Testing ACTi E96 Panoramic Camera

By Ethan Ace, Published Dec 30, 2013, 12:00am EST

Not too long ago, panoramic cameras typically cost $1,000 or more. In the past year, the prices have come down significantly, where $500 or $600 is feasible.

Now, ACTi has been running a crazy promotion where they are selling their new E96 panoramic camera for ~$200 USD. Indeed, even the regular price appears to be just about $400.

Testing

Because of the low price and the potential to expand panoramic use, we bought an ACTi E96 and put it to the test.

Here are our key findings from this test:

  • Full light performance slightly below the Axis M3007 and Vivotek FE8172V and well below the Brickcom MD-300Np, with the test chart especially noticeably less legible.
  • Poor performance in low light, with only detection possible at any distance beyond 6'.
  • Client side dewarping performs well, with the exception of the dual panorama mode, which we found aimed too low to be truly useful, and could not be adjusted.
  • Substantially lower bandwidth consumption than other cameras, especially in low light.
  • Limited web interface, with few image adjustment settings. Digital WDR has little to no effect at any setting. 

Pricing

The E96 is the least expensive 5MP panoramic camera we have reviewed/tested, compared to:

Recommendations

Though the E96's image quality is average, considering its low price those seeking a panoramic camera for small well lit areas may find it a good fit. If low light performance is a key concern, other options should be considered.

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Physical Overview

In this video, we review the E96's physical construction:

Configuration and Integration

This video reviews the E96's web interface:

And this screencast reviews E96 integration with Exacq, one of the first VMSs to support the camera:

Image Comparisons

In this test, we chose two of the leading 5MP cameras from our panoramic camera shootout, as well as the 3MP Brickcom MD-300Np, previously the lowest cost panoramic camera we have tested. We tested these four cameras in an indoor conference room at ~160 lux and again at ~1 lux.

Full Light, ~160 lux

At close range (~6'), the E96 delivers good details of our subject and chart, though is more washed out than other cameras tested.

At 12', details are reduced, with the chart illegible past line 3. The E96 delivers details of the subject roughly on par with the Axis M3007 and Vivotek FE8172V, though not as clear as the Brickcom MD-300Np.

Finally, at 18', the E96 delivers fewer details than other cameras, with the subject's face very blurred and the chart nearly illegible even at line 1. 

Low Light, ~1 Lux

At close range, ~1 lux, the E96 provides no details of our subject (only truly visible in the Axis M3007), and the chart is legible only at line 1.

At 12', the chart is completely illegible, while line 1 can be made out in other cameras. Subject details are obscured in all cameras.

Finally, at 18', only detection is possible, with no details in any camera. The E96 has the most difficultly clearly detecting the subject in this scene.

Bandwidth

The ACTi E96 had the lowest bandwidth consumption of any camera in this test, especially in low light (though it produced notably dimmer images at 1 lux and below).

Test Parameters

The cameras were set to default settings, except exposure, which was normalized at 1/30s. The following firmware versions were used in testing:

  • ACTi E96: A1D-500-V6.04.15-AC
  • Axis M3007: 5.40.13.1
  • Brickcom MD-300Np-360P: v3.2.2.7
  • Vivotek FE8172: FE8172-VVTK-0102b
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