Evaluating IP Security Cameras for Optics and Imaging

Sept. 17, 2009
Dealers and integrators must evaluate products on the basis of features and performance and ultimately, application.

In an age when the number of companies making networked IP security cameras is ever-growing, how does today’s security dealer and integrator know which models will deliver the superior performance that will set his or her business apart from the competition?

Clearly, name brands and manufacturers with positive reputations are a good place to start in evaluating IP security cameras. The next challenge is differentiating among the many products offered by these name brands. Are the IP security cameras you’re considering made by manufacturers that also make other types of cameras, such as camcorders, digital pocket cameras, and D-SLRs? If so, sophisticated technologies (such as lenses, image processors and color management) developed for those mass-produced products are likely to find their way into the same brand’s IP security cameras..

Expertise in advanced optics and total imaging are advantages in making IP security cameras, but dealers and integrators must also evaluate such products on the basis of features and performance and lens quality is paramount.

Regardless of brand, there are additional optical-performance features to consider when purchasing an IP security camera. One is a wide-angle of view without distortion. Difficult to achieve from an optics standpoint, such cameras do exist and are well-suited for use in locations such as reception areas, convenience stores and tight spaces such as elevators and ATM lobbies.

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. Given that fact, find out whether the IP video security camera you may be considering provides progressive-scan imaging or interlace imaging. Progressive-scan imaging (such as that used by computers) provides a clearer picture (especially when capturing moving objects) and is “computer-friendly” for integration with IT systems.

Far beyond the relatively simple choice between interlace and progressive scanning, the sophistication of the image processing inside an IP video security camera can also yield many more performance advantages in terms of the camera’s ability to deal with varying light levels. An example of this can be seen in Canon’s VB-C60 and VB-C500D, both of which feature an advanced image processor, which handles white balance, exposure compensation, shutter speed, and color-correction functions to boost image quality. This processor also offers two important image-enhancement functions, Smart Shade Control (SSC) and Auto Day/Night Mode. Smart Shade Control automatically adjusts the contrast between bright and dark areas of an image for optimum detail display and Auto Day/Night enables the camera to automatically switch between day/night modes, depending on lighting conditions. A Color Night Mode enables the cameras to capture color differences even in the lowest light conditions for making positive identification in security-monitoring applications.

Insist on optical sophistication

The VB-C60 and VB-C500D IP security cameras also feature the proprietary DIGIC NET processor, which performs image resizing, encoding, encryption and transmission. This chip also provides simultaneous delivery of high-quality Motion-JPEG (M-JPEG) and low-bandwidth MPEG-4 video in high-quality VGA (640 x 480) resolution at a full 30 fps to multiple locations.

The combination of optical sophistication (i.e., clarity, a long zoom ratio, and a wide angle of view) and advanced image processing in areas such as low-light performance and color accuracy provides IP video security camera dealers and integrators with advantages that give them a competitive edge among users and even make new application opportunities possible.