20
Jul
10

ACTi ACM-1231 MegaPixel Outdoor Camera


Moved to www.NetworkCameraCritic.com

ACTi makes some unique cameras in the marketplace that distinguish themselves. Most of their cameras use the same 1/3″ CMOS sensor with 1.3MP resolution. The value proposition with the 1231 is that it’s a commercial quality outdoor, day/night, vari-focal lens (about 4X zoom), megapixel camera with built-in IR illuminators at a price point that many other companies sell simple cameras without many of these features. Ideal for small businesses or home owners that want an affordable true outdoor camera. The camera retails for $619, but street price seems to be around $550.

Having worked with ACTi on getting this camera setup, I can vouch that it’s not as easy as some other brands like Axis, but still intuitive. The manual is not as well written as others, but they provide very detailed “how to” guides in their FAQ section which fill the voids in their manual.

The image quality out of the box is not that good and would lead you to believe this is not a good camera, but after some tweaking with the assistance of their tech support, the image quality is pretty good for the price point, certainly worth considering if you need an outdoor camera.

I also had problems with vari-focal (manual zoom) and focusing. It’s not documented, but you need to loosen the knobs by turning them counter-clockwise to make the adjustments and then tighten them up again.

Here’s a sample screenshot of the configuration screens which is similar in format to Axis, but without the built-in help functions Axis provides.

ACTi ACM-1231 - Screenshot

Here’s an image taken during the middle of the day. Color and sharpness are good

ACTi ACM-1231 - Daytime

Here’s an image taken at night, very dark except for a Malibu lights in the potted plants. It’s a little grainy, but you can see the advantages of having IR illuminators. The thing to note is that this is set at 1/30th/sec shutter speed minimum which would cripple most cameras without illuminators. This is important because many reduce shutter speeds to ridiculous long exposures making for a very clear night scene but impossible to capture a moving object.

ACTi ACM-1231 - Evening

The conclusion is that this camera is a good value for those looking for an outdoor camera. The features you need in an outdoor camera are. extra resolution because you are trying to cover a larger area than indoors, lighting, has to work day or night which means an IR CUT filter in mandatory, you need to be able to zoom in to focus in on what you are trying to capture and you need it work in all weather. For this, the camera delivers. Also, being a popular commercial camera, I’ve found that it works with many surveillance camera software products out there. Currently, I’m using it with BlueIris and it’s working great.

The pluses for this camera are;

  • 1.3 MegaPixel resolution (4 times that of CCTV camera)
  • Excellent Acti Tech Support
  • Vari-Focal lens at 3.3 to 12mm (almost 4X zoom)
  • Built in IR illuminators, good for about 50′
  • Automatic IR CUT filter (suitable for day or night with IR)
  • Can send emails or FTP video or images
  • Powered by PoE or an included power adapter

The shortfalls of this camera are;

  • Documentation can be better
  • Does not have built in storage, like an SD card

Recommended for;

  • this camera works as well for home surveillance as it does for large business, very versatile, priced right and unique in that the other major camera manufacturers have nothing completely like this.

30 Responses to “ACTi ACM-1231 MegaPixel Outdoor Camera”


  1. July 31, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Hey, nice site you got here! Keep up the good job

  2. 2 Jamal
    August 31, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Hi there,

    I saw your comment at http://www.networkcamerareviews.com. I just need some advice. I have install 18 units of Acti ACM400 at several of my shops.I want to build a customized website where I can stream all the locations via internet. Can you help me by pointing me to the right direction, or if I can get the vendor or programmer to help me on this.

    Thank you

    Jamal

    • September 9, 2010 at 9:34 pm

      I run BlueIris software at home and it has a built in web server where you can setup users with priviledges where you can limit which cameras they can see. The software is fairly inexpensive at ~$50 and is easy to setup.

      You may run into problems with your internet bandwidth. Go to a site that measures your internet speed like http://www.speedtest.net or http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest and see how fast your internet UPLOAD speed is. As an example, to support 1 VGA camera at 30 fps, you need about 800Kbps according to Axis. You can limit resolution and frame rate to allow more viewers to view more cameras.

