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Surveillance cameras are getting smarter. Grundig’s latest FA and FAC series cameras feature remote interrogation and programming for faster configuration and more flexible operation



The days when video cameras were simply semi-passive transducers, converting visible light into electrical impulses, are fast disappearing. Video cameras are evolving at an unprecedented rate, due mainly to rapid advances, and the falling cost of digital control and processing systems.


Grundig are at the leading edge of this technology; their uP Cam system is centred on a range of high-performance colour and monochrome cameras, that can be remotely controlled and configured by a stand-alone controller or PC-based control software.  


We’ve been trying out the FAC831 colour camera with a BMK 801 dedicated control unit and PGE operating software. The FAC831 is one of a series of Grundig cameras that contain their own their own on-board microprocessors and control software. They all have the facility to communicate with control devices via a two-way telemetry link, that carries control data, video information and alarm signals.


The FAC831 (and its monochrome stablemate FA871) use single 1/2-inch interline, Hyper-Had, CCD image sensors, each with 440k pixels with a 581 x 756 (effective)  display matrix. This gives a quoted horizontal resolution of 570-lines for the FA871, and 390-lines for the FC831 (using a Y/C output). The FA871 will produce an exploitable image at 0.1 lux, whilst the FAC831 operates down to 0.4 lux, typical scene illumination levels are 0.5 lux and 2 lux respectively. Models fitted with optional storage modules use field integration to increase low-light sensitivity to 0.006 lux in the case of the FA871, and 0.025 lux for the FC831 (16 fields).


In addition to basic camera functions the FAC831 has a number of extra facilities. They include a unique stored serial number, high-speed shutter, automatic black-level control using an adjustable window of sensitivity, four white level memories, ident and alarm text insertion and external synchronisation (genlock). Optional facilities include peak-light blanking for reducing the impact of bright lights in the scene, field memory picture storage and security code protection.


Some more general facts and figures: physically the cameras look very similar. They share a common heavy-gauge die-cast housing measuring 139.8 x 60 x 66mm with standard 1/4-inch UNC mounting threads (one on the top, two on the bottom). Both cameras are intended for indoor use, a range of weatherproof housings are available. The cameras be fitted with C or CS-mount lenses, without the need for an adapter; a mechanical back-focus adjusting screw is accessible from the left side of the case. Rear panel connections comprise a BNC socket, carrying composite video output, a 9-pin D socket for lens connections, plus a 15-pin D socket for the remote interface, and composite or Y/C configured video signals, (in the case of the colour cameras). Power consumption is 6 watts for both cameras, and the supply voltage is nominally 12 volts DC, though it will operate in the range 10 to 30 volts DC; the camera’s internal power supply has reverse polarity protection. 


Quality of construction is generally good. The FAC381 sample we’ve been testing contained eight separate glass-fibre PCBs, populated entirely with surface-mount components (SMCs). The main boards are held rigidly in place, though one of the daughter boards, close to the top of the case, is only loosely supported by a pair of edge connectors and could be susceptible to excessive vibration.  



Two methods of remote control and configuration are possible. The first is the BMK 801 control unit. This is a small stand-alone console measuring 330 x 157 x 55mm. It connects to the camera (or system) via a serial interface cable merged with an external PSU, that plugs into the camera’s 15-pin D-socket. The BMK 801 operates on three levels: it controls all of the camera’s general functions, including (where fitted), focus, zoom plus pan and tilt head alignment; secondly it allows password-protected access to the camera’s configuration menu; and lastly, password-protected access to service-level functions.


Once connected the camera can be accessed by calling up the on-screen menu, which appears as superimposed text on the camera’s video output. Entering the appropriate password and selecting the type of camera (colour or monochrome) calls up the main configuration menus and sub-menus. The first page deals with video processing, synchronisation, output interface, text insertion and alarm management. Video processing includes sub menus for auto or manual high-speed & slow-speed shutter,  AGC on/off, gain-up (+4dB), white balance (auto, red/blue detune, artificial light, daylight, WB lock etc.) and auto black level (monochrome cameras only). Text insertion covers creating and editing camera idents, text position and character size. Alarm management includes setting the position and sensitivity of two alarm fields, creating and editing alarm text messages and setting alarm status. The alarm fields appear as black outlines that can be positioned anywhere within the screen. When the facility is enabled an activation will cause a pre-set text message to be superimposed on the camera output.


Page two on the menu display defines four possible status pages that can be displayed by pressing a button on the BMK 801’s control panel, this menu also contains programming options for the eight function keys on the control unit and saving user settings. The function keys give short-cut access to the picture store, white balance adjustment, camera selection, pan/tilt settings and alarm field activation.


The third menu page is concerned with saving positions for the pan/tilt head, enabling the security mode, (which renders the camera unusable if its stolen), service mode and pre-setting selectable functions on two remote control inputs.


Menu options are selected using the shift key, changed using the four cursor buttons, and enabled with the enter button. All changes are enacted immediately, and shown on the monitor output. After any settings have been altered the menu gives the user the option to save the changes before returning to normal operation with the new configuration.


The camera’s service mode can only be accessed using a second password and it would not normally need to be used, other than by qualified service personelle. For the record the adjustments that can be made include: gain, peak light threshold, black-level reference, white clipping, Y gamma, chroma level, chroma gamma, sync level, burst level, white balance control rate, camera address, password change and communications parameters.



The second control option requires an IBM or compatible AT or XT PC, with a minimum of 640k of memory, and preferably a hard disc as well. The PGE package includes the software disc, interface module, security module and camera power supply unit.


