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 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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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)
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:
Image taken early morning 7:30am
Image taken in the evening with artificial light
Image taken in the evening, room lit by streetlighting only
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:
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:
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.
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.