30
Apr
12

ACTi TCM-7811 Review


Moved to www.NetworkCameraCritic.com

In the endless choices of network cameras, what makes one stand out as being different? To me, it’s a camera that has a nice crisp constrasty image at night. The problem is most cameras use CMOS sensors, and while they have been getting better, they don’t perform as well as CCD sensors in low light. In the past, the only CCD cameras available had D1/VGA resoluton and were mostly analog cameras. Enter the ACTi TCM-7811 with the Sony EXView HAD Progressive Scan CCD sensor. A very good low light outdoor dome camera with MegaPixel resolution.

ACTi TCM-7811

Main Features
• 1/3″ Sony EXView HAD Progressive Scan MegaPixel CCD
• Day and night function with mechanical IR cut filter
• Built-in f3-9 mm / F1.2 Megapixel DC iris vari-focal lens
• 15 fps at 1280 x 960 resolution
• Selectable H.264, MPEG-SP, MJPEG compressions with dual streaming
• Two-way audio
• Digital input and digital output
• MicroSD/ MicroSDHC card slot for local storage
• Vandal proof and weatherproof IP66 rated dome
• Powered by PoE or DC 12V

The camera is an outdoor vandal resistant dome. The housing is made of aluminum and has very good build quality. Installing the camera involved unscrewing 3 allen screws on the dome, it has a safety spring to prevent accidentally dropping the dome. You then remove 2 screws holding the camera to the housing and you can then attach the housing back to a wall either directly or using an optional mount or under an eave. Regardless of the angle you mount the camera, the 3-axis camera mechanism allows you to point it where you want and keep the image level. It’s a little tricky, but the image rotation axis is hidden behind a cover on the top of the camera. The adjustment across the 3-axis is smooth and can be locked down with set screws by hand. Focusing and vari-focal adjustments are done with set screws as is done with many cameras.

The image quality and low light performance creates very sharp, clean and crisp images without the digital sharpening artifacts you get with some cameras. You can set the camera up in various aspect ratios, the popular HDTV 16:9 format for 720P or the traditional PC format that gives you 1280 by 960 pixels.

As with all ACTi cameras, you are entitled to you use their NVR Enterprise software for free for up to 16 cameras which is quite good as well as their IOS (iPhone/iPad) app to view the cameras remotely. To view the camera using a browser, you do need Internet Explorer. For Mac folks, I would recommend using a Mac compatible camera viewer instead of trying to make it work through a browser. In a few weeks in mid-May, ACTi expects to release their new NVR software. I got a preview at the ISC show and it is very slick and I can’t wait to start using it.

This is what the web interface looks like when you first log in

ACTi TCM-7811 - Screenshots

This is the screen where you setup exposure, motion detection, day/night filter, and compression in different tabs. The exposure settings shown below allow you to control the shutter and auto iris settings for both day and night modes. You can also set different motion detection settings for day and night. I still prefer the use of an external PIR Motion Sensor for more accurate outdoor detection and it’s possible to set up with this camera.

ACTi TCM-7811 - Screenshots

Now onto the images, how well does this camera perform. As with other tests, I set this camera up with a maximum exposure of 1/30th of a second. This is fast enough to capture motion yet still provide decent low light images. If you see awesome nighttime images, always question what the maximum exposure is because setting it to 1 second makes for some really great night images, but any motion would become a blur.

I mounted the camera at the front of my garage, under the eave which is tilted about 30 degrees. With the varifocal lens set at 3mm, it was perfect for viewing the entire front of my home. While at that wide of an angle, you can not ID someone across the street, it was very effective as people approached my front gate or driveway. As with my other reviews, click on the images below to see the full size image, straight from the camera.

ACTi TCM-7811 Images

What makes the camera special is it’s Sony EXView HAD CCD. Here’s a nighttime image. The contrast is very good and while there’s some noise, it far less than what I’ve experienced on cameras with CMOS sensors and no noise reduction. Noise reduction is not available but to me it’s a double edge sword because in order to smooth out the noise, you lose detail, in come cases, people’s eye maybe perceived as noise. I prefer to not use noise reduction in the camera anyway and use editing tools to enhance the images as needed after the fact.

