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Philips are one of the leading innovators in the field of modular surveillance systems, the Pro-Vision VCC3280 is a direct response to the growing demand for simple to install, low-cost multi-camera packages, for small and medium-scale applications. There’s a strong family resemblance with the successful VCC8250 package, which is based around an integrated monitor-switcher, that supports up to 10 line-powered colour cameras.


This variant follows the same overall design theme, though this time it uses a compact 12-inch black and white monitor, supplied with one or more VCM 8175 mono cameras. The on-board switcher can handle up to four cameras as is, with the facility to expand coverage to a maximum of 7 or 10 cameras, using one or two optional junction boxes.


Installation time is kept to a minimum; the cameras link to the monitor switcher using pre-terminated cables fitted with modular ‘phone’ jacks at both ends. The 4-wire (2-twisted pair) cable carries power and switching signals (for alarms or door locks), plus video and audio back to the monitor. The supplied cables are 25 metres long, but these can be extended to up to 400 metres, using adaptor modules. Flexibility is a key feature and cameras other than the ones supplied can also be used, with an optional interface unit. The 8175 cameras have built-in microphones, for one-way audio, the monitor can be configured for two-way communications, when used with a separate intercom box.



The monitor/switcher is built inside a distinctive robust metal case with cream-coloured plastic trim and surrounds at the back and front. The controls are all on the front and are divided into two groups. Just below the screen there’s a set of buttons for the multi-lingual, menu-driven on-screen display, camera selectors, auto sequence, push-to-talk and action (door lock etc.) functions. Below that, behind a hinged flap are rotary controls for volume, brightness and contrast, plus the main on/standby switch.


The on-screen display covers all of the system’s housekeeping functions, including setting camera sequence, sequence time (2, 4, 7, 10, 20 and 60 seconds), alarm set-up (more about that in a moment), and installation pre-sets (number of cameras, time/date, control locks and OSD language -- English, German or Dutch). On the back panel there’s a bank of four modular jack sockets, six phono/RCA sockets for VCR recording and playback, and a slave monitor, plus spring terminals for alarm connections.


The built-in alarm functions are activated if any of the camera connections are lost, or in response to a signal from an optional alarm box, (connected to a camera), that can be used with door contacts or a PIR sensor. When triggered the sequencer automatically stops and selects the appropriate camera input, the on-screen display puts up a flashing ‘AL’ indicator, along with the camera number. An alarm buzzer sounds for 15 seconds, and the alarm contact on the rear panel closes for 30 seconds (or 3 minutes) activating an external device, such as a VCR, siren or phone dialler. The alarm programming menu allows for any of the inputs to be disabled when not in use, or for daytime operation.


Video output can be configured for continuous operation -- i.e. normal camera sequence -- or multiplex, where the camera outputs are rapidly scanned (25 frames per second). When in this mode the output cannot be displayed on the screen, and multiplexed recordings have to be replayed through a de-multiplexer, or viewed using the VCRs still frame facility.


The OSD also shows the last alarm event, along with the time and date. The front-panel menu controls can be disabled with a user-defined 4-digit PIN, to restrict access and prevent tampering.



Cameras are housed in the familiar cream-coloured square-shaped case used by other models in the Pro Vision range; it measures 60 x 72 x 92mm. They come supplied with a manually-focused 4mm, F1.2 lens, attached to the cameras CS mounting thread. Other types of lens are available, including DC-controlled auto-iris models; a standard 4-pin socket is fitted to the back of the camera case. On the underside of the camera there’s a 1/4-inch UNC thread for the supplied bracket (this differs from the illustration in the instruction manual which shows the mounting boss on the rear). This bracket is a universal type with a locking ball and socket head, suitable for wall or surface mounting.  Philips can also supply suitable weather-resistant housings.


The camera uses a 1/3-inch CCD image sensor with a 297k (512 x 582) pixel array. Low light sensitivity is quoted at 3.5 lux, resolution is 330-lines. Apart from a simple back-focus adjustment, and a switch for the microphone there are no user controls, exposure is fully automatic, using a combination of automatic gain control and a high-speed shutter



The Pro-Vision outfit is accompanied by a detailed instruction booklet that contains comprehensive advice covering fitting and alignment, including necessary data for non-standard applications.


With only one cable connecting each line-powered camera to the monitor installation couldn’t be much simpler. Configuring the monitor is equally straightforward and the on-screen display system is very easy to use. The time and date display can be positioned in the top left or bottom right corners of the screen, the date format is slightly unusual with the year followed by the month and day. The clock has a battery back-up which keeps it running during a power interruption



Resolution on the sample supplied was within a whisker of the quoted 330-lines (in good natural light). The auto exposure system is reasonably responsive, able to cope with sudden changes in lighting level reasonably quickly, though some care need to be taken to avoid bright lights within the scene area as this can fool the AE into over compensating. Bright lights also cause characteristic vertical streaking, though this is a common effect with CCD image sensors. The lens gives a good field of view with minimal barrelling or edge distortion. In low light conditions there’s a significant increase in noise and grain though the image remains useable down to the limits of the sensor.


The cameras are free-running, and there’s no internal synchronisation, nevertheless there’s no significant instability at the switchover points, which occur with a single frame period. If there’s an interruption to the mains supply the switcher reverts to the previously selected settings.



Philips experience and expertise in this market is clearly evident and the Pro-Vision has been well designed, taking into account the needs of both installers and end-users. It’s not without its foibles, though. The most striking one is the absence of the time/date stamp on VCR multiplexed recordings, which can make it difficult to log events on a lengthy recording.


The standard of construction is generally very high, and they’ve paid a lot of attention to detail, with plenty of small but useful touches -- like the fold-out stand on the base of the monitor --  that make it simple to install and use. The alarm facility is very welcome, though a more detailed event logging facility would have been useful. On a broader level, extra facilities that involve additional plug-in modules, such as alarm operation, two-way audio and cable extensions quickly ramp up the cost, and the installation time.


Overall performance is good and the cameras produce a clear, well-defined image in all but the most extreme conditions. Philips have identified the needs of their customers with a package that will suite a wide variety of applications, from simple one or two-camera domestic installations, to larger commercial premises. It’s virtually foolproof and judging by the build-quality, should give years of trouble-free service.




Screen size                   12-inch monochrome

Resolution                     650 lines

Video inputs                  4, (10 with junction box)

Switching Interval  2 to 60 (6 steps)

Audio                            one-way, two way with optional intercom box

Microphone                   unidirectional electret (built-in)

Connections                  VCR & slave monitor out (phono/RCA), cameras (modular jack), alarms (screw terminal)

Alarm options            interruption on camera cable or optional external sensor

Power cons.                  20 watts (1 camera)

Dimensions                   350 x 325 x 385 mm

Weight              12.5 kg



Type                             modular monochrome

Pick up device            0.3-inch CCD

Pixel array                     512 x 582

Synch system               internal

Resolution                     330 lines

Min. Sensitivity            3.5 lux (f1.2)

Audio                            one-way

Microphone                   unidirectional electret

Connections                  video, audio & power (modular jack)

Dimensions                   70 x 72.5 x 92mm





Product design              9

Build quality                              9

Electronics quality               9



Ease of installation                     9

Set-up functions             9

Instructions                               8

Manufacturer’s support 9



Functions                                  7

Ease of use                               9



Image quality                             8

Audio quality                             8




Ó R. Maybury 1996 0107






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                         ****                           



Ó R.Maybury 1995 0609







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