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IP Camera comparison: Vivotek IP7142 and Y-cam Bullet

June 8th, 2010 by James Drinkwater

The Y-cam Bullet and the Vivotek IP7142 are two fixed view IP cameras designed for outdoor installation and fitted with infrared LEDs, designed above all to capture high-quality security footage in locations with no external lighting.

From the similar price points and how they are pitched, it is easy to tell that they are very similar, and are both aimed at small to medium sized businesses, but what are the real differences between these two similarly specced cameras?


Summary of Key Findings

Although both cameras deliver very similar footage given the same scene in both daylight and artificial lighting, the larger LEDs and wider window of the Y-cam bullet give it the edge in darkness, providing brighter and better defined images than the Vivotek IP7142.

The choice to integrate the microphone into the Y-cam is both a benefit and a drawback. There is no need to install additional external microphones, making installation simpler, but conversely there is no way to add an external microphone so if the camera is at a distance from the area being monitored, audio clarity will be lessened.

The additional wireless, on-camera recording and audio features of the Y-cam Bullet give it the edge over the IP7142, providing a more rounded security and recording solution.

Features

Vivotek Y-cam
IP66 rated outdoor casing Yes Yes
Sunshield Yes Yes
Built-in Infrared LEDs 12 12
Switchable day/night filter Yes Yes
Lens type Varifocal (23-89°) Fixed (60°)
Maximum image size 720×480 640×480
Wireless connectivity No Yes
Two-way audio Yes Yes
Built-in Microphone No Yes
MicroSD card recording No Yes
Power over Ethernet Yes Yes
External connections (input/output) 1/1 1/1
Included recording software 32 cameras 36 cameras

Although the two cameras look almost identical, they do differ to a certain degree with their functionality, but both feature built-in infrared lighting, come with a detachable sunshield, offer two-way audio and are rated for outdoor use.

The two then begin to differ. The Bullet features wireless connectivity for connection with 802.11b/g networks which simplifies installation since all that is needed at the camera location is power. The Bullet also features microSD card recording (accessible by unscrewing the end cap) which lets the camera store footage without any additional recording equipment.


Image quality

Both cameras provide images close to the same resolution, with 640×680 for the Y-cam and 720×480 for the Vivotek.

Low-light footage: Vivotek IP7142

Image 1: Vivotek IP7142 in daylight

Low-light footage: Y-cam Bullet

Image 2: Y-cam Bullet in Daylight

We can see from these pictures that the image quality from both cameras is similar, with the Bullet image being slightly sharper and brighter, but with the IP7142 producing slightly better colour reproduction.

Night vision

Both of these cameras are designed to provide footage without any external light source and feature 12 infrared LEDs built into the camera housing. The LEDs are arranged in a circle around the lens and are masked from the lens by the housing to prevent light directly entering the lens, obscuring the image.

With the edge of the housing on one side and the lens divider on the other, the window for the LEDs to shine through is quite small. Comparing both cameras, the window on the Vivotek is noticeably smaller than the Y-cam, allowing less light to shine through.

Additionally, the LEDs themselves seem much larger on the Y-cam than the Vivotek. With the larger LEDs and wider window, the Y-cam does seem to provide noticeably more light than the Vivotek.

The following images were taken with both cameras side by side, with each being illuminated only by their own on-board lighting.

Daylight footage: Vivotek IP7142

Image 3: Image from Vivotek IP7142 in 0 lux conditions with LEDs on

Daytime footage: Y-cam Bullet

Image 4: Image from Y-cam Bullet in 0 lux conditions with LEDs on

The images from the Vivotek IP7142 are well lit in the centre but towards the edges are dark and undefined. As a result, the objects in the centre of the room seem to be over-exposed while the objects are much harder to identify. The light from the Y-cam, however, is distributed across the breadth of the image, with objects well defined, and more importantly, a lot easier to identify.

