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THE ULTIMATE PRICE

 

INTRO

Competition is fierce in the increasingly crowded colour camera market, so anything that makes a product stand out has to be worth investigating. We’ve been looking at the boldly named ‘CCD Ultimate’, to see if it lives up to its name...

 

COPY

We’ve yet to see the ultimate video camera, nor do we ever expecting to; there’s always something better just around the corner, though to be fair, the CCD Ultimate goes a fair way to achieving that elusive goal.

 

CCD Ultimate, or the CCD-HR-2230P as it’s known to its friends, is one of a range of well-specified, compact colour cameras, the principle difference being the type of power supply. The options are 230 volt/50Hz AC mains, 24 volt/50Hz AC or 12 volts DC. Headline features include a 0.5-inch interline CCD image sensor (752 x 582 pixels, with a claimed low-light sensitivity of 1.5 lux), composite and component (Y/C) video output, and a useful range of manual and automatic exposure options.  

 

The version we’ve been looking at is mains-powered, with the transformer and regulator components built into the camera body. The external design is fairly routine, the power supply and video circuitry is  housed inside a two-piece cream-coloured steel case. Standard mounting threads are fitted to the top and bottom halves of the shell. The PSU takes up most of the right side, on the left there’s two glass-fibre PCBs, densely populated with surface mount components. The CCD image sensor chip is mounted on a third board, fitted inside the front cast-alloy end-cap. A fourth board, containing all of the output sockets and control components sits inside the opposite end cap. The PCBs are and PSU are attached to a tough-looking steel plate, that’s bolted to lugs moulded onto the end caps. The structure is mechanically rigid, and the standard of constructions is generally good, though it’s not particularly easy to work on; more about that in a moment.   

 

On the front there’s a C-mount lens collar, a CS adaptor is supplied with the camera. Back-focus adjustment is mechanically simple; the collar screws in and out of the body, and once set, fixed in place by two recessed Allen grub screws; a suitable key is included. On the back panel there are three sockets. A BNC connector carries composite video output, the Y/C (aka S-Video or component video) signal emerges on a mini DIN socket, and the auto iris system uses a standard 4-pin square connector. In the centre of the back panel there’s an 8-way miniature DIP switch, and along the top is a green power on LED, plus three recessed presets, for adjusting V-phase, auto iris video level and manual white balance.

 

The DIP switch takes care of manual exposure options. From top to bottom they are: fixed (1/50th) or manual electronic shutter and switchable backlight compensation. DIPs 3 to 6 set the shutter speed (8 steps, from 1/120th to 1/100,000th sec); DIP 7 selects the auto-iris mode (DC or video control), and DIP 8 switches between automatic or manual white balance. The manual adjustment alters red-blue levels. The captive mains cable emerges from the bottom left corner of the back panel; the other versions are fitted with a 4-way screw terminal block.

 

 

INSTALLATION

Horizontal resolution is variously quoted at 410-lines and 460-lines by the instruction manual. That’s one of a number of mistakes and typographical errors. Fortunately none of them are serious, or likely to mislead, and to be fair the manual contains sufficient information for most installers.

 

Set-up and installation are both very straightforward; mounting and lens fitting pose no special problems, though the back-focus adjustment -- using the microscopic Allen key -- can be quite fiddly, and it will probably be easier to carry it out, before it’s bolted to the mounting bracket. Where necessary the camera has to be configured for an auto iris lens, and the appropriate exposure, shutter and white balance settings selected for the scene.

 

PERFORMANCE

Our sample was very touchy, even a light knock on the case caused the picture to roll and loose synchronisation. It appeared to be most sensitive around the image sensor PCB but despite a thorough internal examination, the cause of the intermittency could not be determined. We hope and suspect it is a one-off -- there’s no way it could have made it past a half-awake quality control inspector -- even so, to be on the safe side we recommend installers fitting this camera give it tap-test, as any sort of vibration would render the image unstable.

 

Picture quality is actually very good, and our sample managed to resolve a respectable 430 lines, using an Y/C feed to the monitor; this dropped by only 10 lines or so using a composite video feed, and there was a noticeable increase in dot-crawl and patterning in patterned areas of the image. Clearly the Y/C connection has an beneficial impact on image performance and should be used in preference to composite, wherever possible.  The automatic white balance system appears to be optimised for natural daylight, it had some difficulty with tube lighting, which produced a quite pronounced yellow-green caste. It fared better with tungsten light, though this tended to give a rather cold colouration. Manual white balance can overcome the most severe errors, though some compromise on colour accuracy may have to be accepted on scenes lit by a changing mix of natural and artificial light.  Low light sensitivity is as advertised; the automatic exposure controls are reasonably fast and responsive.

 

CONCLUSION

If we assume that the intermittency and resultant instability are confined to our sample, the CCD Ultimate has much to commend it.  Simple, robust construction, a good range of exposure options, the high performance CCD and Y/C output combine to give a good sharp picture, that remains useable in wide range of conditions. It’s reasonably simple to install and set up, and the price is fair.

 

PRODUCT SPECIFICATION (£299 trade)

 

Pickup device                0.5-inch interline CCD

Minimum illum.            1.5lux (f1.2)

Resolution                     >420 lines

Output              1.0 volt p-p composite or Y/C

High-speed shutter  auto or 8-step manual (1/100th to 1/10,000th sec

White balance            auto 3000 k - 7000 k, manual 3200 k - 10000 k

Exposure options            backlight compensation

Lens mount                   C/CS with adaptor ring (supplied)

Auto iris                        video/DC control

 

Power supply                 230 VAC 50Hz

Weight              0.8kg

Dimensions                   145 x 60 x 66mm

 

PSI RATINGS

 

Product            

Product design            8

Build quality                  8

Ruggedness                  8

 

Operation                     

General functions            8

CCTV functions            8         

Ease of use                   8

Instructions                   7

 

Performance

Video quality                 9         

Colour accuracy            8

Low light                       8

 

 

           

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Ó R. Maybury 1997 0703

 


 

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