Wall Camera Aims To Eliminate Bad Face Shots

By John Grocke, Published Aug 22, 2013, 12:00am EDT

Identifying individuals entering an area or building with an overhead or ceiling mount camera is always a challenge as the camera's steep down-tilt makes it literally poorly positioned to capture faces, especially when the person is wearing a hat or simply looking down. One camera manufacturer, Clinton Electronics, claims to solve this problem with their new Wall Camera. In this note, we examine this camera's pros and cons, comparing to competitors.

Clinton CE-WC30 Wall Camera

The Clinton Electronics CE-CW30 [link no longer available] is a small form factor analog camera about the size of a light switch plate that is designed to be wall mounted at about eye level to help facially identify persons entering an area.

The camera has a 3.6mm fixed lens and a 600TVL 1/3" Sony imager. The housing is aluminum with a polycarbonate bubble protecting the lens. The camera can be surface mounted but is designed for mounting to a single gang junction box. Camera aiming appears to be simple via a 3-axis gimbal.

This manufacturer video gives their pitch and demo:

Pros:

  • Aesthetics: The Wall Camera's form factor (roughly 3.25" x 5") makes it fairly unobtrusive and the aluminum cover plate could be painted to match the wall color.
  • Effective: The eye level wall mounted camera does a better job of facial identification than a ceiling mounted camera. Although in the video, the subject looks directly at the camera, making it pretty easy.
  • Easy to install: The camera cleanly and quickly mounts to a flush or surface single gang box, without the need for an adapter plate as with other cameras. Installation and aiming seem fairly simple and straightforward in the video.
  • Economical: The CE-CW30 wall camera sells for ~$100 through authorized dealers. Clinton does not sell direct or online.

Cons:

  • It's analog, to use this camera on an IP-based system, it requires an encoder and a 12VDC power source. 
  • Lacks WDR which could be an issue if the camera is facing a doorway (though presumably it would more typically be aimed inside).
  • The camera is not vandal-resistant, the lens and imager are only protected by a plastic bubble which will not stand up to a high-impact blow. The housing does not use tamper-proof screws, only a visible single Allen-head screw secures the cover in place.
  • The camera is not weather-proof. This is an indoor only camera which renders it ineffective to view people attempting to enter an exterior door of a building from the outside.

Comparison

Edit: in the comments section, one of our readers, Carl Lindgren, alerted us to a similar camera manufactured by Ganz, that is recessed behind a clear or tinted faceplate. It has the same switch plate format, is available with a Pixim/Seawolf WDR option, and includes tamper-proof hardware.  This camera is available online for ~$385, which is significantly more expensive than the Clinton Wall Camera. 

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Carl also tipped us to a similar ONVIF 2.0 conformant Channelvision 1.3MP IP camera [link no longer available], that is available online for ~$220, however it is a larger form factor that mounts to a double-gang box.

We also discovered that ChannelVision also makes an analog single gang-mount recessed color camera [link no longer available] that is available online for ~$130, although it is lower resolution than the Clinton camera.

Two other IP camera options could be also be considered.

  • Axis has a P85 covert IP camera series to accomplish eye-level facial identification, in a similar positioning. However, it is a pinhole camera mounted in a tube designed for store entrances and costs much more, ~$1,000. It is, though, MP.
  • We could not find any IP cameras with the same rectangular switch plate form factor. However, there are many compact IP mini-domes such as the Sony SNC-DH110 (4.5" dia.) and Axis M3004-V (4" dia.) that take up a slightly larger amount of wall space, but require an adapter plate in order to mount to a single gang box to cover the corners of the box, making them about 5-1/2" in overall diameter. Compact IP minidomes sell online for $350 and up, depending on the manufacturer, model and features. They do not require an encoder or power supply and likely will have better image quality than the Clinton Wall Camera.

Conclusion

For those who have encoders in place (either through appliances or DVRs), the low cost and optimized form factor could be appealing for those wanting to ensure a direct face capture. However, for those who want higher resolution, more traditional MP IP cameras are likely preferable.

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