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Review: BirdDog PF120 Box Camera

Anthony Burokas of Stream4us looks at the hardware and software features of the BirdDog PF120 20X Zoom box camera--with special attention to BirdDog's new Colour Matrix panel--in a video review filmed (partly) using the camera.

In this review, we'll look at a brand new release from BirdDog, the PF120, which is a box camera with a lot of great features. Much of the video that accompanies this review was shot with the PF120.

What's in the Box?

To get started, I'd like to give you a quick look at what comes in this box camera's box. When you open the box, you see the basic instructions shown in Figure 1 (below). And I think that's pretty important, because in the box, there's just the camera with the lens cap, a 12V power supply with various adapters for worldwide, and a little "Welcome to the Family" bag. This is just like a small gift pack with some stickers, a lens cleaner, and some BirdDog cable ties.

Figure 1. Inner-box instructions

The Grand Tour

The PF120 (Figure 2, below) has a 20X optical zoom lens and a big tally indicator on the front. It would actually be perfect for putting into the main camera position I use for my video reviews, which has a prompter screen in front of it. That way, I would be able to like zoom in for a closer shot, and zoom out for a wider shot through the prompter screen. Because the camera is NDI-based, I can save those zooms as presets and call them up whenever I need to.

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Figure 2. The BirdDog PF120 HD box camera

For I/O on the rear of the camera (Figure 3, below), the PF120 features power over ethernet, which I use in the video review to power the camera and have video going out. It also has a USB 3.0 (mislabeled as USB 2.0) connector that will allow you to connect it as a USB camera. You can also add a microphone or line-level audio, and it has audio out, which you can use to hear audio coming back to the camera, including coms. It has full-size HDMI on the bottom, RSS-232, and a 12-volt input, if you don't have the ability to do Power Over Ethernet or PoE+.

Figure 3. I/O connections on the rear panel of the PF120

On the bottom (Figure 4, below), you've got your 3/8 thread. You've got a non-twist hole, and then you've got your 1/4 20. And then on the front, as mentioned before, you've got the big tally light and the large zoom lens. There's nothing on top and labeling on the side, and that is the grand tour.

Figure 4. Bottom panel threads and mounts on the PF120

Control Panel

The PF120 is not just the sum of its parts. There's a lot going into BirdDog cameras these days, including incredible color control. Next, I'll touch briefly on the control panel and go through the different panes for those new to BirdDog.

Figure 5 (below) shows the network control panel for the PF120. You can see it's hooked up through my local area network. You can set a static or DHCP with various IP settings.

Figure 5. BirdDog network control settings

Under the PTZ tab, you can set different pan tilt, and zoom settings, including setting up various presets. Your system menu is where you adjust your password and configure system updates, MCU updates, and your NDI settings as well.

A/V is where it really gets interesting. First of all, with your NDI A/V setup (Figure 6, below), you can dig in and adjust your NDI output (I have it dialed all the way down to 80 Megabits per second, but you can go up way over 400 Mbps). For basic HD, I don't think you need a terribly large amount of data. The nice thing is you have the ability to control this. And given that this is just an HD camera, you don't need to give it 150 Mbps. You can if you want, but if you've got static shots and the most of the shot is not changing--as in a talking-head video like the one accompanying this article--then you can save on bandwidth, and that can help you manage your data across a network. By being able to manage the bit rate of the video that's being sent over the network, you have the ability to select various video settings from 720 through the various 1080s. NDI can either be the embedded audio or coms. The audio can either be a loop or comms. You can set also set Failover source, and other things like that.

Figure 6. Adjusting NDI A/V settings

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