This image was taken in the early evening when it appears dark outside but not yet completely dark. It may not seem like much, but at the same time, the images from my other cameras using CMOS sensors have already started to get noisy.

ACTi TCM-7811 Images

This image is taken in the late evening. While I have gotten used to the images from my other cameras, this one really stands out for its clarity.

ACTi TCM-7811 Images

I took a day and a night video using the ACTi NVR Enterprise edition software and posted on Youtube. View it at the highest resolution you can which is 720P. There was a glitch in converting the video to Youtube where it’s a little jumpy. It is not this way when viewing it from the NVR software.

Daytime Video
Nighttime Video

In comparison to other cameras I’ve tested, the noise levels and contrast at night is far superior to the ACTi TCM-1231 and worth the small price difference. Compared to the Brickcom I previously tested that has one of the best CMOS chips, the low light capability of the ACTi is better but Brickcom offers noise reduction which may appear to be a cleaner image, but lacks the detail in low light TCM-7811 has. I would say they are pretty close but the winner is the TCM-7811. Compared to a higher end camera with the same resolution, the Mobotix D12 with a dedicated B&W night sensor, My opinion is that it’s very close.

The street price on this camera is in the $600-700 and it represents a good value. If you need a decent outdoor vandal resistant, weatherproof, low light capable fixed dome camera with all the bells and whistles including a day/night IR cut filter, decent IR illuminators, varifocal lens that’s rugged, this is may be for you.

The pluses for this camera are;
• Very good low light capability using the best low light capable chip
• Day and night function with mechanical IR cut filter
• Built-in f3-9mm, auto iris F1.2 lens
• HD 720P resolution
• Selectable H.264, MPEG-SP, MJPEG compressions with dual streaming

Drawbacks for the camera include;
• FIXED – SD card slot does not work yet, waiting for a firmware upgrade to enable this
• FIXED – Minor glitch with autoexposure that ACTi is working on.

recommended for those needing to protect their homes or business that need a high quality professional camera with very good low light capabilities and all the features one could want.

Spec sheets, manuals, overview are available here

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49 Responses to “ACTi TCM-7811 Review”


  1. 1 TomE
    April 30, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    When you say “Day and night function with mechanical IR cut filter” does that mean that there is a physical mechanism that moves the filter out of the way at night automatically? And this is in contrast to something like the Mobotix M12 that has two separate sensors/lenses one with IR and one without?

    • April 30, 2012 at 11:12 pm

      Yes, most cameras, including this one use a mechanical IR filter that moves out of the way at night by solenoid. You can hear it click when it switches from day to night to day. The alternative approach that Mobotix uses is to have dedicated sensors/lenses that are fixed in position, then software decides which sensor to record from, for example the M12. They claim this is more reliable as there are no moving parts. I’ve seen other brands that attempted this, like Arecont, don’t know how well they sell compared to the same camera with a single lens/sensor and IR filter.

    • 3 Adam
      May 1, 2012 at 12:50 pm

      There’s even another method – cheaper day/night cameras do the IR filtering through software, so there are also no moving parts. Of course, the daytime image in these cases provide colors that are typically not accurate (blues that are purple, etc.).

      The downside with mechanical mechanisms is that they can, and do, break. I have a Canon VB-C50i whose IR filter sticks or sometimes is only removed partially. This is a sign that the mechanism is failing and will need to be repaired.

      Mobotix’s philosophy is no moving parts. Hence why they have dual sensors for their Day/Night cameras and they will never offer a mechanical PTZ model.

      • May 1, 2012 at 4:11 pm

        I have never had IR filter solenoid break, but certainly it can happen. The downdside to Mobotix is you are paying $1,500 for a 3MP camera that can only do 1.2MP at night and many of their single sensor cameras can only be spec’ed with the 3MP color day only sensor or 1.2MP B&W night sensor, so theres trade off’s for their choices. For example, we installed a Q24 dome, 3MP, but it’s day only, a comparable camera from ACTi or Geovision is able to operate as a day/night camera. So what’s the soluton with Mobotix, buy two Q24, one for day, one for night? Don’t get me wrong, I love Mobotix, in my opinion, they still have the best image quality out there, I put them in at two communities and I understand their benefits and limitations very well.