  3. 4 Drew
    September 22, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    I have a bandwidth monitor going and my Axis 207w in 320×240 mode is using about 30KB/s max (240 kilobits/second). In 640×480 mode, it maxed at 121KB/s. This is using onboard MPEG-4 AVS compression. It averaged around 80KB/s. You can set compression levels with the camera to bring down bandwidth at the expense of some quality. I use compression level 20 (allowable values are 0-100). It also depends what audio codec you use.

  4. 5 Shelldon
    February 12, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Hello,

    I am interested in an outdoor IP Network Camera for installing under my bay window and was wondering if you think this camera would be a good selection for my application?

    Very good night image resolution is important as well as a nice broad field of view. Since this is going to be mounted high up under the bay window, SD option will not be feasable so I’ll need a seperate pc/server to save the video to.

    Wondering what your take is on my such application. Thanks.

    • February 12, 2011 at 1:35 am

      I think its the best value for an outdoor camera. I use them with BlueIris software ($50) on a PC and it works out very well. The illuminators work well to about 30-40′. Beyond that, you may need additional lighting. The field of view is adjustable with the varifocal lens so you can play with the trade off between a wide field of view and the ability to identify an intruder.

  5. 7 Shelldon
    February 12, 2011 at 1:44 am

    Thanks for your reply. The varifocal lens is not “manually” adjustable is it? Remember this camera will he mounted high up under a bay window so it will **not** be easy to get to after it’s is installed.
    Any other suggestions for such an installation? Thanks!

    • February 12, 2011 at 2:06 am

      What happens is when you first set it up, expect to take a few trips up and down the ladder as you adjust focus and the intial focal length and line it up to where you what you want to capture. Not saying it’s easy, but you may have it up for a month and decide that the field of view is too narrow or too wide or you want the camera pointed differently and make that climb on the ladder to make the adjustments. It’s all part of figuring out what works best. But if you are lucky, you toss the camera in place and it’s all perfect the first time. I haven’t been that lucky.

      • 9 JohnnyC
        December 26, 2011 at 6:43 pm

        Whenever I need to adjust a varifocal camera, postions the camera and/or focusing a manual focus camera that is mounted up high, I take my iPad up on the ladder with me and do everyting in one shot. A prereq is to configure the camera and the iPad app to allow viewing te camera first. I used to do this with a nebook, but an IiPad is MUCH lighter and a better screen image than my netbook. Just don’t drop your iPad as it coud be a $500-$800 mistake.

        John
        New Jersey

    • February 19, 2011 at 5:49 pm

      A varifocal length is like a zoom in that you can change the focal length, but unlike a zoom, it has to manually be refocused. So yes, you have to not only get to the camera, you have to remove the front of the camera, reset the focal length and refocus. Since this is a PITA to do on a ladder while looking at a laptop to see the focus, I usually take it down, do it on the ground and then remount it. This would be true of all cameras with varifocal lenses. I understand where you are coming from, I have a camera above a kitchen window that pops out about 15″ and the camera is mounted above, about 12′ high and it was a pain to reset the focal length but now that’s it’s done, it’s likely going to stay that way for years.

      • 11 Shelldon
        February 23, 2011 at 2:44 am

        Hmmm…..as a thought, what would be ‘one step’ above this camera with a real zoom? The continued use of a ladder will be a serious issue for me. 😦

      • February 23, 2011 at 3:57 am

        This is a huge step for like for like quality. I haven’t seen just an electronic zoom, usually it’s part of a PTZ dome. But once setup, you can point it and zoom it from anywhere you have internet access. Ones to look at are the Axis P5535-e or Q6034-e, about $3,000 and $4,000 respectively with mount & high power PoE injector. If you were willing to reduce resolution to VGA resolution, you can probably get an Axis 215 PTZ-E or convert an indoor camera for outdoor use like the Panasonic BB HCM581a and stick it in a dome enclosure, either way, figure about $1,000-1,200. I think everyone would like every camera to have this feature, until they see what it costs.

