Mobotix Camera Configuration Tested

Author: John Honovich, Published on May 06, 2010

We find Mobotix camera's configuration to be significantly different from almost any other IP camera we have tested. The sheer number of options were far greater. Plus the complexity in finding and determining the appropriate settings was unique. These present both advantages and challenges in evaluating the use of the camera and in deploying them.

Mobotix emphasizes that their cameras are not simply cameras, but complete VMS systems embedded inside each camera. We did see this clearly in our tests - including storage, recording, event and VoIP setup for the cameras.

Additionally, we found that Mobotix diverges from many common IP camera usability conventions - also increasing the complexity and need for training.

In the next week, we will release reports on a specific Mobotix camera (the Q24 panoramic) and on Mobotix's decentralized architecture/ VMS system. Inside the premium section of this report, we will provide a survey and explanation of Mobotix camera fundamentals to help the uninitiated.

Configuration Overview

To configure Mobotix, one can use two primary interfaces:

  • The web interface for each camera: This interface provides a complete set of Mobotix configurations with explanations next to each function's setup. The interface provides pop-ups and web page browsing to access settings. It is easy to get lost finding the right page/section.
  • The viewing thick client for Mobotix - MxControlCenter: This interface (through the Camera Configuration Assistant) provides a simple table interface to the most common camera functionalities. It is easy to find one's way amongst the tabs of this interface. However, a number of more advanced functionalities cannot be accomplished in this interface plus there is no embedded explanations/help on features.

Key Differences in Mobotix Camera Configuration from most IP Cameras

Mobotix's configuration is different from most other IP camera's. Below is some of the most important elements:

  • Mobotix provides extensive configuration options for storage selection and recording setup. Most IP cameras have minimal setup for these options and users rarely need to use them as such setup is done in the VMS system.
  • Mobotix provides additional options that are rare in other cameras including: advanced event management, VoIP/IP phone capabilities, intercom functionality, built-in IR illuminator, camera temperature tracking, embedding one's logo on the video stream, etc.
  • The Mobotix web interface uses a one-window drilldown design rather than a two-panel selector common in IP camera setup. Because Mobotix only has a single window, users must click back and forth to explore configuration settings - a far more time consuming process, made more challenging due to Mobotix's increased options.
  • The web interface divides setup into two buttons/sections: admin menu and setup menu. Techs should memorize what settings fall under which section so that they can remember where to access certain functionalities. By contrast, most IP cameras provides a single configuration section.
  • Configuration changes in the web interface are not permanently stored when a configuration change is made. An additional step of storing the configuration is required. If you forget this, when the camera is rebooted, the configuration changes will be lost. This is atypical of almost all other IP camera interfaces. In Mobotix's MxControlCenter client, configuration changes are automatically stored when made.
  • The 3MP cameras we have tested default to 640 x 480 resolution (a fraction of their full image size). Techs need to adjust this if they want to record at higher resolution.
  • Mobotix maximum exposure default is 1/5th second, far longer than most competitors who use 1/30th second. For still shots, this provides significantly brighter images but significantly blurrier/worse images for moving objects. When comparing Mobotix's low light performance, this must be normalized. For background, read our report on exposure setting tricks.
  • By default, Mobotix has a single stream only. Changes to the live video feed will impact recording.
  • To enable separate live video and recording streams, the tech needs to check the 'full image recording' option inside the recording setup menu. Mobotix does not have an interface for 'Stream 1', 'Stream 2', etc. as do most IP cameras supporting multiple streams.
  • No physical factory default button / pinhole is available for the camera.
  • If you change and forget the admin password, the camera must be sent back to Mobotix and you have to pay 100 Euros to reset it. This is a direct consequence of no physical factory default option.
  • The MxControlCenter client does not provide a camera tree hierarchy to select cameras for viewing. This is unlike almost all other VMS systems which allow users to easily select or drag and drop cameras into viewing panes. Mobotix's grid layouts, the equivalent of matrix views in other VMS systems, requires cameras to be assigned to panes. The positioning of cameras in these grids may only be changed by going into layout manager. The restrictions of displaying live video can be challenging and goes against best practices in nearly all other VMS systems.

Mobotix Configuration Overview

In the video screencast below, we provide a visual overview of how and where to configure Mobotix cameras.

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  • Configuration menus fragmented (00:26 min)
  • Starting with the web interface (01:10 min)
  • Admin and Setup are the definitive menus for configuration (02:39 min)
  • Storing configurations (04:12 min)
  • Using MXControlCenter client (05:15 min)
  • Full Image Recording is equivelent to dual-streaming (06:29 min)

Recording and Video Setup Overview

In the video screencast below, we provide a visual overview of setting up storage, recording and exposure:

  • Configuring Events (00:35 min)
  • Configurating Mobotix specific events (02:10 min)
  • Confiruing multiple motion detection areas (03:09 min)
  • Configuring Random Events (04:59 min)
  • Camera measing illumination (06:34 min)
  • Applying conditional rules (10:17 min)
  • Using MXControlCenter to search for events (10:50  min)

Event Management Overview

In the video screencast below, we provide a visual overview of setting up different types of events and using advanced event triggering options:

  • DVR built into camera (00:33 min)
  • Storage options (01:30 min)
  • MXControlCenter does not host the recorded video (03:05 min)
  • MxPEG is proprietary to Mobotix & reduces bit rate (05:15 min)
  • Important Note - default exposure is 1/5 second (06:56 min)
  • Working with multiple exposure areas (08:22 min)
  • Full Image Recording is disabled by default (09:54 min)

 

Intercom / VoIP Telephony Overview

Mobotix provides extensive audio options from convenience features like cameras announcing their IP addresses via speaker (to help find a camera) to automated two-way intercom functionality and full VoIP integration. Essentially, Mobotix cameras can be used as videophones.

To do so, requires a VoIP phone - either hardware or software. A free software phone can be used to try this out. We used X-Lite, the recommended VoIP phone software from Mobotix (download X-Lite's windows version).

If you are in a LAN and want to call the phone using a software phone application, you can do so by simply entering in the SIP address of the Mobotix phone. This can be found in the admin menu and uses a structure of <camera_name>@<ip_address_of_camera>. We were able to simply do this from the X-Lite application, have a two-way conversation to the camera as well as watch video from the camera.

If you want to call out from the camera, you need to enter in SIP account information from a VoIP service provider (it's similar to Skype but more complicated to setup). We used the Callcentric service, purchasing the lowest cost US plan ($5 + $3 for 911 service). This information can then be added to the Mobotix camera to call out.

We are still reviewing the audio/telephony features of the Mobotix camera and plan to add more information plus a video in the future. 

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