PANASONIC’S new WV-X8570N 4 x 4k multi-sensor camera is a play for the Holy Grail of video surveillance – a camera with the capability to see everything, all the time.
PANASONIC has a long history at the bleeding edge of video surveillance technology. The company’s Super Dynamic cameras changed the way the industry judged the performance of CCTV cameras in the late 1990s and Panasonic was at the forefront of PTZ development, with a string of excellent camera systems over many years. The WV-X8570N has the same design DNA as earlier cameras and incorporates many of the company’s technological breakthroughs but fundamentally, it’s designed to give end users managing large open spaces a view of everything in its focal range – around 30 metres for faces and plates.
The specification list is long – in fact it’s so long, it makes the camera difficult to get a handle on. Each of the 4 camera sensors is a 1/1.8-inch progressive scan CMOS with a minimum scene illumination in colour of 0.12 lux and in monochrome of 0.05 lux. These are 4K image sensors with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels at up to 15ips. The lenses are fixed 4.6mm with a constant aperture of F1.6 and wide dynamic range of 108dB. The cameras feature auto gain control, white balance, adaptive black stretch, backlight compensation, highlight compensations, fog compensation and digital noise compensation.
Importantly, the camera heads can be moved and Panasonic’s swingEye wide range tilt angle adjustment allows for 270-degree or 360-degree views. Positioning of the camera heads is integral to performance and 1-3 of the camera heads pan through 360-degrees, and tilt between 30 and 80 degrees with an azimuth of 50 degrees up or down. Meanwhile, camera 4 pans through 360, tilts between 15-80 degrees and yaws through 50 degrees. Each camera head offers a horizontal angle of view of 97 degrees and a vertical angle of view of 53 degrees.
Compression options are H.264 and H.265, the H.265 compression has new smart coding, there’s Auto VIQS self-learning region of interest and end-to-end system encryption. Intelligent Auto monitors scene dynamics and motion to adjust key camera settings automatically in real-time reducing. Adopting H.265 Smart Coding technology, bandwidth efficiency is intelligently increased for longer recording and less storage. Out of the box, the camera supports full data encryption streaming to FIPS 140-2 Level 1. Data security is another consideration and there’s encrypted SD card edge recording, as well as end-to-end system encryption with supported VMS and devices to protect from IP snooping/spoofing and detect data alteration.
The build is also solid with NEMA 4X, IP66 and IK10 ratings against water, dust and vandalism. Dimensions are 230mm long, 196mm high with a dome diameter of 80mm. Construction is die-cast aluminium and weight 2.8kg using the attachment plate or 3.3kg using the base bracket. The camera’s build quality is high, with lovely hand feel. Cabling is through the foot of the pendant mount I’m using. All fixing screws are stainless steel and have corrosion resistant coatings. There’s a dehumidification device integrated into the camera to handle condensation. Operating temperature is -40 to 60C and the clear poly resin dome cover has hydrophilic ClearSight coating to disperse water and accumulated dust.
Other features include 24 simultaneous users, events recorded or sent to iOS or Android devices, email notifications, VMD alarm and command alarm, as well as G.726 audio compression from 16kbps-32 kbps and G.711 audio compression of 64 kbps. Current demand is PoE and maximum draw is 12.95W.
Test Driving the WV-X8570N 4x4K
I’m running the camera through a NetGear ProSafe GS108P PoE switch on our dedicated Dell Optiplex 9020 i7 server via the Panasonic camera browser – I’m interested to see whether the standard video card can keep up but it seems to be managing well. It’s hard to know with 4 x 4K how the CPU/GPU might respond to widespread movement through 360 degrees, but the fact Panasonic’s H.265 compression delivers a combined video stream that’s the equivalent of a single 4K camera is instructive. A frame rate of 15ips helps keep things under control in this department, while ensuring security managers get near real time performance. There’s have no trouble getting the camera cabled up and opening the camera browser on SEN’s server.
The first thing I realise, as I pin the Magic Arm to the verandah rail outside the office with the heaviest camera it has ever carried, is that this is much more camera than my application. Yes, you can set the camera to deal with 270 degrees, but I want to look at 360. Even using a pendant mount pushing away from an overhang, this isn’t easy. In the real world, integrators and security managers of universities and public spaces are going to need to find ways to install this camera to leverage its considerable power.
