Axis MP Pinhole Shootout

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Jun 18, 2013

For covert surveillance, pinhole lenses / cameras are a common choice because they can be hidden behind walls, or in ordinary objects. Until recently, the only options were analog / SD. However, Axis launched the P12 series, bringing 720p MP to pinhole. How much of a difference does that make and what tradeoffs did it bring?

We bought two Axis P12s plus 3 analog alternatives (two Marshall Electronics pinhole lenses and a Supercircuits 'snake camera'). We then tested them head to head in a custom test harness, installing each camera side by side:

Here's the view inside, from left to right, the Axis P1214, the Marshall lenses with Sony box cameras and the Axis P1204. In the top center, is the Supercircuits snake camera:

Overall, it was a 'split decision' with some advantages for the new MP offering but some continued strengths of the established analog ones. We dig into the specifics inside.

*** ****** ************, ******* ****** / ******* *** * ****** choice ******* **** *** ** ****** ****** *****, ** ** ordinary *******. ***** ********, *** **** ******* **** ****** / SD. *******, **** ******** *** *** ******, ******** **** ** ** *******. *** **** ** * difference **** **** **** *** **** ********* *** ** *****?

** ****** *** **** **** **** * ****** ************ (*********** *********** ******* ********* ************** '***** ******'). ** **** ****** **** **** ** **** ** * custom **** *******, ********** **** ****** **** ** ****:

****'* *** **** ******, **** **** ** *****, *** **** *****, the ******** ****** **** **** *** ******* *** *** **** P1204. ** *** *** ******, ** *** ************* ***** ******:

*******, ** *** * '***** ********' **** **** ********** *** the *** ** ******** *** **** ********* ********* ** *** established ****** ****. ** *** **** *** ********* ******.

[***************]

Key ********

**** *** *** *** ******** **** **** ****:

  • ** ******, **** ********, ***** ** ** ****** ******* ** megapixel ********** ** *** ******'* ****** ** ** ******* ***** up ****** ** * *******, **** ** ******* *** ******* applications.
  • ** ******* ******, **** **' **** *** ******, *** ******** of ****** ********** ****** ******** ** ******* *** ******* **** in *** ****** ************* *******.
  • *******, ** ******** ***** (~* ***), ***** ** *** ********* models ****** ** ****** *** *********** ***, ****** *** ************* ******* **** competitive.
  • ** *** *****, provided ****** ******. ***** ******* **** ********* *** *** ***** at *** ******. 
  • *** *.*** ******** ******* **** ****** *********** ********** **** *** 6.0mm ******* ** ***** *****. *** ***** ***** ****** ******* the **** ** *** ***** ** *** **** *******, ********* better ******* ********* ** *** *****. *** ***** * **** (1.0 **. *.*) **** ******** ****** ******* ** *** lx *****, ***** *** *.*** **** ***.
  • ** ********* ******** ********* ******* **** ***, ******* ******** ****** not ***** ***** *** ********* *******.
  • ** ****** **** ****** ************, *** ** ***** ******** ******* lenses *** * ***** *******, ** * *** ******* *** be **** *** **** ***********.
  • *** ************* ******* ********* **** ** *** ****** **** *** subject ***** ** *** ******, ************* *** ** **** *****. However, ** *****, ** *** ** *** *** ***** ** our *** ****.

****: *** *** ******** ** **** ****, ** ******** ** *********** *** ** ***** ******** ******, ** ***** ** ***** performance ***** **** ***** **** *********** *** *****/*** *******. ***** lower **** ** ***** ******* ******* **** ****** ***********, *********** bringing *** ****** ** *** **** ***'* ***** ** ***********.

Price ***********

******* ******** ** ******* *** *** ****** ** *** ****.

  • *****:$***-*** ***
  • ******** *-******:$*** + **** ** *** ******
  • ******** *-******:$*** + **** ** *** ******
  • ************* *******:$*** + **** ** *******

****** *** **** ** *** ******* (** *** **** ** Marshall ******) ** ******** (** *** **** ** *** *******) into *******, *** ***** ** ****** *** ****** **** *** least ******* ******* ******. ****** ******* ** *** $***-*** ***** could ** **** **** ******** ****** *** * ******* ***** point, *** ******* **** ********* ************ *** ****** ** **** advantage. 

