AXIS P3245-LVE Dome Camera Review
Build quality is solid, performance is better still. The big image is late afternoon. Note colour rendition, subtle skin tones, sharpness, depth of field. Focal length is 4.5mm.
AXIS P3245-LVE is an IP66 and IK10-rated 1080p dome camera with H.265 and H.264 compression, a 3.4–8.9mm F1.8 aperture varifocal lens, along with AXIS Lightfinder 2.0, Forensic WDR and OptimizedIR, delivering strong performance. While all these extras are nice to have, best of all is catch performance in the real world.
AXIS P3245-LVE dome is the direct descendant of the P3225-LV dome SEN enjoyed testing a few years ago – I couldn’t help going back through the snapshots from the older camera before firing up the latest model. The first thing I noticed unpacking was that this new dome is more compact, has less weight and the camera mount has changed. Something else that shows the passage of time is the small size of the IR LEDS – there are 2 of these and they are tiny.
As usual, let’s do the specifications first. They are comprehensive. For a start there’s a 1/2.8-inch progressive scan RGB CMOS, the 3.4–8.9 mm F1.8 aperture lens gives a horizontal field of view of 100-36 degrees and a vertical field of 53-20 degrees. The lens is magnesium fluoride coated on the front element – that’s the typical 550nm mid-point everyone defends against. The camera has remote zoom and focus, P-Iris control, IR correction, and day and night cut filter. Manual pan and tilt are handled by tweaking the camera head, which I do. Pan is 180-degrees, tilt is 75 degrees and rotation 175 degrees either side of centre.
Minimum illumination with Forensic WDR and Lightfinder 2.0 is 0.1 lux at 50 IRE, F1.8 in colour and 0.02 lux at 50 IRE, F1.8 in monochrome – obviously the camera can deliver image streams in 0 lux with IR illumination activated. OptimizedIR features power-efficient, long-life 850 nm IR LEDs with a 40m range. Shutter speed is adjustable between 1/66500 and 2 seconds. Resolution options range from 1920 x 1080 down to 160 x 90 and frame rate is 30ips with WDR and 60fps without WDR.
Those tiny LEDs pack serious punch.
Compression options are H.264 (MPEG-4 Part 10/AVC), Baseline, Main and High profiles and H.265 (MPEG-H Part 2/HEVC) Main Profile, as well as Motion JPEG, and you can set up multiple configurable streams. Axis Zipstream can enhance compression of H.264 and H.265 streams and there’s controllable frame rate and bandwidth via VBR/ABR/MBR, as well as H.264/H.265 options. The camera offers multi-view streaming and individually cropped out view areas at full frame rate.
Image settings include compression, colour saturation, brightness, sharpness, contrast, local contrast, white balance, day/night threshold, tone mapping, exposure control (including automatic gain control), exposure zones and defogging. There’s also Forensic WDR of up to 120dB depending on scene, barrel distortion correction, fine tuning of low-light behaviour, dynamic text and image overlay, privacy masks, mirroring, rotation: 0, 90, 180 and 270 degrees, including AXIS Corridor Format. Useful too is digital PTZ with preset positions.
There’s full duplex audio streaming and compression options include 48bit LPCM, AAC-LC 8/16/32/44.1/48 kHz, G.711 PCM 8 kHz, G.726 ADPCM 8 kHz and Opus 8/16/48 kHz with configurable bit rates. Ports include audio input/output, external microphone input, line input, digital input with ring power, line output, network security password protection, IP address filtering, HTTPSa encryption, IEEE 802.1X (EAP-TLS), a network access control, digest authentication, user access log, centralized certificate management, brute force delay protection, signed firmware and secure boot. Supported protocols IPv4, IPv6 USGv6, HTTP, HTTPSa, SSL/TLSa, QoS Layer 3 DiffServ, FTP, SFTP, CIFS/SMB, SMTP, Bonjour, UPnP, SNMP v1/v2c/v3 (MIB-II), DNS, DynDNS, NTP, RTSP, RTP, SRTP, TCP, UDP, IGMP, RTCP, ICMP, DHCP, ARP, SOCKS, SSH, SIP and LLDP.
There’s Open API for software integration, including VAPIX and AXIS Camera Application Platform, AXIS Guardian with One-Click Connection, ONVIF Profile G, ONVIF Profile S, and ONVIF Profile T, support for Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) for integration with Voice over IP (VoIP) systems, peer to peer or integrated with SIP/PBX
Analytics include AXIS Video Motion Detection, with active tampering alarm and there’s also audio detection. Other functions include AXIS Live Privacy Shield, AXIS Perimeter Defender, AXIS Guard Suite including AXIS Motion Guard, AXIS Fence Guard, and AXIS Loitering Guard, AXIS Occupancy Estimator, AXIS People Counter, AXIS Tailgating Detector, AXIS Direction Detector, and AXIS Random Selector Support for AXIS Camera Application Platform enabling installation of third-party applications.
