If you take a look at Axis’ IP camera line-up this year you will see a High-Definition-variant at every price level, from high-end pan/tilt/zoom domes to entry-level fixed models. They are taking the drive for better image quality seriously and they are not limiting this to their high-end models.
Launched in the spring of 2010, the Axis M1054 is the successor to their top-selling 207MW. This camera becomes the flagship model in their M10-series, boasting the same stylish design and robust performance of the M1031-W but offering a more security-centric set of features. Let us explain…
Summary of Key Findings
The camera is compliant with HD standards, offering up to 720p HD video at full frame-rate. The increased resolution and horizontal viewing angle provides greater levels of detail. There is a slight fish-eye effect on the lens and we noticed the focus was a little soft, especially towards the corners of the image, but overall it provides more detail than other models from Axis’ M10-series.
The M1054 is ideal for applications in small- to medium-sized enterprises, with a wealth of features designed for serious security applications. The software on the camera is mature and provides a lot of flexibility when designing your system.
So what has it got?
How about HD video? The M1054 supports 720p HD video streaming at up to 30 frames per second, offering greater levels of detail than the other cameras from the M10-series. This allows for up to 21 resolution settings available from the camera interface, starting at 176×144 up to 1280×800 pixels in three aspect ratios.
They’ve dropped MPEG-4 support in this model and shipped it with MJPEG and H.264. This is probably no bad thing – H.264 is the format of choice for HD video as it uses significantly less bandwidth over the other two formats. MJPEG compression continues to be supported for maximum compatibility.
An integrated light and PIR sensor. The camera’s high intensity LED has a range of 6 m but this is increased when the light bounces off walls and surfaces. The PIR sensor detects heat and can be used as an alarm trigger so any intruders who approach the camera in the dark can be spotted. The camera can then be instructed to activate the LED and send images by email.
A built-in microphone and speaker. This allows for 2-way communication without having to use/purchase any additional equipment, making the M1054 a low-cost solution for video-conferencing set-ups or for warding off intruders.
Wireless connectivity has been removed and replaced with Power over Ethernet support, but Axis supplies a regular PSU and not a PoE injector. If you want to run it PoE and you do not have a PoE-enabled switch, you will need to purchase a separate injector.
Unique to the M10-series, the M1054 also includes a 4-port terminal block. These are used to provide one input and one output trigger for external devices, giving you the option to customize the camera’s capabilities. Examples of this would be when the camera is set up to open a door from the web interface, or to sound an audible alarm if movement is detected.
- Axis M1054 IP camera
- Power supply
- 100 mm extension for stand
- Installation guide
- CD with installation tools, recording software and user manual
- Windows H.264 decoder (1-user licence)
There is no denying that the Axis M10-series of cameras are some of the most stylish on the market today. The M1054 is no exception. Its sleek, contemporary design would fit into any modern office environment.
However, we have to question the inclusion of a regular power supply when the camera’s wireless connectivity has been removed in place of PoE support. This will result in users in having to run two cables to the camera if they do not have, or have not purchased, a switch. We feel it’s probably a question of cost as some of Axis’ higher-end models include a PoE injector, so look out for pack-ins when you purchase one of these cameras. Some sellers (including ourselves) can supply a reasonably priced PoE midspan with your purchase.
Images below are taken from the Axis M1054 in varying light conditions using MJPEG snapshot at 30% compression. Click images to enlarge:
14:00 – Daytime 1280×800 (16:9) – daylight at approx. 2000 lux
23:00 – Evening 1280×800 (16:9) – artificial light at approx: 4 lux
23:00 – Evening 1280×800 (16:9) – camera LED off – dark at approx: 0 lux
23:00 – Evening 1280×800 (16:9) – camera LED on, room at approx: 0 lux
We found the images from the Axis M1054 to be much more detailed than the previous M10-series models due to the 1 MP 1/4” CMOS sensor. The horizontal viewing angle is also considerably larger at 84 degrees (compared to 47 degrees) which allows more of the scene to be captured at once.
