Testing Vivotek's 2MP Bullet Camera with IR (IP7361)

By: Benros Emata, Published on Apr 13, 2010

Low light performance is a key consideration for using megapixel. While some 'tricks' can improve low light quality, most megapixel cameras have similar challenges in low light (review our MP comparison report). One approach is to integrate IR illumination with the megapixel camera to provide an external, non-visible source of night time 'light'.

In this report, we test the Vivotek IP7361, a 2MP camera with a built-in IR illuminators to better understand this approach. We tested the Vivotek camera with Exacq's VMS system.

Key findings include:

  • Relatively simple setup for outdoor use
  • Solid day time video and usable video in dark night conditions though at notably less than the manufacturer's specifications
Compare to a dozen other megapixel camera in our test directory.

Product Overview

We tested the Vivotek IP7361 2MP network bullet camera. Review the camera specifications from Viotek's website.

Key points include:

  • 1600 x 1200 Maximum resolution - no 1080p 16:9 'HD' support
  • MJPEG and MPEG-4 Codec (No H.264 support)
  • 3-9mm lens is included and integrated into assembly
  • Camera cased in weather-proof housing (IP67)
  • Specified built-in IR illuminator effectiveness rated up to 82 feet (25 meters), but in our tests, range was less
  • Supports SDHC cards for onboard storage, but feature is not supported by third part VMS software
  • Mechanical IR cut filter is removable
  • Powered through PoE or alternative 12V DC (adapter included)

Pricing

The IP7361 can be purchased from online retailers for an average price of $740 USD. The lens is included with the camera. Also, the kit includes a wall mount, sun shield, AC adapter, and installation materials.

Physical Overview

The following screencast examines the physical form factor of the IP7361. In addition, installation technicians may have an easy time installing the camera. Vivotek's website has a video that highlights the installation process.

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Key points include:

  • Front end of the housing needs to be unscrewed in order to make adjustments to varifocal lens
  • Physical reset button is obscured: It is in the back corner of the camera beneath the SD Card slot
  • Kit comes with all materials (except for drill) to mount camera to wall

Configuration and Optimization

The following screencast examines the IP7361's web interface and highlights the essential configuration areas to note.

  • Configuration options are accessed on the lower left corner of web interface
  • By default, "Audio and video" basic settings are shown: Click "Advanced mode" on the bottom left to access more options
  • If you have issues with the interface, navigate to "Maintenance" and restore to default settings.
  • Maximum exposure can be adjusted in "Sensor Settings"

During our testing, we experienced repeated issues with adjusting settings on the web interface for the camera. When we attempted to apply configuration changes, an pop-up error was thrown and we were blocked from saving. This occurred on 4 separate and repeated occasions. Each time, we factory reset the camera from the software configuration and the problem disappeared (at least temporarily).

Image Quality

In the following screencast, we examine the Vivotek IP7361's image quality for daylight and low lux scenes with IR illumination.

You may download and view the video samples (171 MB) to see the results for yourself. Each video sample is a self contained executable: you only to double click on the exe file to play the video.

Key points in the screencast include:

  • Daytime test, 2MP image is similar to other 2MP offerings on the market
  • At night, the built in IR illuminator does not cover the scene evenly
  • Vivotek specifications state the effective range for IR illumination is at 25 meters (82 feet)
  • In our tests, the IR illumination coverage maxed at approximately 60 foot from the camera with a 32.5 foot wide field of view

We did a few additional tests with about 10 lux of light (from nearby street lights) and the IR illuminator did not activate. When we manually activated the IR illuminators, at these light levels, it was difficult to tell a practical difference.

Bandwidth

In the screencast below we examine bandwidth consumption. Bandwidth was consistent with typical MPEG-4 VBR streams, lower than MJPEG but notably higher than H.264 alternatives.

The IR illuminator did not seem to significantly decrease bandwidth consumption at night.

Recommendations

The integrated housing / assembly and IR illuminators make the camera most appropriate for outdoor use in environments with insufficient outdoor / street lighting.

While the camera may see clearly during day for wide ranges (say 100+ feet from the camera and 60+ feet wide FOV), at night, the IR illuminators significantly reduce the visible range. When users deploy this camera, they should recognize that night time visibility still will be far narrower than daytime (even with the IR illuminators active). Also, while the camera offers a vari-focal lens, only at the telephoto (narrow field) edge, will the IR illuminators properly cover the Field of View.

  • Examples of areas that the camera should cover at night include an entrance to a parking lot or a small segment of a 2 lane road
  • Examples where the camera will not cover at night include medium or large parking lots, courtyards, down roads hundreds of feet away, etc.

For larger areas, users should specify a stand-alone IR illuminator designed to cover larger areas.

At its price points (about $750 USD), it's fairly inexpensive, especially considering eliminating the need for a regular outdoor housing, mount and on-site setup. We see the key consideration in making a decision on the camera to be the usability of the IR illuminators for one's use case/application.

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