When you think digital video surveillance cameras you have to think Axis Communications. And one of the beautiful things about the Axis product line up is that it’s constantly evolving – pushing away at the performance boundaries of what we expect from our digital solutions. 

Essentially with the 231D and 232D Network Domes, Axis has used all its knowledge of networks and digital technology to build a family of cameras designed to offer the very best of both worlds – a strong optics package and connectivity that’s second to none. Have no doubt about this, with the 231D and 232D (day/night) Network Dome Cameras,

Axis Communications is setting a standard other manufacturers will need to match as the digital future unfolds. Getting these domes off on the right foot is a series of physical specs that are the equal of any quality analogue domes available today. For a start, both incorporate Sony’s ExView HAD 1/4-inch CCD along with a motorized zoom lens (4.1 – 73.8mm at F1.4-3.0) and a horizontal viewing angle of 48-2.8 degrees.

Both the cameras give 18x optical (there’s an additional 12x digital). Along with this you get 360-degree per second pan speed, a tilt range of 0-90 degrees, white balance and an electronic shutter with a speed of 1 – 100,000 sec.

Physically the domes are the size, shape and weight of current analogue speed domes, with a diameter of 144mm and a weight of 1.93kg. And while both cameras do colour down to 0.3 lux, the 232D day/night unit has a claimed minimum scene illumination of 0.005 lux.

The colour figures – and especially the monochrome figures – are pretty amazing if true but we didn’t test the camera in the lab so we can’t verify Axis’ claims.

Along with its day night capability, the AXIS 232D is a true external camera that is designed for outdoor use. It combines with an outdoor housing offering IP-66 rated protection against dust and heavy rain. IP-66 is the highest rating a camera housing can get for outdoor use so there’s no question the 232D is capable of taking some punishment.

Network capability

Once you get passed the beige poly exterior of these network domes, things start looking very different indeed. First is the way in which they deliver image streams, either as Motion JPEG or the MPEG-4 streaming video standard – there’s no BNC in sight. Networking is handled through a 10BASET/100BASETX Ethernet connection through an RJ-45 plug. There are also 4 alarm inputs/outputs.

The domes are designed to be monitored from any location by an authorized user, up to a total of 20 users at the same time. Controls include the usual pan, tilt and zoom and users can set up alarm responses via 20 alarm presets and one guard tour sequence.

Strengthening out the remote control capability is a scheduled and triggered event functionality with preset call-up along with alarm notification through e-mail, TCP, HTTP and upload of images via email, FTP and HTTP. If you’re handling a number of cameras they can be designated names and numbers etc, using image customization with text, time/date and image overlay.

Unlike your typical analogue DVR, there’s 9MB pre and post alarm memory giving about 2 minutes of video at CIF, with medium compression and at 4 images per second. Driving the unit is a 32-bit RISC processor and there’s a Linux 2.4 kernel, 32MB of random access memory and 8MB of flash memory.

Video specs

Each of the domes has a resolution equivalent to 470 lines PAL, that 0.3 lux performance at F 1.4 and a frame rate of 25 images per second in all resolutions. Using motion JPEG and MPEG-4 the cameras offer 10 different resolutions with a maximum of 768 x 576 (PAL). This is excellent performance. There’s also a minimum resolution of 176 x 144 (PAL) which is useable.

Along with these resolution options, there are 10 levels of compression ranging from Very High to Very Low, with compressed files being around the 5Kb size and uncompressed files around 60Kb – though obviously these vary depending on the sorts of resolution you’re trying to get from the recording.

While each offers full frame rate Motion JPEG video with the capability to remotely control pan, tilt and zoom functions over an IP network, there’s also support for simultaneous transmission of video in MPEG-4 mode when the firmware (available for free download at www.axis.com) is upgraded in Q1, 2005.

Rounding things out is a complete set of security features such as HTTPS encryption and IP address filtering in order to ensure the camera’s can’t be accessed or taken over by rogue elements across a LAN or the Internet.

Both Axis network dome cameras are supported by what the manufacturer calls the industry’s largest base of application software for video and alarm management. These include things like Windows XP, 200, NY4.0, ME and 98, Linux and Mac OS X. The unit can also handle browsers including Internet Explorer 5x or later, Mozilla 1.4 or later and Mac OS X and Netscape 7.1 or later.

These network cameras come standard with hard ceiling mount brackets, drop ceiling mount brackets and power supplies. Other accessories include that IP66 rated housing, as well as Axis Camera Explorer, which is basic software for viewing and manual recording of multiple cameras on your own computer.

There’s also Axis Camera Recorder for viewing and event-based recording of up to 16 cameras, including search tools and motion detection alarm. Finally there’s Axis Camera Station, software for recording and management of up to 25 cameras with all the search tools, motion detection and alarm and remote monitoring client incorporated.

It’s Axis Communications’ own product blurb that really pegs the 231D and 232D domes for what they are, describing them as offering “the combined functionality of a legacy analog dome with the best features found in a high quality network camera”. Has Axis succeeded in combining the best of both worlds? We think so.