Aside from the growing demand for more coverage at higher resolution, panoramic cameras also have the benefits of lower costs in installation and maintenance due to fewer cameras, which also require less recording resources.
There are real-world applications that need panoramic cameras, such as situations requiring three to four cameras in an indoor environment, said Patrick Lim, Sales and Marketing Director for Ademco Far East. “The total cost including cabling can be up to 30 percent less with panoramic or hemispheric solutions.”
By leveraging 360-degree solutions, an entire room can be monitored with a single camera, replacing several SD cameras, said Steve Gorski, GM for the Americas, Mobotix.
Covering a space with fewer cameras than with conventional designs eliminates much wiring cost, energy consumption, software licenses and maintenance costs associated with a conventional camera installation, said Ellen Cargill, Director of Product Development for Scallop Imaging. “Using fewer cameras also simplifies the overall system design and installation, as there are fewer cameras that need to be precisely aligned to cover a space.”
Technology advancements make it easier for users to gain additional insight into their surveillance footage. Panoramic cameras not only offer tremendous viewing capacity but also enable users to zoom in on details, Gorski said. “The image can be enlarged or any section examined with a joystick, making the camera a mechanical PTZ without a motor. This unique approach limits wear and tear on the camera, and minimizes the need for regular maintenance.”
The technology is more reliable now than it was a few years ago, and low prices make panoramic and 360-degree cameras more attractive, Lim said.
As technology evolves, users demand better performance at lower prices. The panoramic form factor has come into prominence for network cameras in the last few years. “The two main methods of implementing a 360-degree camera are to use multiple lenses and sensors or a fisheye lens,” said William Ku, Director of Brand Business for Vivotek.
One way to explain a 180-degree view is to imagine standing in the center of an alley with your back against a wall. “Cameras mounted where your head is would be able to see the whole alley including both ends and wall that your head is against,” Cargill said. “In this way, one camera can replace the three that would normally be used by an installer to cover such an alley.”
The composite video frame is designed to mimic the human visual system, which is almost 180 degrees facing forward, Cargill continued. “Panoramic cameras provide a 180-degree field of view, as well as detail views that function much as the fovea does to provide high-resolution imaging in selected areas.”
For a panoramic view, multiple images is absolutely required, since ultra-wide imagers are not yet being made; putting a panoramic lens on a single image sensor simply kills horizontal resolution, Dave Nieweg, VP of 3xLogic.
A 360-degree camera uses a specialized lens that distorts the image of a scene to fit it into a single view. Fisheye cameras have been around for quite a number of years, but their efficacy, using standard resolution image sensors, is marginal, Cargill said. “Circular fisheye images do not use the full pixel area of the sensor, and second, image magnification diminishes dramatically as the subject moves toward the edges of the image. Away from the center, there will be fewer pixels. In addition, it is very difficult for an operator to interpret a fisheye image, as the perspective is different from that of the human visual system.”
However, megapixel image sensors and digital image processing have improved fisheye performance on the edges of the field of view, Cargill continued.
Adoption of these cameras in video surveillance did not pick up until recent years, since they previously could not provide detail with analog cameras. Ku believes today's sensor and lens technologies allow manufacturers to produce good quality 360-degree cameras that are reasonably priced.
Practical panoramic and 360-degree cameras are still maturing and in their adolescence stage, explained Joel Schaffer, PM of Video Surveillance Applications at Immervision.
Although the concept of “360-degree” is frequently used in video surveillance, the technology and application are misunderstood and misapplied, Schaffer continued. “Often, 360-degree solutions are seen as substitutes for many cameras and PTZ. For example, end users may expect that one single camera provides complete coverage without blind spots and also allows for digital zooming in on a subject at great distance to identify it or him. If the technology is misapplied, the result will not meet the end-user
Users that have not had experience with the technology expect more than it can offer or install it improperly, said William Ku, Director of Brand Business for Vivotek. “For example, in places where the ceiling is very high, fisheye cameras will not be able to produce very detailed images because the field of interest is too vast.”
People assume the choice is between a “regular” or “panoramic” camera, and that is simply not the case, Nieweg said. “What we will see is a blurring of the lines between the two, with odd-format video becoming the norm and every camera is selected to fit the needs of the environment.”