KPC-350BH (PC164C) Low Light CCTV Camera

© Brooke Clarke 2007


PC164 Major Parts
Camera, C/CS adapter ring, rubber dust cover, auto iris plug & shell.
Background
Models - Table
DC Power
Lens Options
Auto Iris Note
Controls
Inside
Problems
Related
Links

Background

There is a KPC-xxx  family of security CCTV cameras all packaged in a common housing that's offered with many options.  They all use a 1/3" imaging chip.  Super Circuits sells it as their P164C and most other vendors sell it as the KPC-350BH.  Links in the table below.

The options are:

Models

Packages

Tube w/o Lens

This is the P164C or KPC-350BH.  The big advantage is the flexibility you get with the C/CS lens mount.  A Cine lens, or with an adapter a 35 mm camera lens can be used.  Or with a different adapter it will plug into a telescope eyepiece.

The round printed circuit boards in this camera are 0.95" diameter.

There is a screw in ¼-20 tripod socket that can be installed either on the bottom or the top of the housing.  A 25¢ coin is the ideal tool for making the change.

Raw Board

The raw PCB comes in a number of versions, one uses the standard (12 mm ?) board lens and the others have a fixed lens.  The smallest volume option.  Exposed if used raw so needs protection.  Good for integration into a covert camera, like a clock, book, etc.  There are long skinny PCBs that can be integrated into a fat pen.

Cube

The raw board in a box that's just a little larger than the board.  Has a "U" bracket to mount the box.  The boards are different sizes from about 1.5" square down to about 3/4" square. depending on the chip set.  I think for this series they are very near 1" square.  The Cubes use the same (12 mm?) lens as the raw boards.   The cube can be mounted inside a 1 ¼" tube that will fit most amateur telescopes.

Lipstick

This is a tube with lens installed all in a weatherproof housing that has a ¼-20 threaded hole on the back that can be used with a bracket to mount on a wall.  The advantage is the weatherproof small package at a cost much lower than putting another camera in a weatherproof housing.  I'm not sure how you focus or adjust the lens.

All using similar Sony chip sets as the PC164C.  The model number contains B for B&W or C for Color.
EX in the KT&C model number means lower Lux.  650 means hi res and 350 is standard res. 
All the model numbers have an "H", maybe related to the generation or chip set.

If you have information on other brands or models that are Sony chip set cameras for this table let me know.
B&W is a misnomer, the camera is not Black or White, but really monochrome.
Tube
w/o Lens
B&W
350BH
B&W
350BHEX
KPC-350BH
PC164C
B&W
650BH
B&W
650BHEX
PC164-EX3
KPC650BHEX7
B&W
PC164EX-SLL4
B&W
PC164CEX-26
Color
350CH
Color
350CHEX
Color
650CH
Color
650CHEX
PC165C
Board

PC402XS
3.7 mm



?




Cube

PC180XS
3.6 mm



?



PC182XS
3.6 mm
Lipstick



PC88WR
3.6 mm

?
PC156WR
3.6 mm
PC75WR
na mm
PC85WR
na mm
PC802WR
4 - 9 mm Zm
PC88WR
3.6 mm
Spec
EIA
note 1
EIA
note 1
EIA
note 1
EIA
note 1
EIA
note 1
EIA
note 1
NTSC
Note 2
NTSC
note 2
NTSC
note 2
NTSC
note 2
Res
420
420 600
600 600 600 380 380 480 480
Lux
0.02
0.00035
0.02 0.000355 0.000255 0.0001
0.5
0.05
0.5 0.05
# Pixel
537 x 505
510 x 492 768 x 494
768 x 494 768 x 494 508 (V) X 811 (H) 510 x 492
510 x 492 768 x 494
768 x 494
CCD

ICX254AL
ICX258AL
ICX258AL
?




Output

CXA1310AQ



?




Timing

CXD2463R



?





Note 1 CCIR version also availale
Note 2 PAL version also available
Note 3 Misnamed: -EX should have been -HR
Note 4 Dec 2007 rumored to be announced 1Q2008
Note 5 the Lux values have been slightly modified from the spec sheet numbers to indicate relative sensitivity between these three cameras
Note 6 This camera was introduced Jan 2008.
Note 7 Adirondack Video Astronomy carries the KPC650BHEX.

DC Power

The camera is specified to run from 12 VDC @ 160 ma.  Part of that current may be an allowance for 50 ma to dirve an auto iris lens?

PC164 Power Supply, Cable AdapterThe violet box is the input to my computer.  Only the yellow composite video input is used with the PC164C camera.

