Lenses and optics: Megapixel and HD raise the bar

Bob Kramer discusses the innovation of high quality lenses and optics for the high definition camera market


Runaway Innovation

There were numerous lens innovations in the security alarm industry in 2009 and with the continued move to megapixel cameras that trend will continue.

Optical performance combined with advanced image processing provides further advantages for users of IP security/surveillance cameras. Once the camera’s lens gathers light and turns it into digital data, the sophistication with which that data is processed can mean the difference between ill-defined images and crisp video that provides a positive ID when it’s really needed.

According to Larry Thorpe, national marketing executive at the Broadcast and Communications division of Canon U.S.A. Inc., the move to high definition and higher resolution is “spawning a host of cameras in a variety of image formats with increased contrast, which is also important with lens glasses, optical coatings and manufacturing processes.”

While Canon is focused on megapixel camcorders and digital still cameras, they currently feel that the IP video security industry is still better served by VGA-quality cameras, which Canon’s Ricardo Chen said are more cost-effective and require a lot less bandwidth and storage than megapixel imaging. “There are also limitations to megapixel cameras in the area of low-light performance in the IP realm,” said Chen, senior manager of Canon’s Visual Communications Systems division. “Megapixel may sound impressive in the IP video arena, but that’s not necessarily the case,” Chen added. “People are amazed when they see the high-quality pictures from Canon’s IP video cameras and learn that they are VGA quality.”

Although the primary business of the Broadcast and Communications division is making HD lenses for use in broadcast-quality television and digital cinematography, the R&D expertise they develop finds its way into their IP video cameras handled by the separate Network Video Solutions product group. Canon’s Broadcast and Communications division’s DJ40x14B lens, which is designed for wildlife documentary production, is also a great Homeland Security product. Likewise, the fully HDTV BU-45H robotic pan/tilt/zoom camera from the Broadcast and Communications division (made primarily for use by TV stations) has also found interest among very high-end security professionals. It outputs broadcast-quality HD-SDI.

PENTAX Imaging Co., Golden, Colo., has also been squarely in the game of developing new lenses and technologies. Developed for Homeland Security applications and outdoor live security surveillance, the company recently unveiled a new technology to overcome the atmospheric interference or fog, smoke and haze. Called PENTAX Atmospheric Interference Reduction or PAIR, the technology uses newly developed image processing circuitry installed directly within PENTAX lens housings.    

Jonathan Barnthouse, account executive-Security Systems for PENTAX Imaging Co., said the optic set of a lens has to match or be on par with the megapixel camera if it’s going to be deployed properly and yield crisp images.