Avigilon H4 5MP and 4K Cameras Tested

By Ethan Ace, Published Apr 25, 2016, 02:09pm EDT (Research)

Avigilon has released their H4 HD line, with promised improvements including their most sensitive low light camera (the 5.0L-), analytics on all models, and a new, less expensive, 4K/8MP model.

We bought the 4K and 5P H4 IR domes to see how they compare to others from Axis, Bosch, Hikvision, and more, seen here during test setup:

Inside, we examine performance in low light and full light image, bandwidth comparisons, and more.

Summary

Avigilon's H4 4K and 5MP IR domes are both solid performers in low light and full light scenes relative to competitive models, and priced competitively or slightly higher than similar models.

However, neither offers the absolute best performance of 4K/5MP cameras we have tested, with others such as Panasonic's 4K and the Bosch 5MP starlight performing better in some scenes. Additionally, the 4K H4 camera's bitrates were among the highest of 4K cameras we have tested, higher than both Axis and Panasonic's 4K models.

Avigilon End To End Advantages

The H4 has two key advantages in Avigilon end to end systems, however:

  • Their on board analytics, which integrate only with Avigilon Control Center, have been among the best we have tested and are now included in the entire H4 camera line. Note, we have not tested the H4 cameras' analytics in this report, but plan to in a future test.
  • Avigilon cameras integrate with ACC more deeply than other manufacturers, with nearly all configuration possible via the VMS, instead of needing to use the camera's web interface, which reduces installation time.

Pricing

The Avigilon H4 4K has an estimated street price of ~$1,200-1,300 USD. This is moderately higher than some, such as Dahua and Hikvision's 4K outdoor domes, which sell for $800-900 online. However, it is lower than 4K IR models from Panasonic and Sony, both of which sell for $2,000+

See all features of the 4K cameras in the IPVM comparison tool:

The 5MP H4 model has an estimated street price of about $900-1,000 USD. This is similar to competitive 5MP IR models, such as the Samsung SNV-8081R. However, new lower costs 4MP models with integrated IR and zoom lenses have become more common, such as the Dahua and Hikvision models below (~$300 online). These models provide slightly higher PPF due to their 16:9 4MP resolution vs. Avigilon and others' 4:3 5MP, 2688 vs. 2592, with many of the same features (motorized zoom/focus, on board analytics, etc.).

See these cameras in the IPVM comparison tool:

Key Findings

Here are the key findings from our test of the Avigilon H4 lines:

Avigilon H4 4K Image Quality

The Avigilon H4 4K camera performs moderately better in narrow FOVs than some competitors, such as the Axis P1428-E (no IR),Panasonic 781L and DVTel CM-6208 (IR domes).

In wider FOVs (60’+) and at longer ranges, details are similar to other 4K IR models, with no clear best, though all outperform the non-IR Axis P1428-E.

In full light, the Avigilon 4K H4 provides fewer details than the Panasonic WV-SFV781L at all ranges, with reduced contrast on the subject and test chart.

Avigilon H4 5MP Image Quality

The Avigilon H4 5MP performed better than the previous generation H3 3MP camera in low light, with slight increases in detail and brighter images:

And in full light, details were increased due to its higher PPF compared to the 3MP model.

Bandwidth

The Avigilon 4K H4 had significantly higher bitrates in full light and low light compared to Axis and Panasonic's 4K models.

The 5MP H4's bitrates were moderately higher than the Bosch 5MP camera in both scenes, though lower than Avigilon's previous H3 3MP model.

Idle Scene Mode

Avigilon's Idle Scene Mode, new to the H4 line, worked without issues in our tests. This feature reduces framerate and increases compression and I-frame interval when the scene is still to reduce bandwidth. Note that this is different from true smart CODECs, which maintain framerate, and may be unusable in cases where a specific framerate is required.

Physical Overview

The H4 IR domes are similar in size and construction to other outdoor dome models, with similar features, but two additions not commonly found:

  • USB port for wireless dongle: The H4 domes include a micro USB port which allows connection of a wifi dongle for setup/aiming. This is seen in some competitive models, such as Sony's SNC-VM772R, though is not common.
  • Removable camera module: Users may remove the camera module from the dome backbox by loosening threw screws. This allows the camera module to be replaced in case of failure, or upgraded in the future, without needed to uninstall the entire housing. This is also found in some competitive models, such as Axis P/Q domes.

We review the physical construction of the camera in this video:

Configuration

For the most part, configuration of the Avigilon H4 web interface is similar to the H3, with some slight changes:

  • Image quality settings have been divided into two pages, with day/night, exposure, WDR, and IR controls on one and brightness/contrast/sharpness on the other.
  • Real time display now shows EV and current F stop in addition to gain and exposure.
  • Idle Scene Mode has been added to CODEC settings.

