It wasn’t long ago that if you wanted to ensure comprehensive coverage of an area, you had no choice but to design a complex camera network. Between blind spots, lighting concerns and poor image quality over longer distances, this was the only way to ensure that you would always have convictable evidence should an incident occur.
These days, with 4K IP cameras, image processing and other advanced tools, creating a powerful surveillance system is much easier—not to mention more affordable!
Two popular options for maximizing coverage with as few cameras as possible are fisheye cameras and multi-sensor cameras. While both might seem similar at first glance, they’re quite different.
So how do you know which one to choose? We’ll break down the major pros and cons for each in this post. Let’s get started!
Fisheye Cameras and Multi-Sensor Cameras: What’s the Difference?
While both offer expanded fields of view, similarities between these camera types stop here.
A fisheye camera uses a single sensor and specialized lens to take 180- or 360-degree panoramas of the surrounding area. Due to the characteristics of the lens, the video captured is often round or oval shaped with significant distortion near the edges—also known as the “barrel effect”. In most cases, this is easily accounted for through dewarping—a process that enhanced the image either directly within the camera or at your Video Management Software (VMS) or Network Video Recorder (NVR).
Multi-sensor cameras take a different approach. Using multiple sensors and lenses, the camera captures streams in each direction and then stitches them together to create a panoramic view of the covered area. As with fisheye cameras, this can take place in the VMS or NVR. Many can also stream sensors separately if you wish. However, it’s important to note that the visual distortion present from fisheye lenses doesn’t impact video from a multi-sensor camera as most use standard lenses.
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Fisheye Camera Benefits:
- Lower cost: In most cases, fisheye cameras of comparable resolution and quality are more affordable than their multi-sensor counterparts.
- Less Risk of Failure: While quality and your intended usage will make the ultimate difference, the simpler design of fisheye cameras offer less points of failure when compared to more complex multi-sensor cameras.
- True 360 coverage: Because everything is viewed through a single lens, you don’t need to worry about blind spots.
Fisheye Camera Concerns:
- Reduced image quality: Because the fisheye lens creates a rounded image on a square sensor, you’ll never achieve the actual megapixels for which the camera is rated.
- Dewarping: While a good dewarping system will remove virtually all artifacts from a fisheye camera stream, this still requires added infrastructure and processing power. This also means you’ll need to rely on additional software to monitor your cameras.
- Poor Low-Light Performance: While fisheye cameras can handle low or uneven lighting, they won’t do it as well as a multi-sensor camera.
Benefits of Multi-Sensor Cameras:
- Improved image quality: When compared to fisheye cameras of identical resolution, multi-sensor cameras often capture more detail.
- More flexibility: Most multi-sensor cameras allow you to adjust each lens and sensor to create the ideal coverage and image characteristics for your needs.
- Better depth-of-field: If gauging distance or capturing details at long distances is of importance, multi-sensor cameras general outperform fisheye cameras.
Multi-Sensor Camera Concerns:
- Blind Spots: Since these cameras use multiple lenses and stitches the images together, the chances of missing areas increases.
- Complexity increases risk of failure: The internal components of multi-sensor cameras are more complex than fisheye cameras. While failure rates in premium models is low, this complexity does increase risk of failure.
- Limited use in tight spaces: Because your range of coverage is determined by the arrangement of the camera’s sensors, you might find that use in smaller environments—such as closets or small rooms—creates issues with depth-of-field or coverage.
If you’re considering installing a fisheye or multi-sensor camera to help protect your home or business, these considerations should help you to decide which option is best for your location and needs. In part two of this series, we’ll dive deeper into fisheye cameras to help you determine what to look for when choosing the perfect camera.
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Have a question we didn’t cover here? Ready to start designing your system? Mammoth Surveillance is a leading installer and designer of surveillance systems in Connecticut! We’re available 24 hours a day to help you! Give us a call and we’ll be happy to help you find the ideal options for your needs.