Testing IndigoVision's HD Fixed Camera (IV11600)

By: Benros Emata, Published on Jun 08, 2010

In this test, we examine IndigoVision's HD Fixed Camera [link no longer available] integrated with IndigoVision's Compact NVR. The camera offers 720p, 30fps with H.264. The camera uses a CCD imager. Given these specifications, we pay special attention to bandwidth consumption, frame rate achievement and low light performance.

We are also testing IndigoVision's HD PTZ camera and shall release that as a separate report later in June.

IndigoVision develops an end-to-end line of IP video surveillance products including encoders, recorders, VMS software and IP cameras. IndigoVision's IP cameras only work for IndigoVision's recorders/VMS. Likewise, IndigoVision's VMS only works with its own cameras. [Note: public release of ONVIF support on the VMS side is scheduled for the second half of 2010].

IndigoVision's SD cameras offer analytics and bandwidth optimization from motion-triggered frame adjustments (called ACF [link no longer available] by IndigoVision). Currently, IndigoVision's HD cameras do not support these features. IndigoVision reports that they a future field upgrade will enable these functionalities.

ACF is an especially important feature (and current limitation of the HD cameras). ACF allows recording at a high frame rate (say 25 or 30 fps) when motion is detected but at a significantly lower frame rate (say 1fps) when no motion is detected. IndigoVision performs this on the camera side and dynamically adjusts the stream/bit-rate as it detects changes in motion. This can deliver significant reductions in bandwidth and storage consumption relative to the most common approach of a fixed frame rate H.264 stream.

Pricing

The pricing structure for IndigoVision products varies from most open/3rd party IP video offerings. An explanation of this is needed to provide context on IndigoVision's comparative cost.First, IndigoVision sells through a limited number of integrator partners and does not offer products through distribution or on-line sale. Secondly, its dealer pricing discount structure is higher than most IP video providers.IndigoVision's NVR appliances are quite inexpensive - roughly the cost of buying a COTS PC with similar storage levels.Additionally, no license is charged for recording the HD cameras at up 720p resolution and 15fps. IndigoVision refers to this as a 'standard' license. An additional license fee is charged for recording at full frame rate over 15fps. IndigoVision refers to this as 'enhanced' recording.The MSRP of the HD Fixed Camera (with lens), no audio and 'standard' recording is $1,849 USD. The low-cost IndigoVision NVR appliance is purchased separately.Enabling audio to the HD camera adds $200 to the camera MSRP. Enabling 'enhanced'(16 - 30fps) recording adds about $600 to the camera MSRP.Given the differences in IndigoVision's pricing structure, an 'apples to apples' pricing comparison is not simple. The following two comparisons should provide a basic contrast:

  • Compared to a Milestone Enterprise system recording a Sony HD camera at 15fps or lower), the effective pricing is similar.
  • Compared to an Exacq VMS system recording an Arecont MP camera, the effective pricing is significantly higher.

Physical Overview

The following screencast examines the physical form factor of the IndigoVision HD camera.  Note that the camera is bundled with a lens and is only sold together as a kit; A selection of lenses with varying focal lengths are available.  In our tests, we used the 3-8mm standard IR corrected lens.

Key points include:

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  • Resolution is fixed at 1280x720
  • Camera has a 1/3" CCD sensor, 2.5 Megapixel
  • Form factor does not include a physical reset button
  • Unit is powered through PoE or through the i/o port that includes pins for auxilary power supply (24V AC/DC)

Configuration & Optimization Examined

In the following screencast, we access the IndigoVision HD fixed camera's web interface and examine the default settings and talk about the recommended optimizations to set for specific environments.

Key points include:

  • Web interface does not have a live video window
  • The same web interface may be accessed through IndigoVision Control Center, in the camera's Configure tab
  • By default, camera does not have a password (a password may be established in the settings)
  • When placing camera in a daytime outdoor scene, focusing in Auto Iris mode was difficult: Change Exposure to Electronic Shutter for better image clarity
  • In our tests, we dropped the bitrate to 3 Mbps, and perceived no visual loss
  • ACF (Activity Controlled Framerate) automatically adjusts framerate based on motion detection, but at time of this review, this camera does not support ACF
  • Camera supports different bit rate settings and optimizations based on Day or Night profiles
  • By default, slow shutter is checked and Minimal Shutter Speed is set to 1 second

Download Video Samples

Download video samples for the IndigoVision HD Fixed camera (Note: 80MB zip file). Samples are provided for a variety of scenes and light levels. Image quality of video samples examined below.

Image Quality Analysis

In the following screencast, we examine the exported sample clips from our tests of the IndigoVision HD fixed camera.  We tested the camera in daylight indoors and outdoors, low light (measured at 0.3 lux) indoors and outdoors, and in a wide dynamic range scene.

NOTE: We adjusted the minimal shutter speed from its default of 1 second to 1/8th and 1/30th second. This does not fix the shutter at those levels but allows the cameras to lengthen the shutter to that level. IndigoVision does not include a 'readout' of real time shutter levels in their web interface. As such, we cannot be certain of the exact shutter for the video.

Key points include:

  • Camera's default exposure setting is set to Auto Iris 
  • For the daytime outdoor scene, IndigoVision recommended to change the exposure setting to Electronic Shutter
  • Camera's default is a slow shutter of 1 second
  • Changing the Minimal Shutter Speed from 1 second to 1/25 of a second reduces motion blur and increases smoothness, but with the tradeoff of a darker image

Bandwidth & Framerate Examined

In this screencast, we used video quality analysis software, Elecard StreamEye v3.1, to examine and verify the stream properties of our exported test clips. 

Key points include:

  • Verified the resolution of our exported clip is at 720p
  • Verified the clip's framerate at 25 fps, which is the camera's default framerate setting
  • Framerate can be switched to 30 fps
  • Camera's default bitrate is 6 Mbps
  • Depending on the scene, the system may dynamically reduce the bitrate and not utilize the full 6 Mbps
  • We also performed tests of changing the maximum bitrate to 3 Mbps, and did not notice any visual difference from the 6 Mbps stream

Recommendations

We divide recommendations into technical and comparative.

On a technical level, we recommend the following points:

  • The camera performs relatively well in low light scenarios.
  • The integrator should carefully review the maximum shutter setting speed to ensure motion blur does not create problems.
  • The integrator should consider switching to electronic exposure for outdoor bright scenes.
  • The camera performs relatively average in wide dynamic range scenes and has difficulties displaying accurately both dark and bright regions.

On a comparative level, users should consider:

  • The camera requires the use of IndigoVision's VMS so a review and acceptance of the VMS capabilities is critical.
  • The pricing is comparable to other offerings for high end enterprise deployments.
  • The pricing is high compared to mid-level offerings or for smaller system deployments.
  • The camera is good for applications demanding full 25/30 fps, however the cost of activating recording is high.
  • The camera does not currently support ACF storage optimization. When this is added, it should materially increase the overall value of the offering.
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