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Tested: Bosch FLEXIDOME 3000i network camera

Bosch Flexidome 3000i testWe wanted to test the recently launched Bosch Flexidome 3000i IP camera, as it looks very good value for money on paper. I’ve had the Bosch Flexdome IP 3000i dome camera on quick test for a few days and here are my off-the-cuff findings.

I tested at HD 1080p resolution at 10 frames per second (fps). The test location was the car park in front of our offices, which is one of the typical use cases in which this camera could be deployed.

Image quality

The out-of-the-box image quality of the Bosch Flexidome 3000i is very good. Colour levels are very close to what the eye sees, in its default settings. There are also the usual range of controls to change the colour balance, luminance, temperature and colour saturation along with the brightness, wide dynamic range (WDR), backlighting controls etc. Note, the images below are for comparison and are heavily compressed for this blog.

Bosch Flexidome 3000i daytime

With IR OFF at night – the test scene is generally fairly well illuminated from street lights around the perimeter and the camera made good use of this ambient light as you can see in the screenshot, though it’s not the same standard as seen in more expensive cameras, such as the Bosch 5000i IP camera range or Axis cameras with Lightfinder 2.0, and there were dark spots with little to no illumination which would render accurate detections difficult.

Bosch Flexidome 3000i night with IR OFF

IR ON at night – the camera’s built-in IR LEDs illuminated the whole car park well, with no oversaturation at all, which is impressive in itself, as you can see in the snapshot taken. The stated 30m IR throw is about right for this camera, and it probably has an (unstated) angle of best illumination around 80°-90°, as you can see in the snapshot (104° HFoV), but the drop-off around the edges is not significant, so it’s safe to say that the IR illuminates the whole scene adequately.

Bosch Flexidome 3000i night with IR on

The switch from day to night modes was seamless and virtually instantaneous, with only a single frame of transition in our tests (which means that the switch happens in around 1/10th of a second as the camera was running at 10fps). This is very much better than with many other cameras, as often a camera can take a few seconds to adjust fully. The IR transition did not trigger a camera detection either, which sometimes happens with other cameras and can generate false alarms which need to be actioned.

Both H.264 and H.265 bitrates conform to what we expect and what we see with cameras from other premium brands.

Note that I was unable to fully test the WDR capabilities of the camera due to its positioning, but it fared well when the sun was coming from the direction of the camera’s view. The sun (high in summer at the time of testing) was never in the image, so I’m not able to say if there would be any black spotting of the sensor, but I would expect there would be.

Detection / Video Analytics (Bosch calls these ‘VCA’)

Firstly, there were some scenarios that provided variable results, particularly with object classification (human, vehicle, object colour etc) because I had been unable to fully calibrate the camera. To set up detection is not straightforward and cannot be done in the web browser. You need the Bosch configuration tool to utilise any VCA analytic in the camera. Unfortunately, I was unable to calibrate the camera using this tool (which is required before any detection methods can be used) as this software crashed each time I went to close off the calibration, on all the devices I installed it on. So, the detection methods were relying only on a partial calibration, hence anomalies were seen. I expect Bosch will have this software issue dealt with by the time you read this.

The array of built-in analytics is impressive and contributes greatly to the value for money you get with this model and the range:

  • Object in field/zone (Axis VMD4 equivalent) (tested)
  • Line crossing (tested)
  • Loitering (tested)
  • Condition change
  • Following route
  • Tampering
  • Removed object
  • Idle object
  • Entering field/zone
  • Leaving field/zone
  • Similarity search
  • Crowd detection
  • Counter
  • Occupancy

Interestingly, despite the partial calibration, the ‘Object in Field’ method detected individuals correctly and accurately. The detection method was un-optimised and not set up correctly, yet it still detected them and triggered alarms and recordings as it should. Further, detections were made at the edge of the sensor (or camera’s view) where detections can be more problematic, plus there were very few false triggers. So the ‘human detection’ capabilities of the camera work very well.

I tested three of the 14 VCAs, and each performed better than expected given the calibration issue. As I said, the main effect of the calibration issue wasn’t that detections did not take place, they did, but it was that the classification of objects was often wrong – i.e. a car sometimes shows up as a motorbike, or vice versa and the same with human<->car. However, the human detection was most accurate. I think with full and correct calibration this issue will disappear.

Clearly, classification for VCA is dependent on a good calibration, but it was nevertheless very accurate when close-up, most likely because I was unable to fully calibrate the 3D perspective of the camera.

Video Management

Using an SD card for on-camera recording and remote playback works well via the Bosch web app, as we see across all Bosch cameras.

Milestone XProtect Integration

Integration into Milestone was not as easy as expected. The documentation from both Milestone and Bosch is limited for this new camera model (at the time of testing), so I had to wing it via trial and error for VCA integration. Getting the camera recording in Milestone was the same process as with any other camera, but it was not clear which ‘event’ Milestone pulls in from the camera that was the one to use. There seems to be only a single event channel that Milestone can latch on to in the camera, so only a single VCA can provide detection triggers to Milestone at any time. They do all seem to use this channel individually. I fully tested Intrusion (object in field), line crossing and loitering with Milestone and all worked independently via this channel. So, that covers the very basics with Milestone. It *may* be possible to integrate more than one detection method at the same time, but how this is done is unclear.

