Testing Panasonic's Megapixel Camera (WV-NP502)

By: John Honovich, Published on Feb 01, 2010

In this test, we examine's Panasonic WV-NP502 megapixel camera. The camera provides a number of advanced features including wide dynamic range optimization (their Super Dynamic technology), facial detection, image stabilization and more. The WV-NP502 is a high end model from Panasonic's broad range of professional and consumer/SMB network cameras.

We tested the Panasonic WV-NP502 with the WV-LZA62/2 lens connected to Exacq's VMS software using both MJPEG and H.264 streams, with Super Dynamic on and off and with other advanced features (facial detection, auto back focus, image stabilization, etc.).

Our key findings include:

  • Extensive advance features and image optimizations available. Users should carefully consider which they can use and the practical benefits of using
  • During day, solid picture quality; With low light (under 1 lux measured), video tends to be dark but minimal noise
  • Super Dynamic (SD) provided notable quality improvements in WDR environments; however night time performance decreased with the setting on

The key features to consider for the Panasonic WV-NP502 include:

  • Resolution up to 3 MP. However, 3MP mode is JPEG only and does not support the Super Dynamic WDR feature. Moreover, we had issues steaming the 3MP MJPEG to Exacq. While Exacq recognizes the 3MP stream, it only streamed at about 1fps (even though we set it at full frame rate). By contrast, both MJPEG and H.264 worked at 1.3 MP with Exacq without problems.
  • Super Dynamic WDR Optimization: As we demonstrate in the image quality analysis, image quality in scenes with high variance in lighting was much improved, relative to the setting being off. However, low lux scenes became darker with the setting on.
  • Facial Detection is not supported by 3rd party Video Management Systems. As such, security users are unlikely to take advantage of this. Also, we believe turning on this settings disconnected the stream to Exacq's VMS.
  • Image Stabilizer provides modest benefits in reducing visual movement. However, the image resolution is reduced by 10% (watch this in the configuration video).
  • Auto back-focus worked well both with the physical button on the side of the camera and the software button.
  • SD card recording is a maximum of 1fps and is not supported by third party VMS software. As such, it offers limited use.
  • Bandwidth consumption: For H.264, Exacq only connected with constant bit rate. At full frame rate and resolution (1.3 MP / H.264 / 30 fps), bandwidth consumption was 4 Mb/s steady. By contrast, MJPEG bandwidth consumption for same frame rate / resolution ranged from 6 to 11 Mb/s (Panasonic dynamically increases image size in MJPEG based on complexity of the scene).
Panasonic reports third party VMS integration for this camera with a fairly broad range of VMS systems including Milestone/OnSSI, Exacq, Genetec, NICE, Pelco Endura, Salient, ipConfigure, Mirasys, Seetec, etc.
 
On-line pricing for the Panasonic WV-NP502 was approximately $900 USD. The WV-LZA62/2lens is sold separately and is available on-line for approximately $200 USD.

Physical Setup

In the screncast below, we examine the physical setup of the Panasonic WV-NP502 camera. Key points to note:

  • The camera comes with a built-in fan that is fairly silent and keeps the camera cool to the touch
  • The camera has a compartment with a sliding door that provides both an SD card slot and a button to auto back focus the camera
  • The lens allowed for precise fine tuning. Mechanically, unlike most varifocal lens that are loose and shift easily, this lens offers greater resistance making it easier to make small shifts in positioning. The lens does not provide a screw for securing the position. However, the design of the lens makes it unlikely for the lens to shift out of position. Also, because the lens does not have to be screwed in to stay in place, this minimizes risk of lens shift.

Configuration / Optimization

In the screencast below, we examine the configuration and optimization of the Panasonic WV-NP502 camera. Key items discussed in the screencast include:

  • Web interface generates multiple pop ups - ensure pop up blocking disabled
  • Changing CODEC to MJPEG on web interface disconnected H.264 stream from Exacq
  • Help feature click text - generates pop-up
  • SD memory card - only 1 fps, no 3rd party support currently
  • 3MP mode does not support H.264 nor Super Dynamic function
  • Offers stabilization - modest benefit
  • Back focus - automatic re-focus camera through web interface
  • Privacy zones may be setup
  • Face detection difficulties with poor lighting, not supported by 3rd party VMS

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Image Quality Analysis

The screencast below examines the image quality of the Panasonic WV-NP502. Watch the screencast to see our key points (contrasting WDR performance and low light quality). Download the zip file containing 9 sample videos (110 MB total size) of the Panasonic WV-NP502 so you can examine for yourself.

Recommendations

At $1,100 on-line price for camera and lens, the Panasonic WV-NP502 is a premium priced product in the range of comparables (about $200 more than the Sanyo VCC-HD400 but $200 less than the Pelco Sarix IXE20 or the Axis Q1755).

Contrasting Panasonic's advanced features:

  • Super Dynamic may provide a competitive advantage for WDR scenarios
  • Facial detection is unlikely to be a practical benefit
  • Stabilizer may be a modest benefit (at best) because of limited stabilization provided
  • 1.3 MP H.264 stream is less than 1920 x 1080p stream from comparables
  • Auto back-focus is similar to Pelco but inferior to the built-in 10x optical zoom provided by both the Axis Q1755 and the Sanyo VCC-HD400
  • Third party support is likely superior to Sanyo and Pelco but not as broad as Axis Q1755
For applications, the WV-NP502 may have the best competitive advantage for WDR scenarios and the most challenges with demanding low light settings (though all of these cameras had challenges under 1 lux).

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