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PANASONIC WV-CPR650

 

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WHAT OUR EXPERTS SAY...

 

You find all sorts of things in CCTV camera shipping cartons these days, including blank auto-iris plugs, tiny Allen keys even C/CS lens converter rings, but this is the first time we’ve come across a pair of 3.5-inch floppy discs... The discs, supplied with the Panasonic WV-CPR650 contain a PC software utility -- for Windows 95/NT computers -- for remotely setting up the camera via an RS-485 communications link.

 

This sophisticated and highly adaptable multi-role camera is full of surprises, even the shape and snazzy cosmetics are a little unusual. The body is quite compact too, it measures only 67 x 55 x 123mm,  giving it a slightly squat appearance. The CPR650 is mains powered (a 24 volt AC version -- WV-CPR654 -- is also available), on the back there’s standard IEC push-fit mains socket; it looks even bigger than normal -- on kettles and computers -- due to the small size of the case.

 

This kind of socket is quite rare on video cameras, in fact this is the first time we can recall seeing one on a compact colour camera. We have some misgivings: it takes up lot of room and the protruding moulded plug adds around 70mm to the overall length. This could present a problem in some cramped installations, and the plugs are not terribly secure. In fact we would hesitate to use this camera on a motorised mount, or locations where there’s any mechanical vibration, for fear of the plug working its way loose! 

 

Also on the back panel are two BNC sockets, one carries the composite video output, the other is for an external gen lock/synch signal. An LED indicates power on. The RS485 connection is via a set of three spring terminals and there’s a standard square 4-pin auto-iris socket on the right side of the body.

 

The camera is sturdily built, all metal construction with cast alloy end caps and an impressive-looking lens mount, that can be set for C or CS type lenses. The large knurled thumbwheel -- used to change the lens configuration -- also doubles up as the back-focus adjustment, once set it is locked into place with a small screw. A mounting block, with a standard 1/4 UNC threaded collar, fixes to the top or bottom of the case using two screws.

 

Inside the case there is one main PCB with three large daughter-boards, plus a small board for the image sensor, attached to the lens mount. The circuit boards are held firmly in place by the case, the whole assembly is rigid and the general standard of construction is very high. It’s a tough little customer, that looks well able to cope with adverse conditions, though there’s no weather protection as such.

 

Incidentally if the CPR650 is going to be used as part of a multi-camera system, using a daisy-chained RS485 connection, a small switch inside the camera has to be set to the off position on all but the last camera in the chain. Unfortunately the diagram and instructions in the manual are not very clear on this point, nor does it go into much detail concerning the PC connection. Software installation is also dealt with quite briefly, and it assumes the installer has a reasonably good knowledge of PCs and Windows 95.   

 

OPERATION

The headline feature is the extensive use of digital video processing circuitry, which has enabled the designers to build in a wide range of extra facilities. They’re controlled from an on-screen menu, or via the aforementioned PC link. The controls for the on-screen display -- in fact the only controls -- are hidden behind a sliding panel on the right side of the body, they comprise five tiny buttons and a small slide switch, for selecting high-impedance or 75 ohm video cable termination.

 

The on-screen display is switched on by pressing the centre button, before you can

proceed the Set Up Enable option has to be selected, after which the camera or RS485 set-up menus can be selected. The RS485 menu is used to set communications parameters; the camera menu presents ten options: camera ID, ALC/ELC, shutter, AGC, sensitivity, sync, white balance, motion detection, lens drive and special.

 

Camera ID is used to switch on and create an ident of up to 16 characters, once set it can be moved to any position on the screen. The ALC/ELC option toggles between auto or fixed-iris lenses (auto/electronic level control). The ALC setting engages an optional Super Dynamic function, where the influence of strong back-lighting can be offset, using a sliding level control. If the Super D is switched off, or ELC selected , there’s a facility to set up a mask, to manually compensate for bright lights in the scene. The mask generates a grid of 48 squares, that can be individually switched on or off. Shutter speed can be left on automatic (when ALC/Super D is enabled) or set manually, there are 8 speeds, from 1/50th second default, to 1/10,000th sec.

 

Menu option five switches the automatic gain control (AGC) on or off; option six covers a feature called Sensitivity Enhancement, for low light conditions. There are two modes, automatic and fixed. They’re selected by pressing the arrow buttons, it steps through the range, from off and x2 auto to x32 auto in 6 steps, then x2 fix and on to x32 fix, in another six steps. In the auto mode slow shutter mode kicks in when the scene brightness falls below a predetermined level. In the fixed mode the chosen slow shutter mode is selected, and stays on.

 

Sync menu switches between INT (internal) or LL (line lock) settings. The LL mode brings up a sub-menu with sliders for adjusting horizontal phase.  White balance on menu seven has two options: ATW (auto tracing) or AWC (auto white balance control), the latter can be set manually, and configured using the same kind of mask facility, as used for ALC setting. The mask pops up again in the motion detector menu option. It can be used to ignore areas of the picture, it also has a display mode, that continuously reacts to motion, by flashing up white squares on the mask grid. The sensitivity can be adjusted and it can be used to trigger an alarm signal, though only when the camera is using a RS485 communications link. The last menu item on the list covers auto iris lens selection, the choices are DC or Video control.

 

Menu option 10 is called special and it is accessed by pressing the right and left cursor arrows simultaneously. It includes a number of picture adjustments, to invert the image, set chroma level, aperture gain and pedestal level. Lastly there’s a global reset, to return all camera settings to the factory defaults.  

 

All of the above functions can be controlled from any Windows 95 capable PC with an RS485 comms facility, using the supplied software. It installs easily and presents the user with a neatly laid out desktop, with all of the adjustments controlled by mouse clicks. The camera ident can be set using the keyboard. When the RS485 connection is daisy-chained and under PC control, each camera is assigned a unique ident; cable runs of up to 800 metres are possible, using RG-15 low-loss coaxial cable.

 

PERFORMANCE

Set up, using the on-board facilities is reasonably straightforward; the PC option speeds thing up considerably and would be the preferred option on a large multi camera installation.

 

The CPR650 uses an 1/3-inch interline transfer CCD with a 735 x 582 pixel array. The picture is rock solid and resolution on our sample was in excess of 450-lines, which we consider to be very good. On-screen results are impressive, picture noise levels are very low indeed, and only begin to deteriorate when light levels fall. With the low light functions switched on the camera continues to produce a viable image in very poor conditions, though the slower refresh rate will make any movement look jerky. Auto white balance works well in natural and mixed light, we found it only needed help when the scene was predominantly lit by tube light.    

 

OVERALL ASSESSMENT

Apart from our qualms about the IEC mains connector, the CPR650 comes through with flying colours. We feel more could be made of the motion detector, it’s a pity this very useful facility can only be fully utilised with a PC connection. Nevertheless, video performance is excellent, and it really excels in moderate to poor light. It is a highly flexible design, able to cope with quite difficult or demanding situations, which would be the best place to capitalise on its very special talents.

 

PRODUCT ASSESSMENT

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                         ???                           

 

 

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Ó R.Maybury 1998 2001

 


 

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