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JVC TK-C553 MINI DOME CAMERA

 

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WHAT OUR EXPERTS SAY...

 

Seeing the TK-C553 mini dome in action in demo mode for the first time is a little spooky, especially with the dome cover removed. The camera module is clearly fixed rigidly to its mounting bracket, yet the image on the screen moves around as though it’s coming from a camera on a motorised PTZ mount. It’s one of several very impressive tricks that this ingenious little camera has up its sleeves, but first a run through of the basic facts and figures.

 

The dome unit is designed for ceiling fitting and the outfit includes a quick-release mounting plate (with drop prevention cable) and connector module, all of which bodes well for relatively painless installations. From tip to toe it measures just 113mm, the housing has a 112 mm diameter; it is very compact, reasonably discrete and innocuous looking. The smoked black dome cover comes away quite easily – possibly a little too easily, one quick twist and it’s off -- so it needs to be mounted well out of reach.

 

Underneath the dome there’s a high-performance colour camera based around a ¼-inch CCD with a 752 x 582 pixel array, giving a claimed resolution of 470 lines; minimum illumination levels are in the order of 1.5 lux. The lens is equipped with a simple 2x optical zoom (tele/wide) and manual focus. For the record the focal length is 2.6 to 6mm (F1.2 to F1.8) giving angles of view of 82 (h) and 59 (v) degrees in the wide setting and 35/26 degrees in tele mode. The camera is mounted on a very simple bracket that allows it to tilt through 130 degrees, the camera body can be rotated through around 30 degrees, and the plate on which the tilt bracket is mounted allows it to pan through 90 degrees. It looks and feels sturdy and the adjustments are quite tight – even with all of the adjustment screws fully slackened – so making small precise adjustments can be quite tricky.

 

As you may have already gathered the camera is a sophisticated design and the key feature is the external control facility, using standard RS422/455 protocols, or it can be connected to a JVC RM-P2580 remote control unit. This provides access to the camera’s set-up menus and the digital PTZ function, but more on that in a moment. Local control of a limited menu set is also possible, via a set of push buttons, accessible when the dome cover is removed. The ‘Video Adjust’ menu is common to both on-board and remote control units. The main options include iris level (raise or lower brightness level in 10 steps), colour level (10 steps), picture enhance (10 steps) and AGC mode (off/10/20dB). Also included is a Super AGC or gain-up mode for poor lighting conditions. There’s a backlight control (BLC) with four preset fixed light metering screen areas and 2 user set modes where the detection area can be manually assigned. The Average/Peak option sets exposure detection as a ratio of average and peak values (6 steps from 10:0 to 5:5) and lastly, the white balance setting which has three modes, namely auto tracing, manual and auto set.

 

The mode selection menu is also available via the camera buttons and a remote control unit, there are three options, the first is for composing a camera title (one line 24 characters), positioned along the bottom edge of the image. Option 2 is for setting V-Phase, when the camera is used in line-lock mode and option 3 selects demo/zoom mode, which is engaged when the camera is powered up.  A third menu, only available on the camera covers communications set-up and assigning a camera ID (1 to 99). When the camera is connected to a control unit additional menus are available that allow alarm text and titles to be positioned and for setting and programming the auto patrol and auto pan of the digital PTZ system.

 

The system works by electronically enlarging the image by a factor of 2x – essentially a digital zoom – then by moving the screen area, giving the illusion of mechanical panning and tilting. The Auto Patrol function has provision for programming a sequence of up to 6 specified positions, the dwell or observation time can be set between 10 seconds to 2-minutes. 

 

SETUP AND OPERATION

The camera requires a 12-volt DC or 24-volt AC supply; connections are via a connector block, which plugs into a flying lead coming out of the top of the unit. One point worth bearing in mind is that it is about the size of a box of matches, so there needs to be some space available in the ceiling cavity to accommodate the module. Apart from the stiffness in the mounting bracket mentioned earlier, the manual lens adjustments (focus and tele/wide) can be a little tricky to get at, but overall installation should pose no particular problems.

 

The instruction manual covers a lot of ground and in general it is well laid out clearly presented and easy to follow but the emphasis is clearly on using the camera with the RM-P2580 control unit. Some more information about how to use the camera with other control systems would have been helpful.

 

PERFORMANCE

Video performance on our test sample was at or very close to the manufacturer’s specs; we managed to resolve just over 450 lines in normal mode, with the electronic PTZ engaged resolution drops off significantly but the picture still looks very clean. In good scene lighting the image is very crisp with very low levels of noise; there is an increase in grain as scene lighting decreases but the exposure systems cope well with the changes and the image remains useable down to very low levels. Colour accuracy is potentially very good, though some care needs to be taken when setting  up the white balance, especially in areas of mixed light and variable levels. The camera is mechanically stable and the picture was unaffected by our intermittency and shock tests (a few hefty taps with a rubber-handled screwdriver) 

 

OVERALL ASSESSMENT

The TK-C553 marks another small but significant step forward for mini-dome cameras; the digital PTZ function is going to make it a lot of friends but even putting that to one side, it still ranks as a versatile and highly flexible design, well suited to a wide range of applications and delivering the kind of performance we’ve come to expect from JVC.

 

PRODUCT ASSESSMENT

Design and design features                      *****

Circuitry and components                ****

Ease of installation and wiring            ****

Range and variety of functions            *****

Accompanying instructions              ****                          

Technical advice and backup            ****    

Value for money                         ??                          

 

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ã R. Maybury 2000 1802

 

 


 

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