Panasonic Body Camera Tested

Author: John Scanlan, Published on Mar 16, 2016

Bodyworn camera use continues to increase, with more police departments mandating it and the US pledging $75M for new cameras.

In this report, we share test results of the Panasonic Arbitrator BWC, part of Panasonic's line of evidence capture products (also including in-car video and evidence management).

We wore it and shot it, testing while walking and running:

And shot it out against conventional IP cameras to see how it performs, including:

  • Full light, low light, and WDR scenes
  • Motion stabilization when walking and running
  • Ease of use for recording
  • Importing/exporting video

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Comments (7)

Very interesting report. I am curious what are some of the benefits, other than the Arbitrator software, of this purpose built camera when compared to the latest GoPro 4K which is a third of the cost?

The software is the benefit. Imagine managing the video from 1500 cars, 300 motorcycles, and 2500 body cams. The management is the challenge, not the video.

The major practical limitations on the GoPro are battery life and image quality.

GoPro estimates about two hours of recording battery life for the Hero4, tops. There are extended battery packs, but they effectively double the size of the GoPro (or more). Keeping it turned on on standby won't use so much battery but you still aren't going to see an eight hour shift covered.

The GoPro does not have image stabilization. Arbitrator does. Even walking at a normal pace with something attached to you, it's going to move a lot.

I haven't used a Hero4 personally but low light and WDR in the Hero3 were awful. Arbitrator isn't great compared to mainstream cameras but the Hero was worse. Maybe that's better in the 4.

Video is encrypted in the Panasonic camera from recording to export. GoPro records to standard MP4.

And finally, having worn a GoPro and used one off and on for a couple years, I can say that wearing it is pretty bulky and unwieldy. It's like to come off or get knocked off easily in a scuffle. The BWC's mounting clip is pretty substantial. And the remote camera, if you choose, is low profile. Both much less likely to get knocked around.

The major practical limitations on the GoPro are battery life and image quality.

On paper at least the new EZVIZ Five plus looks better than the Hero 4 Black for this application, since it has:

  • Longer battery life
  • Image stabilization
  • Smaller and lighter
  • 128GB vs 64GB micro SD
  • Dual Mics for noise cancellation
  • Built-in LCD
  • $100 Cheaper

Though it still lacks a little hardware and a lot of software to make it viable as a mass deployment body-cam. Maybe a good place to start if you are developing one.

dahua also got similar camera in their product range. I guess it can be a good comparison.

For future comparisons battery life and pre recording are interesting specs. So I am quickly deployed to a fight, I can do my job quick and then hit the record 5 minutes after and not worry about losing evidence. Encryption is also very important since the camera WILL be lost or taken one day. Audio quality is also a consideration (and a privacy concern). Playback on the device is not attractive as it will allow officers to review the video before making their notes which is poor. In fact the less operator interface the better. An independent person or section is best to handle the evidence.

Great work :)

Useful test report and I was really interested to see the demo video. We are a Panasonic partner in SE Europe and recently I've asked Panasonic EU about this specific product but I got the unfortunate feedback that it is available only for the American market so I couldn't even get a sample. Based on experience I would say that the thing that most potential customers (police officials) ask for is:

- Battery life (which varies according to the recording resolution used)

- Recording capacity

- Encryption/tamper protection for the recorded video

- Ease of downloading and fast operation

- 3G/4G connectivity option is considered as a good advantage for online monitoring/verification when needed

I was unable to get the Panasonic Arbitrator, but I got samples of two Hikvision body worn cameras with 1080p resolution which actually got to be very good products - DS-MH2111/GLF and DS-MH2211. The first one supports 4G connection and is fully integrated in iVMS-5200 CMS software while the second one is a simpler and more compact model with Wi-Fi and H.265 support which greatly optimizes the recording space. The tests so far of both models show good results.

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