  2. 5 Kenny
    April 30, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Two questions, as a Mac user, do you have a recommendation for a Mac compatible camera viewer that works with the TCM 7811? The second question, how does the nighttime image of the 7811 compare to a Mobotix camera equipped with a night sensor? Thanks for taking the time to do the review, I enjoyed reading it.

    • May 1, 2012 at 12:51 am

      I would say it’s comperable to a Mobotix’s night sensor at night. Click here to see a night image taken with a Mobotix D12, night sensor assisted with an Extreme UF500 IR light. The exposure is a little on the dark side because the pool light throws it off but you can see the image does have noise, but the contrast and clarity is quite good. I haven’t install a Mac compatible viewer, but will try it out and let you know but currently I use VMWare Fusion to run Windows and IE on my Macbook. It’s always running in the background so starting up IE is almost as fast as starting up Safari.

      • 7 TomE
        May 1, 2012 at 1:14 am

        A question along the same lines… Do I understand correctly that to use a Mac browser, or an IOS app to view the camera output, you must first be running the NVR software on a separate computer, which I assume, means it is sent to this other computer and the remote browser/device is not talking to the camera directly but to the NVR software?

      • May 1, 2012 at 1:39 am

        I just tried one product on a Mac that will allow you to view network cameras including all ACTi cams. It’s 30 day demo but appartantly you can continue to use it for free afterwards but in what they call passive mode (not record). It’s callled SecuritySpy and their website is here. It sets up your Mac webcam automatically, you may want to delete that. Adding cameras was easy, just said it was an ACTi, gave it the IP, port number, username/password for each camera and it works as advertised.

      • May 1, 2012 at 3:13 am

        OK, let me end of the confusion for Mac users. If you have Windows and IE you can get to the entire ACTi interface for the camera for setup and live viewing. If you have a Mac, you can live view directly from camera with Safari (maybe other browsers, but I only have Safari on my Mac) but can’t configure the camera and can’t do audio because it’s MJPEG and that doesn’t support audio like MPEG or H.264.

        You do this by setting some options on the camera (uncheck B2 Frame, disabled audio in, change encoding type to MJPEG). Then on your Safari browser, enter http://ip-address:port/cgi-bin/encoder?USER=admin&PWD=123456&GET_STREAM and you’ll get a live feed directly from your camera to Safari on your Mac. On the TCM-7811 you have two streams, so you can setup one stream to be h.264 to your NVR or for Windows viewing with audio and the other for Mac viewing. If you setup the second stream as MJPEG for viewing on your Mac, use this URL to select the second stream – http://ip-address:port/cgi-bin/encoder?USER=admin&PWD=123456&CHANNEL=2&GET_STREAM

        Alternatively, if you have a few cameras, you want to see them all at once, you can use software as I’ve described before. Your choice. Frankly I have several cameras so viewing one at a time is not fun and prefer an option to see them all at once.

      • 10 TomE
        May 1, 2012 at 11:31 am

        Great, thanks!!

  3. 11 jharrell
    May 1, 2012 at 4:10 am

    You didn’t make much mention of the built-in IR illuminators, how do they compare to say the TCM-1231?

    • May 1, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      They project out further and wider than the TCM-1231 but not by a lot. It’s rated effective up 40 meters but that’s probably at a longer exposure than I used in my tests and half that would be a reasonable expectation, still a good distance. Also the red glow is a lot less noticible because each LED is recessed into individual pockets in the plastic housing which is a nice styling choice. I did not notice any light bleed common to domes with illuminators. In contrast, the ACM-3511 does have some light bleed.

  4. May 1, 2012 at 10:21 am

    For Mac users the SecuritySpy software is cheap and real easy to set up, as you say above. I’m familiar with it and use it mostly with Axis and Panasonic gear and it also has a web viewer which you can use over the web or locally. I agree, this camera has great low light capability – the detail is excellent, but its daytime image quality is poor, particularly compared to Mobotix where daytime images are very crisp and clear if you get the focus right on the money.