***************

***** *** ***** *** *************** ** **** **** **** **** test:

  • *** **** *** ****** ******** ****** **** ****** ******* ** scenes ********* **** **** ****** ***** ** *****. ** **** behind **** *********** *** *****/*** ******* **** ***-** ******, *** is ** * **** ******* **** ****** ******** ** ** be ********* ***** ***** ******* ***** *** ***. *******, ** is *** **** ********* **** ***/*** ***** *** **** **** options.
  • **** ******** **** *********** ** ******, ***** ****** ******** ********'* add-on ****** **** * ******* ******. ******** **** *** **** allow, **** ******* **** ******* *** **** ******* ** *** light *** *** ************. ** **** ****, ** ********* *** wider-angle ******, **** ** *** *.*** **** ** **** ****, as **** ***** ********** ** *********** ********* ** *** *****, where ******** ****** **** **** *** *******'* **** ** ***** range.
  • ** ***** ** ***** ** *** **** ****** ** *** camera, *** ************* ******* *** ** * ********** ******, ********** when ********* ** * ***. *** ********** **** ** ** encoder ****** *** ***** ***** ***** ** *** **** *** series, * ****** ********** ******.

Physical *********

** **** ***** ** ****** *** ************ ** **** ** the ******* ** *** **** *** ******* **** *******. ********** of ****:

  • ******** **** ****** ******, **** *** ****** ****** **** ****** being ******** ** ***, ****** ** ******** * ******** *******.
  • *** **** *** ****** ** *** ******** "***-**-***" *****, **** very ***** ****** ***** ******** *** ***** *********.
  • *** ******* ******** **** ******* ****** *** ********* *****, ****** to ** * ******** ****** ** **** ****** *************.

Installation ****** 

** **** ***** ** *********** ******** *** ******* **** *** pinhole **** ***. ***** ****** **** *** *********:

  • ****** **** ******* *** ***** ******* ***** ****-******** ******. *** P12 *** ****** ******* **** **** **** **** ** *****.
  • *** ******* **** ******* ****** ******* **** ******** ************* *** to ***** ****** *** ****. ***** ****** ****** ** **** when ******** ************ ** **** **** *** ****** *** ** properly *********.

Similar ***** ** ****

*****, ** ******* *** ***** ******* ** *** **** **** similar ****** ** ****, *** ******* ** *** ** *******: Axis *****, ******** *-****** **** * **** *****, *** *** analog *******.

**** *****

** ***** *****, *** **/********* ****** ******* **** **** **** and *****, ******* *** *********** ***** **** ** *** *******. However, **** **** *** ****** ** ********** ******* ********, ** details ** *** *******, **** *** *****, *** ******* ******* in *** ****** ******.

** **' *****, *** ** ******* **** ***** ********** **** SD, ** *** ***** ** ****** ********, **** **** ****** of *** ******* ********. *** ******* ******** ******* **** *** identify * ***** *******, *** **** ******* ** ****. *** chart ** **** ****** ** ****, *** ** ************ *** lower **********.

*******, ** **' *****, *** ******* ***** ****** ******, ****** to ******* ***** ** **** **** ** ********, *** **** the ***** **** ** *** ***** ** *******. *** ***** and *-****** ******* ******* ****** ** ******, **** * ****** edge ** ****, ***** ******** ****** ***** ***********

* ***

******** *** ***** ***** ** * ***, *** ** ******* show ********** **** *** ****** *****. *** ******* *** ****** so *********** **** ** ****** ***** ***** *** *****, ****** the *******'* **** ** ***** ******* ********. *** ***** *** VB600 **** ******** ****, *******, ***** **** ***** ***********, ****** with ********** *****.

** **' *****, *** ** ********* ***** ** *** ** cameras, *** *********** *** ******* **** *** *** ******* ****** somewhat. *** ***** ** ***** **** ******** ** *** ** models, *******, *** ** ***** ****** **********.