Event conditions include analytics, external input, supervision of input, edge storage events, virtual inputs through API and event actions include recording of video to SD card and network share, upload of images or video clips to FTP, SFTP, HTTP, HTTPS, network share, and email, pre and post-alarm video or image buffering for recording or upload notification to email, HTTP, HTTPS, TCP, and SNMP trap. There’s also overlay text, external output activation, play audio clip, make call and data streaming of event data. Built-in installation aids include pixel counter, remote focus, remote zoom and the OptimizedIR with adjustable IR illumination intensity.
Physically, the camera is IP66-rated, NEMA 4X-rated, IK10-rated and has a hard-coated dome and dehumidifying membrane. There are encapsulated electronics and captive screws and the white sustainable poly housing is 104mm high without the weathershield and 149mm with it. Weight including the weathershield is 800g. The maximum operating temperature is 50 degrees, though the specs say it can handle 55C intermittently. There’s a cast alloy mounting bracket with holes for a junction box (double-gang, single-gang, and 4-inch octagon), and for wall or ceiling mount using UNC tripod screws
The camera uses Power over Ethernet (PoE) IEEE 802.3af/802.3at Type 1 Class 3 with a standard draw of 6.4W and a maximum draw of 11.3W. Connectors include RJ45 10BASE-T/100BASE-TX PoE, the I/Os include a 4–pin 2.5mm terminal block for 1 supervised digital input and 1 digital output (12 V DC output, max. load 25 mA), while audio is handled by a 4-pin 2.5 mm terminal block supporting audio in and out. Storage is microSD/microSDHC/microSDXC card and encryption with recording to NAS.
Test Driving AXIS P3245-LVE
Getting the P3245 up and running is easy – stand up the Optiplex 9020 server and BENQ LED monitor, plug the camera into a PoE port on the NetGear 108SP, upgrade the server’s ancient version of Chrome, enter a new password when prompted and the camera comes right up. The interface has changed since we last reviewed an Axis camera – it’s more streamlined, with functions and settings coming up underneath the viewing window. The idea seems to be reducing user touches and this works well enough. Having zoom and autofocus so close to the surface is useful for techs commissioning, too.
My settings are close to default – the few changes I make include turning Zipstream off and dropping compression back and activating wide dynamic range. I play with the zoom, too – winding it in closer then going back out to about 3 quarters on the slider. My tweaks are all about maximising performance – we already know Zipstream is a quality compression system but no matter what I try I’m simply not happy with the image.
After a bit of mucking around the penny finally drops, I start looking into display settings and turn the adaptive stream off. The softness, poor DoF and slow frame rate typical of a meagre adaptive stream converts to a beautiful full frame rate, full resolution stream. First impressions are that this is an excellent image – still with those slightly toasty Axis tones but very sharp, with rich colours, strong contrast and sharpness, subtle tonal rendition, excellent depth of field and a superlative catch rate of moving faces and plates. It’s a joy early in the process of testing when you realise you’ve got a strong performer on your hands. Hooray for Axis.
Images are less than half resolution and 1080x not native 1920x. Focal lens is 4.5mm. Note DoF, sharpness, low blur, balanced light and dark areas of scene.
Even though we’ve only got 1080p resolution, depth of field is strong – perhaps this is down to focal length. I’m slightly wound in on the shorter end of this varifocal lens – between 4.5-5mm. But as the test goes on, I can’t help feeling the strong performance is about processing, too. The image is too clean, depth of field is unusually strong, and it comes no loss of focus close in. Looking through the scene there’s excellent light balance in strong backlight. I have some chromatic aberration – it’s both longitudinal and latitudinal, which is pretty typical for stock Axis camera lenses. These CAs they are not especially pronounced – maybe 3-4 pixels deep around high contrast areas.
Skin tones are especially well handled – after a few days of testing I decide the camera has more trouble with overexposing light skin tones in direct sunlight than it has handling darker skin tones in shadow. This is not typical. Taken as a whole, performance in this area is extremely well balanced. It’s a partly sunny, partly cloudy day and the camera handles the challenges of variable light very nicely. In the afternoon the underlying tones of the scene tend to warm – this characteristic lingers even with WDR deactivated when the scene separates into strong light and heavy shadow, as it always does out here.
