Zoomable IR Illuminator

By: Brian Rhodes, Published on Nov 25, 2012

Axton Technologies claims its ZOOM IR Illuminators are "revolutionary" and are "a concept never before seen in infrared lighting." In this note, we examine this product to see how well it delivers on these claims.

"Zoom" IR?

The concept of a 'zoomable' IR illuminator evokes an device featuring an adjustable IR beam in a similar fashion to a white-light spotlight. A common limitation of IR illuminators are they have a fixed intensity regardless of camera zoom, and this limitation can lead to overexposed 'hotspots' or underexposed frames with a highly zoomed camera.

Product Overview

The "Zoom" Axton Technologies illuminator, shown on the right, claims to solve the focus problems of fixed lighting units, but digging deeper reveals surprising results:zoom ir

  • Not Really 'Zoomable': The unit is not dynamically adjustable. Rather, a single illuminator contains two or three separate LED boards in one housing, with each board featuring LEDs installed at different focal angles. During operation, selecting between the individual boards allows 'adjustment' of illuminator range.
  • Ranges: Illumination ranges from 600 feet to 90 feet, corresponding to range widths from 10° to 130°
  • Each Unit Customized: Each unit is built according to project spec, with options to include up to four LED deflection Angles. with a 10 degree bank shining to 600 feet, to a 130 degree bank at a 90 foot distance
  • Covert, or Not: Unit can be built with either 850nm or 940 nm options, or a combination of both. The characteristic 'red' glow seen with 850 is not present at 940nm.
  • Limited Camera Control: The illuminator is either manually toggled with a 'home runned' selector switch, or controlled via camera output port via included 'control wire'. Different illuminator banks can be toggled depending on the pan position of the camera, and the illuminator unit can be synced to use a camera's Day/Night cutover to turn on sensor.
  • PoE Powerable: Unit is both 802.3af and 802.3at compliant, and includes a camera pass-thru port. One PoE port can power both illuminator and camera, however which class depends on consumption of camera.
  • Price: MSRP $700 - $950 depending on design specifics and quantity
  • Lifetime warranty: Axton will replace or repair the Zoom product if it ever breaks during normal use.

Drawbacks

The 'zoom' units are limited to toggling beween varying fixed intensity settings. A more accurate term would be to call it a 'combo' unit. Unlike 'Smart' or 'Adaptive' IR [link no longer available] that dynamically adjusts intensity based on zoom, this unit is toggled manually between two or three illuminators.

For cameras with free output ports, the illuminator can be programmed to turn on certain banks according to pan position, and turning on/off the illuminator can be synchronized with the D/N cut over function of the camera. For

Advantages

After wading through the misnomers, this unit does provide lighting flexibility compared to 'fixed' counterparts. Provided the camera outputs are available, the unit can be integrated to automatically change between illuminator banks. However, adjustment between settings is fixed until reprogrammed in the camera and they are not adjustable according to the actual scene. This does not really solve the problem the product claims to resolve. Compared to other 'fixed' illuminator offerings, a single adjustable Axton Zoom illuminator may have advantages when installed in tight locations, such as PT positioner mounts.

Compare to Nuoptic's Varifocal IR illuminator that provides more of a 'true' zoomable unit.

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