WHEN I started
thinking about this feature a month ago it was going to be about a technology
most people see as having had the last drop of juice squeezed from it. After
speaking with some of the major players it became clear that things are not all
they seem.

Most the big
distributors are still selling a lot of analogue – in fact general figures
quoted suggest that more than 80 per cent of cameras sold are analogue. These
are big number. The other issue to consider is why the end user market remains
satisfied with analogue cameras supported by DVRs and basic video management
software.

Along with price,
you have to conclude that much of the attraction relates to the operational
flow of such systems. The analogue/DVR combination gives users the strengths of
digital, including fast searches, HDD storage and remote access, while avoiding
the complexities of small network-based solutions with inevitably patchy
integration. 

This sounds a bit
like sacrilege in today’s market but it reflects what the market is buying and installing.
It’s undeniable that in lower cost applications there are fundamentals that are
keeping analogue alive. Until network products are built to a single standard
(think PAL) allowing universal integration without the panic attacks, analogue will
go on breathing – especially in smaller applications.

Another question
that pops out of this observation is whether or not manufacturers are still paying
attention to the existing analogue market. The worry is keeping control of
customers through the IP transition. Those makers that lose customers will lose
traction. The reason for this is straightforward. As a rule, installers are sticks-in-the-mud.
They like to stay with preferred and dependable brands, and they’ll only jump
ship for extra special features or extra special prices.

What this means from
a future perspective is that installers will stay with the same manufacturer when
they are ready to shift from analogue to IP – and distributors and
manufacturers need to own this transition. And as noted earlier, a massive 80
per cent of a rapidly growing analogue market, has not made the shift yet.

Bosch Dinion 2X

With all this in
mind, let’s talk to some manufacturers and distributors of quality analogue cameras
and find out which are their best analogue cameras and check out the way they
see things developing over the next 12-18 months.

Bosch is
undoubtedly a pivotal player in the high end analogue surveillance market and
has been one of 2 clear analogue market leaders over the past 5 years on the
back of its Dinion and Dinion 2X technology. 

According to
Bosch’s Sean Borg, the company’s leading analogue camera at present is the
recently released 20-bit Dinion 2X camera.

“Dinion 2X has
many great features like Smart BLC which automatically adjusts the back light
compensation without the need for any set up but I think that the key feature of
2X is image quality,” Borg says.

“Resolution is
one thing but the ability to resolve the volume of colours and greyscales means
that you get far more definition from the Dinion 2X than other analogue cameras
with the same resolutions or higher.”

The best analogue
cameras have features including intelligent VMD, image enhancement and
stability correction while most IP and megapixel cameras have broad digital
enhancements. Borg says the feature sets of the 2 technologies remain
comparable.

“These features
are the same across both ranges with the additional benefit of video content
analysis in our IP cameras,” he explains. “Typical IP cameras struggle to give
the image quality of some of the state of the art well branded analogue cameras
today. It seems that only well branded analogue camera manufacturers that have
been making good cameras for years are getting it right when they produce IP
cameras clearly leveraging from years of evolution in camera research and
design.”

“It seems that
only well branded analogue camera manufacturers that have been making good
cameras for years are getting it right when they produce IP cameras clearly
leveraging from years of evolution in camera research and design.”

Sean Borg, Bosch
Security Systems

But Borg does see
good reasons why analogue cameras still continue to sell vigorously.

“Analogue cameras
today are simply more affordable and frankly, produce great image quality, many
installers and end users just do not see the benefit of going to IP,” he says. “If
these users want access their analogue cameras via the internet, they simply
tap into the DVR the cameras are plugged into.

“While I agree
that some really do take advantage of the benefits of IP cameras like ISCSI at
the camera and the VCA, most installations, such as shopping centres and small
to medium applications, are still choosing to buy analogue surveillance cameras.”

Many argue that
in terms of outright performance IP cameras like HD Megapixel are superior to
analogue but Borg maintains analogue cam still compete and that in the real
world, performance is subjective.

“Just what does
performance mean to you in terms of the needs of your site?” he asks. “Is it
high resolution under good lighting? Is it clear pictures when objects are
moving fast or the object is in dim lighting? The is no argument that HD
Megapixel cameras produce the best picture resolution, but the analogue version
of the Dinion 2X will give great

image quality
under all lighting conditions.

“These conditions
might includes very fast moving objects, harsh Back light affected areas, and
is very affordable? This is a subjective question that will depend on each
installation and their budgets and real needs.”

From Borg’s
perspective, the market itself will decide the answer to the question of
whether or not Bosch pushes ahead with a new generation of analogue cameras in
a year or two’s time.

“I believe one of
the main reasons Bosch produce such great products is because we listen to the
market and their real needs and the answer to this question to a large extent
will be determined by the market and their real needs,” Borg says.

“I certainly think
analogue cameras have a future, the real question is the validity of that
future, and this validity will depend on many aspects, The country’s IT
infrastructure improvement roadmap, the cost of IP technology, and the
willingness of the SI’s to step into the end-to-end digital age.

“End users rely
on their “experts”, and if SI’s are not yet ready to sell IP due to technology
fear then analogue will be here a little longer,” Borg says.

