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ULTRAK RUGGED KD6

 

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WHAT OUR EXPERTS SAY...

 

The steady evolution of dome cameras, from nightmarish contraptions that would have made old Heath Robinson proud, to sleek masterpieces of precision engineering has been a joy to behold. Early systems tended to be fiendishly complicated, heavy and often drastically over-engineered. Whilst there's nothing wrong with manufacturers striving for reliability and longevity we suspect that the lot of the installer was sometimes overlooked, not least the difficulty of mounting or servicing several kilograms of bulky equipment in overhead or suspended installations.  

 

The Ultrak Rugged KD6 is a good example of how much progress has been made in dome technology in recent years, and it definitely scores well in the looks department, both inside and out. The 'Rugged' bit refers to the vandal-resistant housing; the camera and its pan/tilt mechanism are encased inside a tough heavy-gauge cast aluminium shell with a key-lockable high-impact polycarbonate dome.  A heater/blower module is available as an option.

 

Inside the mechanics are refreshingly simple. The camera module is mounted on a single low-friction bearing; tilt motion (0 to 90 degrees) is controlled by a high-resolution stepper motor linked to a pulley on the camera bearing by a toothed belt. The camera and tilt motor assembly rotates through a continuous 360 degrees on a turntable with a slip ring carrying power, data and video connections. The same kind of stepper motor and belt drive arrangement is used to pan the camera. For the record maximum pan speed is continuously variable between 0.1 and 200 degrees/sec whilst pan speed is between 0.1 and 400 deg/sec (depending on the control system and operating mode).

 

The camera on our sample is a high-performance colour model based around a 1/4-inch CCD with a claimed resolution of 460-lines and low light sensitivity rating of 3 lux. The autofocus lens has a focal range of 4.1-73.8mm with an 18x optical zoom plus a 4x digital zoom. A 'NightShot' function automatically switches from colour to black and white operation in low light conditions. The camera module is housed in a black case and shrouded by a dome-shaped black-coloured mask so its orientation and movement is not obvious from the outside when the unit is fitted with a clear see-through dome.

 

Four alarm inputs are provided, when activated the camera can be programmed to move directly to a programmed location (PreShot), begin a VectorScan (tour of PreShots) or a PTZ tour of which up to three can be programmed, each lasting up to a maximum of 2-minutes. When a PTZ tour is programmed or 'learned' all actions are recorded by the system, including camera position, zoom and focus settings. Incidentally the system can store up to 100 PreShots, 10 VectorScans, 16 Sector IDs and 10 Privacy Zones. 

 

All of the control communications, power supply and video-processing electronics is taken care of by three large glass-fibre PCBs attached to the sides and underside of the cast alloy chassis. It is a sturdy modular construction with all of the components easily accessible for servicing or repair, though in most cases it will be quicker and simpler to replace the whole module. This can be done in a matter of a few seconds, the assembly is held in place inside the dome housing by a pair of quick-release clips, that latch on to a pair of mounting plates. All of the connections to the outside world (power, telemetry and video) are handled by a single multi-way connector on the underside (topside) of the camera/PTZ unit; the connector has a small amount of 'float' to allow it to line up with the matching male connector inside the dome housing. The connector plate in the dome has two banks of lever-lock terminals for telemetry and power (the dome requires a 24 volt AC supply) and a single BNC socket for the composite video output. 

 

Flexibility and easy integration with a variety of control systems, including Ultrak's own has clearly been given a high priority. We tested our sample with an Ultrak JPD-101 controller, which provides access to all of the KD6's main features. The highlights include automatic or manual pan, tilt, zoom, focus and iris. Auto-pivot swivels the camera through 180 degrees enabling the camera operator to follow a subject as they or it passes beneath the dome and pan and tilt reverse switches pan and tilt direction. Pan and tilt speeds are automatically adjusted according to the zoom setting. Initial set up and on-site adjustments are carried from the control unit out using a set of menu-driven on-screen displays.

 

Six menu options are displayed by pressing the Shift + F1 keys on the control unit. Menu item 1 is for selecting the on-screen display operating language (English, French, German, Italian or Spanish). Item two is headed Display Options and this covers camera ID, sector title and pre-shot title on/off and positions. Menu item three covers Control Options and they include switches for the auto-pivot and auto pan/tilt speed functions, a program facility for the alarms, manual options for the pan and tilt controls and autofocus on/off.  The fourth menu covers Diagnostic Options such as displaying pan/tilt coordinates, displaying the error log, clearing the memory and error log, restore default condition and system reset. Menu five deals with camera setup options such as enabling the digital zoom and setting zoom speed, auto exposure level control and backlight compensation, white balance, NightShot mode, auto/manual shutter and Still PreShot (displays a still image whilst changing camera views simulates the action of a camera switcher). The sixth and last menu is responsible for Function Programming, which deals with setting up a PTZ tour.

 

SETUP AND OPERATION

The dome and control system are both very well designed, the layout and wiring all look reasonably intuitive so it follows that installation should be reasonably straightforward. Unfortunately it all goes horribly wrong when it comes to making sense of it all from the manuals. All of the information the installer is likely to need is there, it's finding it that's the problem... The manuals, of which there are several, are poorly presented, sparsely illustrated and densely peppered with generic jargon. In short the average installer, confronted with one of these units for the first tine, would do well to carry out a dry run first or at least be prepared to spend a couple of hours wading through the manuals before trying to install and set up a system in anger. 

 

PERFORMANCE

Camera performance is more or less as advertised, resolution on our sample was within a whisker or two of the manufacturers figures, it was close enough to supposes that on a bright and sunny day with the wind in the right direction it would be as close as makes no difference. Colour fidelity is good and the auto exposure systems cope well with rapid changes in scene illumination. Backlight compensation is fairly average though and bright lights in a moderately well lit scene can occasionally fox the auto exposure systems leading to overcompensation.

 

Low light performance is impressive and the NightShot feature works well, increasing sensitivity quite dramatically in poor light. The standard Security Installer intermittency test comprising a few sharp knocks with a rubber mallet failed to unsettle the picture.

 

The pan/tilt mechanism is responsive, positive and agile. It is possible to become adept very quickly and learn to avoid the inevitable under and overshoot that fast pan/tile mechanisms can encourage. Both pan and tilt actions are very smooth and it is possible to achieve impressively small movements with a light touch on the joystick

 

OVERALL ASSESSMENT

The KD6 camera does a lot of things very well indeed. The quality of the design and standard of construction are both high, in short it looks, feels and functions like a quality piece of kit. We have no reservations about the Rugged housing either and without taking the Bench Test crowbar to it there is every reason to suppose that it should be able to withstand the attentions of all but the most determined and well-

equipped vandals.

 

Nevertheless, we do have one quibble and an observation. First the manuals; It's a common complaint, they were obviously written by someone or individuals who know the device inside out and have been very close to its design and manufacture but that has distanced them from the installer who doesn't want to get bogged down sifting the basic information that will let them get on with the job from the more detailed technical stuff. Finally it's a pity there's not some way to save programming data should a camera unit need to be replaced. A considerable amount of data can be generated setting up positions and tours and some way of transferring it from the camera to the control unit or even between cameras could prove very useful.

 

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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R. Maybury 2001 2308

 

 


 

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