The next thing that hits me on the street is resolution. It’s strong and that feeds into good things like depth of field and sharpness. The camera’s ability to manage variable light is solid, too, and I’m impressed with colour rendition. Motion blur of traffic is better in the sweet spot of the 4.6mm lens than at the edges, where classic barrel distortion starts arm wrestling pixels.
Once I start playing with digital zoom, I get as stronger sense of the power of the camera, but I decide I prefer to stick with 2x digital zoom, rather than using 4x, unless it gives me the field of view I want with a particular angle of view. Digging into digital zoom unearths typical pixel-spread softness at 4x, as well as discovering chromatic aberration, while the full 4.6mm angle and 2x are flinty and sharp from edge to edge.
Hyperfocal distance looks a little longer than usual. Looking at detail in the timber, as well as the sharpness of the adjacent verandah railing suggests it might be around 1 metre. This is likely to come down to that slightly longer than usual 4.6mm fixed focal length, the pay-off of which, when combined with 4 x 4K resolution, is getting court admissible plates and pretty good faces out towards 30 metres.
The WV-X8570N’s camera browser gets involved in the test and that’s because of the nature of the camera. In some ways it’s better to think of this as a 4-camera system, not a single camera. In my case, that system comprises Bellevue Street cameras 1, 2, 3 and 4. The cameras are not stitched but together they contrive to give complete coverage out the front. I can see across the street, up the street, down the street and under the veranda of the office. Bear in mind, you can adjust the camera sensors to give the best possible coverage – I could enhance my coverage doing so but I’d lose the sense of 360 degrees. I also note my tilt angle is a little low for my mounting height. Even so, whatever comes past the office is always captured by 1 camera or 2, and more detail is only a click away.
Here are the 4 images with no digital zoom – you can see core characteristics – hyperfocal length is a little longer than usual, depth of field is enormous, sharpness and detail levels are high, colour rendition is strong. The car in image 2 is doing about 40kmph.
Something else that takes me a little while to get my head around is that the 4 camera streams are always being recorded at full resolution. This makes the Panasonic more capable than you think it is. Investigators will be able to access all 4 images streams after the event, steering around the images from corner to corner and making the most of that strong resolution. When I’m viewing the scene in full screen I can pan around by clicking the browser image off-axis. Towards the top, the angle of view moves up, towards the bottom, it moves down. For operators and investigators, this makes managing the camera easier.
2x digital zoom is a nice place to be at this resolution and focal length.
The image quality is strong throughout the afternoon. The colour temperature seems to be ever so slightly warm, though as the afternoon wears on my faintly pink tones move to faint blue. I find that to keep an eye on a key part of the scene, it works best to select a camera view and then go in 2x digital zoom for faces and plates. Is the camera getting plates out to 30 metres, as the Panasonic literature claims it is? Yes, for the most part, it is. Things start slipping when fast moving cars are whizzing by a maximum range or at right angles, but closer in, there’s no drama.
This is our same old afternoon scene between the buildings and test day is sunny, giving strong delineations between light and shaded parts of the scene but none of this bothers the WV-X8570N, which plugs away happily. Colour rendition in light and in shade is excellent. There’s not that overwrought intensity you sometimes see but the colours are rich with excellent variation in tone. Nor do I notice significant amounts of noise in good light. Latency seems to be about 300th of a second, which is good performance.
As light levels fade into the late afternoon, I start seeing some evidence of a reduction in shutter speed in the scene from camera 2 in the array. What’s interesting here, is that usually when shooting on the street, I point the lens up towards Albion Street at an angle – it’s not common for me to view a scene at right angles like this and there’s no question it’s tough, especially in failing light. I try to snare the plate of a motor scooter at near right angles doing about 40kmph there’s no chance. Still, given the difficulty posed by the scene, the bike is generally in one piece and details like colour, clothing colour, helmet design and more, are easy to discern.
I have a lot of fun playing with 2x zoom on 4K resolution out front using the 3 camera angles that work best in my application. If the Panasonic was going to live on the Magic Arm, I’m be tweaking Camera 4 to cover what’s going on underneath and slightly behind the camera. The greater tilt angle on camera 4 suggests I’m not the first person to think this way.
