Testing EzWatch's Analog CCTV Kit

By Scott Oie, Published Nov 17, 2009, 07:00pm EST (Research)

The future may belong to IP but the present is still dominated by analog cameras. In this report, we test one of the least expensive analog CCTV camera kits (EZKIT1/4-OUTDOOR [link no longer available]) from online retailer EzWatch Pro. The kit includes a 1 channel capture card, 1 IR bullet camera and 100' of siamese cable.

We bought the kit for $189. EzWatch was selected because they offered an inexpensive kit and seem to be popular online (tens of thousands of US monthly visitors to their website [link no longer available]).

Our key findings include:

  • The kit was easy to setup so long as you have a spare desktop PC
  • Daytime quality was lacking, with significant artifacts and issues
  • Nighttime quality was strong, meeting the manufacturer's specification
  • EzWatch OEMs a version of NUUO, see our NUUO test results for a review
  • Remote viewing setup requires networking expertise
  • The kit covered in this test is the 1 Outdoor Camera System Value Grade. It includes a weather sealed IR bullet camera, 1 channel PCI video capture card, VGA dongle (4 BNC and 1 audio pigtails), monitoring software, power supply, and a 100' siamese cable (BNC and power connectors). This system has an upgraded option for a capture card supporting 4 video channels, which retails on their site for $388.00. 

    Individually, the IR bullet camera cost $94. [link no longer available] Entry level indoor domes cost $76.

    The video below shows the product components:

    Video Quality

    The video quality of the bullet camera is fair for general use but is not adequate for mission critical surveillance tasks. Download a package of 4 video clips from the camera [link no longer available]. 

    • The overall image looked faded and muddy.
    • The color representation presented on screen in natural light made my dark grey pants look navy blue.
    • When natural or artificial light was in scene, a blue haze was visible on screen.
    • When a strong light source was directly in scene, a significant amount of banding artifacts was observed around the light source.
    • The camera tested well in night vision mode.
    • The camera's IR LED array was visible in the dark. Note this point if you are considering this kit for covert operation.

    See the video below:

    Physical Installation

    The overall installation of the kit was fast and easy:

    • The video capture card was installed in a free PCI slot in the desktop, and no additional wiring was necessary inside the PC.
    • The VGA dongle with four BNC pigtails was connected to the back of the capture card. Note that the capture card had only one 25 pin input for the VGA dongle.
    • The included 100' siamese cable was pre-terminated, which took away the need to purchase specialized tools and facilitated the ease of installation. The camera power supply and BNC pigtail connectors were inserted on one end of the siamese cable and the other end connected to the camera.
    • The bullet camera has a fixed 3.6mm lens enclosed in an environmentally sealed housing. There is no physical adjustments available; therefore, no technical prerequisite is required to install and setup the unit.
    • A mount with a swivel base was included with the bullet camera.
    • Installation of the driver software was standard and no problems were observed.

    The monitoring software is windows based and requires at minimum: Windows XP Home, Intel Celeron 1.6Ghz processor, 512MB RAM, 80GB HDD, and 1 PCI slot. One crucial point to note is the software is not compatible with 64 bit Windows OS versions. This may be a major shortfall because most current home PC desktops for sale on the market are 64 bit systems.

    Video Management Software Examined

    The notable features and usability of the included software are noted:

    • In functionality, the monitoring software was almost exactly the same as NUUO, with the exception that our version only supported analog cameras. See our test results on NUUO.
    • Upon execution of the software, it immediately recognized the live camera feed. No setup with the PCI capture card driver was necessary.
    • The software includes additional features like people counting, POS search, and basic analytics.
    • When playing back video for review, a separate application is executed, as opposed to having everything done in a single, clean interface.
    • Monitoring application must be running for the system to record video. Recording stops if application is closed.
    • By default, the monitoring application, recording, and analytics features do not automatically startup when Windows starts. This setting can be changed to trigger automatic restart when Windows is started.
    Comparison Against IP
    Comparing the EzWatch kit to IP cameras raises 3 key issues:
    • Cost of analog cameras + encoders vs. IP cameras: While many analog cameras in a variety of form factors are available under $100, very few IP cameras are available under $200 (and those are almost only cube cameras). Specifically, compared to the analog IR bullet tested here, the least expensive IP one looks to be $300 (the Vivotek IP7330). Offsetting the savings on the cameras is the price of the analog capture card which costs approximately $100 per channel from EZWatch. On a per camera basis, analog is the same to $100 less per IP camera (depending on the form factor).
    • Convenience of not having to use a capture card: IP does not require a capture card whereas analog needs it for both live viewing and recording. The analog capture card forces the use of a dedicated desktop while IP requires no dedicated computer for viewing and flexibility in switching computers or using a laptop for periodic recording.
    • Flexibility of recording software: Any analog manufacturer's cameras can be supported  vs. only a single IP camera manufacturer's cameras. Low cost analog cameras from various manufacturers can be mixed and matched. By contrast, low cost analog cameras are only compatible with other products from their own manufacturers. (This can be overcome with 3rd party VMS software but licensing for that costs $100 per camera or more).

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