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Why the Sony SNC-VM772R is leading the 4K pack

October 19th, 2015 by Paul Sandford

Sony SNC-VM772R with other 4K IP cameras in the background
Nearly every major IP camera manufacturer now has a 4K IP camera offering but it is the Sony SNC-VM772R that truly breaks new ground because Sony have tackled three fundamental technology challenges that are holding others back, thus far anyway.

So what is it that Sony has achieved that makes them stand out from the pack?

New challenges for the 4K race

In the last few years we’ve seen a race to deliver increasingly higher megapixel resolutions and with each increment, IP camera manufacturers have been striving to deliver better image quality, more detail and wider area coverage.

The 4K race has now begun and minimum illumination, lens quality and bandwidth management are the new challenges.

Increased low-light sensitivity

As was the case when megapixel resolutions were introduced, increasing image sensor size was a critical breakthrough to achieve higher resolutions but the sensor size is only one half of the equation.

To date, most manufacturers make use of a handful of 4K image sensors, commonly sized around 1/2.5” to 1/1.7”. These sensors are not much larger than those used in full HD or higher megapixel resolution cameras but their pixel count is significantly higher and thus, the size of the pixels are much smaller. This means more light is required to produce usable images and cameras using these sensors will switch from colour to black and white (infrared) sooner than an HD model. This is why a lot of 4K cameras have a poorer minimum illumination rating than their full HD counterpart.

The Sony SNC-VM772R is fitted with their Exmor R™ CMOS sensor which is not only approximately 1” in size but also back-illuminated – a design that can double the camera’s light sensitivity compared with a conventional CMOS sensor. This allows the Sony camera to capture full colour images at light levels as low as 0.06 lux. Many other 4K cameras use a slower shutter speed or increased gain settings to allow more light to hit the image sensor but this can lead to moving objects becoming blurry or images that are noticeably grainier.

4K optimised lens

The smaller pixels used in 4K image sensors require a more powerful lens to deliver adequate contrast and quality images.

Right now, there are a limited number of commercially available lenses that are powerful enough to resolve these small 4K pixels. To capture full 4K resolution, the lens needs to be at least 8MP. In addition, for surveillance applications it also needs to support zoom movement as well as IR correction for Day/Night performance and this all adds to the cost of manufacture as well as the physical size of the lens. This is why the Sony SNC-VM772R is a larger than average sized camera – it needs to accommodate the higher quality lens.

Some manufacturers have not specified a lens that’s built for 4K imaging and although this does reduce costs and the size of the camera, users will notice the difference in quality when zooming in to examine a scene in more detail.

Sony are utilising their own high quality, 2.9x optical zoom lens that’s optimised for 4K and this alone makes a huge difference in the quality of images produced.

Intelligent bandwidth management

The extra detail that comes with 4K brings an increase in bandwidth consumption and storage costs.

Currently, most 4K surveillance cameras are using H.264 encoding to compress image data but on its own, it’s not enough to keep 4K bandwidth consumption in check.

To manage bandwidth more effectively, other techniques also need to be employed and it’s common to use some form of region of interest (ROI) to retain higher quality images in a specified area, while capturing extraneous parts of the scene in a lower resolution.

Sony has implemented two impressive ROI solutions in the SNC-VM772R that can reduce bandwidth consumption by up to 50% and make 4K surveillance viable. The first is Intelligent Coding which uses lower compression in selected areas of the image, ensuring they remain crisp and clear whilst a higher compression ratio is used for the remainder of the image – this dramatically reduces the overall bit rate of the image. The second is Intelligent Cropping which takes a different approach, keeping areas of interest at 4K-native resolution whilst using lower resolutions in the extraneous parts of the scene.

State of the art

It could be argued that individually, each obstacle that Sony has overcome is within the reach of other manufacturers but it’s the combination of Sony’s solutions in one 4K ruggedised dome camera that has allowed them to set the pace.

The eagerly awaited Sony SNC-VM772R is certainly state of the art. It has been by far, one of the most talked about 4K network cameras in the security industry and it’s available to purchase from our store now.

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