Testing Vivotek IP7161 - 2MP MPEG-4 Camera

Author: John Honovich, Published on Jun 03, 2009

Vivotek's new 2MP camera (the IP7161) expands low-cost product options in multi-megapixel cameras.

The IP7161's specification include support for MPEG-4 (but not H.264) and has a maximum frame rate of 10fps at 1600 x 1200. The test results show the camera's performance is solid across the board but not exceptional. However, with an online price under $500, it is extremely affordable and hundreds of dollars less than other cameras in its category.

The challenge for buyers will be to examine and determine whether the camera is good enough for your application, given the significant product cost savings it offers. For example, contrast this with the premium Axis Q1755 camera we reviewed recently.

For background on the product see Vivotek's Product Page on the IP7161 and its datasheet.

Product Overview

Key considerations in examining the camera include:

  • Video Quality - I thought the video quality was solid but not as sharp as others that I have been testing. Additionally the low light images tended to be nosiy and less sharp than others. As I did not do a formal comparison test, I will limit my remarks here. You, of course, can download the actual video clips below.
  • Bandwidth - The camera uses MPEG-4 rather than H.264 so there is potential for increased storage and networking cost. However, in the tests, bandwidth consumption was fairly modest with 2Mb/s to 3.5Mb/s the average consumption for 1600 x 1200, 10fps. It's hard to make a definitive claim here because different vendor's H.264 implementations consume different bandwidth levels.
  • Frame Rate - The frame rate is definitely no more than 10fps. With Vivotek's own internal tool, I measured 8-9 fps consistently. If you need more frames per second, this is certainly an issue. For general monitoring (as the video samples show), the frame rate was sufficient.
  • 3rd Party VMS Support - VMS support is currently very limited. Exacq helped me by providing a beta version. Vivotek's cameras are widely supported so I view this as more of a short term issue than a permanent barrier. However, if you are going to use the camera, you should be sure that your VMS supports this model.

Video Samples from Test

Download 6 sample videos from a variety of scenes and lighting conditions.

In the screencast below, I provide comments on the video samples on key issues I saw.

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Physical Overview

The screencast below shows the camera and provides a brief overview of the physical setup and options.

Configuration and Optimization

For testing, I used the camera's web interface and Exacq's software. As I explain in the screencast below, the camera worked well with Exacq's software. I decided not to use Vivotek's VMS software, the ST7501, as I had a number of problems using it including difficulties in searching and exporting video.

Examining Bandwidth Tradeoffs in Quality and Frame Rate Settings

In the video samples, I use the default settings for each test. In the screencast below, I examine the impact on bandwidth of raising the quality level and dropping the frame rate.

Raising the quality level does not provide much 'quality' benefit but it does significantly increase bandwidth utilization. As such, I did not find much benefit in adjusting that.

Loweing the frame rate did provide modest benefits. Dropping from 10 fps to 5 fps lowered the bit rate by 25% while dropping to 3fps lowered the bit rate by an additional 30%.

Comparing VBR and CBR Settings - Image Quality Tradeoffs

By default and in normal operation, most deployments use Variable Bit Rate streaming. For the 7161 in the variety of scenes I tested, the daytime bit rate ranged from 1.5 Mb/s to 3.5 Mb/s (with default fps and resolution). 

The screencast below shows the impact of setting a constant bit rate of 1 Mb/s in an indoor environment that was consuming about 2 Mb/s using VBR. Both the image quality and frame rate suffered. Users should therefore be careful about using CBR or having insufficient bandwidth.

Recommendations

Selecting the IP7161 is likely to center around determining what's best for your budget. It does not have any unique features nor is the performance exceptional in any area.

On the other hand, the camera did not demonstrate any significant problems (though, as I mentioned, I would be more comfortable using a third party VMS than Vivotek's ST7501). Image quality was solid, both day and night. Bandwidth consumption was modest. Frame rate, while a maximum of 10fps, was sufficient for general monitoring.

The camera is $300 to $400 less expensive than current options in the market for 2MP cameras (with the Arecont 2105 being the most relevant contrast). The lack of H.264 may increase storage costs by $100 (depending on storage length and options) but it's likely not enough to eliminate the cost savings on the product side.

For customers looking to make a low cost migration to IP, this product should work well. Four to Six of these cameras in an office or store could provide solid coverage.at a very low cost. Also, consider using the camera with Theia's SY125M lenses (see our test on Theia). This combination could cover an entire parking lot for less than $1,000 USD.

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