    • May 1, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      The daytime image is sharp and clear, but the exposure is off and ACTi is aware and will release new firmware to fix that and also enable the SD card for recording soon. Out of the ACM/TCM series, this may be the only one, at least the only one I’ve used that has auto-iris and this may be what’s where the bug is.

      • 15 TomE
        May 2, 2012 at 12:00 am

        When I look at your posted daytime image from the 7811 I see the exposure problem but I also notice quite a bit of smudging that is not exposure related (look in trees and grass). It looks like noise reduction or some artifact of over-sharpening. At least when I compare it to the daytime image you have for the M12 I agree with KevinB…

      • May 2, 2012 at 3:07 am

        I see what you mean, it just rained, so it could be moisture on the dome, didn’t notice that at first. And yes, the Mobotix is more expensive. What’s a nice camera that gives you Mobotix like image quality is the Brickcom I recently reviewed, again, more money than the ACTi so I can’t compare the two. They will have a 3MP & 5MP version soon, if not already so to have 3MP day and night with Mobotix image quality may be worth looking into.

      • 17 TomE
        May 2, 2012 at 12:03 am

        PS: Though to put it in perspective, it should be pointed out that the Mobotix is 2.5X the price of the Acti!!

  5. May 1, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Would this camera be suitable to indoor/office use? We are looking for something to work in essentially total darkness, and this seems to be one of the better low light cameras. Can you clarify if it works entirely from PoE or if it needs an additional power source? The manual seems to indicate the heater won’t operate with PoE (which for our purpose, isn’t an issue).

    • May 2, 2012 at 3:02 am

      You can use this camera indoors, no problem. I use an ACM-3511 indoors, a lower end indoor model, same resolution. In complete darkness in my house, I get a pretty good view. Lights up the living room, entry foyer, dining room without a problem. The TCM-7811 would be better, but not that much so since at that point, it’s not low light, it’s no light. I would personally save the money and use an an ACM-3511 or TCM-3511 and it’s smaller. As for 12VDC, you will need that if it’s below 22F, not likely indoors, otherwise it’s regular PoE.

      • 20 TomE
        May 2, 2012 at 3:11 am

        Bummer, I didn’t realize that it won’t work off POE with heater. Is there a special higher power injector that will enable that or is there no other choice than to run separate 12V to it if you need the heater?

      • May 2, 2012 at 3:24 am

        Yes, I talked to them about this at the ISC West show. Being in So Cal, I didn’t even think about it, but I understand theres places in the world where it gets below 22F. They are coming out with another low light camera in a few months that will be a bullet and their bullets are rated for much colder climates without a heater. I’ll try and get one as soon as it comes out for a review. Speaking of more powerful PoE injectors, the Axis Q6035-E we are testing uses a 72W PoE, biggest I’ve ever seen and probably to run the fan/heater.

      • 22 TomE
        May 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm

        So would it work to use a more powerful POE injector like the one for the Axis Q6035-E on the Acti camera or does the circuitry not support that?

      • May 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm

        The heater only works with 12V. They used to include the adapter, but they are being green since most people didn’t use it and it could be possible that they would give it you if you ordered the camera. Considering the PoE injector for a Q60 camera from Axis is $150, I would probably take a free or cheap 12V adapter. It could be possible to feed the 12V through the same ethernet cable, but split off the chosen wire pair before it reaches the ethernet port on the camera, sort of your own PoE injector. I would use Cat 6 cable since it’s heavier guage wire will handle the extra power. Just use one of the unused pairs, like brown & white/brown or blue & white blue.

      • 24 TomE
        May 3, 2012 at 3:29 pm

        Thanks. This leads to another (mostly) unrelated question… Why are not most cameras gigE (1000 baseT) capable these days? Is it just a cost saving issue?

      • May 4, 2012 at 12:00 am

        Don’t know why, sometimes technology moves slower with surveillance cameras.

