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Many people ask me, “What’s a good pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) camera to use at home”. Hard for me to imagine needing a PTZ cameras as I live in California where lots are small, and there’s really no need to have 18X zoom and 360 degree pan. Where I believe a PTZ camera is valuable is where you have a large area you want to cover and putting individual cameras in those locations are not feasible. I also have been a big proponent of having mega-pixel resolution or what some companies started calling HD to feed off the HD TV standard. This is where the P5534-E does not disappoint, it’s one of the very few HD resolution PTZ cameras on the market and the resolution combined with its zoom lens is amazing.
First, so that you are not in total sticker shock by the end of this article, dependable, quality PTZ cameras are not cheap. This one is no exception at a street price of about $2,800. In comparison, on the low end, the Axis 215 PTZ-E runs about half that at $1,400. Some people have pieced together less expensive indoor PTZ cameras that run about $700 and put them in outdoor dome enclosures, but when all is said and done, it’s still going to be over $1,000.
The way PTZ cameras work in surveillance is you set points that you want the camera to capture. Once you setup these points, you start its patrol feature that stops at each point at a preset interval. If the camera is programmed to record when motion is detected or a scheduled event is programmed, the camera has the ability record to its internal SD card storage. In a live situation, you use these points to quickly get the camera to an area you want to look at and then you can manually maneuver the camera to see what you want to see. From what I’ve seen, it takes a few seconds to maneuver the camera from one point to another.
The P5534-E, like many PTZ cameras uses more power than the standard PoE switch/injector can put out, so it comes with a special high powered injector that can handle the camera’s 30W requirement. Axis calls this PoE+.
The P5534-E is an outdoor dome that can operate between -4F to 122F. It has the ability to pan 360 degrees and tilt 180 degrees. It can pan/tilt 300 degrees per second. The lens can go from 4.7mm to 84.6mm or 18X zoom, not much of a wide angle, but has great telephoto capabilities. It also has a 12X digital zoom for a total of 216X zoom that is OK, but if you use it beyond about 36X it starts to get pixilated like most digital zooms do. It uses a 1.3MP sensor and the resolution is 1280×720 (0.9MP) to provide an HD like 16:9 image. This is equivalent to 3 VGA (640×480) images.
Like most new cameras from Axis, it has h.264 compression and Axis does a good job here. You can store more video, view faster frame rates and get a sharper cleaner image when viewing or recording in h.264 mode, free of the usual compression artifacts you get with traditional MJPEG.
The camera is rated down to 0.04 lux in B&W night mode, but well beyond that point it starts getting grainy, frankly, not as good as lesser, non-PTZ cameras in their stable, like the Axis M1114 or as good as PTZ cameras with CCD sensor with lower VGA resolution but certainly very usable.
The zoom is actually amazing. In the sample shots, you can see how a gas station that’s a block away can be zoomed in show great detail of people and cars. Click on the small image to see the full size image from the camera.
This is a gas station shot taken at it’s 4.7mm wide angle setting.
Same station but zoomed in
Same station at night
Street – DAY
Street – Night
This is a comparison between MJPEG and H.264 compression
– Image with MJPEG
Image with H.264
The setup interface is traditional Axis which is a pretty clean and comprehensive interface. It has additional features that provide the PTZ functionality. Sample screen shots of the interface and below.
The conclusion is this camera is great for people that want the capabilities that only a PTZ camera can provide and are not shy about spending the money to get the features they want.
The pluses for this camera are;
– HD Resolution
– Fast, powerful pan/tilt/zoom capabilities
– powered by PoE+, only a single Ethernet cable powers and connects this camera
– Invaluable for patrolling large areas
The shortfalls of this camera are;
– The plastic domes have a seam line in the upper part of the tilt range, this has been reported on different models besides this one, like the Q6034-E. Axis support says they are looking to fix this in fall, but it’s a serious issue for a seriously expensive camera. I would not buy one until the issue is resolved – Click here to see the YouTube video of dome flaw
– Mediocre low light capability
– Expensive for home use
This camera work well if you need to do surveillance on large areas like parks, parking lots, sport arenas where the 216X zoom will let you count nose hairs on a suspect on the far end of a Walmart parking lot.