The 100' Cable from Super Circuits (  ) is a Siamese where one side is the video coax with BNC-m connectors on both ends and the other side is the DC feed with 2.1x5.5 mm plug and the other end with 2.1x5.5 mm jack.  Since most video inputs are an RCA jack you need a BNC-f to RCA-m adapter like the Radio Shack 278-250.

The wall-wart power supply is one of the skinny switching mode types rated for 12 volts @ 500 ma.  Much lighter and smaller than the old type linear power supplies.  It has the 2.1x5.5 mm plug like is used to power many items.

In addition to the BNCf - RCAm adapter it's also handy to have a BNCm-BNCm adapter to replace the 100' cable.  I.e. by using the two adapters you can convert the camera's BNCf to an RCAm which is needed for most composite video inputs.



Lens Options

C/CS Mount Lens

PC164C & 6-60 mm & Tripod

The lens is a 6 - 60 mm Varifical.  The C/CS adapter ring that comes with the camera has been removed since this is a CS mount lens.  A Varifocal lens is much harder to get in focus than a conventional zoom lens.  I'm sure it's easier to make a Varifocal lens than a zoom which is why there are so many of them.

5 Aug 2007 - first light using this lens, probably not optimally focused, can see the big dipper.  A 10 second AVI file is about 72 MB.

This is a full size Arri Tripod that's not only stable but has low vibration.
PC164 & Table Top Tripod
The small table top tripod (Targus (Radio Shack) universal 6") allows working with the lens and at the same time seeing the image on the computer monitor. 
It turns out this tripod is not very good.  The problem is that the tips of the legs are so close toghther that it's easy for the center of mass of the camera plus lens to be outside the footprint and it falls over.  Some type of weight or anchoring it to a larger board may fix the problem, but in stock form not much use.  Maybe for a web cam?

At first it seemed like some lens adjustments caused the image to go black, but then it became clear that it was not the lens but rather an interminent in the camera or the attached cable.  It's been sent back for evaluation by Super Circuits on a RMA.  The problem was a bad electrical joint in the "Y" part of the cable.  I've heard from another user that cable problems are common with this camera (probably because of either the "Y" or the fixed "pinched" type of capture inside the camera.

The problem may have been caused by poor packaging.
Malin 1.25" Scope to C mount adapter


This is an adapter from 1 ¼" telescope to C mount.  It's made by Rock Mallin using more aluminum so as to act as an additional heat sink for his camera.  I didn't want a plastic adapter because over time they will crack.  This one also has internal threads so that you can install filters or other optics like are used inside 1 ¼" eyepieces.

6 - 60 mm Varifical Lens Settings

If you look into the objective end of the lens with the lens removed from the camera and with a light background and work the controls you can see that the maximum amount of light goes through when it's set for Far, Open, Telephoto or Wide angle does not make any difference.  Note the very front of the lens is fixedly attached to the mounting thread end and the three adjustment rings between are all free to rotate.  The center Open/Close iris control can close completely, so no light goes through the lens.  At first this is what I thought was happening, but now realize the camera itself is intermittent.

The settings seem "touchy" especially the focus.  A tiny bit of movement and it's out of focus. 

I have the camera on the Arri tripod which is near my computer monitor with the lens pointing out the front door at trees that are at least 100 feet away.

Sometimes when switching from DC to Video there's a change in image brightness.  This does not make sense because there's nothing connected to the auto iris socket.  Switching from ALC to B/S should and does make a difference.
It's very hard to setup this lens in the daytime.  The iris needs to be right on the edge of being closed. Maybe there's another lens that's less hassle to use?  Ans. With a camera that's very sensitive a normal lens needs to be stopped way down and the iris adjustability between say f/64 and iris closed is non existant.  What's needed is an auto iris lens of the new type that has a much wider f# range like F/1.4 to f/360.  For more see the P-38 web page or the Sky-Weather-Astronomy web cam info pages.

Nikon to C Mount Adapter

Since I have some Nikon 35mm camera lenses I've ordered an adapter so they can be used on the PC164C camera. It turned out not to be a Nikon adapter, but a similar bayonet type.

1 1/4" to C Mount Adapter

This adapter fits into the eyepiece holder for most amateur telescopes.  A have a few scopes that could be used this way.  If no additional optics are used the scope objective focuses directly on the CCD chip in the camerea, called prime focus mode.

Auto Iris Note

With a camera, like this one, that's extreamly light sensitive has a normal manual lens installed there's way too much light geting to the sensor in daylight for the camera to work properly.  Even a first generation auto iris lens (f/32 +/-) lets way too much light into the camera.  The second generation auto iris type that can stop down to (F/360 +/-) will allow the camera to be used in the daytime.