It is worth noting, however, that the lens on the Y-cam is fixed at 60 degrees whereas the lens on the Vivotek is varifocal between 23 and 89°, giving a 29° wider angle. In daylight conditions, the IP7142 will be able to cover a wider angle of view but in darkness, the areas around the edge of the image will be almost indistinguishable, limiting the camera’s effectiveness as a security device.

Two-Way Audio

Both cameras provide two-way audio functionality but differ in the way that the audio is handled. The Vivotek uses two mini-jack ports for audio input and output, whereas the Bullet only features a single audio output port for connection to an external speaker. For audio input, a microphone is built into the base of the Bullet, providing users with audio without any additional equipment.

On one hand, the choice to integrate the microphone into the Y-cam means that users do not need to wire additional equipment in order to make use of the audio features. However, this also limits the effectiveness of the camera.

For example, if you were to install the camera aiming down at an external door and try to speak to anyone in view, the audio generated would be unclear in comparison to that produced by an external microphone which would be wired down to the door location. Unfortunately, with no additional microphone input, there is no option to use an external unit.

Build Quality

Both cameras cannot be separated on build quality, being made out of Aluminium and being IP66-rated. One thing we did notice is that the included camera stand looks a lot sturdier on the Y-cam Bullet than it does on the Vivotek. Both should hold the camera without a problem, but we would place our bets on the Y-cam if someone were to try and tamper with them.

Internal software

Both cameras have a wide range of similar features built into the camera, with settings accessible from within the camera’s web interface. Using both interfaces, we found that, although all functions were available, the web interface on the IP7142 was unintuitive and required multiple steps for a single action. In comparison, the Y-cam is much more accessible with features logically grouped together. As a result, setup of the Y-cam tends to be quicker than that of the IP7142.

Additional features – Y-cam

There are some features on the Y-cam Bullet which are not available for comparison on the IP7142, for example wireless connectivity and on-camera recording to microSD card. These features provide additional flexibility when designing a surveillance system.

The recording capability is well thought out and works effectively. Images or video stored to the card can be accessed either from the local network or remotely over the internet and are automatically overwritten once the card is full, providing a true “fire-and-forget” solution. Both cameras do come bundled with Windows-based recording software, but require a PC to be running constantly in order to receive images, adding additional running costs.

Shortcomings

One thing we noticed with these cameras is that with both being IP66 rated, the cables exiting the body of each camera go through a gland. If any of these cables, such as the sound or input cables, are not to be used, there is no way to disconnect them, meaning they must either be left loose or cut short.

Additionally, both of these cameras rely on ActiveX controls for parts of their functionality such as audio or short clip recording. With some functionality being limited to Internet Explorer users only, users of Mac or Unix-based systems have to make do with the functionality that is supported.

Final thoughts

The main selling point of both of these cameras is the opportunity to capture footage in dark conditions, and both can do this. However, we feel that the night footage from the Y-cam is superior to that of the Vivotek, largely due to the increased size of the LEDs and thus the more light produced.

We also noted that the infrared spread from both cameras is roughly the same, but although the Y-cam has a set viewing angle within this range, the increased viewing angle of the IP7142 seems to be wasted since it is not illuminated well enough by the LEDs.

When used in daylight conditions, both cameras are evenly matched, with roughly the same image quality. The slight difference in maximum resolution between the two cameras is not enough to make a difference.

In terms of features, with both cameras aimed at the small-to-medium size business level, both provide an appropriate level of image quality and features. However, the added functionality of the Bullet increases its value for money, placing it far ahead of the IP7142.

Another key separator in this comparison is price. At present, the IP7142 is priced at £465 while the Bullet is available at £289. The difference in price really can’t be shaken and makes the Bullet exceptionally good value. With the higher image quality in low-light conditions and the additional wireless and microSD card recording features, the Bullet is really a no-brainer.

To find out more information on these cameras, visit the Network Webcams Y-cam Bullet and Vivotek IP7142 pages.

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