        If you prefer a PoE approach in a colder climate, I did ask ACTi and they said the Vivotek 12V PoE injector/splitter will work. You’ll have to cut off the Vivotek connector and use the ACTi power connector (comes with the camera, it’s a small green block). Here’s a link of a random store to show you what it looks like but there’s other brand 12V PoE injectors – http://www.provantage.com/vivotek-ms-poe-kitaf5v~7VIVO03F.htm

      • 26 TomE
        May 4, 2012 at 3:52 am

        Thank you once again!

  6. 27 Bryan
    May 2, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Thank you, the review of the Acti 7811 has been very helpful! I had an interesting experience when I went out to buy one, the sales person strongly urged me to consider the Vivotek 8361 instead…..his perspective was that the Vivotek had similar features but 20% lower cost. Given that the 7811 seems to still have a few bugs still to work out (SD card, exposure problem) do you see the Vivotek as an equivalent camera? What would you consider the strength/weakness of each?

    Thank you in advance for your insight!

    • 28 Bryan
      May 2, 2012 at 10:01 pm

      Well, think you answered this question for me in the forum over at NetworkCameraReviews

      “Good idea. I thought about Vivotek cameras before but it was actually my distributor that said not to do it. They have poor support, inconsistant quality, buggy firmware and their RMA’s are very slow. They have the best specs, but specs don’t make a camera work properly.”

      Thanks!

      • May 3, 2012 at 6:22 am

        You can look at the review I have on the IP8362, although a bullet camera, it probably has the same guts as the FD8361. I don’t think the price is much different, list is about the same, but you will trade big time in low light capability vs. the TCM-7811.

  7. 30 Jon
    May 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Can the 7811 record direct to drive like the Brickcom? For multiple cameras that particular feature plus a NAS makes setting up a whole house system very easy.

    • May 17, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      ACTi cameras can send events to a NAS via the FTP protocol. The main difference between the two brands is that Brickcom saves videos as AVI format and in Windows 7 as an example, you can view thumbnails of the videos and click on it and play it immediately with Windows Media Player. With ACTi, the video files are saved in a propriatory RAW format, there’s no preview available in Windows 7 and you have to use their player to view it and/or export the video to a common format.

      If you have multiple cameras, I still recomend using NVR software and both Brickcom and ACTi provide excellent software for free. The reason is that it’s way easier to view all your cameras at once, have one point of access from your mobile device or web browser and the playback features using timelines or thumbnails is way easier than using Windows Explorer to do this. It looks like a good idea with 1 days worth of recordings from 1 camera, but managing this for multiple cameras for possibly months of video is going to get tedious, I know, I started this way and switched to NVR software as the number of cameras grow.

  8. 32 DSod
    May 19, 2012 at 3:08 am

    Can you tell me if the IR is on during your nightime picture and video, or is all the lighting coming purely from the street lighting? If it is just street lighting, then I’m quite impressed.

    • May 19, 2012 at 3:22 am

      It’s the one street light and the camera’s IR. Actually, the street light has to be overcome as someone coming to the house would be a silohoutte, so not sure if it would worse or better without the street light. Even with the streetlight, I have not found a camera that will display much without illuminators. I’m testing the IQEye camera with their Lightgrabber feature but without illuminators to see if it’s possible.

      All my testing is done with the camera set at 1/30th of a second so you can get much better low light capability if you increase the exposure time to say 1 second, but then anything moving will be blurry. For example, look at my Panasonic review, it looks awesome at night, but that’s at a 2 second exposure. When I made it 1/30th, the image was black and I show it both ways in my review.

      • 34 DSod
        May 19, 2012 at 4:05 am

        I thought maybe IR wasn’t being used because the lighting just seems so even and natural. I’ve seen so many demos of cameras using their IR causing nearby objects to appear overly saturated/bright. So even though the IR is being used, I’m still quite impressed! It certainly seems much better than your ACM-1231 demo. I’m sooo tempted to purchase this camera, but I’m not sure how long I want to wait for a functioning SD slot. Thanks for all your great reviews!