** **' *****, *********** ** ******* ** **', **** ***** obscuring ******* ** **** *** ***** *** ******. *****, *** chart ** **** ******** ** *** ** ******.

****

** ***** ***** ** *** **** *****, ***** * ***, none ** *** ******* ******** ****** ******* ** *** *******'* face. 

****** ** **', *** **** ***** ******* *******, *** *** subject ** ***** ******** ** *** *******.

*******, ** **', ******* *** ***** *** *** ******* *** visible ** *** ** *** *******.

Standard **. **** *****

****, ** ****** *** ******** ******* ****** ****-**-****, ** *********** the ********* ******* *** ******** *.*** **** *** *** **** angle *.*** *****.

**** ***** **********

** ***** *****, ~*', *** **** ***** ****' ******** *** most *****, **** **** **** **** ** *** **** *** right ** *** ******* *******, ***** ***** **** ******* ** an ********* *********** **** ******. *** ******** *** ***** ***** be ******** ** ******* ****.

*******, ** **', ** *** *** *** *** ******** ** the *.*** *****'* ***** ***. ** **** ********, ******* ** the ******* ***** **** ******* ***** *** ******** ***** *********** are ****, *** *** ***** ******* ********** ***** **** *. The *.*** ***** **** *** ****** **** ***** ******.

*** ***** ***********

*** *.*** **** *** ******** ********** **** *** *.*** ***** in *** ***** *** ** *** ***** * ****** (*.* vs. *.*). **** ** ******* ** **** ***** ***** * lux, ***** *** *******'* ******** *** ******* ** *** *.*** lens, *** *** *** *.*.

** **', *** ******* ** ********** ** *** *.*** ****, but *** ** *** *.*** *****:

 

HD **. **

****** *** ******** ****** **** ********** **** ***** ******* ******, allowing *** ****'* ****** ** ****** *** ******** ****** (*** light, ***), **** *** *** ********* *****. ** ***** ** determine ******* *** **** *** * ******** ****** **** ***** HD *******, ** ****** *** ****** ** *** **** ******, with *** **** *******, ** **** *.*** *** *** **********. At *' *****, *.*** ****** ****** *********, ***** ***** ***** on ****** ** ** ****, **** ***** *** *******. *******, we *** *** ***** ******* ** *** ********** ** *** wider ***** *.*** ****.

** **', ******* *** ******* ** *** *.*** *****, **** the ******* *** ***** ****** *******. *******, ** *** *.*** lens, *** *********** *** ** ********. ***** *.*** ***** *** additional **** ** *** ***** ********, *** *** *******'* ***** is **** ***********, ** **** *** ********* ******* **** *******. 

*** ***** ***********

** *** ***** ******, ***** * ***, ***** ***** ** little ********** ** *'.

** **', ******* ********** ******* ****** ******* ** ****** ******.

 

***

*******, ** *** ** *** ******* ** * ***** **** strong ************, ******* ** **** ******** **** ** * ***** day, ** ***** ** **** ***** *** ********.

** ***** *****, **** *** ******* ******** ** ***** ** the ****, *** ***** ******** *** ******* ******* ** *** subject's ****, ****** ******* *** ***** *******. *** ******* ******* the ******* ****, *** *** ********** ** ***********, ********* ******* outside.

**** *** ******* *******, ***** **' **** *** ****** ** strong ********, *** ******* ** ******* *** ***** *********, **** overexposure ********* *** ******* *** *** ******** ** *** *****. The ***** ******* ** ****, **** *** ***** ********** **** line *, *** *** ******* ***** ************. *** ******** ******/**** cameras ******* ****, ********* *** **** ******* ** *** *******/*****, though *** *.*** ***** ******* ******** *** ** ***** **********

*******, **** *** ******* ** *** **** **** ******, **** to *** ****, ** ***** **' *****, **** ***** *** P1204 ******** *** ******* *****. *** ******* *** ******** ****** are ********, **** ******* ****** *******.

