Panasonic Panoramic Test

By Ethan Ace, Published Jun 24, 2013, 12:00am EDT

Panasonic has gotten into panoramic cameras, with their launch of their WV-SF438 and WV-SW458 models. As part of our groundbreaking Panoramic Camera testing series, we ran a shootout of Panasonic against Axis, Mobotix and Vivotek panoramic cameras, as shown below:

These are the key findings from our tests:

  • Excellent performance in well lit scenes, one of the top performers in our tests.
  • Modestly inferior performance in lower light, with others providing brighter, more usable images.
  • No usable images at 1 lux or below, similar to most other cameras tested.
  • Control of on camera dewarping is simply integrated to VMS systems via typical PTZ controls.
  • Lack of client side dewarping is a drawback for investigations, common among camera side dewarped models. 

Additional Factors

Pricing for the two Panasonic models is as follows:

The WV-SF438 is indoor only. The SW458 is IP66 rated and available with either standard Ethernet connections or an M12 locking connector (WV-SW458M), often used in mass transit systems.

Recommendations

Panasonic's panoramic camera models offer solid performance in most conditions though are moderately more expensive than most panoramics. Users looking for a panoramic camera in wide dynamic scenes should especially consider them. For those where low light conditions may be a primary consideration, other cameras may perform moderately better. 

Physical Overview

In this video, we review the form factor and physical features of Panasonic's panoramic cameras. Key points include:

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  • Models are functionally similar, with the same resolution and feature set, only in different housings.
  • Audio and I/O included on both models, common among many, but not all panoramic cameras in our tests.
  • Outdoor model is IP66 rated with pigtail connectors, no option to directly connect cable to camera.

Configuration/Operation Overview

In this video, we review the WV-SW458 web interface. Most features of the web interface are standard, and similar to other Panasonic models. Users should note the following, however:

  • Camera defaults to 3MP fisheye, but offers numerous other dewarped views from the camera.
  • Both single stream panoramic and dewarped views available, as well as dual stream modes including both.
  • Electrical day/night is offered, but turned off by default. We recommend leaving this turned off, as it has no effect on performance, only removing color information at night.
  • The camera offers 16 digital preset positions which may be used to quickly jump to an area of interest. Four of these are used as home positons of the camera's Quad View mode.

VMS Integration and Operation

Finally, this screencast reviews configuration and operation of Panasonic cameras in the VMS, using Exacq as an example.

  • VMSs are able to view and record multiple streams simultaneously from the camera, such as Dual Panorama + a 1.3MP PTZ view.
  • VMS PTZ controls control on-camera dewarping, with access to presets and tours, as well.
  • No client side dewarping is available, so archived video reflects only what the operator was viewing at the time. In the case of a single PTZ view, for example, this means that the rest of the area is left unmonitored, with only the dewarped view recorded. For this reason, we recommend recording either the quad view (1 PTZ + 3 static views) or the dual panorama plus single PTZ, to provide an overview of activity in the scene.

Competitive Comparisons

These comparisons pit Panasonic against a selections of cameras from our panoramic camera shootout, at varying light levels.

Full Light, ~160 lux

In full light, Panasonic is one of the top performers in our tests. At 6', the subject's facial details and chart are both clear, and colors in the scene are true.

 At 18', the maximum range we tested, against Panasonic performs well compared to others. Line three of the chart (TOZ) is more easily readable in the SF438 than others.

3 lux

Lowering the lights to ~3 lux, at 6', Panasonic still performs well, but is notably dimmer than some, such as the Axis M3007. Both the M3007 and Q24 show more readable lines of the chart. 

At 18', the WV-SF438 lags slightly behind others, notably the Mobotix Q24, with the chart difficult to read. Some details of the subject, such as clothing, can still be determined.

Low Light, ~1 lux

In our dark scene, the WV-SF438 produced no usable image. The M3007 and FE8172V allow for detection of the chart, but no recognizable details.

WDR

In our WDR scene, Panasonic performs well, revealing details outdoors which other cameras do not, such as the lettering on the pavement behind the subject. Only Mobotix shows more lines of the chart in this scene.

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