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FOCUS CCTV OBSERVATION SYSTEM

 

INTRO

There is a growing market for simple to install multi-camera systems; this 4-camera package from Focus can be fitted inside a couple of hours, and it represents a considerable cost saving over rival solutions.

 

COPY

Pre-packaged multi-camera CCTV systems are ideally suited to small business and residential applications. They provide an economic alternative to more elaborate component systems, that are normally designed to handle large numbers of cameras or incorporate features which may be inappropriate for a small-scale installation.

 

The Focus observation system follows the tradition established by companies such as Mitsubishi and Philips, with a simple 4-camera switcher built into a compact 12-inch monochrome monitor. The system is entirely modular, and easily expanded by adding purpose-designed line-powered black and white cameras, connected to the monitor by pre-wired cables. The cameras have built in microphones and loudspeakers for two-way audio contact. They can be fitted with matching PIR sensors; upon activation switching is suspended and an alarm inside the monitor is set off.

 

The basic outfit comprises the monitor, a single camera and mounting bracket, 20-metres of cable and VCR interface plug. Focus can also supply extra cameras, suitable PIRs, weatherproof outdoor housings for the cameras, extension cables and slave monitors.

 

The 12-inch monochrome monitor is the heart of the system; this provides sequential switching for up to four cameras, it supplies power to the cameras, via single multi-core cables, that also carries the two-way audio and alarm signals. The monitor is housed inside a sturdy, cube-shaped, steel-framed case measuring 304 x 282 x 308 mm. At the front there’s a row of buttons, LEDs and preset adjustments. From left to right they are: push-to-talk intercom button, four camera selector buttons and LED activity indicators, auto-switching/alarm cancellation, VCR input selector, variable camera dwell controls (1-30 seconds), volume, contrast, brightness and power on/off. Behind apertures on the front are the built-in loudspeaker and microphone.

 

The back panel has a bank of five modular jacks (4-camera inputs and VCR output), a female BNC socket for a slave monitor output, an alarm disable switch plus recessed presets for adjusting horizontal and vertical hold.

 

CONCERNS

The basic design is satisfactory; the PCBs are neatly laid out and securely fastened to the base of the monitor. However, we do have a few concerns: the finish and standard of quality control, on our sample at least,  left something to be desired. Two screw holes on the steel cover were mis-aligned, causing the cover to stand slightly proud of the fascia, and a couple of self-tapping screws holding on the back panel had been inserted off-centre. Mechanically it’s no big deal but it does show a certain lack of attention to detail. The biggest problem however, was inside the case. The mains transformer is alarmingly close to the side of the cabinet and on our unit the earth lead from the mains cable had become trapped between the sharp-edged metal shield and the case, it could just have easily have been a live or neutral wire!   

 

The modular jack sockets on the back panel are a potential weak point. They’re not very substantial, and the cables connecting the monitor to the cameras are quite heavy. With all four sockets in use they put a considerable strain on the bank of sockets, which are mounted directly onto a PCB. We suspect that if any of the cables are pulled the joints, connections or the sockets themselves could fail.

 

CAMERAS

The cameras are based around integrated single board devices, housed inside small cream-coloured, cases along with a secondary PCB for the audio and alarm functions. The case is very compact, measuring just 62 x 75 x 35 mm. They come complete with universal mounting brackets, suitable for ceiling, wall or surface mounting. The board cameras have integral 4.3mm lenses (cameras fitted with 8mm lenses are available as an option). Low light sensitivity is quoted as 0.4 lux, with a low light resolution of 400 lines. There’s a small slot in the case above the lens for the microphone, and a  grille at the bottom, for the tiny loudspeaker.

 

On the back panel there are two modular jack sockets -- one for the video, audio and power connections to the monitor, the other is for the alarm sensor. A threaded metal boss is moulded into the plastic on the back plate is for the mounting bracket. This time the standard of construction is very high, they’re small and sturdily built, though the same general comment about the fragility of the modular jacks applies, they look vulnerable to exess strain on the cables. Each camera is supplied with a pre-wired 20 metre cable, these can be extended up to 100 metres.