Colours were very natural on default settings, but as ever with Axis there are plenty of options to adjust so you can fine-tune image quality/exposure to get the optimum image for your scene.
On the downside, due to the wide angle lens there is a definite fish-eye effect present with no means in the software to correct for this. We found the images to be a little softly focussed and felt happier cranking the sharpening setting up to full and the contrast up a notch to add a bit of depth. We also felt the images lost a bit of focus at the corners of the picture.
We’re nitpicking though – the image quality from this camera is outstanding given the size and price and the frame-rate never drops below 30 fps across the local network at any given resolution/compression format.
The downside of having H.264 support as the only alternative compression format to MJPEG is that it requires more processing power on the computer doing the decoding. However, most modern computers have more than enough power to cope. We tested using a standard netbook (1.6 Ghz, 2 GB RAM) and it was fine pushing out 30 fps at 1 MP in H.264. One thing to bear in mind is that if you are planning to have a large system with many cameras running at H.264 then you should consider the specification of your monitoring PC more carefully.
For most users this is of no concern. The bandwidth savings alone more than make up for the slightly increased demands on the viewing PC. Take a look at the following graphs from one M1054; the top shows traffic using MJPEG while the bottom is using H.264. Remember there is very little difference in image quality between them:
MJPEG traffic – Graph shows approx: 40% bandwidth use
H.264 traffic – Graph shows approx: 5% bandwidth use
We have one word of advice: don’t look directly into the LED or it will burn your eyes off! Seriously, it is bright. It is a high intensity white light LED which not only illuminates a reasonably sized room but can act as an effective deterrent too.
Used in conjunction with the Passive Infrared sensor, the light can be made to switch on when movement is detected. The PIR works based on heat so it can detect movement in the dark.
The system works very well and you can set different levels of intensity and even have it strobing for a set period of time (we can only assume to accompany an alarm warning noise).
We found the microphone and speaker to be perfectly adequate for their intended use. It’s not CD quality but it is clear enough to be understandable.
You can also use the speaker to play warning messages based on alarm triggers. The camera comes with four pre-loaded sounds (such as a dog barking or an intruder warning) but you can also record your own custom sounds.
One downside is that we found the speaker wasn’t particularly loud and could be drowned out if the camera is placed in a room with a lot of background noise. However, we think that the inclusion of a built-in speaker in a camera at this price should be considered a bonus feature.
The camera operates to IEEE802.3af standard as a Class 2 device (max. 6.5 W). This means that any PoE midspan/switch which operates to this standard will be able to supply power to the camera through a standard Ethernet cable.
We tested using a PowerDsine 1-port PoE midspan in the office and found it powered the camera with no problems.
The feature-list for this camera suggests that it is being targeted firmly at business users rather than the residential market. Features such as PoE connectivity, anti-tampering alarm, 4-port I/O terminal, and integrated light with microphone and speaker are all features fit for serious security camera applications and are unlikely to be needed in the home.
The lack of wireless connectivity alone will discount this as an option for many average home users, but it’s not to say that the camera shouldn’t be used in the home at all. The higher resolution and increased viewing angle would be welcome features. After seeing the benefits of HD, we would find it very difficult to settle for a VGA camera.
Axis has really been pushing HD this year with their new camera releases and we reckon this is the right move. Higher levels of detail coupled with full frame-rate video meets the needs of a demanding industry.
The M1054 is a compact, stylish camera with a wide range of flexible features and excellent 720p HD image quality. It is ideal for any security application for SMEs and, to a lesser extent, home owners. The camera design is very attractive and wouldn’t look out of place in any business environment. With its small form factor (the camera is only 95 mm high) it’s easy to forget it’s there.
For any small- to medium-sized business that wants to add high resolution security cameras to their system, we recommend the M1054. It is a fine complement to the Axis’ M10 line up.