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A decision based on context and usage
In our last article we demonstrated that the choice of a surveillance camera must be taken according to the context and to how the camera will be used. We also learned that the first steps to take in making this choice are to identify and to analyze the client’s surveillance needs. It is now easier for us to understand how to choose a camera according to the specifications of the available technologies. For this purpose, three important aspects must be considered: the type of casing (camera protection) the type of the CCD sensor (signal processing) and finally the type of lens (optical process) 1. The choice of the casing The choice of the casing depends on where the camera will be installed. The casing protects the camera and the lens from vandalism and weather fluctuations. As an example, the norm IP651 defines the conditions in which an equipment part is totally protected against dust, and low-pressure water sprays coming from whichever direction (limited access allowed, waterproof and dustproof). In other regards it is important to remember that cameras functions efficiently only in a limited spectrum of weather conditions. In extreme conditions (hot or cold) the casing might have to be fitted with a heating or cooling unit. Different casings for different circumstances are available. 2. The choice of the CCD censor All recent cameras are loaded with a CCD sensor (Charged Coupled Device). The CCD is a photosensitive sensor that converts light into digital values. The camera internally processes these digital values using DSPs (Digital Signal Processor) that can allow or not the user (depending on the price) to apply all kinds of compensations and adjustments. This processed data is then transferred to a DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) that translates in a standard composite video signal. These digitally processed functionalities are extensive (Day and Night function, WDR (Wide Dynamic Range), SENS UP, luminosity, contrast, saturation, hue etc. Therefore we suggest that you ask the reseller what type of CCD is installed in the camera and what kind of digital processing it can deliver. 3. The choice of the lens There are two types of lenses: the fixed lens and the lens with a variable focus. The fixed lens, as its name indicates, is not adjustable. It has only one focal length that in turn determines the size of the captured image. When the context allows it, we recommend the fixed lenses; they have more suitable optical qualities than the
lenses with a variable focus. However you must know the exact distance between the camera and the subject to be captured and you must also be aware of the type of shot that is required (traffic, action, identification). If you own several lenses, we recommend that, in order to choose the most appropriate lenses, you test them on site. In other respects, when it seems that the installation will be difficult (budget constraints, difficult access, short timeframe etc.), and where the focusing seems to be a problem, the installer can compromise and suggest the variable focus lens. Although it is of lesser quality (image distortion, loss of luminosity) flexibility is it’s main advantage is in the installation process, allowing to rapidly blow-up or reduce the size of the image captured by the camera. Install, adjust and there we go!! It is important to note that the fixed lenses or the variable focus lenses come with a manual iris, an automatic iris (auto-iris) or an electronic iris. The iris is like the eye’s pupil: when it is dark, it dilates to let more light in and when it is bright, it contracts to let in only the light required for a good vision. This is the way the iris of the camera works; it allows the shutter to control the quantity of light that can reach the CCD. A manual iris is adjusted only once during the installation process and it is to be installed if and only the lighting conditions do not change. The auto-iris is a more sophisticated device that will automatically adjust the shutter ring according to the ambient luminosity. Finally, the electronic iris digitally compensates for the luminosity and does not whatsoever affect the optical mechanism of the camera. It is an interesting functionality but does not compare to the quality of a mechanical iris. The auto-iris is therefore recommended where the luminosity fluctuates a lot. A complex decision? As we have shown, the installer or the reseller must establish the appropriate functional and material requirements according to the context. This process then implies to examine different elements and to ask your client the right questions. Therefore, we suggest that you review part one of this article, in February’s Newsletter, in which we discussed the method for analyzing the client’s needs. (What, Why, Where, When and For Whom) In our next edition of the Newsletter, we will discuss how to document our telesurveillance projects. A client phones you and you do not have at hand the technical specs related to his case (hardware and software system’s configurations, etc.)…. What to do?? We will suggest a simple and efficient method that will guide you in supporting your projects. Jean-Pierre Desjardins President, Sphere Video