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The Vista VPM3130 mono CCTV camera has a reassuringly solid feel about it. That’s mainly due to the cast alloy casing and metal chassis, a hark back to an earlier age, though this one is bang up to date is just about every other respect, and an unusually versatile design with applications extending well beyond video security and surveillance.


The 3130 is based around a 0.3-inch CCD imaging chip; it’s available in a variety of configurations, this particular one has its own on-board mains power supply, and a near universal fitting for almost any 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1-inch format C or CS mount lens, with manual,  automatic or direct-drive iris. The two-part case is an unusual design, apart from contributing to almost fifty percent of the all-up weight of just over 1kg, the curvy shape makes a refreshing change to the succession of bland boxes we’ve become used to. It has two hinged side panels, one side is purely cosmetic, but the other one opens to reveal two DIP switches, one of which controls the high-speed shutter, the other sets various exposure options, plus gamma correction level and secondary functions, which we’ll come to in a moment. There are standard 1/4-inch mounting threads on the top and bottom halves of the case, positioned at or near the centre of gravity, when a lens is fitted.


Inside the case there’s five PC boards, clipped into a pressed steel chassis cage. One board carries the very compact mains power supply; two larger boards contain the video processing microchips, the CCD image sensor and control electronics are mounted on the fourth board, at the front of the camera. The fifth board sits behind the rear panel, this supports the two BNC sockets, one for video output, the other for an external synchronisation (genlock) connection. Below that there’s a three-pin, spring-loaded terminal block for the auto-iris lens lead. The mains on/off switch and cable are also mounted on the back panel. There’s a standard four-pin socket on the side of the case, for direct-drive lenses and on the opposite side is a mechanical screw adjustment for setting back focus, to accommodate different lens types. The front of the camera is almost featureless, apart from the lens mount and a red power-on LED indicator.


Disabling the LED indicator is one of the options on the larger of the two concealed DIP switches; other functions include switching the electronic iris on and off, AGC on/off and high/low sensitivity, backlight compensation on/off and three gamma correction settings. They are: 0.45 for demanding low-light conditions; 0.83 for general purpose day/night operation and 1.0, for computer-based process and medical applications. The electronic shutter has eight speed settings: 1/50th, 1/125th, 1/250th, 1/500th, 1/1000th, 1/2000th, 1/4000th and 1/10,000th second. Additionally it has an FL or ‘flickerless’ mode, for use with auto-iris or direct-drive lenses, when the scene is illuminated by fluorescent light.


Initial set-up is confined to fitting and adjusting the lens, setting the back focus, selecting the appropriate exposure options and shutter speed. A small potentiometer next to the shutter DIP switch sets the control voltage for direct drive lenses. The rather brief instructions also detail the alignment procedures for zoom lenses and setting line-lock for multi-camera installations. Apart from that there’s scant guidance for installers, other than obvious warnings about exposing the camera to excessive temperatures, and protecting it from moisture. The case isn’t particularly vulnerable in this respect, there’s no openings or grilles in the top or bottom, though dust, dirt and liquids could find their way inside through the side panels, so a protective housing is advisable if the camera is to be used in the open.



Mono cameras still have a commanding position when it comes to bottom line decisions regarding resolution, image quality  and cost. The 3130 is no exception, under standard test conditions our sample comfortably exceeded 380-lines horizontal resolution with an basic 8.5mm lens. The image is very clean, there’s some very slight ringing after bright vertical picture elements but no visible patterning or striation.


However, this camera really begins to show its mettle in poor light, with the image remaining clear bright and contrasty long after grain and noise have started to affect similarly specified cameras. The various exposure options provide an effective counter to most common lighting problems and the auto controls are able to deal with most changes, though clearly much depends on the type of lens used and the care taken during initial installation. Backlight compensation works very well indeed, increasing available detail on strongly backlit subjects by a significant degree. The high-speed shutter is another useful exposure tool, and it can make a big difference to the quality of still and slomo tape replay, especially if there is a lot of movement in the scene.



The 3130 is a remarkably well thought-out design with a range of features that do not confine it to just security and surveillance applications. The rugged construction makes it eminently suitable for harsh or unforgiving environments, where the camera may be subjected to mechanical shock from time to time. The unusually versatile exposure system operates within a broad range of lighting conditions and there’s sufficient flexibility to enable it to work with pretty well any type of lens; presettable gamma correction is a welcome added bonus. The 3130 can be configured to function in a range of CCTV systems, from simple one-camera set-ups to comprehensive multi-camera installations.  Finally performance; image quality is very good, and although it’s not being specifically flagged as a low-light camera it nonetheless gives a very good account of itself in unfavourable lighting conditions.



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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