Did I mention how good this Axis dome is with fast moving plates? It’s so good that I start stretching my testing to find out just how good it is. I have no worries with plates at 16 metres, no worries at 25 metres, then I snare a shot at 40 metres to see if the camera can get the plate. Waiting for fast moving vehicles to reach the very edge of my viewing range before being blocked by trees, etc, is something I have never done with a 1080p dome set to the wider end of the lens. I didn’t get the plate thanks to pixel spread but getting fast moving plates at 25m-plus is a rare joy.
Excellent ability to capture moving plates and faces, great rendering of skin tones and strong colour balance. Touch of CAs around branches and leaves.
What’s nice about the capacity to get plates at distance in an operational sense is the reciprocal capacity to get high levels of detail in shoes, jewellery, accessories, coffee cup logos, and even tattoos at 12-15 metres. The combination of qualities conspires to deliver an image stream that keeps on giving. The image stays strong with low blur, plenty of sharpness and very natural tones at all times.
In a single scene I find it’s possible to get court admissible faces out to 25m, fast moving plates to 25m, partial recognition of plates up to 40m and useful detail much deeper in – at 70m I can still see attire, shoe colour, vehicle make, model, colour, plate colour and my eye is drawn through obstructions into spaces deeper still to glean additional situational awareness. In another scene a large group of co-workers comes along the path strung out between 8-16 metres. I have excellent detail of all these individuals, including court admissible faces of the highest quality.
As the afternoon goes on, the colour tones down the end of the street get warmer – yellower – but there’s no over exposure breaking viewing quality. What’s most interesting is that I have no trouble getting quality plates from cars doing 40-50kmph up the street in shadow – this is something else that’s unusual. I wind in the zoom a little and doing so – it takes a few seconds to complete – delivers me plates out past 25 metres. Meanwhile, I’m still getting clothing, shoes, tattoos, hair ties, glasses from pedestrians. Next, I zoom right in with most the scene in shadow and the shutter drops back and performance is impacted but I still have my faces and plates.
Pulling back again I’m able to get the streetscape situational awareness I had earlier, still with plates, still with faces, still with clothing details between 40-70 metres. It’s all good. Even quite late in the afternoon – the clock on the snapshots says 4.43 but it’s 5.43 as I had not adjusted for summertime at this point – I’ve got long faces and distant plates. I’m beginning to feel the camera is starting to brighten the image a little, but the detail levels stay true.
Get the first plate, nearly get the second, don’t get the third but this is very consistent performance through twilight hours.
The late afternoon into night performance of this camera is also exceptionally good. You lose fast moving plates at 25 metres around 7.10pm but that’s late compared to the competition – this Axis camera clings on to moving detail like a limpet. And while it loses 40kmph plates at 7.11pm, it hangs onto faces longer still – at 7.50 they are still court admissible to the highest quality. It’s really only when it’s getting really dark – after 730pm – that you notice the low light performance is very strong. It comes with a colour cast from the low-pressure sodium lamps up the street but it’s outstanding. Colour rendition, lack of noise, comparative sharpness – all these are excellent. There’s the merest thought of tone mapping in front and behind cars but it’s not the seconds long pulsing of so many cameras.
Even this late in the day depth of field is outstanding – I’m getting shoe colour all the way down the street at the same zoom I was on during the day – about 20 per cent in. I have static plates out to 40 metres, which is quite a surprise and there’s no trouble with situational awareness all the way out to Albion St. Looking at leaf tips in the field of view I’m impressed with the control of blur – it’s now 7.56pm and light levels out front are sub 10 lux.
After midnight – no plate but no noise and comparatively low levels of blur.
At this point I decide I’m going to take a break and return in full darkness. As things are, the image stream is very solid – bright, pretty sharp and noise free. I expected to be impressed with the Axis camera as the day went along and I have been. It’s right up there with the very best cameras we’ve tested and being a dome, I’m forced to depend on a shorter focal length with more pixel spread so as to avoid zooming out of my favoured view.
I get back to the test after midnight. The first thing I notice is that the camera prefers LED streetlights in default automatic settings. Next, I’m impressed by colour rendition, fine detail and sharpness, low levels of motion blur around leaves. Depth of field remains strong through I only have static plates to depend on. I have static plates to 25 metres with useful plate detail further still. There’s no question of vehicle make and model all the way up the street towards Albion. The image stream in colour is devoid of swim or overt noise, though by now it must have more amplification and digital work on it.
IR reach is at least 40m, perhaps more. A little tone mapping and blur creeping in with IR activated.