  6. 13 Dave
    February 24, 2011 at 3:32 am

    What do you think about the ACTi TCM-1231? Was the TCM-1231 available when you bought your ACM-1231? I am looking for a decent camera for the front porch. I am going to put this camera under a eve and will be able to run PoE.

    I enjoyed reading your posts on http://www.networkcamerareviews.com/forums/ and appreciate your contributions and opinions. Thank you!

    • February 24, 2011 at 4:31 am

      The TCM series just came out and I was too cheap. It’s about $100 or so more, you get a faster frame rate and h.264 compression. My distributor said the image quality otherwise would be same. Faster frame rate is nice, don’t care about the compression as the software I use is going to take the stream and compress it in it’s own format anyway.

      • 15 Dave
        February 24, 2011 at 4:34 am

        Do you still recommend the ACTi cameras for a good value outdoor camera that works in low-light? Anything else I should check out? Axis might be too expensive for me.

  7. February 24, 2011 at 5:14 am

    Not sure that Axis is more expensive, it’s just that they don’t make an outdoor bullet camera with built in IR LED’s so to me, for a home or small business, it’s the convenience of having a camera that you can use outdoors day or night. Don’t know why the european camera companies didn’t think of this. The only popular ones I know of are ACTi, Messoa and Vivotek. I’ve done the seperate IR illuminator thing and it’s a pain and expensive. Heck, I paid more for a single illuminator than this camera cost not to mention the power supply and additional wiring. For what it’s worth, I replaced 2 Axis cameras with ACTi at home because I wasn’t happy with the indoor image quality.

    Messoa makes a very cool camera, the NCR875 and it’s claim to fame is that they use a 5MP sensor to display 1MP image to reduce noise at night. So what you end up with is a very clear image at night and their varifocal lens is autofocus and if you ever tried focusing on a ladder, you’ll appreciate that. Of course, for that extra technology, the price is a little more than the ACM-1231 but comperable to the TCM-1231.

    As far as Vivotek, they have the lowest prices from a major player, but the reviews I’ve read have never been favorable, the sample images people sent me were not that good and I hear of stories of poor customer service.

  8. March 10, 2011 at 2:41 am

    Can you share what your settings are for your ACM-1231?

    The shutter speed setting is not listed as a minimum, it’s maximum. So even when I set it to 1/30 I get blurred images at night.

    Are you using the CGI commands to change the day and night settings?

    • March 10, 2011 at 4:17 am

      Under camera setup, I have Maximum Auto Shutter Speed set to 1/30th. I believe this is as slow as you want to be to capture motion, but motion blur happens for other reasons. If the camera is setup to capture a subject coming towards the camera, you can set this slower and you won’t get motion blur If the subject is close to the camera and going across it, it will be tough to stop motion. You can decrease the max shutter speed to 1/60th, but then the image begins to get darker. The further the subject is, the less motion blur you will get.

      The day/night IR cut filter is switched automatically by the camera, don’t even know the CGI commands to trigger it.

      • March 10, 2011 at 11:38 pm

        I was reviewing presentation slides from ACTi on best configuration for minimal motion blur in minimal light and what I got out of it was to go into Camera Setup and increase AGC Gain to 100 for minimal motion blur. The default is 50. I can email you the slides if you want.

      • 20 James
        March 10, 2011 at 11:53 pm

        Please do email me the slides. I found that when the the AGC is too high at night the image gets real noisy and people get white washed out.

  9. 21 C
    September 13, 2011 at 4:34 am

    What is a good online place to buy ACTi cams? Like Authorized resellers so that the warranties still apply.

    • September 13, 2011 at 5:32 am

      There’s no such thing as an ACTi authorized dealer, or any camera company I know of. I call a distributor, setup an account and order cameras, Axis, Mobotix, Acti, anything else. There are some larger online stores like B&H Photo that has been around forever that sells a lot of different camera brands. Surveillent is another one I come accross that has reasonable pricing. Some resellers are partners of camera companies, but it’s more of feel good thing, like I’m an Axis and Mobotix partner, don’t know what it means, but sounds good.

