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Beyond the Datasheet: Panoramic VS Multi-IP camera system

November 10th, 2017 by Bethanne Pugh

Which type of IP camera setup is most suitable for your CCTV application?

When designing your IP CCTV system, an initial consideration will be which type of IP cameras can deliver the most efficient security surveillance for your application.

Small to medium-sized locations will typically choose one of two options: a single panoramic unit or a multi-IP camera system.

To help you make an informed decision when building your system, we decided to take a look at the beneficial features and limitations that come with each type of IP camera setup.

Single panoramic IP camera

green-tick Cost-effective – A panoramic IP camera delivers a full 360° overview of open-plan locations and can allow you to monitor an entire room with just a single unit. This also helps to cut down on installation time and cabling costs – offering a cost-effective alternative to the implementation of multiple IP cameras.

green-tick High resolution and frame rate capabilities – The ability to deliver high resolution images has been seen in panoramic IP cameras for quite some time. However, the accompanying frame rates have often been lacking – resulting in lower frame rate footage that may be less suitable for some applications. The release of new high-performance units, such as the Axis M3047-P and M3048-P look to provide an answer to this problem – capturing 6MP (M3047-P) or 12MP (M3048-P) images at up to 30 frames per second. By delivering smooth, high-frame rate and detail-packed video, these panoramic units (which would often be used as a ‘fall-back’ or accompanying ‘overview’ camera) can now provide a reliable, standalone surveillance solution.

green-tick Detailed digital zooming – The detailed images captured by these high-resolution, panoramic units also results in more useful digital zooming. This will allow you to closely examine areas of interest in both the live and recorded 360° image – a particularly helpful tool when it comes to post-event investigation.

green-tick Dewarping software – Fisheye lenses deliver a circular image which, whilst offering up to 360° coverage, can often make areas of a scene look distorted. To de-warp the curvature of the original image and allow regions to be seen with less distortion – dewarping software is required. With support for high-performance dewarping technology now maturing in professional video management software (VMS) suites, such as Milestone XProtect and Axis Camera Station 5, it’s becoming easier for panoramic IP cameras to be used effectively within your system. However, this is often not the case with other third-party VMS offerings where compatibility may be stated – but actual, useable integration is lacking.

red-cross Light – Higher-resolutions require increased levels of light, and most panoramic units do not currently include sufficient technologies to help improve imaging in difficult light conditions. This can potentially result in poor image quality when light levels reach a certain point.

red-cross Fixed, fisheye lens – Another area where panoramic IP cameras can often fall short is the inability to make any adjustments to the field of view. This lack of flexibility means that you will have to be sure that the camera in question can provide the required area coverage straight ‘out-of-the-box’.

red-cross Top-down view – Typically, panoramic cameras are ceiling-mounted, meaning that they have a top-down view which may not cover all the angles and may not provide the level of detail needed for identification in particular, or for accurate detection using video content analytics. This is why they are often best-used as overview cameras.

Panoramic IP cameras provide a straightforward monitoring solution that is well suited for small to medium-sized, open plan areas (with the added benefit of reduced installation time and costs). However, if you wish to cover a more complex location in more detail – you will almost certainly have to consider multiple IP cameras.

Multiple IP camera setup

green-tick Flexible area coverage – By choosing a multiple IP camera setup, you have full flexibility when designing your CCTV system and can completely tailor a solution to meet your specific viewing requirements. A wide choice of high resolution and frame rate combinations are available and by selecting units’ that feature a varifocal lens, you can easily set your desired viewing angle during installation. However, with such a large number of models on the market, selecting suitable IP cameras can often seem like a daunting task. We offer a handy camera finder tool to help narrow down the search or, alternatively, just get in touch for some pre-sales advice.

green-tick Imaging technologies – Developments in IP technology has resulted in manufacturers introducing a host of low-light, wide dynamic range and other advanced imaging technologies into their product ranges. Today, most fixed/varifocal lens IP cameras will be equipped with a handful of these technologies to help improve clarity in complex lighting conditions. By utilising these modern technologies, the camera can often deliver the most ‘useable’ image possible.

green-tick Various form factors – The choice is completely yours – whether it be a dome design for unobtrusive monitoring, a bullet unit to act as a visual deterrent, or a covert form-factor for ultra-discreet surveillance. In addition, most units will also offer a range of different accessories and bracketry to provide mounting flexibility.

green-tick Improved original image – Using an IP camera that delivers images with an aspect ratio of 16:9 or 4:3 means that you get a more ‘useable’ and natural image from the get-go. Unlike a fisheye camera, there is no need to de-warp the curvature of the original ‘spherical’ image – therefore additional plug-ins or tricky configurations are avoided.

red-cross Cost implications – It is often the case that the purchase of multiple units will result in a higher total cost than that of a single IP camera. Especially when you take into account that you will need more than just the IP cameras itself – such as power supplies / switches, cabling and mounting accessories as well as the labour costs involved. Not forgetting that if you are choosing to run video management software, you will need to purchase a device licence for each of the cameras being integrated into your system.

Kevin Bowyer – Technical Director at NW Systems Group

Kevin Bowyer

Additional things to consider are that panoramic / hemispheric cameras often have limited frame rates at higher resolutions as well as reduced low light performance (in some cases) and the de-warping technology may require additional plugins for browser or viewing client. Also, most panoramic cameras will have a means of on-board de-warping which allows you to extract video already de-warped and cropped into standard resolutions such as 720p and 1080p. It is important to properly understand what the camera capability is and how it would integrate into any VMS or NVR recording solution it is used in.

Panoramic/hemispheric cameras should not be seen as a means to replace multiple cameras (saving on costs of hardware and installation), but should be considered as part of a solution and incorporated with reference to its particular characteristics and the outcome you expect as part of the solution you are putting together. The outcome you are looking for should determine the type of camera to use, not the other way around.


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