Axis vs Hikvision vs Sony Encoder Test

By Derek Ward, Published Mar 18, 2015, 12:00am EDT

In this report, we share test findings of three popular four port analog SD encoder models:

  • Axis P7214 [link no longer available]
  • Hikvision DS-6704HFI [link no longer available]
  • Sony SNT-EX104

Below, we share our findings in areas including:

  • Image quality
  • VMS licensing and integration
  • PTZ control
  • Bandwidth and framerate

Here are our key findings from this test:

  • Image quality was similar between all encoders, both day and night, for all TVL counts tested.
  • Sony SNT-EX104 image enhancement features (XDNR/Visibility Enhancer) slightly improved low light performance. 
  • All encoders achieved 30 FPS at D1 resolution on all cameras without frame drop.
  • Avigilon Control Center and Genetec Security Center required four VMS licenses for all encoders, while Exacq and Milestone required only one for Axis and Hikvision. Sony required 1 for each channel for all VMSes.
  • PTZ controls functioned properly in all encoders, controlling a Pelco-D PTZ without issue via the web interface and when integrated with VMSes.
  • Bandwidth consumption: Axis P7214 bandwidth consumption was lowest overall, an average of ~30% lower than the Hikvision DS-6704HFI. The Sony SNT-EX104, though CBR only, required higher bitrates (256 Kb/s) to maintain similar compression to Axis and Hikvision encoders.
  • 900 TVL camera required notably more bandwidth than 600 TVL for all encoders.

Price

Price for each encoder tested is listed below:

Note that Axis and Sony offer lower cost options with reduced feature sets. Axis offers the lower cost M7014 encoder (~$260 after recent price cuts), which removes audio and I/O support and reduces full resolution framerate to a max of 15. Sony also offers the SNT-EP104 (~$700), which removes audio, I/O, and PTZ control.

Recommendations

Overall, because encoder performance was similar in terms of image quality, PTZ control, and VMS integration, selection essentially comes down to price. Users should be careful to consider not only product price, but VMS licensing, as well, as multiple licenses required may cost as much as or more than the encoder itself.

Future of Encoders

Analog encoders have become less attractive due to two key factors:

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  • Falling IP camera prices: Average IP camera price has dropped by 25% in the past few years, making megapixel IP cameras more attractive than maintaining aging analog installations.
  • Analog HD: The introduction of HD over coax cameras such as HDCVI and HDTVI provides the benefit of reusing exist coax infrastructure as encoders do, while increasing resolution, with DVR prices generally lower than analog encoders.

Both of these options provide greater resolution than even the highest TVL analog cameras, making them more attractive.

Physical Overview

In the video below we look at the physical features of the Axis, Hikvision, and Sony encoders. All have similar physical features, including I/O, audio, and serial control, but vary in size substantially.

VMS Licensing

The number of licenses required for each encoder varied by VMS. Milestone and Exacq require only a single license for the Axis and Hikvision encoders, since they have a single IP address. Genetec and Avigilon require a license per channel. Note that Avigilon requires only a single license for their own encoders.

The Sony SNTEX104 assigns an IP address to each channel, and as a result appears as four separate devices, requiring a VMS license per channel regardless of VMS.

Image Quality Impact

We tested image quality of each encoder using a 600 TVL camera, in the FOV shown below:

In full light (~160 lux), imae quality is similar across all encoders, with basic subject details visible and lines 1-3 of the chart legible.

In low light (~0.1 lux) with IR illumination on, details are again similar.

Sony Low Light Enhancements

The Sony SNTEX104 offers two improvments to low light imaging: XDNR 3D noise reduction, and visibility enhancer, a contrast enhancement. The difference in low light performance is best seen in the example below, with our subject in the dim edge of the FOV, where IR illumination is not as strong.

However, these features do not provide much improvement in details of either the subject or test chart, seen below.

PTZ Integration

PTZ controls worked without issue in all encoders using Pelco-D protocol. Though setup differed somewhat between models, essentially it required users only to select protocol, baud rate, and camera ID. Since most encoders offered only a single serial port, camera ID is used to discretely address multiple PTZ cameras when connected to one encoder.

All models included multiple PTZ serial protocols (RS-422/RS-485). Axis offers downloadable drivers for specific manufacturers, while Hikvision and Sony protocols are fixed. Of these encoders, only the Sony SNTEX104 offers coaxitron capability (up the coax control not requiring separate serial cabling). The Axis P7214 does not include this option, but their Q series does.

This video reviews the PTZ setup process using an Axis P7214 encoder:

Bandwidth

Bandwidth varied widely between encoders. The Axis P7214 was generally lowest overall, an average of 30% lower than the Hikvision DS-6704. The Hikvision DS-6704 was low in most scenes, but spiked to 740 Kb/s in full light when used with the 900 TVL analog camera due to repetitive patterns (carpet/walls/ceiling) not seen with the 600 TVL camera.

The Sony SNT-EX104 offers CBR streamining only. At 256 Kb/s, quantization was similar to other cameras, ~27-28 in the 600 TVL camera. Quantization using the 900 TVL model was 29-30, slightly higher than others. 

Methodology

Firmware used for each encoder tested:

  • Axis P7214: 5.50.4.1
  • Hikvision DS-6704: 1.2.3_141203
  • Sony SNT-EX104: 1.85.00a

VMS software versions:

  • Avigilon Control Center 5.4.0.30
  • Exacqvision 6.6.2.72387
  • Genetec 5.2 SR9
  • Milestone XProtect Enterprise: 2014 9.0b/Device Pack 7.8
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