One of the benefits of the VCA classifications is that the detections should be able to work with Milestone’s centralised search in the Smart Client via the metadata channel which comes into Milestone from the camera. However, this requires a plugin both for the Smart Client and the Management Client which then allows for an additional set of searches to be made via the smart client. As before, the documentation on how this works is limited/poor and I could not get it to reliably search for VCA classifications. It should give the additional ability to search for people by gender, vehicles and clothing by colour etc, but I could not get this to work.

Further, note that it does not look like Milestone can yet use H.265 with this camera range, but that should come soon in a new device pack update and should halve overall storage use.

Honestly, I found the integration and operation of the Bosch Flexidome 3000i into Milestone to be frustrating and time-consuming due to the lack of clear vendor documentation. In theory, it should be possible to perform retrospective searches via metadata, even when the VCA was not set up in the camera, provided incoming metadata is recorded at all times. For example, I had ‘Object in field’ configured in the camera, but in the Milestone centralised search, I could select a different VCA (i.e. line crossing), set up the detection parameters via the smart client, and perform a search based on these new parameters. Again, this did not work. See screenshot. I suspect that the calibration issue was partly to blame, but I think the metadata search needs work before it’s fully ready to be used in production environments where this advanced search capability will be required operationally. However, for generalised detection and usages, the current setup is fine.

Bosch plugin for Milestone Centralised Search

Bosch plugin for Milestone Centralised Search

Bosch search plugin visualisations

Bosch search plugin interface

Remote Access via Bosch Video Security Cloud

Setting this up was relatively straightforward, though as with everything Bosch, you need to know the system and terminology they use or it can be confusing. Registering the camera with the service was simple enough, then getting it running in the Bosch Security iOS app, was as simple as logging in and selecting the camera, but configuring the remote portal for that was trickier. Live view is quick to display, is fully proxied by their system and even shows the metadata classifications and bounding boxes. However, the app may end up unwieldy with more than 2 or 3 cameras in it, so I think Bosch may need to update the app to cope when more cameras are shown.

The remote portal offers a cloud-based firmware upgrade facility which is very welcome indeed, as Bosch cameras can be tricker to f/w u/g manually than some others. Alarm handling/notifications and cloud recording are additional paid-for services. Note, that you can access the camera’s browser interface from anywhere with this service. This, along with the firmware upgrade capability and the fact that the basics are free of charge in the remote portal make this an attractive service to use. However, it is limited in scope and there are better options for cloud-based access.

Cyber Security and Lifecycle Support

Sadly, I had no information on the product life cycle or the cybersecurity life cycle for this range of cameras as I’m still waiting for Bosch to provide this.

Security advisories are available on the Bosch Security website, but they have very little information about the product life cycle or cybersecurity life cycle. On top of this, finding the right firmware for a unit is difficult (by comparison Axis have this spot on) and frustrating (unless you use the remote portal).

Installation and setup

Our engineer said the camera was straightforward to install. The build quality is excellent as you’d expect from Bosch. On the software side, it was also straightforward to address and get access to in a web browser. It then gets complicated, quickly. The software on Bosch cameras is very capable, but is not designed in line with typical paradigms seen in the industry. It is a steep learning curve for newbies to Bosch so these cameras are not ideal for novices. Out of the box, they work fine, but if you want to tweak them for specific scenarios using VCA, you’ll need additional expertise or time.

Mechanically, the Bosch Flexidome 3000i is all very good. IR-CF is rapid and the motorised remote focus and zoom is easy to use, quick, and pin-sharp accurate.

In a Nutshell

The Bosch Flexdome IP 3000i dome camera offers a lot for the money. The quality overall is very good, including build quality, mechanics, imaging, and detection analytics. It has a varifocal lens, which is a pleasant surprise at its price point, is feature-rich, and does a good job out-of-the-box. But configuration beyond basic setup is complex and not recommended for users that are not familiar with Bosch software interfaces.

Some technical gotchas:

  • Integrate VCA triggers in Milestone XProtect with the ‘video analytics task’ device event
  • A separate piece of software “Bosch configuration manager” is required for configuring all VCA tasks
  • With VCA analytics there’s no way to test a detection scenario without someone actually performing a walk test
  • Good calibration of the camera is key for best results, but it does well in some scenarios without this
  • For Milestone users, there is no H.265 in Milestone for the Bosch 3000i camera range yet
  • Centralised search plugin doesn’t seem ready for production yet
  • The Bosch cloud portal has an easy to use firmware upgrade facility and you can access your camera’s browser from anywhere

Finally, I hope to update this post with more information as we get it and as we use these cameras in our own deployments.

About the author – Kevin Bowyer is the technical director at NW Security Group and has been working with IP camera systems since 1998.

Published on July 20th, 2021 by Kevin Bowyer

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