Sony Hybrid Cameras: Game Changer or Disappointment?

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Jul 09, 2012

For more than a year, Sony has been promoting its hybrid IP camera line as a novel way to reuse coax cable and ease the migration from analog to IP. Few, if any IP cameras, have Ethernet over Coax adapters built in, instead requiring adding external adapters. Finally, Sony's models are available and pricing has been released. Now, the real question becomes: What impact will these cameras have?

Hybrid Camera Overview

Sony's hybrid camera line builds an Ethernet over coaxial converter directly into the camera, using Intersil's Security Link over Coax (SLOC) chip. This reduces complexity and equipment required when reusing coax cable in IP surveillance systems, eliminating the need for external EoC converters.

Other products using Intersil's chip, such as the Altronix eBridge, will be fully compatible with these cameras, allowing for third-party accessory receivers in multiple-channel forms, instead of being limited to only Sony's 4-channel receiver. Users may see our original coverage of the Sony Hybrid line for more details.

Pricing

Compared to equivalent non EoC IP camera models, the EoC versions will add $150 - $200 cost per camer. The EoC models are roughly equivalent to current E series models, in box, indoor and outdoor dome, and PTZ cameras. MSRP prices are approximately $250 USD higher than their E series counterparts. For example, the SNC-ZB550, the hybrid version of the SNC-CH120 box camera, has an MSRP of $1,045 vs. $798. Based on online pricing of current products, we estimate a street price of about $730 for the SNC-ZB550, vs. $560 for the CH120, about a $170 difference. 

Compared to New UTP Cable

Using Sony's hybrid cameras is modestly more expensive than the average cost of running new UTP cables ($150 - $250). The Sony EoC offering adds ~$250 per camera to reuse the existing coax - with ~$170 on the camera side and ~$80 on the receiver side (e.g., an Altronix eBridge ($85 online) at the far end).

Taking a sixteen-camera system as an example, here are the comparative costs:

  • 16 x Sony ZB550 + 16 x Altronix eBrdige1CR receiver: $2,720 price premium + $1,360 = $4,080
  • 16 x UTP drop: $2,400-4,000

This makes the hybrid series more expensive than using UTP in many locations, especially when cable runs are shorter. If cable replacement is difficult or impossible, the hybrid series may be a good option.

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Compared to Other EoC Converters

The main advantage is reduced space on the camera side. Instead of adding an external adapter, the adapter is integrated inside of the camera. For spots with limited space, this could be a key consideration.

Using Sony's hybrid cameras is generally more expensive than using an IP camera with a pair of Altronix eBridge converters. The $170 street price increase of the hybrid series is approximately equal to a pair of eBridges, but still requires a receiver at the head end. Receiver price will vary, depending on what model and channel count are used. Sony's 4-channel ZX104 adds approximately $200 per channel, while a single-channel Altronix eBridge sells for $85 online. Based on this pricing, integrators choosing to use the Sony line essentially pay for the convenience and easier installation of not having to install a converter at the camera end. This likely provides a slight reduction in labor, and may be especially useful when no space is a concern.

However, using Sony's own receivers does provide some advantages in larger systems. The ZX receivers require only one Ethernet port per four channels, unlike Altronix's four and sixteen channel eBridge models, which require a port for each camera. This may provide modest savings in larger port count systems, as fewer switches are required. In small systems, however, 16 cameras and under, this is unlikely to be a major factor.

Compared to using most EoC converters, hybrid cameras are less costly. On average, models from manufacturers, such as Veracity, Vigitron, and NVT, cost between $400-500 online. However, many of these models allow for PoE up the coax, eliminating the need for separate low-voltage power supplies. In retrofit situations, this may not be an issue, as existing power supplies may be used. Lastly, these converters typically lack the analog output Intersil-based models provide, which may be useful to users in live monitoring scenarios.

Recommendations 

Based on the pricing deltas above, Sony's hybrid line has poor competitive advantage compared to using any other IP camera with Altronix's eBridge, or other low-cost EoC converters. What may have been a strong advantage for Sony is instead a curious addition, likely to find most favor with integrators preferring Sony cameras, more than the market at large.

Using separate converters allows for both lower-cost cameras to be used, as well as higher-performance models with better wide dynamic or low light performance. However, users should beware when planning projects using EoC converters without PoE output (such as the eBridge), as an increasing number of cameras drop support for 12/24V low-voltage power, in favor of PoE-only operation.

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