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Evaluation: Axis M1031-W

March 11th, 2009 by Greg Innes

The Axis M1031-W is the flagship model from Axis’ latest camera series, the M10.

The M10 series is a range of IP security cameras aimed at the entry-level end of the market but it seems without any compromises made in terms of features. In fact, the features on offer are substantial considering the price. These are the cheapest Axis cameras we have seen and we can’t help wondering where the catch is? Let’s see if we can find it…

What’s in the box?

First let’s take a look at what you get in the box.

Axis M1031-W box contents

  • Axis M1031-W camera
  • Flexible mouting stand
  • G-clamp (optional mounting method)
  • AC Adapter
  • Power extention cable
  • Installation guide and warranty information
  • CD-ROM including installation tools, video management software and product documentation

It’s good to see Axis are still including a power extension cable and the G-clamp mount with their entry-level cameras as these are very useful and could have been so easily omitted at this price.

Who is it for?

The Axis M10 series is obviously targeted as a security camera for the home and small office market. It’s small, compact and fashionably designed to blend with any modern interior. It is also extremely keenly priced and easy to use.

Although it’s aimed at the entry level end of the market it definitely is not shy of features:

Feature Test

Axis M1031-W Home Security IP Camera

H.264 Video Compression

This camera supports H.264 video compression which is fast becoming the standard method of video compression for the security surveillance industry. The reason for that is clear, H.264 compression can produce live streaming video at significantly reduced bit-rates compared to conventional formats such as JPEG and MPEG-4 without any loss of picture quality. This optimises the bandwidth load across the network and reduced storage requirements for archive recordings. For maximum compatibility this camera has continued support for MJPEG and MPEG-4 formats too so you should receive a live image no matter what platform/browser combination you are using. We take a closer look at how H.264 compares later in this article. See the ‘H.264 Compression Test’ section below.

White Light Illumination

The M1031-W has a built-in white LED on the front of the camera. This can be used to illuminate the scene in dark environments or act as a deterrent to scare off intruders.

There is no mention of how far the light from the LED would travel in any of the documentation so we put the question to Axis who told us it would travel up to 6m and has a 60 degree angle. On testing the LED we are extremely dubious about the 6m claim (we would say 3m at most) as the light that comes from the camera is fairly weak. However we do think that with clever camera positioning the light would be extremely valuable.

Where the light comes into its own is when it is used as a deterrent. While the LED does not throw a great deal of light into the room there is no denying that it is bright. If an intruder stepped into a dark room and the light suddenly came on they would definitely get a fright, no question about it.

Active Tampering Alarm

For increased security the Axis M1031-W has an Active Tampering Alarm which will notify the user whenever the camera is re-positioned or when the lens has been covered, obstructed or sprayed.

The alarm works well and is very easy to set up but one thing to bear in mind is that the camera cannot tell the difference when it has just been covered or when someone has turned off the light in the room. There is a setting which allows you to turn off alarms for dark images to get around this problem but it means it will be less effective.

Event Management

The Axis M1031-W has an intuitive and user-friendly event management tool set. You can quickly set up events based on: PIR sensor, motion detection, audio detection, temperature extremes, camera tampering, when the camera initially boots or you can even set up a manual trigger accessible from the camera’s live view page.

Axis M1031-W Event type settings page

The camera’s event management system is both powerful and flexible allowing multiple actions to be triggered from one alarm. For example, we can create an event based on motion detection which will, once triggered, send a live image to multiple email addresses, activate the light and play a sound file through the loud speaker.

Oh, did we not say you could play sounds through the speaker?

Audio

Incredibly this camera comes with both a built-in microphone and built-in speaker. This allows 2-way audio communication without any additional equipment required. We tested this in the office and it was extremely easy to set up and use. It was just a matter of plugging in a microphone in the computer and then activating audio in the camera.

The quality of the audio from the camera’s integral speaker isn’t fantastic. It clips a lot a high volume but both the speaker and microphone levels are adjustable from the live view page so with some tweaking it could be an effective tool for communication.

Axis M1031-W Home Security IP Camera

Audio Clips

Another use of the speaker enables us to play back saved audio clips from the camera. The camera comes with a selection of 6 audio clips pre-loaded but almost all of them are useless for security monitoring (unless you want the camera to moo like a cow or cry like a distressed baby!). Luckily the camera allows us to record our own audio clips (using the built-in microphone) or upload audio clips to the camera (in .au file format). These can then be played back manually from the camera’s live image page or set to playback automatically based on an alarm.

Video Clip Creation

You can also manually create video clips from the live image page using the record button. This will save a video clip in .asf format for native playback using Windows Media Player. The directory for recordings is specified in the Axis Media Control Applet which is the ActiveX control and can be found in the Control Panel on your Windows-based PC. This means this feature is not available on non-Windows based machines and can only be used from Internet Explorer.

Wireless connectivity

Through an invisibly integrated wireless antenna the camera operates on IEEE802.11b/g WLAN speeds of up to 54Mbps. Full support for WEP/WPA/WPA-2 (both PSK/Enterprise version)

Camera Performance

We find the image quality is more than acceptable for a camera at this price range and it has good colour reproduction as well as a wide range of image/exposure settings to fiddle with. Here we’ve taken some example shots from the camera in different lighting conditions as an example:

Axis M1031-W Example snapshot early morning 7am
Image taken early morning 7:30am

Axis M1031-W Example snapshot evening with artificial light
Image taken in the evening with artificial light

Axis M1031-W Example snapshot evening no light
Image taken in the evening, room lit by streetlighting only

Axis M1031-W Example snapshot evening with built-in light activated
Image taken in the evening, camera light activated

H.264 Compression Test

We originally took the bit-rate reading from the camera using from all 3 compression formats to use as a comparison. The results were are follows:

Compression format Bandwidth
MJPEG: 10.60Mbps
MPEG-4: 2.2Mbps
H.264: 1.44Mbps

From the results we can see that we are roughly getting an over 80% improvement against MJPEG and about a 50% improvement over MPEG-4. This ties exactly with what we would expect from H.264. However the results which the camera reports are what the camera is delivering and not really what you likely receive over the network.