“This is exactly
why Bosch Offer a great 2 day course called Demystifying IP. This is a
wonderful course that really gets you over the line and builds installer
confidence. It’s been a huge success for many installation companies.”

Something to
consider is that prices for quality encoders are remaining sticky. This means
that using a good analogue camera and a good encoder together can be as
expensive as using a quality IP camera. According to Borg, the cost of the
better codecs is worth paying.

“An encoder doing
main profile H.264 processing will always be more expensive than a cheap Mpeg-4
part 2 codec,” he says. “The processing power required for H.264 is far greater
and that means the processor requires superior cooling technology.

“Things are not
always what they seem with technology,” Borg explains. “You can get cheap
codecs for video but I personally would not use them in a surveillance or
security application. Always look at what you are buying in terms of quality
that you need. After the price is forgotten, the quality remains.”

Panasonic SD5

Pacific
Communications’ product manager Kieron McDonough says the leading analogue
camera in the company’s range is the Panasonic SD5 which is available as a full
body camera or a vandal-resistant dome. 

“Specifications
for the SD5 are impressive with a minimum scene illumination of 0.1 lux in
colour and 0.01 lux black and white @F1.4,” McDonough says. “Importantly, Panasonic’s
minimum scene illumination figures are “real” compared to what other manufacturers
may publish. Shoot out the camera and you will soon see why Panasonic is at the
leading edge of image quality.

“The camera has a
horizontal resolution of 650 TV lines colour and 700 TV lines in black and
white mode, and a wide dynamic range of 54db. SD5 incorporates Panasonic’s
Super D technology with Adaptive black stretch (ABS) to deliver a superior
image.

“In addition to
these features, SD5 also has auto-back-focus for easy setup and consistent
focus both day and night, as well as on-board analytics such as left/removed
object, loitering and directional detection.”

Pacom’s Rob
Meachem says that when comparing the best analogue cameras with megapixel, it’s
important to take into account application.

“It’s horses for
courses – analogue camera technology is extremely mature and has enjoyed
massive input from the handheld consumer based camcorder type products as well
as the broadcast camera market,” Meachem says.

“Colour
rendition, low light capability, heat dissipation and massive depth and breadth
of cameras made for every type of application is the analogue cameras strength,
not to mention price. Historically, Panasonic, Ikegami and Sony have led the
way in this segment and Panasonic continues to invest in these areas as
analogue still dominates market share of camera business today.

“But megapixel/HD
cameras are catching up fast in all areas and the pace they are gaining is accelerating.
What analogue cameras cannot do is achieve the superior high resolution of
megapixel/HD cameras. This picture quality, zoom (post zoom particularly)
region of interest has massive advantages and must be considered for almost
every application.   

From Meachem’s
perspective, the reason end users are choosing analogue over IP or megapixel is
cost.

“Megapixel/HD is
the only long term future. It’s very exciting. Stay tuned for great new
technology like Panasonic SmartHD, Arecont’s 10 megapixel cameras and new
releases from Ikegami, Pelco, Sony, and DVTel”

Rob Meachem, Pacific
Communications

“Putting the head
end discussion aside, analogue/IP question is still decided on price or perhaps
some installers and end users they don’t know any better,” Meachem says.

“My guess is that
70 per cent plus of all quotes by integrators in the middle end of the high
volume market are still 100 per cent analogue. The end user is not even offered
an IP system let alone explanations of Megapixel/HD camera benefits.”

Meachem believes
that in terms of outright performance, analogue can compete with megapixel
cameras

“Once again if we
put the head end discussion aside, the answer must be yes in particular
applications such as very low light or in applications that require no
identification or post zoom. In these circumstances analogue would work very
well,” he says. “What I would argue is that if every CCTV situation was
evaluated properly I am very sure a combination of both analogue and
megapixel/HD cameras would best serve the outcome of the customer.” 

Importantly for
Pacific Communications and Panasonic, there are plans to continue the
manufacture and development of quality analogue cameras.

“Panasonic has
only just released its latest analogue cameras and they promise more to come.
Pacom’s EVO range will also have a complete new range out in mid 2010,” Meachem
says. 

“I would say
analogue surveillance technology certainly has a future in medium term. The
shear volumes of analogue cameras and DVRS still being deployed guarantee the
future of analogue cameras in the medium term. But megapixel/HD is the only
long term future. It’s very exciting. Stay tuned for Panasonic Smart HD,
Arecont 10 megapixel and more from Ikegami, Pelco, Sony, and DVTel alike.”

According to
Meachem, Pacom’s analogue camera sales are still significantly above IP-based
cameras. 

“Most analogue
cameras are still being connected to analogue DVR’s but while encoder sales are
still strong as the IP/Mega/HD cameras improve we are seeing a significant
improvement in IP/Mega/HD camera sales volumes. 

“Encoder prices
are not coming down at the same pace as IP/mega/HD cameras and as such these network-based
cameras are looking more attractive day by day, assuming an IP-based head end.” 