      • May 19, 2012 at 6:42 pm

        The TCM-7811 is much better than the ACM-1231 at night, maybe 1/4th the noise and 4x the contrast. I rarely buy cameras after a review, but this is one I bought to replace an ACM-1231.

        The SD card slot is supposed to be activated in the next release they promised at the end of May.

  9. 36 Mark
    May 22, 2012 at 7:09 am

    I have a TCM-7811 and I’m just not satisfied yet with the Picture.
    Could you provide the settings you used in the daytime and night time?
    I need some guidance as to what the DC -IRIS level should be and he AE Reference Target.
    The picture at night can seem quite grainy.

    • May 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm

      I have the same problem because the sun hits the camera in the afternoon and it’s hard to get a perfect setting. I’ve been working with ACTi support and engineering to get this fixed and it’s promised at the end of the month. The fix should also include activating the SD card feature.

      • 38 TomE
        June 1, 2012 at 2:16 am

        Well, we’re at the end of the month, any update?
        Tom

      • June 1, 2012 at 3:58 am

        Yes, actually I was at their offices yesterday. The code is in beta testing now and waiting for release in the next week or two barring any unforseen problems. As a futher update, the new NVR software is ready to ship but they are holding off until they get their documentation cleaned up and ready. They expect that this should be ready soon, also in the next week or two.

  10. July 16, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    How would you compare the TCM-7811 against the AXIS P3367-VE and the Vivotek FD8362, neither of which have built in IR illuminators? (I did not see them offering any IP66 versions with built in illuminators)

    • July 17, 2012 at 12:18 am

      The Vivotek should do well in complete daylight at night it won’t be any good, but the good news is you will have more pixels you can’t see🙂. The Axis will be great during the day, but dark at night. I expect to review their latest Axis P33 with Lightfinder for low light and built in IR LEDs when the camera comes out in August. 5MP sounds great, but because the pixel density is so high, it can’t possibly do well in low light. To me, the best low light cameras are 1.2MP like from Mobotix, ACTi and Axis. To get to 5MP you’ll need to spend a bunch on an A/C illuminator. I tried a 4MP camera and it was very dark compared to most 1.2MP cameras.

  11. 44 Mr Spock
    July 28, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    I notice in the daytime image there is what appears to be fringing along the white hood and roof of your truck. Is this due to humidity build up on the lens? Also, does Acti have an app for Android? If not do you know if they are working on one? Lastly, did you obscure the license plate of your truck in some of the images? Seems like it should be readable with this camera.

    Your review has possibly sold me on this model. I was interested in the KCM-7111, but the superior night vision is impressive.

    Thanks.

    • July 28, 2012 at 11:14 pm

      Yes, you will get some purple fringing on very high contrast parts of the image. This camera is more designed for higher contrast low light capability and doesn’t have WDR so you can’t read the plate over the headlights. In contrast, see the review on the KCM-5611 that does have WDR and you can read the plate over the headlights. They do not have an Android app, just IOS, but there’s several 3rd party apps from free to a few dollars that work really well with ACTi cameras. I use IPCamViewer, the free version on my Droid Razr. The KCM-7111 will require external illuminators to make work at night. With the KCM-7111, I would go with 1/4th the manufactures working distance spec, so if you get a 80m illuminator, it may work well at 20m. In contrast to the TCM-7811, it has no built in illuminators, fixed lens (vs. varifocal). Also does not have WDR, so license plate reading isn’t going to work.

  12. 46 Sohail
    August 6, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    What is good place to buy TCM-7811 at a reasonable price ($600 – $700) ?
    What is a good illuminator with a very wide spread and where to buy it ?

  13. 48 Jeroen
    November 19, 2012 at 7:44 am

    I really liked your review on this camera. It is extremely helpful for many people. Thank you!
    Is this one of the best dome camera’s for the price range? I considered Vivotek for a while but it seems it is hit an miss with that brand. If you have more recommendations for a PTZ-dome with 2 MP resolution, I’d be glad to hear it:-)! Any thoughts how good a Arecont AV2255AM MegaDome2 is vs this one?

  14. November 20, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I have read that this camera has a two way audio possibility. Do we need a separate microphone?

    Ed


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