Test **********

*** ********* ******* **** **** ** **** ****:

*** ******* **** *** ***** *** ****** ********, **** ******* settings **** **** **********:

  • ********** *** *** ** *** ******'* *******, ** ** ***
  • ******** *** *** ** *** **** ** *** ***** ******** (All ******* ***** **** *** *******, ** *** ***-***** **** supports ***)
  • ******* ***** *** ********** ** */*** *******

Comments (16)

Hi, John. Great article. Another thing to consider with regard to cost is, depending on the specifics of the application, the ability of the Axis P12's to record on the edge. Combined with Axis Camera Companion, eliminate the need to run back to a recording appliance. For single camera adds, "one-off" installations, or covert applications, the total cost may be driven down further if "per-channel" costs are a consideration (i.e. license, analog DVR port availability, etc.).

Hello. I am in the private investigations industry and have about eight P1204s out in the field. A great camera for my line of work! However, I have had issues with the SD cards "freezing" and requiring a camera reboot or power cycle but in several instances the SD card required reformatting thus losing all recorded video. After replacing cameras and SD cards the issue continued. I dealt with Axis techncial support (who were excellent), and after several weeks of attempting to resolve the issue, one of their engineers suggested reducing the resolution, frame rate, trigger times from the default settings that I was using. As it turned out, this solved the problem. In this case, the cameras where focused on a very busy environment and it seems the cards couldn't keep up and eventually would just crash. I tried a variety of SD cards including the Sandisk 64GB SDXC.

Although the issue has been resolved, it is somewhat dissapointing that I am having to reduce the recorded image quality. Otherwise a great camera!

Undisclosed, thanks for sharing! What was the Class of the Sandisk 64GB SDXC? Class 4? Class 10?

SanDisk Ultra SDSDQUA-064G-A11A microSDXC UHS-I Flash Card - 64GB, Class 10, 30MB/s

Thanks, I am going to ask Axis for further comment on this. It's puzzling that a Class 10 card couldn't keep up. Maybe, it's a processing issue on the camera side? I don't know. I'll report back what they respond.

We can also obviously do our own follow up test to replicate this.

Thanks John. There are Sandisk 32GB Class 10 SDHC in these particular cameras now only because I had switched out cards (as part of my trouble shooting process) and they were in the cameras when the issue was resolved. However both the 64 and 32GB cards did the same thing.

UL listed camera? whats the deal with most of Axis' cameras not having a cert from UL or ETL for use or power? I think it's odd that no one is paying attention to all the unusual things they do on the specifications as well.

David, see Axis's 2012 UL announcement. Does that address your concern or?

Btw, we've connected Axis and undisclosed SD card user. We'll report with any feedback on this issue.

Axis has responded and says the newest firmware for the P1204, 5.40.12.1, solves the SD card problem (see the release notes). Axis firmware can be downloaded here.

That's good news! I spent nearly three months with countless hours of travel to be on site and in consulting with Axis tech support in attempt to resolve this issue. Hopefully this does the trick. Thanks for your help John.

Could the problem be the write speed? 30Mbps is ony the read speed, but you aren't reading, you're writing. The write speed on that is about 10Mbps (unconfirmed, Sandisk only lists the read speed, and says their write speed is "lower"). Try something with a write speed of at least 40Mbps or more.

If the write speed is the problem, I'm not suprised that lowering the frame rate, resolution, and so forth solved your issue.

Ari, well according to Axis (see 2 comments above), the problem was with them.

Note: where are you getting 30Mbps from? That card is rated for 30MBps or 240 Mbps. The write is listed at 10MBps or 80Mbps.

Even if write speed is 66% lower than read speed, at 80Mbps that is far more than enough to handle any Axis 720p / 30fps regardless of scene or compression level.

Derp! Of course I mean MBps, not Mbps.

In follow up to the SD card corruption issue with the P1204 cameras, I have upgraded the firmware and so far so good! Looks like it may have solved the issue. I spent a huge amount of time (and travel) trying to resolve this issue. Hopefully it's fixed now.

We just got an AXIS P1224-E and the picture is HORRIBLE. Unless you are two feet right in front of the camera image is blurry and pretty useless. Nothing nearly as good as the AXIS P1204's you show here. Anyone else had any experience with the 1224's?

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