The BirdDog X120, an NDI|HX3 PTZ cam billed as “the world’s first Wi-Fi production PTZ”–thanks to its suppport for NDI and Wi-Fi–debuted at NAB 2023 to much fanfare, snagging a best of show award. Intrepid reporter and Streaming Media Contributing Editor Shawn Lam of SLV Live was on the scene in the BirdDog booth to interview BirdDog CEO & Co-Founder Dan Miall and discuss what, if anything, makes this PTZ cam different from all other PTZ cams.
“A lot of viewers are familiar with BirdDog’s higher-end products–the P400, the P4K–beautiful larger-sensor PTZ cameras,” Lam begins. “But here you’ve got a very affordable $995 US PTZ camera. Tell us some of the features of the X120. What makes this one so special?”
“Probably the most exciting thing about this product, the X120, is we took all of that functionality we have in our BirdDog cameras–high-quality Sony sensors, great glass optics, and have that great workflow with all of our tools–and we brought that to a whole new price point. We’ve added some really cool new features as well to fit in with people that are doing live streaming and doing event-type work, like our Wi-Fi connectivity. So this is the first PTZ camera that supports NDI that’s Wi-Fi as well. It doesn’t mean you can’t do wired ethernet–of course you can plug it in like a regular PTZ. It gives you exceptionally high picture quality, particularly for the price. It gives you all the usual tools that you’re used to with BirdDog cameras, like an OLED screen, so you can see the configuration of the camera, and a big tally light over the top so you know which camera’s going live at any time.”
Full NDI Viewer
Miall also draws attention to capabilities that BirdDog’s iPad control software–which also debuted at NAB 2023–adds to the X120.
Though the X120 is a very compact camera, Miall says, “it joins up with our brand new software that goes with it as well, which is an iPad control software. So it turns your iPad into a full NDI viewer. You can view any NDI source, including the X120, control that camera, recall presets, suggest all your color, and do that completely wirelessly as well. So you’re not only getting a wireless camera, but then also your monitor using your iPad is also wireless.”
“We were the first people to put NDI I into a piece of hardware and we’ve been really famous for using what we call full- or high-bandwidth NDI. And that gives you the ultimate picture quality and really low latency. In fact, with this camera here, we’ve actually introduced a BirdDog version of NDI|HX3, which really keeps that latency down as low as possible. But NDI|HX is a format that’s been around for a little while now, and it’s used in a lot of other PTZ cameras. It allows you to do a lower bandwidth or a more high-efficiency compression. In the BirdDog implementation of that, we’re seeing the exceptionally high-quality pictures that we have from our sensors in the cameras, then being processed into that NDI|HX3. We’ve also added in the capabilities within all of the BirdDog products now to support both full NDI but also do NDI|HX. We think there are some use cases where NDI|HX is great–like Wi-Fi, for example–but then if you’re working in a studio, you can go for some of our higher-end cameras that will give you lower latency.”
“I appreciate that you started off with the full version and waited until HX3 came out before you implemented it,” Lam replies, “because it keeps that latency and the needs of your users it top of mind.”
“Yeah, it really fits into our ecosystem well,” Miall says. “In the X120, it gives us the portability, the size of the camera, and that Wi-Fi compatibility works great on NDI|HX3. We can even support HX|2 on the camera as well. But it’s been the right time in terms of how we can bring that camera together with the quality and join it in with the rest of the ecosystem.
Color Correction Tools
Miall also highlights the X120’s built-in color correction tools, which he says have emerged as a “signature” feature of BirdDog’s PTZ line. “You can adjust all of your color matrix directly inside the camera. For example, quite often if you’re looking at a video where someone’s wearing red clothing or bright blue clothing, it can get really hot and look fake. With the BirdDog cameras–and even with this X120–you can just reduce individual colors and get them looking exactly as they are in the natural view.”
“That’s really awesome to have,” Lam concedes, “but sometimes users just want a simple way to color match cameras together. Talk to me about that. What new in terms of the, the ability to use Kelvin color temperatures, and why was that missing in the past?”
“There are a couple of different ways to, to adjust colors and get them right,” Miall says. “Obviously, there’s hue and saturation where you can adjust the overall broad brush balances. We can also use our color shading where you can get into individual colors. But like you say, quite often you just want to tune it in to make it look pretty good. With the X120 camera, we can just choose a light temperature,-a Kelvin temperatures–and get it in and you’ll find it works really well in terms of image quality and getting a pretty close color match on the color temperature of the light.”
“Is that exclusive to the X120 at this point?”
“It’s actually in our X120 and the P110 and P120 cameras as well. It’s a feature that was requested by some of our customers and again, it shows how BirdDog works: If we have features requested, then we’ll do our best to bring them in. And it’s a great functionality.”
P120 Tech Specs
“Let’s talk a little bit of tech specs,” Lam says. “Let’s talk sensor size. Let’s talk about the zoom range, and the lens ramping from wide to telephoto.”
“It’s a 20X zoom,” Miall responds, “and when you look at it, it’s amazing how far in that 20 times throws.” Many small cameras with form factors comparable to the X120, according to Miall, “will only be 10X in their zoom capabilities. In terms of the sensor size, it’s a 1/2.5. So it’s a reasonable-size sensor for the type of camera that this is. But if you actually look at the image quality, the behavior, or how it works in low light, it’s really incredible, owing to the types of sensors that we use within our cameras. We build our own cameras from the ground up. We specify exactly what sensors we use and we build all of the electronics inside, and then of course all of the interfaces that go on top. So they’re purpose-built with production in mind.”
“How is that lens in terms of when you’re wide and telephoto, in terms of the f-stop?” Lam asks.
“It’s an F/1.6,” Miall says, “so you can get really quite nice pictures. It’s very bright. You can even get a little bit of bokeh effect as well, which is what some people are searching for. And then obviously you can close that right down if you’ve got some particularly bright environments.
“This brings me to another feature, which is really key in a lot of our cameras: We also have a filtering on the front. So in a really bright environment, you can put an ND filter on the top. You can also put on polarizing filters as well. So if you are using it in some challenging environments, you can really get the optics looking fantastic.”
“And is it about F/3 when we’re full telephoto?”
“That’s very reasonable,” says Lam. “The nice thing too with the smaller sensor is that the lens doesn’t have to stop down as much, because sometimes in those larger ones, the more telephoto you get, you’re getting to 4.8, 5.6.”
“It does get pretty stopped down.”
“So, it’s a great price point on this camera,” Lam says. “It’s one of those types of workflows that if you’re going to buy one, you might even buy four or five of them. You might go crazy on it because with the cost of one of this versus the cost of one large-sensor cameras, you can get multiples of this.”
“That’s right,” says Miall. “And again, the the quality you get out of it and then the flexibility of having multiple cameras works amazingly well. We also have announced a battery plate for this camera as well, so being completely untethered it’s just amazing. Even at the NAB show floor where there’s Wi-Fi and mobile service everywhere, we’ve got some of these cameras running on Wi-Fi and working perfectly. So it’s it shows you the power of that Wi-Fi connection.”
“And obviously it’s PoE-powered, right? So it doesn’t have to only be DC-powered?
“Yes, it’s completely PoE-powered as well,” Miall confirms. “So you can have that one cable solution, which is what a lot of people want.”
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