Testing: Bosch Dinion IP (SD and 720p)

By: Benros Emata, Published on Apr 19, 2011

In January 2011, Bosch announced the release of an HD camera line [link no longer available]. This was anticipated for 2 reasons: (1) Bosch became one of the last major brands to release their own HD line (previously they OEMed Arecont's MP) and (2) Bosch Dinion SD (analog and IP) have a reputation of high quality video performance (based on many integrator recommendations, we included them in our Analog vs SD night time shootout).

In this report we share out test results from two Bosch Dinion IP Box Cameras (HD & SD):

  • Bosch NBN-921 [link no longer available] (online $775) - 720p (1280x720)
  • Bosch NBN-498 [link no longer available] (online $700) - 4CIF (704x480)

Both have the following key features in common:

  • ONVIF
  • H.264/MJPEG
  • Manual Back-Focus
  • iSCSI Storage Support
  • D/N (IR cut-filter)
  • Analytics (Bosch IVA) option

Here are some key differences:

  • NBN-921 is HD 720p while the NBN-498 SD 4CIF
  • NBN-921 supports micro-SD (on-board storage); 498 models have micro-SD card support in new units shipping in 2011
  • NBN-498 supports video out (BNC) 

In our testing, for video quality, we focused on WDR and low light scenes as these tend to be the most important in differentiating quality. In this test, we did not consider VMS integration or the use of on-board storage. We plan to cover Bosch's VMS / recorders in its own dedicated reports. Additionally, the Bosch 720p, through its support for on-board integrates with Genetec's edge recording solution (see our Genetec Trickling test results).

Key Findings

Here are our key findings from the test:

  • Low light performance was comparatively strong; the SD was materially 'brighter' than the 720p. However, overall image details in the 720p was superior until light levels were very low (under 1 lux)
  • WDR performance was solid - comparable to Pixim; the 720p was slightly superior to Pixim. However, both Boschs still lagged the Sony premium series camera
  • Overall, given the very small premium for the HD version, we think most users would be better off choosing the 720p over SD version
  • For its performance and feature sets, the pricing is comparable to similar cameras from Axis (P1344) and Sony (SNC-CH140). Review ~20 cameras with similar features - 720p/1.3MP, H.264 D/N

Video Clips Download (ZIP File)

Review our Bosch-Video-Clips [link no longer available] zip file (~200 MB) containing all the video clips and images generated during our testing. The clips are embedded inside an ExacqVision player and simply needs to be double clicked to view. In the Exacq player's Options menu we recommend enabling 'Show Camera Names' to show the names of the cameras on-screen.

Physical Overview

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In this video, we provide a physical overview of the Bosch NBN-921 (720p) and NBN-498 (D1) box cameras. Both units feature a manual back-focus adjustment that can be used along with a built-in 'Lens Wizard' application to optimize camera focus. Both the cameras feature nearly identical form-factors, and are shown to be relatively compact when compared to an Axis Q1755 but slightly larger than an IQEye 042SI. Both cameras also feature audio in/out jacks, PoE, low-voltage powering options, alarm/relay I/O, and a serial communications port. A key difference is the presence of a micro-SD slot on the NBN-921 - not found on the NBN-498. Also, the NBN-498, has a analog video out (BNC) while the NBN-921 does not.

Administration and Configuration

In this screencast, we tour the web client application used to administer and configure the two Bosch IP cameras. The NBN-921 (HD) and NBN-498 (SD) web interfaces are essentially the same in structure. We focus on one of them, the NBN-921, to illustrate how various tasks are performed in either of the cameras, but continue to point out key differences where appropriate. One key difference is that the 'lens wizard' application (used to optimize back-focus) is accessed via the web interface of the Bosch 720p. In contrast, the Bosch SD 'lens wizard' requires an on-screen menu accessed via the video out (BNC) jack on the back of the camera. Another difference is the micro-SD card support on the HD but not SD model. Both, however, do support iSCSI recording devices. One slightly odd exclusion from both cameras is a software based factory default. As such, a 'paper-clip' hole on the back of the cameras is provided for factory resetting.

WDR Performance

In the following video we examine WDR performance of the Bosch IP cameras. The Bosch SD and 720p cameras are compared to a Sony CH140 (WDR on), a GVI 1080p, a Pixim Seawolf (March CamPX) and a Pixim Orca (ioimage) camera to get a better sense of their relative WDR performance. Keep in mind that the Bosch Dinion and Pixim chips are similar in that they both claim a 'built-in' or 'chip' level WDR capability. The Bosch SD and 720p are shown to underperform both the Sony CH140 and the GVI 1080p camera, but slightly outperform the Pixim based cameras. Of the two Bosch's the 720p provides overall better performance than the Bosch SD.

Low-Light Performance

In this video, we provide a low-light performance analysis at the ~1 lux level and the 3 to 5 lux level. Both scenes are designed to simulate real world surveillance applications (open field, and parking lot). The Bosch cameras utilize a digital slow shutter (up to 1/7s) by default. We compare both Bosch's to a Sony CH140 (1/30s fixed shutter) and a Pelco Sarix (1/8s shutter) in both tests. In the 3 to 5 lux scene, interestingly, the Bosch's fared better than the Sony and Pelco cameras in terms of mitigating blooming or washing out effects around direct and/or reflected light sources. While both Bosch's provided similar levels of apparent lighting in the scene, the Bosch 720p provided a greater level of detail overall - Sony and Pelco HD cameras did so as well.

In the ~1 lux scene the Bosch SD shows more apparent illumination than its HD counterpart. However, when digitally zooming in to the subject the HD provides a greater level of detail. Note, that the Bosch SD shutter duration has evidently lengthened compared to the earlier 3 to 5 lux scene, as we can detect an increased level of motion blur.

Bandwidth Analysis

In this video, we examine the H.264 bandwidth utilization of the Bosch SD and 720p cameras. In the 'Encoder' settings the Bosch SD has a default of 2mbps at full D1/4CIF resolution, but also specifies a maximum bit-rate of 4mbps. While pointed at a blank white ceiling the bit-rate is shown to be ~300kbps, well under our 2mbps target bit-rate. After re-pointing the camera to an outdoor street level scene the bit-rate settles in around 2mbps. Shaking the camera causes some spikes in the bit-rate but essentially does not breach the 4mbps maximum that is specified in the settings.

The Bosch 720p maintains different defaults for its H.264 encoder settings than the SD version. It has a 5mbps target at 720p resolution with a maximum of 10mbps. Pointed at a blank white ceiling the Bosch 720p camera streams to our client at around 2.5mbps. Surprisingly, the camera 'jumps' to ~9mbps (well above the 5mbps target) when pointed to the street level scene. Shaking the camera shows the maximum bit-rate of 10mbps being reached, but not surpassed to any material degree.

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