Testing Panoramic / 360 Cameras (Mobotix Q24)

By: Benros Emata, Published on May 08, 2010

Panoramic / 360 cameras are a growing trend within video surveillance. Megapixel resolution enables cameras to cover wider field of views. 360 cameras take this to the extreme and essentially look in 'every' direction. 

Important questions remains on the use of this technology: How good is the quality of the image? How easy is it use? How well does it integrate with VMS systems?

In this test, we examine the Mobotix Q24 panoramic/360 cameras including both color (MX-Q24M-Sec-D11) and B&W models (MX-Q24M-Sec-Night-N11). We tested with 4GB of on-board storage and their MxControlCenter client.

A pre-requisite for this test is our Mobotix camera configuration report or experience configuring Mobotix.

Mobotix Q24 cameras provide immersive viewing and control over a 360 degree field of view. The cameras uses a fisheye lens and dewarping software to provide 'normalized' images across the area covered. The camera's Virtual PTZ functionality can only be controlled via Mobotix software (e.g., MxControlCenter and MxEasy).

Mobotix offers free VMS licenses and supports storage inside the camera or direct to NAS appliances.

Although we tested the Q24M cameras as a ceiling mount installation, Mobotix offers adapters for wall mount, discrete, and vandal resistant integration options.  Review the specifications and the manual from the Mobotix website.

Key points include:

  • Max resolution of 3MP for color and 1.3MP for black & white
  • MxPEG and MJPEG Codec (no H.264 support)
  • 11mm, 360 degree lens included (in the models D11 and N11)
  • Weatherproof housing and connectors
  • 4GB MicroSD card pre-installed
  • Powered via POE ethernet port

Pricing

The online price for both Q24M-SEC-D11 (color) and Q24M-SEC-NIGHT-N11 (black/white) is approximately $1000.00 USD.

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Physical Overview

The following screencast covers the physical form factor of the Q24M.

Key points include:

  • Color and black/white camera versions are physically identical
  • Includes a fixed 1.8mm lens
  • Microphone and speaker built in
  • Note the labeling on the camera to verify the side to face North
  • The default IP address is printed on the back label
  • Press and hold the "L" button will reset the camera to the factory IP address
  • Press and hold the "R" button will play an audible voice that states the current IP address

Configuration and Optimization

Because of Mobotix's unique camera configuration convention, we have created a dedicated report that focuses on its specific features and settings. If you are not familiar with Mobotix hardware and software, please read the configuration report before proceeding.

Virtual PTZ Functionality and Optimization

The Q24M has no optical zoom, nor does it have electronic motors for pan and tilt functionality: All PTZ functions are performed digitally.  The following screencast describes the enabling of the virtual PTZ function and covers the different display modes to control.

Key points include:

  • The Mode feature has two dropdown menus that list display options of the camera and Mx Control Center
  • Changing the display mode in the camera will yield slower PTZ controls than changing the display mode in Mx Control Center
  • Changing the mode to Area Corrected simulates a traditional PTZ view
  • If you have no PTZ functionality, click on the Post Processing icon, select Settings, and check Activate in the PTZ area in the pop up window
  • The virtual PTZ can be set to automatically rotate at different speeds
  • The Center button instantly sets the camera back to its center position
  • The 1x Zoom button instantly sets the camera back to its default field of view
  • Surround mode switches the display to a quad view, with a region of the camera in each window
  • Panorama mode is for a wall mount installation and displays a corrected 180 degree panorama view
  • Double Panorama mode displays a corrected 180 degree panorama view of the North and South half of the image

Image Quality

The following screencast covers our analysis of the Q24M image quality for daylight, low lux outdoor, indoor, and wide dynamic range environments.

Before downloading and viewing our sample clips, please carefully review our screencast, for it explains specific steps in importing the clips into Mx Control Center.

Key points in the screencast include:

  • In a low lux environment (0.3 lux), camera noise for black and white is significant: person identification occurs when subject is almost directly under camera; however, for color, almost no usable image is produced
  • In uneven low light scenarios (ranging from 8 - 12 lux), camera noise is still apparent; In addition, facial features on subject beyond 8 feet is not identifiable
  • In an even lit environment (3000 lux), subject's facial details beyond 10 feet is not very detailed
  • In a wide dynamic range scene (ranging from 4000 - 300 lux), demonstrated in a partially covered parking garage, there are visible tradeoffs in using the camera in this environment

Recommendations and Competitive Contrast

Overall Use - A selection of Mobotix's Q24 cameras requires selecting Mobotix's entire video management package (using MxControlCenter or MxEasy). As such, specifiers should be comfortable with using Mobotix end to end. We believe MxControlCenter and MxEasy require more training and technical expertise than most VMS systems. End users should be careful on this point [Note: a full review of MxControlCenter will be published May 12th].

Cost - The camera cost and overall cost are both quite low. At approximately $1,000, the camera is significantly less than Grandeye's comparable camera as well as multi-imager units from ArecontVision. Moreover, since Mobotix does not charge for VMS licenses, this saves an additional $75 - $200 per camera. Finally, since Mobotix can record to low cost NAS devices, storage costs will be lower as well (saving $50 - $200 depending on the amount of storage used).

Image Quality - Mobotix's Q24 cameras do not provide high detail for facial and license plate identification at more than 8 - 10 feet from the camera (even in day time lighting conditions). This is a category issue for fisheye based 360 degree issues as the FoV increases by 3 to 6x traditional video surveillance areas covered. The Mobotix cameras should be used more for situational awareness than for detailed forensic evidence.

Day vs Night - The black and white camera performed far better than the color at under 1 lux. Additionally,we saw modest improvements at 5 lux. If low light is a key requirement, the black and white model should be strongly considered. However, the obvious tradeoff is the loss of color. There is not day/night model for Mobotix's panoramic cameras.

Overall, selecting Mobotix's Q24 cameras is a difficult decision as the camera possesses some strong positive and negative elements. The low cost and broad coverage (for situational awareness) makes it a very attractive replacement economically for multiple SD cameras. However, the limitation to Mobotix's platform forces users to carefully examine the usability and suitability of an end to end Mobotix solution.

For current Mobotix users or those planning to use Mobotix, the Q24 cameras provide significant value. However, for those who do not use or have reservations of switching to Mobotix, caution is recommended.

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