Panoramic Camera Shootout

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Apr 21, 2013

Panoramic cameras are one of the hottest growing markets within surveillance. The combination of multi-megapixel resolution and super wide FoVs claims to deliver greater coverage than conventional cameras. But how well do they work and how do the options compare?

This report shares the result of our multi-month test of 8 different Panoramic cameras from 6 different providers including Axis (M3007), Immervision, Mobotix (Color and B/W Q24 models), Panasonic, Sentry360 (3MP, 5MP and 10MP versions) and Vivotek.

We did tests in even, well lit scenes, in multiple levels of darkness, and in WDR conditions. 

Moreover, we examined key issues including distortion, camera skew, dead pixel count, panoramic controls and VMS integration.

Here are two unmarked excerpts showing the range of differences in performance:

Inside, we offer full test results.

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Comments (28)

So these are all "single" sensor solutions? I assume that's why Arecont and Avigilon's multi-sensor cameras aren't included.....

Yes, these are all single sensor fisheye/panomorph sensors. We plan to do the upcoming Arecont 12MP 360 against these cameras (which Arecont says should be available in a few months). As for the Avigilon, it's proprietary and JPEG2000, which is two big limitations (if Avigilon offers an open H.264 version, we'd be interested in testing).

John, can you editorialize a bit on this testing? Which camera would you recommend overall, and which one offers the best value if budget is primary?

In this case, we are not making a best overall recommendation. There's just too many tradeoffs.

However, if budget is a main concern, then the Axis M3007 and Vivotek non-vandal stand out for solid performance and low price.

Note, Immervision is coming out with M12 mount panomorph lenses that could enable a lot of low cost competition in the next 12 months. We'll test them when available and update.

It would be good to know which major VMS's support the mentioned brands of panoramic cameras. For example, Exacq, Milestone and OnSSI support Immervision but Genetec does not. It looks like you were testing with Exacq.

Does the Panasonic camera tested have the integral Immervison lens? I remember something about them OEM'ing cameras with their lenses a while back.

Does/Would the Immervsion lens work better with an Axis P1347 (as opposed to the Q1604) or other manufacturer's box style cameras?

I realize you had to pick one camera for purposes of the test, but I would assume that the Immervision picture quality will vary depending on which brand/model camera the Immervision lens is connected to. For example the Axis Q1604 has great WDR capabilities by itself but others may not which is likely why the test result played out that way with the panoramic lens.

Hey John, testing was with mainly Video Insight, and some Exacq. Some things were easier to show for the screencasts in Exacq. Side note, I'm told that Genetec has ImmerVision integration complete, now, and you should see it soon.

Panasonic did not use an ImmerVision lens. Brickcom is the first to make a minidome with their M12 lens, and we have an update coming on that in the next couple of days.

The problem with ImmerVision is indeed that you can pick whatever you want. I actually ran the test with a Sony CH240 with an ImmerVision lens, as well, just for information, not for publication yet, so I could see how it performed with another camera. The lens is only rated for 1.3MP, however, so they don't recommend using anything higher resolution, so we didn't feel it was appropriate for the shootout.

I'm going to be doing individual reports on these, as well, and in the ImmerVision report I plan to include tests with higher resolution cameras, as well as lower-cost cameras.

Thanks Ethan. I look forward to it. I have an Immervision lens to evaluate and was going to try it with some Axis, Panasonic and Sony box cameras I have in my lab when I get a chance. According to the Immervision website, it looks like the lens will work with the Axis P1347 and the Q1604, but it looks like you have to crop the picture or throttle down the resolution with the P1347. If I get a some "play time" in the lab any time soon, I'll give it a try and let you know how it works. I've heard the same rumors about Genetec/Immervision for a while now, I thought they would have it as part of SC 5.2 but it doesn't look like that made it into that release.

I am not up 100% on my Panamorphic technology, so hopefully yins can help me out. Its my understanding (and please if I am wrong, correct me) that the VMS is what "Dewarps" the camera, in this case VI5.5.

My question is, for this test, how do we that VI is correctly, or equally dewarping each camera, or even handeling each camera equally?

Couldn't camera c be much better than camera c2, but because VI manages camera c2 better it appears better than c?

Am I way off on my logic?

Hi Chris, you're not way off. There are multiple problems at play here, which we've tried to minimize:

  • First, is the quality of each manufacturer's dewarping SDK. So everyone using client-side dewarping is using a different one, with varying results, though each manufacturer's camera(s) should display the same across VMSs, since they (normally) use the same SDK.
  • Second, is the assumption that the VMS implemented all SDKs properly.
  • Third, for all cameras, even those using on-camera dewarping, whether the VMS does any post-processing (sharpening, brightness/contrast, etc.) may be an issue.

