I'll keep developing the camera server on a parallel track using the "new_..." directory naming convention. One thing I forgot to note is that the new pylon/pypylon packages require Python 3, so will not work with any of the 2.7 scripts. All of the environment I need to set up is exclusively Python 3. I won't change anything in the Python 2.7 environment in current use.
Also, I found the source of the bit resolution issue: Joe B's code loads a set of initialization parameters from a config file. One of them is "Frame Type = Mono8" which sets the dynamic range of the stream. I'll look into how this should be changed.
Since there are multiple SURF projects that rely on the cameras: