Examining Pelco Sarix Megapixel Cameras

Author: John Honovich, Published on Mar 03, 2009
While Pelco is the largest analog camera supplier, its existing IP offering have been limited and sales modest. In an effort to close that gap, Sarix is Pelco's new IP camera line that focuses on H.264 megapixel video surveillance. Pelco pre-announced Sarix at ASIS 2008 and will be showcasing Sarix at ISC West.

[Update Dec 2009: Review our completed test results for the Sarix 2MP camera.]

Given's Pelco overall position, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of Sarix will be important to most industry people. 

Here is a video from Pelco that overviews the line and shows the key features that Pelco is emphasizing:

 

A key theme is the webcam vs. security comparison, attempting to leverage Pelco's historic strengths in security and contrast to the legacy of early network cameras as webcams.

Can Pelco successfully differentiate itself from the many IP cameras on the market?

By features and price, the Sarix line targets those who currently use Axis and IQinVision. For these users (and integrators), I think the webcam comparison will not be compelling. Axis and IQinVision are well regarded for image quality and stability so it's unlikely for most to dismiss these competitive offerings as simply webcams. On the lower end of the market, such claims might stick to cheaper IP camera manufacturers. However, Pelco's pricing is just too high to convince people buying $300 megapixel cameras to switch to Sarix.

Sarix's success is dependent on a number of detailed factors that we will examine:

Overview of Sarix

Pelco intends for Sarix to be their long term platform for IP cameras (with a horizon of 5 to 7 years). This year, Sarix will have 2 lines - a box camera line (shown on Pelco's website) and a dome camera line (not shown put will be displayed at ISC West). Each line will offer cameras with 4 different resolution levels: .5MP (SVGA), 1.3MP (1280 x1024), 2.1MP (1920 x 1080) and 3.1MP (2048 x 1536). Each camera offering will have a color and a day/night version available. All cameras support H.264 and MJPEG. Only the .5MP(SVGA) camera additionally supports MPEG-4. Pelco plans to add new models and lines to Sarix in the future.

Features supported on the cameras are generally consistent with today's high end IP cameras on the market: PoE, dual streams, analog video output and mini SD on-board storage. On certain models, Pelco will include a TI chip to support video analytics. ObjectVideo has announced plans to support. Other video analytics providers who run on TI Da Vinci could follow in the future.

Two of the features that stand out as potential differntiators against high end cameras:

  • Auto-focus: On the side of the housing is a button that automatically focuses the camera. This functionally can also be triggered remotely. The benefit of this is to ensure optimal image quality by eliminating issues with manual focus. Very few IP/megapixel cameras offer this, with the Axis Q1755 HDTV camera being one of the rare exceptions.
  • Low-light performance: Pelco is claiming substantially improved low-light performance. In their presentation, they showed side by side images demonstrating substantial improvements in low light image quality with Sarix. Obviously, this must be verified in testing and I have not tested Sarix. To the extent that Pelco delivers on this, it addresses a key unmet need in the IP/megapixel space.

As for cost, the 1.3 MP color camera (IX10C) has an MSRP of $1179 (camera only, no lens). The 1.3MP day/night camera (IX10DN) has an MSRP of $1311 (again camera only). Online pricing is about $600 for the color model and $650 for the day/night model. 

Sarix's Strengths

Sarix offers many of the key features you expect in high end IP cameras. The support of H.264 up to 3.1 MPs is not common. The auto-focus will be valuable, and if the low-light performance is validated, these will be advantages. On-board analytics may be valuable in future years but it is unlikely to be a significant factor in 2009.

Sarix's pricing is quite similar to Axis new H.264 cameras. Relavent comparisons are the P1311 (for SD) and the Q1755 (for 2.1MP HD). Because of this, price will not be an advantage or motivation to choose Sarix over Axis.

Sarix's Challenges

Two main structural challenges exist for Sarix:

  • 3rd Party VMS support
  • H.264 impact on recording / viewing

3rd party VMS support is critical for any new IP camera offering. With a fractured market for IP video mangement software and NVRs, widespread adoption of Sarix will require a number of VMS partners supporting the cameras.

While Pelco has announced more than a dozen partners, the key factor will be when the support is actually implemented. For example, Milestone is a committed partner but Sarix is not currently supported on Milestones most recent 4.1 device pack. Until the implementations are complete, many integrators or end users will be hesitant.

On the other hand, Pelco has a lot of market power and can motivate their customer base to demand support. Indeed, 2 VMS providers cited cases where Pelco customers demand support for Pelco.

Secondly, the impact of H.264 will be important as the megapixel models in the Sarix line only support H.264 or MJPEG. H.264 can significantly decrease the number of cameras recorded per server as well as viewed on a client (see H.264 risks description). This depends on a number of factors (e.g., Exacq claims no impact while Milestone claims a doubling of resouces required - difference is Exacq does no motion detection but Milestone does).

If H.264 causes significant complications, this could slow down adoption of Sarix.

Concluding Thoughts

Sarix offers key features for premium users of video surveillance. By pricing and design, it's too much and too expensive for budget users. However, it is well positioned to compete with premium market IP camera leaders such as Axis and IQinVision. Sarix will need to demonstrate broad VMS support and resolve any issues with H.264 to be widely adopted. Given its pricing similar to today's leaders and the potentially modest advances, it is possible for Sarix to do well in the megapixel market place but it is unlikely for them to overtake Axis in network cameras overall.

The market will continue to evolve and relative advantages will certainly adjust as each company releases new products in the next few years.

2 reports cite this report:

Cisco Admits Failure, Partners with Pelco (v2) on Sep 20, 2009
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