Cameras on Stalks!
Network cameras (IP cameras) have been around just slightly longer than eyeonontheplace.com and during those 10 years or so the camera itself has always consisted of a lens, image sensor and a mini-computer to process the images, manage motion detection and raise alerts.
This has been turned completely on its head by the new F-series from Axis Communications. Take a look at this:
When I first saw this picture, I thought – it’s a camera on a stalk! But actually, it’s not a “network camera” in its entirety, it’s just the lens and sensor components. So how does the camera do its processing, motion detection and alert-raising? Well, that’s where the next new product comes in – Axis has separated the “computer” part of the system and put it into a separate box:
Now, it looks like a router, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. The Axis F44 is actually the computing part of these new “network cameras” although I’m almost loathe to call them that! You can attach up to four of the lenses/sensors to this box, via network cables.
This box handles the image processing, events such as motion detection, raising alerts, serving up live images and recording images either to the built-in SD card or sending to some other secure place.
If you’re used to the usual format of network camera, this all looks a bit confusing, but the way I got my head round it was to think of the box as a “camera” and the lenses on stalks as just that, “lenses”, so in the case of the F44, you basically have ONE camera and up to four lenses.
You can access the view and functions associated with each lens by using a different URL, albeit on the same IP address and port umber, which is why I prefer to think of it as ONE camera and FOUR lenses. You could argue that it’s four IP cameras, with their “computers” housed in one box, but that’s not really correct because there is only one processor to my knowledge. Sure, you can configure each lens separately as if they really are separate devices, but there is only one “brain” and only one IP address – one networked device.
So why has Axis come up with this revolutionary multi-headed beast of a network camera system?
I think the main advantage is that you can get pretty much all of the features of four cameras for less than the price of four separate units. Also access to live images and “playback” of recordings from the SD cards located in the main box is central, so you don’t have to log in and out of four different cameras (not that this is a problem for EyeOnThePlace.com because we usually record clips to the cloud and all playback is via our own easy-to-use platform.) Another advantage is that the sensors/lenses are lightweight, small and easy to mount, and they don’t need power so you don’t need to look for mains sockets nearby. They are also a lot cheaper to replace than a complete network camera, say someone smashes one off the wall (ruddy hooligans!) Here at eyeontheplace.com we have Axis cameras that are still in use after literally 10 years of service, and hardware failures are very rare. But in all cases where we HAVE had a failure, it has been the image sensor that has failed. With this system, you can replace one of those for £65!
Lenses/sensors from about £65 each plus VAT is incredibly good value. The main unit costs from about £350 plus VAT. You’ll need some bits and pieces like housings, cables etc. but all in all it’s good value compared to four separate network cameras. There is, according to the Axis website, a kit available with four lenses/sensors, the main unit, cables and two kinds of housings for the lenses, as shown below, but I can’t find stock anywhere in the UK:
Are there any downsides to this revolutionary new kind of network camera? Well yes, a few:
On the downside, you have to run a network cable from the main box to each of the sensors/lenses (which powers them) and there is a limit to the distance from the main box – 15m – not a lot. So the two furthest sensor-lenses in the set-up can only be 30m apart. That’s OK for a home or a small business, but not so good for larger installations. That said, you can of course have a system with more than one of the boxes. There is also only one “computer” processing all of the incoming image streams, so quite how it copes with four lots of incoming traffic will be interesting to see.
One thing’s for sure, this is a very interesting development and another option for eyeontheplace.com customers to choose from.