LVDS block camera versus SDI block camera - Sony block camera replacements - now including SDI

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

The advantage of SDI over LVDS video output can be significant

36x LVDS & SDI block camera
LVDS and 3G/HD-SDI block camera with IMX385 and 36x optical zoom - skoopia 23Z36S-LL

Key advantages of SDI block cameras over LVDS block cameras

  • SDI can be directly attached to a frame grabber of e.g. Imperx, allowing you to immediately enter such signals into a PC platform

  • SDI can have long coaxial cabling (100 meter plus), whereas LVDS is mostly limited by the (fixed) length of the KEL cable (max. 1.5 meters)

  • Length can further be extended by converting to / using EX-SDI video output.

  • Easy cabling via direct coax, whereas LVDS requires a converter board or is limited by the KEL cable.

  • Multiple converters to multiple video signals are present for SDI, whereas LVDS is mostly focused on skoopia on-board video formats.

  • Larger eco-system (e.g. military, broadcast industry) has created multiple application specific complementing solutions based directly on SDI.

SDI Block Camera implementation

skoopia offers both connectors (U-FL and MMCX on its 21Z/23Z series) allowing more robust plug/unplug connectivity (MMCX) or space savings (U-FL), see image on the left (MMCX left, U-FL on the right).

Block Camera with SDI - smart integration 

All skoopia block cameras can have native SDI video output. But there is more.

For SDI output typically the MMCX connector is used. skoopia offers its units with MMCX connector, but also with a U-FL connector.

Why?  The U-FL connector allows you to integrate the SDI cabling within the housing of the block camera. 

Block camera with U-FL connector

SDI block camera with u-fl connector
u-fl connector and mating cable

U.FL is a miniature RF connector for high-frequency signals up to 6 GHz.  U.FL connectors are commonly used in applications where space is of critical concern, most often Mini PCI cards for laptop computers and WiFi cards.

Total height: 2 mm (paired)

Advantage: cabling can be within housing of the skoopia block camera

Block camera with MMCX connector

SDI block camera with MMCX connector
MMCX connector and mating cable

MMCX is a small RF connector for high-frequency signals up to 6 GHz.  MMCX are commonly used in applications that require more paring or alternate pairing cycles and are standard in near-all cameras having native SDI output. 

Total height: 7 mm (paired)

Advantage: multiple pairing of the block camera via MMCX 

Block camera with KEL cable & LVDS video output

Although skoopia offers all relevant optical zoom blocks with the physical interface for KEL cable & LVDS video output to meet customer's wanting minimum change, the SDI cabling in combination with 9 pin FFC (Flat Foil Cable) for Power and Rx/Tx (and potential test video signals such as CVBS) proof to be a superior solution for customers looking for rigidity and distance.

KEL cable for block camera with LVDS video output

skoopia offers a range of block cameras with 10x, 20x, 30x, or super sensitive 36x optical zoom.

All skoopia block cameras can have LVDS output, but we recommend SDI from a cable robustness, cable length capability and back-end integration. And not just for new implementations, but also for projects that require a serious overhaul.

The affordable skoopia block camera series

skoopia's 20Z10S-NF, 20Z10L, 20Z30S and 20Z30L are based on a Panasonic 2 MP sensor (MN series), and offer on board output of:

20Z10S-NF EX-SDI, HD-SDI, 3G-SDI, AHD, CVBS 10x optical zoom

20Z10L EX-SDI, LVDS, CVBS 10x optical zoom

20Z30S EX-SDI, HD-SDI, 3G-SDI, TVI, CVBS 30x optical zoom

20Z30L EX-SDI, LVDS, CVBS 30x optical zoom

As one can see, SDI is always offered as an optional video output, next to LVDS. Key reason: KEL cabling remains cumbersome, cabling is expensive, and in most cases, conversion is required. Where several firms have focused on offering expensive solutions for converting the LVDS to SDI (whcih factually is fairly trivial), skoopia has decided to integrate SDI and LVDS.

The superior skoopia block camera series

skoopia's 21Z10S, 21Z30S and 23Z36S-LL series are based on Sony Starvis Exmor R sensors, and offer parallel video output.

21Z10S HD-SDI, 3G-SDI, LVDS, CVBS 10x optical zoom IMX307

21Z20S HD-SDI, 3G-SDI, LVDS, CVBS 20x optical zoom IMX307

21Z30S HD-SDI, 3G-SDI, LVDS, CVBS 30x optical zoom IMX327

21Z36S-LL HD-SDI, 3G-SDI, LVDS 36x optical zoom IMX385

Also the superior block camera series, SDI is always offered as an option, next to LVDS. But here, LVDS and SDI are offered in parallel mode. SDI could e.g. be directly displayed on a monitor, while the LVDS signal is used for image analysis or "smarter" storage formats such as IP.

SDI block cameras - Easier integration

SDI can be directly attached to a frame grabber of e.g. Imperx, allowing you to immediately enter such signals into a PC platform. Imprex is a potential provider of SDI grabber cards.

Cabling of SDI is straightforward (coax), robust and supports signal transfer over long distance (RG6 - 100 meters HD-SDI / RG6 - 300 meters EX-SDI) - whereas KEL cable based LVDS video transfer is limited to approximately 1 meter.

SDI provides an ecosystem with plural solutions

Multiple converters are available for SDI, each solving a unique -yet subtle - but often mandatory solution for a specific applicatoin environment.

Improve cable length

skoopia offers converters that allow you to take full advantage of the EX-SDI signal format, while maintaining interoperable with all HD-SDI components.

EX-SDI can extend your cable length without amplification, because this visually lossless compression without latency has a lower bandwidth (250 MHz, versus 1500 MHz for HD-SDI).

EX-SDI (250 MHz) to HD-SDI (1,5 GHz) conversion allows you to extend the signal and simply add the low cost converter at the end-point to become interoperable with the existing SDI infrastructure. (skoopia converter 15X2-S)

Block cameras and/or other cameras not supporting the EX-SDI signal native, can still make use of this specific format, by converting the regular HD-SDI signal to EX-SDI at the video starting point, while converting it back at the end-point (skoopia converter 15S2X).

A significantly larger eco-system (based on e.g. military, broadcast industry) has created multiple application specific complementing solutions based directly on SDI. From CVBS to SDI converters to SDI wireless solutions are provided by numerous suppliers.

Moreover, tons of converters exist aiming at the medical industry, primarily focused on converting the SDI signal to "consumer electronics" standards such as HDMI (skoopia 30S2-H) or USB (Magewell has a nice 1080p60 converter,

Sony Block Cameras - Discontinued

Although there were numerous block camera manufacturers, Sony block cameras set the standard, certainly in industrial and medical applications. However, Sony stopped producing their analog block cameras, soon after followed by their announcement to stop with digital HD and Full HD block cameras.

They reintroduced 30x models, first Sony FCB-EV7520A, later the Sony FCB-EV7520, but it is rumoured they will not be in the market for very long.

Sony block cameras interfacing -VISCA & CVBS or VISCA & LVDS

Sony's position in the block camera market was so dominant that near-all alternative suppliers complied -at least to some part- to the standard set by Sony.

Block camera with VISCA

First there is the VISCA protocol, which allows you to control the camera completely from a remote location. It includes query as well as control commands, so you can also request the status of the block camera. VISCA has proven to be suitable for most industrial and medical applications, whereas Pelco-D seems to dominate the security space.

All skoopia block cameras support both Pelco