We review these changes in this video:

IR Illumination Performance

IR range of the Avigilon 4K camera is specified at a relatively short 15m, much shorter than most outdoor 4K IR domes specs, such as the Sony 772R (50m), Hikvision DS-2CD4585-IZH (40m), or Panasonic 781L (30m). In our tests, we found this spec to be roughly accurate, with greatly reduced details beyond 15m, seen below as the subject enters the parking lot from the field (~60') and approaches the camera:

In our tests, the 5MP Avigilon H4 roughly met or slightly exceeded its 30m IR range, with the subject becoming clearly visible after he passes the nearest marker (reflected on the right), placed at ~150'.

Adaptive IR Features

Both Avigilon cameras feature adaptive IR, which uses different sets of LEDs for different zoom levels. This is shown in the animation below, with the IR turned on with the camera at its most telephoto (narrowest) zoom level. The camera is then zoomed out to its widest AoV, with the second set of LEDs switching on and the first set dimming and finally turning off.

Low Light Performance

We tested the H4 cameras and competitors in an open field/parking lot to see how they performed, using a wide angle of view (~80°):

4K

At long ~100' distance/~23 PPF, none of the cameras produce usable images of the subject or test chart. Note that this distance is beyond the IR range of all cameras tested.

Nearer to the camera, with PPF higher, details improve, with performance similar to or slightly better than the Panasonic WV-SF781L

Finally, closest to the cameras, where PPF is high, the Avigilon 4K provides the best details of our subject and test chart legibility, with the Panasonic 781L washing out the chart entirely.

5MP

The Avigilon 5MP slightly outperformed Avigilon's previous generation H3 3MP model in our tests, with performance closer to lower resolution IR models from Axis and Hikvision, seen below at ~30 PPF/60' range.

At closer range, details delivered are strong, with the test chart legible to line 3 and the subject roughly discernible.

5MP Color Night Performance

Switching to color mode at night, with IR off, the Avigilon H4 5MP produces the best details of the test chart:

At near range, ~30' from the camera, where PPF is higher, the 5MP model remains the brightest camera tested, though it is outperformed by other models due to some overexposure of the subject and especially the test chart.

Full Light Performance

4K Competitive Comparison

Using a very wide field of view (~145'), the Avigilon 4K camera produces details of the subject similar to the other 4K cameras tested, with slightly more chart legibility than Axis and DVTel, both of which wash out the chart. The test chart is most discernable in the Panasonic 781L, which clearly shows the first and second lines.

Near the cameras, with PPF much higher (~80 vs. ~23), details delivered by Avigilon, Axis, and DVTel are again similar, and Panasonic once again produces more usable details.

5MP vs. 3MP/1080p

Looking at the 5MP Avigilon in full light, it performs moderately worse at longer range/wider FOV than the Bosch 5MP, with reduced contrast of the subject and test chart, though provides slightly better subject details than the H3 3MP.

Finally, at ~30' distance, where PPF is highest (~56 in the H4 5MP), the reduced contrast of the 5MP H4 provides reduced contrast of the subject, again showing fewer details than the Bosch 5MP model (which also has slightly higher PPF due to its 16:9 5MP resolution vs. 4:3).

Bandwidth Comparison

We tested bandwidth in the scenes above to see how the Avigilon H4 cameras compare to others.

In full light, the Avigilon H4 4K's average bitrate was higher than the Axis and Panasonic cameras, especially in low light, spiking to ~18 Mb/s.

The H4 5MP's bandwidth consumption was similar to the Bosch 5MP starlight in well-lit scenes, about 2.2 Mb/s, and lower than the previous generation H3 3MP model (~3.1 Mb/s). In low light, bitrates also averaged lower than the H3 3MP, ~3.8 Mb/s vs. 4.5.

Idle Scene Mode

Avigilon has introduced "Idle Scene Mode" in the H4 cameras, which allows users to adjust framerate, bitrate, I-frame interval, and compression when the camera detects no motion, potentially drastically reducing bitrates. By default, the camera switches to 1 FPS, with a keyframe interval of 4.

In our tests, Idle Scene Mode worked without issues with Avigilon's own VMS as well as Exacq. Bitrate gains will vary widely, depending on specific settings used, with higher idle framerates and qualities conserving less bandwidth than 1FPS/long I-frame interval settings, for example.

Features like Idle Scene Mode have been seen in other cameras/recorders, but are fairly rare.

Test Parameters

Cameras were tested using default settings, with the following adjustments:

  • Exposure was set to 1/30s max
  • Quantization was set to an average of ~28
  • Smart CODECs were used where noted above (1080p cameras only)

The following firmware versions were used:

  • Avigilon 3.0W-H3A-BO1: 3.6.0.36
  • Avigilon 5.0L-H4A-DO1: 3.10.0.96
  • Avigilon 8.0-H4A-DO1: 3.10.0.96
  • Axis P1428-E: 5.80.1.1
  • Axis P3225-LVE: 6.10.1.1
  • Bosch NBN-80052: 6.22
  • DVTel CM-6208: dt20150426NSZ
  • Hikvision DS-2CD4132FWD-IZH: 5.3.4
  • Panasonic WV-SFV781L: 2.40

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