GSP’s 570-line
dome

At Omega, Aleks
Stefanovic says that the companies leading analogue camera is GSP’s new range
of GCAM-VD060D Vandal Domes

“Specifications
include 570TVL in colour 600 TVL in B&W, 0.000001Lux True/Day Night (Auto
ICR), 2.8 to 11mm lens Dual Voltage, 3 Axis, ODS and WDR Control, IP66 rating
and Image Stabilizer.”

According to
Stefanovic, analogue cameras lack the strong features of megapixel and HD
cameras.

“Analogue cameras
lack analytics and other digital features and they can’t compete on picture
quality – that’s an area megapixel cameras are obviously superior.

“A good analogy
for the different technologies is that of a car and bicycle,” he says. “Various
factors relating to performance, technological advancement and the price of the
overall solution are what allow the two technologies to co-exist” 

Aleks Stefanovic,
Omega

“There are other
factors that contribute to continued use of analogue including a lack of real
application knowledge, as well as cost, cost and cost,” Stefanovic says. “There’s
also no real perceived additional value with IP in small to medium
applications.”

In terms of
outright performance, Stefanovic says picture quality is better with IP cameras.

“A good analogy
for the different technologies is that of a car and bicycle,” he says. “Various
factors relating to performance, technological advancement and the price of the
overall solution are what allow the two technologies to co-exist.”

According to
Stefanovic, while GSP is still releasing analogue cameras, the company’s R&D
has definitely focused more into IP Solutions like WiFi, megapixel, NVRs, and analytics,
as well as other related technologies.

“I’d say analogue
has a future of 3-5 years at most and as bandwidth and storage issues continue
to fade, the technology will become viable for small and medium business
applications.”

Sony SSCG923

According to
Sony’s Tony Lagan, the company’s leading analogue camera is the SSCG923.

“This is a 650
Line, Day/Night Camera with Wide Dynamic Range,” Lagan explains. “The minimum
illumination specs are .22 Lux in colour and .06lux in monochrome, however,
these specs don’t really mean much however as there is no standard for
measuring them.

“Something to pay
attention to with low light specifications is that some manufacturers will give
specs at 15 IRE with very slow shutter speeds, but this will not give a usable
image. Sony always measures at 50IRE. It is interesting to note that the Sony
manufactured 650-line CCD in this camera is also used by other manufacturers
with 650 line cameras.”

Lagan says that
when it comes to advanced features IP cameras are superior to even the best
analogue units.

“There really
isn’t much of a comparison. You can simply do so much more with IP. One of the
big advantages of using IP cameras and in particular Sony IP cameras is that
the analytics are done at the camera, this then takes load off the server
allowing the server to work more effectively,” he explains.

“The camera sends
meta data to the server which links the recordings to the events captured which
make searching for events such as trip wire triggers and the like so much
faster and easier. With analogue cameras, analytics need to be performed on the
server which takes up resources from the server ultimately leading to poor
performance.”

Like the others,
Lagan says the key reason end users chose analogue cameras over IP or megapixel
in today’s market comes down to dollars.

“The only real
reason I can see to stick with analogue is in the case of small solutions on
the basis of price. There is a myth that IP cameras don’t have as good an image
as analogue cameras but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“With the growth
of HD and megapixel technology, IP cameras are able to give far superior images
than SD analogue cameras. Once camera systems start getting to 40 plus cameras
you start seeing the ROI shifting to IP systems as they are cheaper to cable
and maintain.”

Lagan insists
that when it comes to performance analogue can no longer compete with IP.

“Put simply, no –
analogue can’t compete,” he says. “The image quality, scalability and the fact
that you can run multiple services over one cable clearly makes IP the winner
when it comes to performance.

“Having said
this, Sony will be releasing a range of new analogue cameras to the market
soon. The leader of this range will be a new 650-line Minidome. Sony is
conscious that while the momentum of IP is certainly gathering pace, the vast
majority of cameras sold are still analogue.”

While Lagan
agrees that analogue cameras still have a future in the market he says they
won’t last forever.

“I think
ultimately IP will become the norm,” he says. “As IP cameras and network
equipment comes down in price the advantages of IP will be hard to ignore. Sony
is releasing a range of low cost IP cameras in the next few months that will
really shake up the market.

“Currently around
25 per cent of our camera sales are analogue and we expect this to grow over
next year with the new analogue cameras we are releasing soon. Ultimately
though, with 22 new HD IP cameras in our range, we expect the vast majority of
our business to be IP. We really only sell encoders for legacy systems as most
major new projects are specifying IP.”

And Lagan says
that encoding analogue cameras using an IP encoder does not allow analogue to
offer the same performance as IP.

“To be honest,
encoding analogue cameras with an IP encoder is a pretty antiquated way of
building a system,” he says. “For the cost of a good analogue camera and
encoder it is possible to purchase a good quality IP camera. Encoders are a
great way to convert a legacy site to IP but on a new install you lose some of
the benefits of having IP all the way to the camera, for example remote set up
of the camera.”

“The only real
reason I can see to stick with analogue is in the case of small solutions on
the basis of price. There is a myth that IP cameras don’t have as good an image
as analogue cameras but that couldn’t be further from the truth”

Tony Lagan, Sony