When companies or end users look for quality outdoor IP cameras for their home or business, Mobotix will inevitability come up in their searches. While Mobotix produces many different IP cameras in many styles, this review focuses on the DualNight M12. This review can also be applied to other Mobotix models, as they use similar sensors for day/night vision.
The DualNight M12 is one of Mobotix’s most well know cameras, feature wise and in physical appearance. The DualNight M12 uses two sensors (one color, one black and white) to get the best possible image during the day and night. The M12 can be configured in many ways, including sensor resolutions, lens focal lengths, and model. The model in this review is the day and night version equipped with 22mm lens on both sensors.(MX-M12D-Sec-DNight-D22N22). This model has a 3 MegaPixel sensor for day security and a 1 MegaPixel sensor for night security. This is different then most IP cameras that use a single sensor for both day and night (often yielding less than optimal results, i.e. excessive video noise, dark images, etc).
The DualNight M12 allows choice of multiple resolutions for both sensors, with a max of 2048 x 1536 (3MP) which is very high even for most modern security cameras. As a result, the image delivered from the M12 is extremely clear with good color vividness. At the highest (day) resolution, the camera will only be able to process/display 10fps (frames per second) using the MxPEG compression, and 4fps with M-JPG. Frame rates improve as resolution is decreased, and can display 30fps at VGA (640 x 480). Keep in mind that to save on storage and bandwidth, most security applications save images in the 10-15fps range, which looks (to the human eye) almost as smooth as real time (see video comparison here: http://youtu.be/utQEUKMojRY). When using wide angles lens on the M12, such as the 22mm (the widest available for this model), the edges of the images are not sharp, but appear somewhat blurry. For the most part, the sharpest part of the images is near the center. It has been said that higher focal range lens will not have this problem.
The DualNight M12 can be programmed inside the camera to automatically switch to the night sensor when illumination falls below a certain lux (measure of brightness) for a certain amount of time. The color sensor is rated down to 1 lux, but does get rather “noisy” in low light. The factory default for switching to the night sensor is 10lux (adjustable). The night sensor is rated down to 0.1lux at 1/60 of a second, and does an excellent job of providing a bright clear night image with a low level of noise. One of the first settings I changed within my camera was the maximum shutter speed of the night sensor to 1/30 of a second (versus 1/8 factory setting). This prevents moving objects from blurring too much. 1/30 of a second is the recommended maximum exposure time to clearly capture moving people, cars, etc.
- Dual Sensors (Dedicated Day/Night).
- Microphone, Temperature Sensor, PIR Sensor, Motion Detection, and Speaker.
- Ability to store video/events/photos to internal memory (32GB SD Card Max), Or Drop Files To Any FTP.
- Weatherproof (No Moving Parts To Freeze, Works In The Heat/Cold)
- Powered By Power Over Ethernet (PoE).
- HIGH Level Of Customization.
- Excellent Image Quality (Day And Night).
As previously discussed in the day sensor section, the M12 is not known for its great frame rates (although it’s rumored a new version will be released soon that addresses this). Personally I have not been able to achieve the max frame rates that Mobotix claims with either the day or night sensor at the higher resolutions.
One of my main issues with this camera is the sheer amount of settings and menus this camera has. The camera ships with 2 instruction booklets, one for setup and installation (92 pages) and another for software configuration (288 pages). The booklets also go on to tell you to download the current manuals online, as well as a third booklet for displaying the camera over the web, software interfaces, and troubleshooting. The Foscam FI8904W I reviewed earlier looks like a kids toy compared to the M12, in terms of features, menu’s, and settings. Besides the obvious complexity of setting up the camera, the plus side is that nearly every feature of the camera can be customized to your liking, right down to the leds on the front of the camera and when/if they flash/light up. (Screen shots below are for the admin screen and setup screen, each setting contains a number of other settings within it – Click to enlarge and see what can be configured).
Obviously there are too many settings to be discussed in this review, but if you have a question about some of them be sure to leave a comment. Most CCTV experts recommend that a licensed Mobotix installer configure the camera, and there may be some sense in that. Two of the more “scary” features of the camera are the passwords and the microphone. If the admin password is changed and forgotten, you will not be able to login and change settings as the admin any longer (until you send the camera back to Mobotix for a software re-flash). Inside the speaker and microphone menu, there is a setting to disable the microphone. If this setting is applied, the microphone will be PERMANENTLY disabled (the physical connection between the cameras circuitry and microphone is destroyed) and cannot EVER be re-enabled. This feature is to ensure security inside high security areas of a company or installation.
Not surprisingly, all this technology doesn’t come cheap (especially when it’s made in Germany rather than China). The Mobotix DualNight M12 starts at $1,198.00 USD, and can be configured up to $1,498.00 USD for the model discussed in this review. It is possible to find slightly cheaper prices elsewhere on the internet though.
So, does the Mobotix DualNight M12 live up to its reputation and hype, and justify the price tag? Short answer, yes. This camera was designed for serious security applications, and people who have good knowledge of computers, and IP cameras. Does that mean one cannot learn this if they were to purchase this camera? No, it would be a learning curve, and the settings become easier to navigate as you become more familiar with the software. The amount of technology and thought that is present in the camera makes it a very useful tool. When you consider the price of the M12, which includes internal storage space, and the ability to drop files to a computer thru ftp, compared to any other IP camera with a server (hard drives and physical server cost), the prices really comes out very similar. The plus here is that the M12 is an “all inclusive system”, meaning that all it needs is power to do its job (not even a computer!).
In future models I would love to see a more polished user interface that is easier to navigate and manage, as well as increase frame rates.
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