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Review: AJA RovoCam

If you have a unique shooting situation and you need a unique camera to fill that need, the RovoCam from AJA is worth a look.

I look at a lot of gear, a lot of cameras, lenses, software, and audio equipment, and I get to review a lot of great stuff. But a lot of times one thing looks almost just like the other. Particularly with the features and capabilities of cameras, there’s often very little to differentiate one from another.

The AJA RovoCam (Figure 1, below) is the rare camera that stands apart from the crowd. It's a unique camera in a small form factor. It's designed for Houses of Worship, security monitoring, and other remotely operable settings. It’s not exactly a PTZ--pan, tilt, zoom--camera in the traditional sense. This camera is fully Z, because it has a zoom lens; but it’s only sort of PT. We'll get to that a bit later.

Figure 1. The uniquely designed AJA RovoCam

The unique thing about this RovoCam to me is the back of the camera (Figure 2, below). You have very few connections. You've got audio, you've got control, you've got an optional 12-volt power supply, and then you have an HDbaseT connector on the back. The reason I said this is optional is because this camera uses PoE+ power over Ethernet to get power. You can use this but you don't have to. I chose not to because why use an extra cable if you don't need it. In this case I don't need it.

Figure 2. Back of the RovoCam

Running the RovoCam

I've got the camera running on a Cat5 cable back to the RovoRx-HDMI (Figure 2, below). This in and out box takes its own power here, 48 volt, and then has the HDBaseT Cat5 cable running from the camera and then it spits out an HDMI signal. There's also an SDI version of this box available. Then I have my RS-232 which this is a 3.5 millimeter cable that converts to USB on the other end.

Figure 3. The RovoRx-HDMI

Figure 4 (below) shows the control software AJA supplies for the camera, RovoControl. Using touch on my Surface Book, attached to the camera, I have the ability to zoom right on the screen, control all the other settings for the camera. Watch the video that accompanies this article for more detail on using the control software.

Figure 4. The AJA RovoControl software

I'm also monitoring with a 27” monitor off camera. The HDMI signal that comes from the RovoRx-HDMI box goes to that monitor, which allows me to see everything.

If you're in a live shoot and you've got a remote camera and something happens, you don't have time or the ability to get someone to run over to that camera and troubleshoot it. If something happens--say, the Surface Book gets the blue screen of death or you lose your signal or the software crashes, and you've got another computer available like I do--all you have to do is pull the UBS cable off of one, plug it into the other, almost instantaneously, as soon as you relaunch that software you’ll have the camera enabled right there on your screen. If you can have two different systems running the software--which is fairly cheap fire insurance, especially if you've got two cheap computers that you can run--you've got a great backup that's right there ready for you when you need it.

Related Articles
AJA Product Manager Eric Norrell offers an overview of key AJA products and applications for HD and 4K production, post-production, and streaming, along with a look at integrated solutions featuring AJA gear like the vMix Thunder.
RovoControl v2.0 adds multicam setup and control and several workflow enhancements to the RovoCam HDBaseT compact block camera ecosystem