So, in general to avoid these issues, I checked every camera in its own web interface (assuming it showed dewarping in the interface), using the manufacturer's own software if available, and on another VMS where supported. We found that things looked pretty much the same, with Exacq and Video Insight displaying integrated cameras the same, Axis and Panasonic displaying the same in VI and the web interface, Sentry360 displaying the same in VI and their own client, etc., etc. It was quite a time consuming check/double check/triple check test because of this.

This is the fairest way we found to perform the test, and I don't think VMS had impact on image quality, from what we saw. That's not to say that there isn't a bad implementation of one or more dewarping SDKs out there, we jsut didn't see it.

When you get into usability and integration, implementation can be another issue, but for image quality, we didn't feel it was.

I hope that explains things!

with full image recording set on the mobotix camera , I believe no matter what the image shows on the browser the camera can output dewarped images via the software.

What about the ACTi Kcm7911?

We have used both Axis M3007 and Mobotix Q24 with OnSSI VMS (Milestone). For this VMS, we must use the dewarping onboard the camera, and import the dewarped view into the VMS.

Works very well for situations such as hallway intersections, where you can view 4 directions with 1 camera.

We have deployed 5 of the IP66 Q24's outdoors, and the performance at night is horrible. This is NOT an outdoor camera, unless you have a LOT of light.

Jorge, we considered testing ACTi, but when we posted our original discussion asking about what readers wanted to see, very few mentioned it, so we shifted to other models. I've had multiple people mention it to me in the past couple of weeks, however, so we may look at it in the future.

As a follow up it would be intresting to see a wider FoV lens vs. the mirror panaramic approach to see which performs better. With ~6' range for any useful image quality this technology seems not to live up to the hype.

Hi John,

I'm considering pairing one of these externally with a PTZ. The former to provide situational awareness and the latter to provide identification when required.

Can you comment on your whether these types of panoramic cameras would be suitable for situational awareness in outdoor environments where objects are 30, 60, 120 feet away. In your opinion would one be able to identify a person vs car vs truck vs heavy machinery? at a good distance?

N.B. this is daytime only (i can appreciate they would be useless at night)

Sean, up next, Ethan is going to do an outdoor panoramic shootout at an intersection to examine just the point you raise - situational awareness over larger areas. I am curious myself what, if anything, these cameras can make out 120 feet away. The test report should be released next month / May.

John, is it fair to say that with 'single-imager panaromic' and 'multi-imager cameras' they typically require multiple VMS licenses per physical camera?

I'm trying to determine the increased costs on the back-end of using such cameras.

I'll go ahead and answer from integrator experiance- multi-sensor panoramics, like Arecont's, which are essentially multipe cameras in one housing, typically only cost one license for VMS providers. I know one VMS provider recognizes the Arecont model of camera being a multi-imager panoramic and automatically gives you expanded options for each imager without need for additional licenses. Another VMS provider takes an honesty approach- you have to get a license for each imager but if you tell them it's an Arecont panoramic, they only charge you for one license and give you the rest for free.

Some VMS providers may charge for each imager but I haven't heard of any.

I have heard of some VMS manufacturers charging multiple licenses for Arecont multi-sensor panoramics though I don't recall who. It's easy enough just to check with you preferred VMS vendor before you buy to determine their policy.

Ethan,

Wow! Great job! This is incredibly in depth. More like this please!

As a consumer...

We are issuing the order now for a few of the Immervision lenses with Sony 3MP cameras.

One advantage I see with Immervision is keeping to the brand of camera you want.

James, thanks! Ethan worked hard on this.

Micheal, if you got the money! Btw, check if the new 5mp immervision lenses are shipping. The existing ones are 1.3mp rated only. The new 5mp has been delayed repeatedly but they say its release is imminent.

I've been in contact with Immervision weekly now, since we are finalizing the camer part list with the security integrator...

It is great to see the comparison of products. I've dealt with computers for 20 years, and there's always a dozen benchmarks and comparisons, but until now, essentially nothing this good for video. Thanks.

Another interesting test would have been turn your mounting arrangement vertical and to use each camera in wall mount fashion. Make necessary settings to use them that way or in a 180 degree Panoramic view. How does each camera perform then? The same or is it different and how?

David, agreed. Ethan is scheduled to do a 'Wall Mount Panoramic Shootout' to see how the cameras perform. We started with ceiling mount because it seems to be the 'default' / most common orientation.

Am I correct in assuming that the distances quoted in your image quality tests are horizontally from your cameras under test? If so, for reference can you tell me what height the cameras were mounted at?

Hi Mark, you are correct. The cameras were at about 8.5-9'.

From my experience Axxonsoft charges Arecont multiimagers panoramic cameras per number of imagers (i.e. tipicaly x4) for VMS licence purpose.

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