FOCUS CCTV OBSERVATION SYSTEM
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Screen size 12-inch monochrome
Video input 0.5-2.0 v p-p (x 4)
Switching Interval 1 to 30 seconds variable
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
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
Microphone unidirectional electret
Connections video, audio, power & sensor (2
x modular jack)
Sensor input any type with N/O contact
Dimensions 62 x 75 x 35
Product design 8
Build quality 8
Electronics quality 9
Ease of installation 9
Set-up functions 9
Manufacturer’s support ??
Ease of use 9
Image quality 9
Audio quality 7
Ó R. Maybury 1996 2103