Tiny Axis M2014-E IP66 Bullet
by Security Electronics and Networks | @Articles Product Reviews | July 20, 2013, 7:00am AEST
NEW from AXIS is the M2014-E bullet camera, a distinctive unit that decouples the camera processing unit from the tiny 3.2 x 7.6cm camera head to create a solution suited to a wide range of applications. The camera in the Axis lineup to which the M2014-E owes most its heritage is the covert P1214, which is designed for installing in ATMs and behind walls. The M2014-E brings that form factor to the wider market.
Typically a camera like this would seem best suited for work in retail but the Axis engineers have seen fit to give their take on the popular bullet format an IP66-rating for outdoors which really opens up options. Then there are the M2014-E’s specifications which are solid Axis 720p HD – that’s a great deal of capability from a camera head that’s almost exactly the size of your thumb.
Handling the work of light gathering is a ¼-inch progressive scan CMOS sensor and you’d expect a compact sensor like this to suffer a bit in lower light. Axis claims minimum illumination numbers of 1 lux and while we didn’t get down to those levels, the camera performed creditably in below 5-lux.
I got a look at the M2014 at the SEN office with Axis sales engineer, John Richardson. While Richardson unpacked the camera I paid attention to the multiple mounting options, the simplicity of the hardware and the build quality. The standout characteristic of this camera is that the camera head and camera processor are separated by 8m of cable, which is a surprisingly long flying lead.
In many environments you could pop the M2014 anywhere you liked on the end of such of long leash. It’s the sort of setup that encourages creativity, not just in installers but in end users. I couldn’t help wishing the camera came with a simple sucker mounting for smooth flat surfaces. But there’s a very handy clip (among other permanent ceiling and wall mounts) that does the job on shelving.
Because I don’t have a PoE switch in the office, we use Axis’ rugged T8414 Installation Display to provide power. I’ve not seen this in the wild so it’s a good opportunity to get a look at it in action. Battery powered, it connects directly to the camera and can display live video to make installer field programming easier. Happily for us, it can also power Axis PoE cameras directly.
The setup process is effortless, as is typical with Axis cameras. Richardson calls up Axis Camera Companion software on his laptop, inserts Cat-5 to the camera unit, giving it power and data, then connects the 8m cable to the camera head.
Once the camera is up and running between Richardson’s laptop and the T8414 that 8m cable between the camera unit and the camera head gives us a lot of flexibility to play around with views. I can’t resist poking the camera head under the desk to check the low light performance – and it’s rather good.
“The M2014-E is Motion JPEG and H.264 like all our other cameras – it’s rated down to 1 lux and this camera can be optimised for moving targets and other applications,” Richardson tells me as I fool around with the camera views.
“It comes with a 2.8mm, 81-degree, F2.0 fixed iris and fixed lens which is pre-focused in the factory. The focal performance is the same as all our M-range cameras – it goes from around 20cm to infinite.”
Hearing this, I test the camera against my wristwatch and at 20cm it’s clearly resolving images – I suspect the M2014-E would actually handle closer work still. This may not sound useful but live HD vision this flexible works just as well for science projects or dial monitoring as for surveillance.
At this point we settle down to see how the camera performs. In the office in over 300 lux the image is very good. I point the M2014-E at a downlight and yes, it’s very good against saturation. Just for good measure we hold a flashlight beside Richardson’s face to challenge the camera’s ability to handle blooming and it does really well with that, even at the closest ranges.
“These cameras generally do a very good job at exposing for the majority of the scene – they won’t over expose things too much and they won’t under expose things too much,” Richardson explains. “But obviously you can challenge the camera with extremes.”
I don’t need any more encouragement than that. We turn all the lights off – it’s around 4.5 lux in the office. And the little camera continues to do well. I point it out the window – yes, it handles the challenge of backlight quite well too, considering it’s set up in default for internal work. Standing at one end of the room, Richardson is still recognisable. There’s a little more noise in the scene as you’d expect at under 5-lux but it’s not stopping us getting plenty of colour and a good depth of field.
Richardson waves his arms about to provoke motion blur but the M2014-E ignores him – there’s no sign of blur whatever. Richardson now stands in the doorway at the bottom end of the unlit office with backlight and again he is recognisable. This is quite a challenging view given the low light in the room.
Turning the camera head over in my hands I can’t help marvelling at how Axis has managed to cram the performance of much larger cameras into such a small form factor – the unit is really teeny. It’s the smallest camera I’ve been around that wasn’t a board camera. And performance for its size is excellent. Sure, there’s an outboard camera unit but that’s not very big either. It doesn’t feel like there’s much more than a playing card-sized board inside it.
With the lights back on we have a bit over 320 lux from the 21 halogen downlights in the office and in these conditions the camera is pushing out the window and across the street to the houses on the other side. The images aren’t crystal clear but they are useful. You could certainly see events and identify features and vehicles on this side of the road. It’s bright outside, too. After the test I measure 5120 lux outside the office window and 40,960 lux across the road.
Next we take a look at the camera settings. These include things like compression, colour, brightness, sharpness, contrast, white balance, exposure control, exposure zones, backlight compensation, fine tuning of behavior at low light, as well as rotation, to handle that corridor capability.
“The setup process for the M2014-E is the same as other Axis cameras,” Richardson explains. “There are stream settings, compression settings, camera settings, an exposure slider and adjustable exposure zones. These allow you to force the camera to expose for an internal area if a camera is exposing for external area in a composite view.
“There’s also an exposure priority that allows you to change the camera’s shutter speed so it’s more suited to moving targets. We can also adjust the gain as well as the shutter speed. Or if you want a cleaner picture at night and you’re not expecting anything to move in the scene you can use very slow shutter speeds.”
Something else the M2014-E offers is application support for the processing unit.
“These applications can do things like custom motion detection and triplines,” says Richardson. “Many of these applications can integrate with VMS software as well, so the alarms from your custom analytics at the edge can go back to a centralised server as well.”
Also neat is privacy masking and overlaying of images. You can mask out screens in 4 different colours so no one can access that part of the image as it’s encoded as a blacked-out square. You can enable and disable these masks without deleting them and they can be scheduled at different times.
Richardson also shows me a cool feature called corridor format which is designed to handle hallways and corridors. You mount the camera at 90 degrees on a wall and then rotate the image around in Camera Companion so you get a longer rather than a wider image. What it means, according to Richardson, is that you are “putting the pixels where you need them” and not wasting the camera’s viewing capability on empty walls.
Ideal for retail or domestic applications there’s full event support so the M2014-E will email you with images on motion. There’s also one input and one output on the camera unit and that allows techs to integrate the camera with an access control or alarm panel. That’s a nice feature.
Something else Richardson points out is a din rail clip and a din rail mounting letting installers mount the remote camera unit to a wall in a junction box, riser or network cupboard. It’s another thoughtful feature that suggests Axis has designed this camera with the widest possible appeal.
With UV stable polymers and a wee sun shroud, the M2014-E is the smallest outdoor IP66-rated camera (head) I’ve ever seen. It’s compact, so flexible its fun and it offers great all round performance. Within the constraints of extreme light levels, this is a clever addition to the Axis stable.
Features of the M2014-E include:
* 720p Resolution, 30ips
* Minimum illumination of 1 lux
* Edge Storage to 64GB
* Multiple H.264 Streams
* Power over Ethernet
* Motion metection and tampering alarm
* IP66-Rated camera unit
* Axis Camera Companion support
* Supports Axis’ Corridor Format.