Controls

DC-VID

There are two types of auto iris C or CS mount lens.  In one type a video signal is fed to the lens and these typically have one or two of pots on the lens to set the levels.  The other type is fed a DC control voltage generated by the camera and has no pots.  So you set the DC-VID switch to match the type of auto iris lens.  If you're not using an auto iris lens the switch position should not matter.   But there may be an effect when the switch is in the video position and you don't have a 75 Ohm load on the video wire in the auto iris socket, so using the DC position when not using an auto iris lens may be a good choice.

E/S - ALC

E/S is an exposure control method that uses an Electronic Shutter speed (like the shutter speed on a film camera) and Automatic Level Control uses the gain of a video amplifier.  This camera in stock form does not have any manual control of the video amp gain (there are web pages that have a modification to add manual gain control).   If the auto iris lens is using a video input then you can not use ALC since that would make the video level always the same and so would not provide the lens with the signal it needs.  That's why you must select Electronic Shutter when using a video auto iris lens.

The Super Circuits PC38 camera has a user option to choose either shutter priority or gain priority but this camera does not.  I haven't figured out which it uses.  The most dynamic range would come from using the E/S setting so that after the lens stopped down on a bright day then the shutter speed could further reduce the exposure.   The other way would be for the shutter speed to be at the fastest setting with the lens wide open.  This provides short exposures good for moving images.

As it gets darker the shutter speed will slow down and finally get to 1/30 second per frame (1/60 second per field), i.e. the E/S is no longer doing anything and all the time possible is used for light gathering.  As it gets more dark the lens opens up to it's widest, maybe f/1.2 or thereabouts.  Now the only thing that can be done to see more is increase the gain.  So if you're working with daytime images the E/S setting is of help and if working with dark night time scenes the ALC setting is more help.

In either switch setting the camera is going to try and get an exposure that's about the same as a Kodak standard gray test card.  This will be close to the correct exposure for normal scenes.  For astronomical use this may be about correct for imaging the moon or a planet that's filling most of the field of view.  But if the image is mostly of black night sky with some stars the camera setting will be too high, i.e. the background will be the target gray, not black.

DC Level

Adjusting the pot allows matching a DC auto iris lens to the sensitivity of the camera.  If you're working primarily with night time scenes then setting the pot at night will give the best results for those scenes but may not be optimum for bright daytime scenes and vice versa.

If  you're not using an auto iris lens the setting does not matter.

Inside

Disassembly

Remove the four Phillips screws that are next to the CCD.  The screwdriver needs to exactly match the screw and some downward force is needed to break them loose.  Remove the two small set screws at the back.  Slide the chassis out of the case.

There are four printed circuit boards in back to front order: Back, Power, Main & CCD.
KPC-350BH CCTV Camera Top View

The CCD is on the left end PCB marked KPC-600BH Rev 4 CCD, 2002/8/23.  The main PCB is marked KPC-600BH Rev4 Main, 2002.08.23.  To the immediate right of the main board is the Power board marked KPC-600BH, Rev4 Power, 2002.08.23.   To the right of the right board is the Back  board that has the pins from the two switches and the auto iris connector soldered to it.



KPC-350BH CCTV camera inside bottom viewThe cable has black (gnd), yellow (video out) and red (+12 VDC in) wires that are soldered to the right side board, not the Back board marked KPC-600BH, Rev4 ES1 Back, 2002.08.23

Although the cylindrical crystal is seen on this side, it's connected to an IC on the other side of the main board.




Problems

This camera came packed on the bottom of a box with nice strong peanuts on top of it, not in the center of the peanuts.
I had intermittent problems and returned it for repair.  It came back marked "Unable to recreate issue".
10 Sep 2007 -  there's no question that the "Y" joint of the video coax is were the problem is.  When the monitor goes black (no video) the bench power supply shows the same current as before the problem, meaning it's a video problem not an open or short in the DC power wiring.  I've asked for a replacement "Y" cable but haven't heard back.  They replaced the whole camerea.

Related

Super Circuits P-38 (Mintron 63V5) Color Integrating Low Light CCTV Camera
Harbor Freight Color Security CCTV camera
PC33C - Super Circuits general purpose camera
Web Cam 2 - using in still image mode where an image is grabbed at some interval and the .jpg is uploaded to the server.  Until the 4 input video card gets here only one camera at a time can be connected to the computer.  My 2-way satellite connection has nowhere enough bandwidth to support anything like live video.
7" TFT Color Monitor

Links

Korea Technology & Communications(KT&C) -
Dave Gault  - Video Astronomy - First experiences with a PC164 camera
A Video Occulation Primer -
IVC200 - 4 channel capture card.  uses 4 Conexant CX25878 chips

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  created 6 Aug 2007