Most of the cameras I’ve reviewed have built-in illuminators. This is something I like because external illuminators are costly and require additional wiring. What if there was a camera that worked well in low light without the need for illuminators? That’s the question that the LightGrabber II Low-light feature of IQEye cameras answers.
The Alliance-Pro is a vandal resistant dome that comes in different resolutions up to 5 MP. I chose the 1080P (2 MP) model which is capable of 30 fps. It’s a rugged camera with an aluminum housing and a Lexan bubble.
• Resolutions available up to 5 MP (this camera is the 1080P version)
• H.264 + MJPEG Compression
• 60 fps @ 720p, 30 fps @ 1080p
• Two-Way Audio ports
• IQrecorder feature
• Day/Night Movable IR Filter
• Lightgrabber™ II Low-light Feature
• Power Over Ethernet, 12-24 VDC, 24 VAC
• IP66/NEMA 4 Outdoor Enclosure
• Indoor/Outdoor Vandal Resistant Dome
• On-Camera microSD Card Storage
• Direct-to-Storage via FTP or NAS
• 5 Year Warranty
The camera comes as an indoor camera and an outdoor housing separate. To mount it outdoors, you remove the indoor ring and install the camera into the outdoor housing. Installing the camera involved attaching the housing to where you want the camera, plugging the ethernet cable in and snapping the camera into the housing. The dome cover is attached with 4 security torx screws using the included tool. This is the easiest dome I’ve ever installed. It has a 3-axis adjustment that’s fairly simple to use. You rotate the entire camera in one axis, the lens tilts up and down and you can rotate the lens for image tilt. Again, very simple to do.
They provide an analog video port in the front to aid in focusing and pointing the camera. Focusing and varifocal adjustment is similar to other cameras with wands that screw in to set the focus and focal length. Use the web browser with the magnification up to get the sharpest focus.
This is what the web interface looks like when you first log in
There are basically two tabs, “live” and “setup”. This camera has the optional tab for “IQrecorder” feature. This allows you to record to the SD card on the camera and view the recordings like NVR software would using a timeline as shown below. Here you can also export the video as an AVI file. The ability to add apps to the cameras is one of IQEye’s strong points.
I found this worked as advertised, but it would be great if they provided this capability with NAS recordings. Their support team said they are reworking this option and expect to have a new improved version out very soon.
I mounted the camera at the front of my garage, under the eave which is tilted about 30 degrees. With the varifocal lens set at 3mm, it was perfect for viewing the entire front of my home. While at that wide of an angle, you can not ID someone across the street, it was very effective as people approached my front gate or driveway. As with my other reviews, click on the images below to see the full size image, straight from the camera.
Here’s a night-time image. This is without any lighting other than the streetlights across the street and two 15W flourescent porch lights. The image is a little soft and that’s due to in-camera noise reduction. This is a trade-off between noise and a smooth image that impossible to avoid.
I took a day and a night video and posted them on Youtube. I had some issues with the recordings from the SD card not working correctly with my video editing software so I relied on BlueIris for the videos. View it at the highest resolution you can which is 1080P. The video was recorded at 15 fps, a limitation of the BlueIris software. You can see that the video at night starts off in B&W night mode, but the car’s headlights trigger it back into color day mode. Most of the time, the camera did not even have to go into B&W night mode. There is a color night mode, but the colors are way off and I recommend you stick with B&W for dark situations. The camera was set to a minimum shutter speed of 1/30th of a second. Setting it to a faster 1/60th of a second did force it into B&W night mode all the time but reduced motion blur on fast-moving cars on the street.
Setup on the camera is where it differs from most. On most cameras, you make changes to a set of parameters and then click a save button. With this camera, most settings are applied immediately with about a 1 second delay. You’ll see the word Completed in red when a change is confirmed.
The first screen you come to when you select the “setup” tab is this one where you set the camera name. You see other tabs for advanced, exposure and streams and are all key in setting the camera up. Also across the top you see new tabs for window, network, security, event and so on.
In the advance screen is where you setup the image settings, daynight settings and audio.
You can use up to 4 motion detect zones. This is one of the few screens where you have to click “apply” to save the settings.
Another thing that makes this camera a little quirky is that not all the settings you may want to set are done from the web browser interface. For example, to set the minimum exposure to 1/30th of a second, you enter this command in your browser – http:///set.oid?OidTB22.214.171.124.1=30. You can view all the cameras options by using this command – http:///oidtable.html. It displays as a 5 column grid with all the possible configuration options. In the next release, their support promised that many of these options will be configurable in the web browser interface.
Compared to other cameras I’ve tested, this one does very well at night with available light. Not the sharp crispness of the previously reviewed ACTi TCM-7811 in low light, but without the noise and better resoluton. Where the ACTi dome can only go down to 22F without the heater, this camera can go to -4F without a heater. Considering the higher resolution and low light capabilities, the camera’s street price of about $800-900 is appropriate. This does not included the IQrecorder feature which is an additional $100.
It is not able to see in complete darkness as there aren’t built-in illuminators but works well in most suburban and urban environments using street and porch lighting. For a dark alley or backyard, I would recommend the use of external illuminators or a camera with built-in illuminators.
The pluses for this camera are;
• Very good low light capability using their Lightgrabber II feature
• Day and night function with mechanical IR cut filter should you need it
• Built-in f3-13mm, F1.4 lens
• Can write AVI files directly to NAS
• HD 1080P resolution at 30 fps (or 720P at 60 fps)
• Selectable H.264, MJPEG compressions with triple streaming
Drawbacks for the camera include;
• IQRecorder feature only use the internal SD card
• Web browser interface lacks the ability to set key options
Recommended for those needing to protect their homes or business that need a high quality professional camera with very good low light capabilities and all the features one could want.
Spec sheets, manuals, overview are available here