Low Light Performance & WDR
As night really comes down I get a stronger sense of the WV-X8570N as a system of cameras. In my application at default, camera 1 stays in colour, camera 2 goes to monochrome, and cameras 3 and 4 stay in colour. There’s no doubt that looking under the tree out front, there’s considerably less light, so it’s no surprise camera 2 went over before the others. That it made a unilateral decision to do so is instructive. Monochrome performance is tidy – perhaps a little brighter than I’m used to. When I dig further in on camera 2, that big resolution starts to show its face. I can drill in across the road and get detail of a motorcycle parked at least 20 metres from the lens.
Camera 1, which has stayed in colour, is delivering a bright colour image. There’s some rocket tailing of the high-resolution video stream with fast moving cars – 35-40kmph – moving between light and dark areas, but with pedestrians, performance is strong and the resolution comes to the fore. I’m able to wind the camera views in digitally and get details of people on the street – gender, hair, clothing, actions.
It turns out to be a quiet night when I get back to the office to do the night test – the closest pedestrian is 20 metres or more away and facing in the opposite direction. Something that’s telling is that I don’t realise I’ve recorded them until reviewing the images. The huge coverage of this camera is a bit like that. When investigating, you need to examine 4 high resolution streams and chances are you recorded much more than you thought.
The monochrome image is bright and even.
When a car goes by moving fast I find that while I don’t get plates (CCTV cameras almost never can get plates at night), I do get make and model, colour and distinguishing features. The resolution feeds into the levels of detail that are available. With a 1080p camera, as you wind in the digital zoom you might isolate areas of interest, but you never increase levels of detail. With a 4K camera on a 1080p monitor (bear in mind the quad is displaying at less than full resolution), you wind the image in for much more detail – it’s a beautiful thing. It’s especially noticeable in my view down Bellevue towards Foveaux Street.
There’s some motion blur in sub-7 lux – car doing around 35kmph. Depth of field is extreme – the pub is 70m away.
Looking at the images for noise, I find that while night performance is a little softer than afternoon, there’s no excessive amplification artefacts in any of my 4 scenes. The night performance in colour and monochrome is better than I was expecting. There’s a little blooming around bright points but it’s controlled in a typical Panasonic way. I note some chromatic aberration around bright points but it’s mild. Around tree branches moving there’s some blur in colour that’s not evident in my monochrome image – different shutter speeds at work here.
Next morning, in the presence of 75,000 lux of backlight, the camera delivers typically even Panasonic performance across the frame, ignoring variable light and backlight. The colours in this strong light are excellent, as is sharpness, contrast and detail – that resolution again feeds into depth of field. For a fixed lens camera, DoF is monstrous. When it comes to motion blur, looking at camera 2, which is installed at right angles to the lens, I can see there’s still some blur with faster moving vehicles, but I don’t see it with the cameras viewing the road from an oblique angle.
So, can the Panasonic WV-X8570N 4 x 4K really see and record everything out to 30 metres, all the time? In good light and with very strong backlight, yes it can, and it performs the task well, with strong colour rendition, excellent resolution and depth of field, and solid management of backlight. The bitrate is a weird thing when you’re zoomed into a portion of scene. When there’s nothing going on it drops right off – and I mean right off – down to 21 kbps. That’s something we’ve never seen before and it suggests that Panasonic’s engineers are doing spooky things in firmware. Whatever caching might be going on, there’s no real sense of it. When something moves in the scene, the camera spins up with no hesitation whatever.
In lower light levels, the camera heads explicitly show that they work independently. They’ll stay in colour, or go over into night mode as required by reflectance levels emitting from their angle of view. Night performance unassisted in colour and monochrome is bright, with good colour rendition. Shutter speed comes off at night – I’m at default 1/25th at the bottom end – that means there’s some blur of traffic but it’s much less evident with cyclists and pedestrians and I’m getting strong detail very deep into the scene, where that powerful resolution across 4 cameras really delivers.
Features of the Panasonic WV-X8570N 4 x 4K camera include:
* 4 x 4K high resolution(33MP) 3840 x 2160 15fps per sensor
* H.265 compression combined with Smart Coding technology
* Wide range tilt angle adjustment mechanism
* 4 repositionable lenses to minimize blind spots
* NEMA 4X, IP66 and IK10 ratings
* ClearSight coatings.