The operating software is DOS-based and is installed by typing PGEINST at the DOS prompt. The software supplied for review with our system showed clear signs of its German origin and the option to change to English text only appears after the third page of on-screen loading instructions, which can be quite confusing. Even so a few German commands persist in the English menus. The program is fairly small, it occupies around 800k of disc space, and modifies the computer’s autoexec.bat file so that the PC boots up to the PGE program; loading takes only a minute or so. We tried the software on two PCs, one a 486/33 machine, the other a 386/25 laptop, in both cases it performed faultlessly.


The camera connects to one of the PC’s free serial interfaces via a small module that attaches to the back of the camera’s 15-pin D-socket. Alternatively, for PCs without a spare serial socket, a optional RS-485 interface card is available, that plugs into one of the PC’s expansion slots. The security module (dongle) contains edit ‘credits’ -- more about that in a moment -- this plugs into the PC’s parallel printer port.


When the program is loaded a Grundig logo appears, followed by a fairly conventional DOS screen. Menu selections can be made from the keyboard, or by the mouse. The options are not as extensive as those available from the BMK 801. They include: basic camera control functions (zoom, pan/tilt, alarm messages and status); video processing (shutter, gain, white balance, black level, aperture, gamma correction, and iris type); synchronisation (internal or external) and general housekeeping functions (factory settings, output interfaces, communications parameters etc.).


The options menu deals with the camera’s higher functions, and these require a certain number of ‘credits’ to be downloaded from the removable security module, preventing unauthorised tampering. The menu includes settings for peak light, mains coupling, restart, text insertion, security mode, output configuration and picture storage.  Some of these parameters require optional modules to be fitted to the camera. Changes made to this menu can be given a ‘60-hour’ delineation, for test purposes, with the changes reverting back to previous settings after 60 hours have elapsed. All menu selections have associated ‘help’ files, which can be called up at any time.



There’s so much flexibility it’s easy to loose sight of basic camera operation. With all settings at normal factory defaults, and fitted with a 8.5mm f1/5 manual iris lens,  our sample managed to resolve over 320-lines, using a composite video feed to a monitor. This rose to a little over 360-lines using a Y/C video feed. Colour fidelity using the auto WB setting was very good, with no displacement except for some very slight smearing on patches of high saturation. Colour and luminance noise levels were both very low. At lower illumination levels the image remained coherent, with plenty of useful detail still in the image, though there was a noticeable increase in grain and noise towards the lower end of the camera’s operating range. The auto exposure and shutter systems work well, they’re reasonably responsive and cope well with moderately fast changes in lighting level.


Of the two remote control options the BMK 801 has the widest range of options and is clearly preferable in more complex installations, where more of the camera’s exposure and colour control facilities may be required. It’s fast and easy to use, with the results of any changes immediately visible on the monitor screen. It also lends itself more easily to permanent installation. The PMG package still has a lot to commend it though, and whilst it’s not as comprehensive as the BMK 801, and slower to use,  nevertheless it  gives the installer sufficient control to fine-tune the camera for most routine situations. The software and accompanying instructions have a few rough edges, though anyone reasonably conversant with PCs should have little trouble getting it up and running.



The uP Cam system is an impressive demonstration of the role advanced digital control systems has to play in video surveillance, and a clear indication of the way the technology is progressing. The FAC381 camera performs very well indeed, it’s rugged and  encased in a weatherproof housing it is well suited to harsh environments. However,  because of its specialist nature, and the necessity for external control systems to exploit all of its many functions, it is better suited to more demanding applications, rather than for general surveillance.  




Make/model                              Grundig FA87

Line standard                 625/50 CCIR

Image sensor                             0.5-inch interline hyper-HAD, 473k pixels (596 x 797) total, 440k (581 x 756) effective

Horizontal resolution            570-lines    

Min. exploitable sens     0.1-lux

Min. sensitivity               0.5 lux 

S/N ratio (min AGC)                62dB                            

High speed shutter              14-speeds (1/50, 125, 250, 500, 1000, 2000, 4000, 10000, 20000, 50000, 100000, 200000, 500000, 1,000000 th sec)

Dimensions                               139.8 x 60 x 66mm

Weight                          0.7kg

Lens mount                               C/CS


Make/model                              Grundig FAC830

Line standard                 625/50 CCIR-PAL

Image sensor                             0.5-inch interline hyper-HAD, 473k pixels (596 x 797) total, 440k (581 x 756) effective

Horizontal resolution            320-lines (CVBS), 390-lines (Y/C)              

Min. exploitable sens     0.4 lux 

Typical sensitivity                      2 lux    

S/N ratio (min AGC)                52dB    

High speed shutter              14-speeds (1/50, 125, 250, 500, 1000, 2000, 4000, 10000, 20000, 50000, 100000, 200000, 500000, 1,000000 th sec)

Dimensions                               139.8 x 60 x 66mm

Weight                          0.7kg

Lens mount                               C/CS


Make/model                  Grundig BMK 801

Camera interface             RS-485

Baud rate                      1200, 2400, 4800, 9600

Dimensions                   330 x 157 x 55mm

Weight              2kg


Make/model                              Grundig PGE

System requirements                 IBM or compatible XT/AT with 640k memory and DOS 3.1 or higher

Camera interface                        Grundig 9.49061-1501

Power supply                             camera supply unit SN 830 1 H.XG 05003



Ó R. Maybury 1995 1808




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