  10. 23 Thad
    October 26, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Hi, you’ve got a great site so much appreciated. Quick Question — You mentioned running Blue Iris and ACTi’s free software. I’m fine with plopping down $50 if my life will be much easier for it. I’m a noob to all of this, so with that in mind…..BI or ACTi’s VMS. Thanks mucho.

    Oh, any experience with ACTi cube cams? How large of a room can a cube remain effective. I want a megapixel w/720 res. I’m looking at the TCM 4201 and Axis M1054. Est price difference is $50. Sorry in advance for partially high-jacking the thread to cubes.

    cheers

    • October 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      The problem I had with BlueIris was that I was running it on an Intel Atom based PC and with 6 1.3 megapixel cameras and it was pegged at 100% cpu and not doing well. The beauty of ACTi’s software, besides being free is that the cameras only send video when it detects an event, so the PC is doing very little work and I can load up a lot of cameras on a very slow PC without fear of overloading it. Also, ACTi provides an iPhone app which is nice. BlueIris is best if you have a mix of camera brands.

      As for ACTi cube vs. the Axis M1054, I replaced my Axis M10 series with the ACTi cube in my home because the M10 has horrible low light capability. Even during the day the image can get grainy. I have a cube covering a pretty decent sized area in my house, about 30′ deep, 15′ wide. I since replaced it with an acm-3511 because I wanted the IR led’s for night vision.

      I like the AVN80X and used it at my vacation home. The only issue, and it’s minor for most people is that it is not PoE, meaning you have to plug it in AC. I did get BlueIris to work with it, but that model number is not in there. Just select an AVTech model option that has h.264 and it will work.

  11. 25 Thad
    October 26, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Ignore meπŸ™‚ I got here for the ACTi review, but should have started with the most recent review. I’m going TCM 1231 outdoors and the AVN80x indoors with Blue Iris on my HP Media Smart Server. Fantastic reviews and information. Much appreciated.

    I’m in the desert and the high temp range on the 1231 is 122F. I’m a little concerned about direct sunlight in the summer. While ambient temp might not be 122F, the cam is gonna get hot in direct sunlight for hours at a time. Any thoughts or anecdotal info from other users?

    cheers

  12. 26 George
    February 27, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    I’m looking at the motion detection in the ACTI camera software, It seems that when creating a zone, you can only create the zone using a square/rectangle. In screen shots for Axis cameras, you can create an actual shape rather than a box. I’m only judging by screen shots. It this true?

    • February 27, 2012 at 10:36 pm

      You create a motion detect window on Axis, but similar to ACTi. It pops on the screen with a default size and location and you resize it and move it by drag/drop, same as ACTi. The shape is always a rectangle/square on both brands of cameras.

  13. 28 Bryan
    March 30, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    I appreciate your blog and advice on the various forums. Been looking for a camera with the ACM 1231 capabilities but like the Dome format aesthetically. Are there disadvantages of dome cameras over the bullet style? Is the ACTi ACM-7511 the dome version of the ACM 1231? Or would you recommend a different model if you were to recommend a dome style camera?

    Thank you in advance for your assistance.

    • March 31, 2012 at 6:54 pm

      No, not at all. The ACM-7511 is VGA/D1 resolution vs. megapixel on the 1231. It doesn’t have illuminators. Careful with dome cameras with built in illuminators if you live in colder climates as many will not work with PoE below about -5C (23F) unless you connect them to seperate 12V power supply to operate the heater. Not an issue for me in So Cal but someone in Chicago for example would have to buy a 12V power supply, plug it into A/C and run 12V low voltage wire to the camera. Not a big deal, but understand that’s what you may have to do. The bullet cameras like the 1231 or the newer KCM-5211E for example, can go down to about -40F without the use of a heater. What’s a really nice dome is the TCM-7811, it has all the features of the TCM-1231 but uses a CCD instead of a CMOS for better low light capability. I’ll be doing a review on soon.

  14. 30 Kari
    August 20, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Hi and thanks for a fine review! I own AN ACM1231 too and was wondering how to change the focal length, there is no documentation of it. What knobs should be loosened and how to make the adjustments? Could you please send the slideshow about picture quality enhancement to me as I’m struggling with that as well. Bought this second hand…


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