Testing IP Thermal Camera (Axis Q1910)

By: Benros Emata, Published on Jun 01, 2010

In the last 6 months, interest in IP based thermal cameras have increased with Axis, FLIR and Pelco announcing relatively low cost product offerings. 

In this test report, we investigate how well the Axis Q1910 thermal camera works in the field, integrating it with Exacq's VMS and with Agent Vi's video analytics. We also contrast the performance of the thermal to Axis's Q1755 HD camera to better understand tradeoffs.

We explore the following questions:

  • What is the setup/configuration required to use the camera?
  • How far can the camera see?
  • What is the maximum FoV width to detect humans?
  • How does the camera's performance compare to a megapixel camera?
  • What palette or color profiles should be used to optimize viewing?
  • How does the camera impact the use of video analytics?
  • What limitations should be factored in for using the camera?

Below is a 1 minute preview of the premium report inside:

From our test, we found the following key points that can impact selection on thermal cameras and the Axis Q1910.

  • Setup: No special setup or configuration required. From a software and integration perspective, the camera works like any other Axis camera.
  • Palettes: The default palette is white hot but we found black hot to be the best option for a live monitor detecting subjects in the video.
  • Details of Subjects: Fine details of subjects were essentially impossible to detect unless a person was extremely close to the camera. The camera allows you to detect the presence of a subject but little more.
  • Night-time performance: Not surprisingly, at .3 lux when the Axis Q1755's image was dark, the Q1910 could easily show the outline of a person in the FoV.
  • Visibility: We were able to view subjects up to 500 feet away from the camera (approximately 150 foot wide FoV). At that distance, subjects are fairly tiny and can strain the eyes to track (especially if the subject is moving slowly).
  • Temperature impact: When the outdoor temperature is similar to human body temperature, visibility of humans can suffer significantly. We note this in the video analytics screencast where we used the camera during a summer day.
  • Light Resistance: Changes in lighting (like headlights from cars or glare of the sun) were not picked up by the thermal camera at all. We found this to be useful in reducing false alerts for video analytics.
  • Moving Foilage: Swaying leaves/trees that had a background of grass had minimal impact on the thermal camera (that is, it was hardly visible because of the same temperature). However, swaying leaves/trees that had a background of concrete/pavement were highly visible and can trigger significant false alerts (just like a color camera).

Product Overview

We tested the Axis Q1910 thermal camera in outdoor environments during daytime and lowlight conditions.  The following key specifications that were verified during our test should be noted:

  • The camera supports a maximum resolution of 160 x 120
  • The camera supports MJPEG and H.264 CODECs.
  • The camera supports ONVIF.
  • The camera supports Axis Camera Application Platform.
  • The camera supports PoE.
  • The camera supports a maximum frame rate of 8.33 fps. Note: According to Axis, US export regulations restricts general distribution of thermal cameras over this frame rate. Axis reports that it can provide higher frame rates for projects where the end customer and final destination are known plus appropriate paperwork is submitted.

Pricing

The Q1910 (indoor) has an MSRP of $2995 USD.  The Q1910-E (outdoor model) has an MSRP of $3495 USD. On-line pricing is moderately lower and can be referenced at Google products.

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Physical Overview & Web Interface

The following screencast covers the physical form factor and web interface of the Axis Q1910.

Key points include:

  • Similar in form factor to the Axis Q1755
  • Q1910 has a fixed 13mm lens
  • Image sensor has a resolution of 160x128
  • In the web interface, image can be scaled up to 720x576
  • Web interface has a palette option that changes the thermal color scheme on the camera image

Thermal Palette Comparison

In the following screencast, we discuss and preview the variety of palette options the Q1910 interface provides.  This test was conducted during nighttime at 0.3 lux, in an outdoor environment. We compared each thermal color scheme to see what would most compliment an operator's view in detecting a human.

Day Versus Night Color vs Thermal Operation

In this screencast, we contrast the performance of the Q1910 thermal camera with the Axis Q1755 day/night camera in daytime and nighttime scenarios.  The objective is to find the tradeoffs and options for each use within the given scenario.

Key points include:

  • During the day, the subject's heat profile was similar to vegetation in the environment, which reduced the impact of the thermal but did not affect the color camera
  • In daytime, the color camera had an advantage to make out details than the thermal camera
  • At night (0.3 lux), the thermal camera had an advantage to human identification than the color camera
  • Although thermal camera could detect human activity, details could not be determined from image

Maximum Distance Test

We tested how the resolution of the Q1910, combined with the thermal performance, impacted the ability to detect humans at different distances.  We conducted this test at night with a light level of 0.3 lux, in an outdoor environment.  We had our subject in camera view stop at pre-defined points every 100 ft, up to 500 ft.

Key points include:

  • At 200 ft, 63.8 ft wide field of view, subject's head started to blend with background (body temperature was similar in color to background environment temperature)
  • At 400 ft, 128.6 ft wide field of view, subject not as bright, getting difficult to detect
  • At 500 ft, 161.3 ft wide field of view, subject was small and with colors blending with background, made it a challenge to detect
  • Using the Black-hot palette displayed contrast better than the default White-hot

Video Quality Samples

You may download sample video clips (90 MB) from the Q1910 thermal camera that we have been referencing throughout this report.

Using With Analytics

In this screencast, we examine the performance of the Q1910 thermal camera's use with video analytics.

Key points include:

  • For night performance, thermal camera does a better job at seeing a subject than a color camera under natural light
  • For analytics, thermal cameras require less pixels per foot, with the additional potential benefit of better nighttime performance
  • Drastic changes in light and shadows often create issues with analytics
  • Thermal camera image does not change under direct, shining light, nor with moving shadows
  • Different temperatures between a tree in foreground and parking lot in background increases the tree's visibility which may cause false positive results in analytics
  • Depending on the environmental conditions, human subject may have similar body temperature to ground, causing possible missed analytic detection

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