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TITAN DOME CAMERA

 

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WHAT OUR EXPERTS SAY...

  

Dome cameras tend to come in two basic flavours. There’s the small discreet variety designed to look unobtrusive and not draw attention to itself. The second type -- usually the larger ones -- is meant to be seen and designers make little or no effort to camouflage their products. Then there’s the Titan 200… the only way the manufacturers could make this one stand out more would be to colour it dayglo orange hang a flashing light on it; maybe the housing could be painted so that it really does look like a giant eyeball, now there’s an idea!

 

It really is a very striking design and the manufacturers – Conway Security Products – make the point that it is a significant departure from traditional dome camera design. Nevertheless, inside the camera head there resides some fairly familiar technology. The actual camera unit sits behind an optically flat 4.4mm laminated glass protective window. Our sample, a baseline Titan 200 model, was fitted with a Sony ExWave camera module with an 18x optical zoom, and 12x electronic zoom.  Resolution from the ¼-inch Hyper HAD CCD image sensor is claimed to be in the region of 470 lines with low light sensitivity down to 0.01 lux (0.25 sec slow shutter). Low light performance is augmented by a switchable black and white ‘Night’ mode.

 

The Sony camera is mounted on an agile PTZ assembly, though only the camera housing or ‘ball’ tilts (through 90 or so degrees), the spherical housing and its outer shroud turns through 360 degrees. Rotational speed in both planes is in the order of 70 degrees/sec. Pan-tilt action is tied in with the zoom and as the field of view narrows so zoom speed drops off to compensate and make tracking a target easier.

 

Additional operator functions for the camera include auto/manual focus (2-speed,  zoom and focus), automatic 180-degree follow-through as a subject passes beneath the camera, up to 75 position presets can be set and used to program up to 30 patrol tours (30 presets each). Privacy zones can be defined and optional extras include a wiper unit and one relay switched auxiliary function (heater etc.).

 

We put our sample through its paces using a TX1 ‘Omega’ keyboard controller, this communicates with the camera unit (and a suitably configured PC, if required), using a RS-232 or RS-485 serial link. In setup mode the controller can access the camera’s exposure systems and assign text idents (up to 20 characters) to camera, camera position, tour and pan zones.

 

The ball housing, shroud and upper pan motor housing are all made from aluminium; this can be finished in a wide range of colours. The hemispherical front cover is held in place by a pair of bolts and rubber seals around the rim of the cover and the window protect the innards from ingress of dust and moisture. For special applications a highly polished brass finish is available and there’s also a stainless steel version, for marine installations or when the Titan is used in a corrosive atmosphere or food preparation area. The unit is suspended from a circular mounting plate through which a single cable, carrying power, telemetry and video passes. 

 

Pan and tilt motion is achieved with a pair of direct drive stepper motors, the latter acting through a set of nylon worm gears. The camera and the associated drive and telemetry electronics are mounted on a pair of PCBs inside the ball, which tilts with the camera. The quality of construction appears to be very good indeed and it looks solidly built; it is, however, surprisingly noisy. The motors and gears generate a noticeable whine when they’re in action, if you listen closely you can also hear telemetry signals coming from the ball and for some peculiar reason at certain points in the tilt motors travel it emits a more or less continuous ‘whooshing’ sound.  At first we thought this might be a cooling fan cutting in and out but there isn’t one, and it definitely emanates from the tilt motor. Whether this is confined to just our sample remains to be seen. It doesn’t seem to be a problem though, and since it’s not a ‘stealthy’ design – quite the opposite in fact – it’s one more thing that will get it noticed.

 

The TX1 keyboard is housed in a compact sloping metal case, layout is very straightforward, there’s a decent sized joystick on the right side with a push button speed control (normal or slow) on the top of the stick.  Two banks of LEDs above and below the joystick show controller and camera function status. To the left of that is a bank of buttons for camera functions (zoom, focus, was, lamp/night, zoom/focus speed etc.). Next to that is a numeric keypad, used to select the camera, position and tour, and for setup functions and on the far left is a column of function buttons (camera, position, tour, monitor and cancel). Along the top edge is a line of Function keys, used during programming and setup and at the end of the row is a second speed button that duplicates the action of the joystick button.

 

On the rear panel there are two 9-pin D-Sub sockets for the RS232/485 serial communications to the camera and a PC. There also a DC power socket (a plug-in type 12 VDC mains adaptor is supplied) and a key switch, for selecting user or program mode. Inside the case there are four PCBs, three inside the lid for the keyboard, joystick and LEDs, the fourth one in the bottom of the case handles camera control and telemetry. The only internal adjustment is an 8-way DIP switch, for setting comms idents and protocols.

 

SETUP AND OPERATION

The keyboard controller and camera generate a series of on-screen displays that show time and date and camera mode in the top left corner of the screen by default, preset camera position and pan zone (the camera’s 360 field of view is divided into 64 zones), are shown in the bottom left corner and small line of characters in the top right corner indicates the operation of auxiliary functions (wash/wipe, night/lamp etc.). 

 

Pan and tilt movement is proportionally controlled from the joystick, which has a precise feel to it. Most keyboard actions are accompanied by an audible click, and there’s a very annoying alarm tone, when you do something wrong.

 

PERFORMANCE

Tilt movement is very smooth, even at the slowest speeds, making it possible to control the camera angle in increments of one degree or less. The same sort of fine control is possible when panning; however the movement is noticeably jerky – you can see the motor ‘stepping’ at slower speeds. It’s possible to position the camera with pinpoint accuracy and there’s no noticeable under or overshot when stopping or changing direction in a hurry.

 

One minor irritant was the inconsistency of the limit stops on our sample. This shows up most clearly when the PTZ is in slow mode or the camera is tilted full up and then moved down. If the camera is then returned to the fully up position the limit will often decrease by a few degrees so that it is no longer possible to get back to the exact same position.

 

Camera performance is very good indeed and resolution is very close to the spec. Colour accuracy is also good. The auto white balance system is on the button in good natural light and it does a fair job in mixed and artificial light. Noise levels in in a well-lit scene are very low, they increase as light levels fall but it’s no worse than average for a camera of this type. The exposure system copes easily with changes in light level and low light sensitivity is fine though switching to the monochrome ‘night’ mode didn’t make as dramatic a difference as we’d hoped for or seen on other cameras of this type. One small operational point, we did find that the front window needs to be kept absolutely clean and it can generate an annoying ‘flare’ from strong lights at the edges of the image area.

 

OVERALL ASSESSMENT

In terms of special features and performance the Titan 200 doesn’t offer anything significantly different over and above what is available from more conventional-looking dome cameras, nevertheless it is an interesting and unusual design that is virtually guaranteed to get attention. It is quite noisy in operation and we hope our experiences with the limit stops is a one off, but on the plus side it is easy to setup and install, moderately flexible in operation and image quality is good in a wide range of conditions.

 

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 2002 1202

 


 

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