we review configuration of the Illustra cameras. While both use different web interfaces, they are laid out similarly and include mostly the same options.

    Most notably:

    • Both cameras default to higher than average compression, 31 in the full-size dome and 32 in the compact (related: IP Camera Manufacturer Compression Comparison)
    • No maximum bitrate is available when using VBR in the compact minidome.

    Exacq Integration

    Both cameras worked well with Exacq, with some advanced features such as auto-focus, corridor mode image rotation, and camera-side motion detection configuration integrated into the Exacq client. Features varied slightly, since the 610 compact did not include auto-focus controls and included more configurable motion detection zones than the 610 IR dome.

    Note that Illustra is not the only manufacturer for which Exacq has integrated these advanced controls. Others, including Sony and Axis, also allow control of focus, rotation, and motion detection.

    Other VMSes

    While none offered support via direct drivers, we had no issues adding either camera to other VMSes (Avigilon Control Center, Genetec Security Center, Milestone XProtect) via ONVIF. However, advanced configuration features such as motion detection, corridor mode, and auto-focus were not available in these other VMSes.

    Full Size IR Dome Image Quality

    This image shows the full test FOV of the 610 full size dome: 

    In full light, image quality is similar to other 1080p models with no notable issues. The test subject's face is clearly visible and the test chart is easily legible to line 5/6.

    At ~0.1 lux the Illustra 610 provides similar subject details to the Hikvision and Panasonic IR cameras. However, the chart is less legible, down to only line 4, vs. 5 or 6 in the other IR models. Neither non-IR low light camera (Axis and Bosch) provides usable images at this light level.

    Compact Dome Image Quality

    This image shows the full FOV of the Illustra 610 compact minidome. Due to their differing fixed lenses, compact dome cameras were staggered, varying distance to the subject to compensate for different FOVs.

    In full light, the 610 compact minidome performs similarly to other cameras, with a slightly brighter, clearer image of the test subject.

    Lowering light to ~3.5 lux, the 610 minidome provides less detail of the test chart than other models, though facial details are similar. 

    Finally, at ~1 lux, the Illustra camera as well as Axis M3005 do not produce usable images of our subject and limited legibility of the test chart. The Bosch NUC-50022 and Hikvision cameras still provide subject images and better chart legibility.

    Bandwidth/Compression

    The Illustra 610 IR dome's bandwidth was average in full light, slightly higher than Axis and Hikvision, and lower than Bosch. In the dark with IR on, bandwidth was substantially higher than the other IR dome tested, the Hikvision 4132, whose bitrates were notably very low in past tests as well.

    The 610 compact minidome's bitrate was lower than most cameras in full light and low light (~3.5lx). At ~1 lux, it was higher than both the Axis M3005 and Hikvision 2232. The Bosch NUC-50022 was highest at this light level, but produced a much more usable image, without added IR.

    Firmware/Software Versions

    These are the firmware versions used in this test:

    • Axis M3005-V: 5.50.5.1
    • Axis Q1615: 5.55.3.4
    • Bosch NBN-932V: 5.93
    • Bosch NUC-50022: 5.90 
    • Hikvision DS-2CD2232-I5: V5.1.2 build 140116
    • Hikvision DS-2CD4132FWD-IZ: V5.2.0 build 140721
    • Illustra ADCi610-D011: AD00-00-17-20
    • Illustra ADCi610-M111: 1.2.4
    • Panasonic WV-SFV631L: 1.71

    ExacqVision 6.7.7213.75577 was used.

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