 

OPERATION

Apart from the various picture controls, and setting the camera dwell time, there are no preliminary adjustments to be made. Camera installation is very straightforward and the supplied mounting brackets are very versatile.

 

At switch on -- assuming more than one camera is connected -- the monitor goes into auto sequence mode, at the previously-set switching speed. Pressing any camera button overrides the switcher, putting it into manual selection mode. If any of the cameras are connected to an alarm sensor (matching PIRs or any type with N/O contacts) any triggering will also override the switcher and an alarm siren will sound. This can only be deactivated by pressing the auto sequence button. The alarm function can be disengaged -- whilst the premises are occupied etc. -- by pressing a button rather inconveniently mounted on the back panel. The audio from each camera is heard through the monitor’s built in speaker, two-way contact with the camera is established by pressing the talk button, next to the camera selectors on the monitor’s front panel.

 

PERFORMANCE

In spite of the system having only rudimentary synchronisation facilities there’s minimal picture disturbance at the switch-over points; the ‘jump’ last for less than one frame and is not in the least disconcerting. Picture linearity is spot on, the image is bright and clear, with plenty of contrast. The cameras perform very well too, and low light sensitivity is within the manufacturers stated parameters. The quoted resolution figure is a tad optimistic though, our samples were in the region of 360 to 380-lines, nevertheless the image is clean, well-defined with negligible amounts of noise. The auto exposure system is quite responsive and effectively handles slow or sudden changes in lighting level. The lens gives a good angle of view, though inevitably there is some barrelling at the edges of the picture

 

The two-way audio works surprisingly well. The microscopic loudspeakers built into the cameras are quite loud, and speech is clear, though it might be difficult to hear if, it has to compete with background noises, like road traffic, unless the camera is mounted at or close to head-height. The camera microphone is very sensitive, though, and the audio from the monitor’s amplifier and loudspeaker have plenty of volume in reserve. Needless to say audio performance is compromised if the camera is mounted inside the weatherproof housing, the sound is muffled both ways. Care also needs to be taken when aligning the housing as the transparent front panel causes internal reflections when a bright light source is above or to the side of the camera’s field of view.

 

CONCLUSION

Considering the low cost of the system it might be considered churlish to make too many adverse comments about functionality, but we feel a couple of important features are missing, that would have improved flexibility, without adding significantly to the price. They include a switched alarm output, and most importantly, a standby function, that turns off the monitor, but keeps the cameras and switchers operating, so the output can continue to be recorded, for long-term unattended operation. Nevertheless, aside from our concerns over the internal construction of the monitor the system performs remarkably well, installation and operation couldn’t be simpler and it represents very good value for money.

 

PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS

 

Monitor            

Screen size                   12-inch monochrome

Resolution                     850-lines

Video input                    0.5-2.0 v p-p (x 4)

Switching Interval  1 to 30 seconds variable

Audio                            two-way

Microphone                   unidirectional electret (built-in)

Speaker                        1.77 inch

Connections                  video out (BNC), cameras & VCR output (modular jack)

Power cons.                  max 53 watts (4 cameras)

Dimensions                   340 x 282 x 308 mm

Weight              10 kg

 

Cameras                      

Type                             modular monochrome

Pick up device            0.3-inch CCD

Pixel array                     542 x 582

Synch system               internal

Resolution                     400 lines

Min. Sensitivity            0.4 lux (f1.8)

Shutter              automatic, to 1/100,000th sec

Audio                            two-way

Microphone                   unidirectional electret

Connections                  video, audio, power & sensor (2 x modular jack)

Sensor input                  any type with N/O contact

Speaker                        1.4-inch

Dimensions                   62 x 75 x 35

 

PSI RATING

 

Product

Product design              8

Build quality                              8

Electronics quality               9

 

Installation

Ease of installation                     9

Set-up functions             9

Instructions                               ??

Manufacturer’s support ??

 

Operation

Functions                                  7

Ease of use                               9

 

Performance

Image quality                             9

Audio quality                             7

 

 

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1996 2103

 


 

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