Testing Canon's PTZ Camera (VB-C60)

By John Honovich, Published Dec 27, 2009, 12:00am EST

While megapixel cameras are hot, PTZs remain an important part of video surveillance deployments. Probably the most frequently mentioned product of Canon is their 40x optical zoom, network PTZ camera - the VB-C60.

We tested the Canon VB-C60 PTZ with Exacq's exacqVision software. The VB-C60 is from Canon's Network Camera line [Read our overview of Canon's products for background and watch a live VB-C60 from a public webam [link no longer available].]

Key findings include:

  • Generally, clear, crisp images during the day
  • In low light (1 lux and under), color quality was almost as good as black and white but both had challenges under .5 lux
  • For surveillance applications, some 'webcam' configurations can be confusing and make troubleshooting difficult
  • For real time security monitoring, physical/mechanical limitations can be problematic
  • The Canon VB-C60 has the following notable specifications:

    • MPEG-4 or MJPEG streams (no H.264)
    • 40x optical zoom (from 3.4mm to 136mm focal length)
    • 340 degree pan range (the camera cannot continuously pan and requires the operator to pan back to follow suspects across the camera's blind spot)
    • 115 degree tilt range (the camera cannot follow someone walking directly under it without panning first to reposition the camera under the target)
    • Fairly broad 3rd party VMS integration (we confirmed use with both Exacq and Milestone Enterprise). Additionally, Canon's listed support includes Genetec, ipConfigure, Luxriot and more)

    For more details, see the specification sheet and the third party VMS support list.

    Pricing

    The MSRP of the VB-C60 is $1,695 and it can be bought on-line for approximately $1,300.

    Physical Overview

    Below, we examine the physical and mechanical elements of the camera. This is fairly straightforward but the limitations on pan and tilt range should be kept in mind.

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    Software Configuration

    Software configuration was typical of IP cameras except for a few notable issues:

    • The camera needs to be re-booted for many configuration changes (including changes in resolution, frame rate and rotation of the image)
    • Problems can arise when someone else has control of the PTZ due to the 'webcam' PTZ control queue. For instance, if someone is using the web interface, the VMS can be blocked out from controlling the PTZ. While this should not be a problem during the 'normal' operational use, it can cause confusion and issues during integration/setup.
    • The default resolution is 320 x 240. We expect many users would want to immediately change that to the maximum resolution of 640 x 480.

    Image Quality Analysis

    Download the zip file of 8 video samples [Note: 150 MB] to view scenes from daytime, night time and controlled low light. The night and low light tests are provided in both b/w and color modes.

    Key points on image quality include:

    • Daytime video was sharp and had good color fidelity except for direct bright sunlight. With such sunlight, the image quality tended to become heavily washed out.
    • During night time and low light, details captured in color mode were similar to b&w, except for our .3 lux test where b&w captured significantly more details than color.
    Watch the screencast below for our commentary and analysis:

    Recommendations

    On a specification basis, the big draw for the Canon is its 40x optical zoom. While the camera demonstrated that it can zoom across long distances and provide sharp details (in daytime), the limitations on panning and tilting are probably the most important constraints on using this camera in security applications.

    The best use of this camera is likely to be mounted to the wall of a building where only the exterior 180 degree area needs to be covered (examples include the outside wall of a shopping center or industrial location). By contrast, ceiling mounting this camera inside of a mall or installing the camera in a parking lot where an operator needs to follow suspects throughout the lot could be a problem (because of the pan and tilt constraints). For these applications, a continously panning speeddome is likely to be a better fit for security operators. On the other hand, the Canon (and others in its class, like the Sony RZ series) costs 2x less than common speeddomes.

    In contrast to SMB cameras like Cisco's PVC300 (with similar pan and tilt range), the Canon VB-C60 has clear advantages in image quality, night time quality, PTZ speed and 3rd party support). On the other hand, the Canon VB-C60 is double the price (Cisco PVC300 is about $600 on-line, Canon about $1300). For details, read our test results of Cisco's PVC 300 PTZ.

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