To take a closer look we installed a copy of Wireshark on a test PC and attached the M1031-W directly using an Ethernet cross-over cable. Our results were as follows:

Compression format Bandwidth
MJPEG: 15.167Mbps
MPEG-4: 5.1Mbps
H.264: 3.88Mbps

Our second set of results still clearly show that using H.264 in this camera allows you to make significant savings in terms of bandwidth load on your network and we have been really impressed with H.264 since it has started to become a prominent feature. We can also say that the picture quality using H.264 is excellent, maybe not quite as good as MJPEG images but definitely a lot better quality than MPEG-4, especially when there is a lot of movement.

Recording software support

The camera is supported in Axis Camera Station V3.0+. It comes with a free 1-channel version of Axis Camera Station One on the supplied CD-ROM.

The camera is not yet supported in Milestone but word from them is that it will be supported in the next release of the device pack (4.2) which is due around April 2009.

Conclusion

Well if there is a catch we can’t find it. The camera is packed with powerful security features and is ideal for using around the home or for small businesses. The progressive scan images are of high quality and it is capable of outputting up to 30 frames per second across all resolutions and compression formats. Of course with the Axis name on the product you get a camera which has a mature interface which is both easy to use and flexible enough for demanding applications.

The LED could have been brighter but it does make a difference when used in a normal sized room and there’s no question about it’s effectiveness as a deterrent. Also to find a built-in microphone and speaker in an entry-level camera such as this is very useful as it makes the camera ideal for use in situations where you need to communicate remotely with a live image (e.g. organize store displays, warehouse shipping areas, music rehearsal studios etc.) or for a cheap video conferencing solution. You can even record messages and play them back through the speaker for security purposes, or even just for fun!

However, the icing on the cake is the cost. The Axis M10 Series comes at a very competitive price and offers more features than a comparative Axis product at entry-level range. We can’t think of a camera which is more suited to home security. It’s stylish and modern-looking and wouldn’t look out of place in an modern interior and we think they will prove to be really popular.

8 Responses to “Evaluation: Axis M1031-W”

  1. AlexU says:

    Greg,

    Very detailed review, thank you. What I could not figure out is if it can upload frames via FTP. Event configuration screenshot shows only HTTP notification.

    I am thinking about adding IP Camera support to my hobby home monitoring project (www.ugolog.com) and would like to get more info about this camera (Axis M1031-W). Do you have docs that you can email me?

    Thanks again…

    Alexander

  2. Ray Bernard says:

    What frame rate was used for the Bandwidth tests?

  3. Gazman says:

    Thanks for the review. I’m a 207W user and am also looking for the “catch” with the M1031-W. It looks like a superior camera adding H.264, PIR, LED and that gimmicky speaker. Making the antenna internal is another step forward.

    But checking out the comparison charts it look like there’s at least one step back – the angle of view has narrowed to 47 degrees compared to 55 on the 207W. It also lacks the alarm input/output but I think only a small number of advanced users have any use for them.

    The main question remaining is whether the firmware is just as flexible as the 207W’s or has been “dumbed down” in any way.

  4. Greg Innes says:

    Definitely a couple of good points Gazman. I actually wanted to do a side-by-side with an Axis 207 but ran out of time. It’s something I’d like to look at in a future article.

    As for the firmware I can tell you that it still retains the same event management and scripting functionality of the 207. The only ommisions I noted was the lack of an MPEG4 video option for transferring video files on event and the HTML examples page has been removed from the Live View Config menu (although Axis says this is a product of the v5.0 firmware, not this particular camera series). The camera still runs using the VAPIX API so the omissions of the HTML Examples page doesn’t mean that it can’t be embedded into a web page, it can. Axis are working on an alternative online version.

  5. Wafa says:

    Hi, jst wanna ask, does this camera includes its source code (i heard it does bt couldn’t confirm.) ? so it comes with its own program or can i run it on Visual basic.NET ? (I’m kinda noob in the network departments, so forgive me if what im saying makes absolutely no sense)

    Please reply ASAP, thanks in advance

  6. Matt Patrick says:

    Greg,

    Thanks for the review. We are using Axis cameras at our exhibit and are very happy with the quality and images they give to us. Have you tried to use the system with more than 10 cameras? The problem that I am having is that when using more than 10 cameras, they tend to interfere with each other and cause my network to reboot and go down, therefore cutting the camera feeds. Have you (or other readers) experienced this problem and how can I overcome it?

    Thanks!

  7. Daniel says:

    Thanks so much for the review.

    I saw a comment on another site saying that the sound is not compatible when viewing on an iPhone (which is what I mainly use).

    Does anyone have a comment on this?

    Thanks

    D

  8. @Daniel:

    The sound is available either using Axis Media Control (ActiveX) or by using Java on a Mac (1-way listen-in only). I doubt that you’ll be able to pull audio on the iPad, though there may be a dedicated app for it. Try on the store.

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