A few cars go by and a pedestrian walks down the far side of the street in shadow. I’m not getting moving faces, but I am getting clothing type and colour, hair colour, skin tones, the presence of bags and other effects. Later when another pedestrian comes closer to the lens with 7 lux on the face and I almost have recognition in the live stream, but the detail doesn’t survive the processing required to take a digital snapshot. When it comes to cars I have make, model, plate colour and general details. Pleasingly, they aren’t dragging a tail of artefacts and tone mapping is pretty well controlled considering the 4-7 lux conditions. I’ve left the tone mapping slider at default, so performance there could be better with tweaking.
It’s obvious from the start that the P3245-LV is never going into night mode in the 4-7 lux I measure under the lens, even with night mode set to switch early, it shows no sign of strain. There’s nothing for it but to go into night mode manually and to activate IR. The IR view is solid – the spread is excellent, and the throw is strong – at least 40 metres in this scene. There’s a little flare close in from the nearby trees but given the compact size of the LEDs, things are solid.
Brighter image without IR, tending to over exposure at far end of street where there are strong light sources.
Depth of field with IR on seems stronger than before, even though the scene darkens under IR – perhaps to avoid overexposing potential flare. Sitting in front of the monitor I consider again that it’s the small things that contribute to sharpness – the subtle tones, the layers of contrast. Performance like this comes down to quality of processing. In its angle of view this camera does an exceptional job of rendering everything out towards 100 metres with softness at distance but unusually good detail. The fact this is a 1080p camera and I’m at a focal length of 4.5-5mm continually surprises me.
I don’t have moving plates with IR activated – it’s fair to say I have less detail of moving traffic than I had in colour but I’m getting make and model and I can see the number of people in the front seats of a vehicle at closer ranges. I can see the traffic warden managing traffic on Albion St. When a cyclist goes by, I get good detail, albeit with the signature of lower shutter speed.
Great levels of detail in monochrome.
With IR off, performance closer to the lens – within 20 metres – is better. The scene is brighter, and detail has opened up. There’s excellent contrast, very low noise, tones are subtle, and I have static plates in deep. But past 25 metres where I got so much contrast and greyscale variation with IR on, the scene starts to blow out into over exposure. Happily, a few pedestrians appear in this part of the test, though they are 25-40 metres from the lens. No faces, but I get clothing, skin tone, hair colour and style, bags, detail of shoes, gait – all worthwhile information for investigators.
I also have more detail of moving vehicles with IR off, though this is the first time in the test I’m getting some blur behind vehicles, which suggests shutter speed dropped back when IR was switched off. Look at the still images later on, I notice backlight is playing a part in the loss of detail through the scene – overexposure from the slower shutter leaches light into areas that before showed higher contrast. That’s stuff you play with during commissioning.
Something I notice when pedestrians move around close to the lens – between 8-15 metres – is that there’s a lot of detail in the live stream and there’s also considerable detail to be gathered when people stop moving as quickly – I get very high levels of detail of workers moving road signs around 12m from the lens in night mode without IR and taken as a whole I have more detail but for static plates at a distance. At the end of this part of the test a ute with high beams on manages to create a large circular ghost with a cluster of smaller ghosts inside it. These wee ghosts are reflections of headlights bouncing off tiny front element then reflecting off the inside of the dome bubble and being processed by the sensor again.
WDR performance is excellent, too. Performance is so tight cars doing 40 kmph seem parked.
Next day I do the WDR test into 72,000 lux. I try the scene with WDR on but decide I prefer the tone with WDR off in this application. I have good colour rendition, great depth of field, good skin tones and fast-moving plates. There’s no sign of smudginess or overwrought processing. As we get towards midday there’s some over exposure on the bright side of the street as shadow starts to impact on the camera engine’s ability to balance the image. The competent WDR display rounds out a fine showing from the AXIS P3245-LV.
The Axis P3245-LVE is a very good dome camera that will enhance operational outcomes in many applications, especially those that are more challenging than usual. Comparing performance with its predecessor, the P3245 is a major improvement. I loved the colour rendition, sharpness, speed of zoom and autofocus, the depth of field with IR. This camera is particularly strong in low light in colour, and it offers excellent depth of field, as well as the ability to snag fast moving plates by staving off motion blur until near darkness. Perhaps I benefitted from the 60ips this camera delivers without WDR activated. If so, the powerful street performance was worth the lower frame rate. AXIS P3245-LV comes highly recommended.
Features of the AXIS P3245-LV:
* HDTV 1080p video quality
* Remote 3.4–8.9mm F1.8 Lens
* Lightfinder 2.0, Forensic WDR and OptimizedIR
* Zipstream supporting H.264 and H.265
* Signed firmware and secure boot
* Two-way audio and I/O connectivity
* Guaranteed fast-moving plates to 25m.