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Test Drive: AXIS P5544 Hemispheric

The new Axis 5544 is an interesting looking camera in flush mount and full-dome options, with the dome distinguished by a pair of lenses, one being a fixed lens that projects directly downwards and the other being part of the mechanical PTZ. Axis calls this cool new technology Panopsis and it’s capable of covering 950 square metres with a single camera. 
“I call this the panoramic PTZ is because it is essentially 3 cameras in one,” Axis’ Chris Tangsilsat explains to me. “You still have your mechanical PTZ with pan, tilt and optical zoom in 720p HD video and at the same time at the bottom of the bubble there’s a 360-degree fisheye lens. Important to bear in mind is that the camera records what it sees – either PTZ or full 360-degree hemispheric. 
“What happens is when the PTZ head looks straight down, it’s actually looking through the fisheye lens and this converts the PTZ into a hemispheric camera. You can zoom into these scenes by highlighting a particular area and then come back out again into 360 overview mode.” 
According to Tangsilsat, one of the most useful applications for this unit is where you may have a PTZ camera covering an entry point but if someone comes in from another entry point the PTZ will never ever be able to see the second person. 
“The 5544 supports an Axis feature called Gatekeeper which identifies various key regions in the overview scene and when someone moves in that area the mechanical PTZ takes over, zooms in for a set period of 5, 10 seconds or more,” says Tangsilsat. “Then after that period, the PTZ returns to looking through the hemispheric lens and goes back into overview mode until the next movement takes place in the scene. 
“You can pre-define multiple areas of interest which means the camera is capable of covering multiple entry points. So depending on where they are coming from – back, front, left or right, the camera can be programmed to zoom in on that location.” 
At this point in the demo Tangsilsat has called up the P5544 management software which is split into Normal (full PTZ) and Overview (hemispheric) modes and is showing me how easy it is to use the mouse as a digital magnifier.
“What you’ll also notice is that with the 360-degree fisheye lens, it’s actually a true 180-degree horizontal field of view meaning that ceiling height is not an issue. If the ceiling height is 2m the camera will see from wall to wall, if my ceiling height is 5m the camera will still see from wall to wall. 
“It’s a new concept and the objective of this camera is to offer the best of both worlds in a single affordable package – a hemispherical camera and a mechanical PTZ.”
This is a neat camera, I think to myself. The fact the key functionality is straightforward optical makes the whole thing more reliable and capable. I liked the camera at the show and sitting at my desk going through the specifications, I like it still more. 
One of the strengths of the stabilisation of resolution at 720p and 1080p formats is that proven sensors and compression chipsets like this Axis engine can be applied to all sort of cool and inventive applications and that’s just what we see here with the 720p P5544. 

Camera operation

Allowing users to manage the camera using the hemispheric lens is a little VMS designated as Overview mode and you use a mouse pointer as a digital magnifier to highlight points of interest. You just trawl the cursor across the scene – it takes the form of a white cross. Click, and lo and behold a de-warped magnified view of the area you’re pointing at appears in the right hand corner of the interface screen. 
In the flesh this capability is seriously useful. The magnified image is a flat 2-dimensional tile – just as you’d view using a standard fixed camera. Users or operators can also drive the PTZ function of the camera to points in the scene manually just by clicking on a preset button that might highlight a door, foyer, point of sale or other high risk area in a scene. 
The zoom can also be activated by deploying a joystick, the interface zoom bar or spinning the mouse wheel. The Normal mode user interface is comprehensive too and allows operators to make the most of this camera’s capabilities. The PTZ works like any PTZ in normal mode with 18x optical zoom doing good work, well supported by 720p of resolution. 
When you’re in Normal mode there’s a snapshot of the 360-degree view in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. This serves to orientate the operator to the way the camera is pointing rather than being the live hemispheric view you get in Overview mode. 
PTZ presets appear on the Overview snapshot as little circle – you click on these or a preset to drive the camera to these preconfigured viewing locations. When you’re done in normal mode and want to duck back to Overview, all you do is click one in the centre of the Overview snapshot or on the overview button in the menu. Too easy. 
This unit is IP51-rated against dust and dripping water, supports PoE+, and has a 360-degree pan and 180-degree tilt. There’s 2-way audio, audio detection and inputs/outputs for external devices are supported when an optional multi-connector cable is used. Use of AXIS Camera Application Platform enables the installation of additional intelligent video applications.
The AXIS P5544 comes with a mounting kit for hard and drop ceilings and the camera’s day/night functionality gives good images in both day and low light conditions, while multiple streams in H.264 and Motion JPEG formats are supported.

“The 5544 supports an Axis feature called Gatekeeper which identifies various key regions in the overview scene and when someone moves in that area the mechanical PTZ takes over, zooms in for a set period of 5, 10 seconds or more”


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