2019 Video Surveillance Cameras Overview

By: IPVM Team, Published on Jan 07, 2019

Each year, IPVM summarizes the main advances and changes for video surveillance cameras, based on our industry-leading testing and reporting.

This is the 4th year we are doing this, compare to:

Resolution Used Growing

The average resolution used continues to grow modestly as our Resolution Usage Statistics, excerpted below, show:

In particular, 4MP is increasing becoming normal, though a significant amount of users are still using 1080p.

Max Resolution Not Growing

However, maximum resolution offered is not growing. It has now been nearly a decade since 10MP H.264 cameras were introduced. Yet, in the past year, few 10MP or higher resolution single-imager cameras were released. A few years ago, a few 20MP cameras were released (e.g., Axis Q1635 - tested) and Canon announced a ~$20,000 20MP camera last year but these remain exceptions. 

Component developers have been recently touting 8K (i.e. 33MP) imagers but no such IP cameras have been released. Additionally, startup (Entropix - see profile) plans a super-resolution capable camera release for 2019. So notable increases in maximum resolution will come at some point but for now this lies in the future.

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Low Cost 4K/8MP Improvements

Though resolution growth remained slow, performance of low cost 4K/8MP cameras (<$250) increased significantly in the past year. In past tests, low cost fixed lens 4K models had significant issues in even moderate low light or WDR scenes, with few advantages over 4MP or even 1080p models. However in our 8MP / 4K Fixed Lens Camera Shootout, multiple models performed very well in these scenes, with clear advantages over lower resolutions, higher quality low light (below) and WDR imaging, and significantly lower bitrates.

8mp 4k advantages over 4mp

We expect this trend to continue as lower cost lines enter subsequent generations and sensors and processing continue to mature.

Multi-Imager Growth: More Options, Repositionable IR and 4K

The multi-imager segment continued to grow in 2018, especially in repositionable models. Many major manufacturers released new models, including Avigilon, Axis, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, and others, with integrated IR becoming more common (Avigilon and Axis) and higher resolutions continuing, such as Avigilon's 32MP (4x8MP) H4 Multi Imager or Panasonic's 4x4K model.

Additionally, though the segment is best known for 3-4 imager models, both Dahua and Hanwha released dual imager domes in 2018. See Dahua Dual Imager Dome Camera Tested (HDBW4231FN-E2-M) and Hanwha Dual Imager Dome Camera Tested (PNM-7000VD).

While multi-imagers remain niche, they are becoming an increasingly important one for larger installations that see the benefits of reducing camera counts, cabling, installation costs and VMS licenses.

IR PTZ Improvements

Though PTZ usage, as a percentage of all cameras continues to decrease, PTZs have gotten significantly better over the last two years, most specifically with the introduction of Hikvision's DarkfighterX (tested) and Axis Q6125-LE (tested).

These two cameras offered significant advances over IR PTZs in past tests, with the Axis Q6125-LE providing much more even IR coverage and faster focus tracking than others tested. Additionally, the DarkfighterX PTZ produced better details and color images at longer ranges than others.

We expect IR PTZ camera usage to continue to grow and cameras to improve, even as PTZ camera usage overall decreases.

H.265 Camera Availability Increases But Not Critical

While 2017 was the year H.265 camera availability went mainstream and 2018 saw further increase in offerings, two of the largest manufacturers (Axis and Avigilon) have only started to introduce limited H.265 models. Despite that, H.265 (or the lack thereof) has not been a significant competitive advantage generally. This is likely because, with the now ubiquity of smart codecs and an only modest increase in resolution, bandwidth has become less of a purchasing factor.

HD Analog Suffered From Delays

While HD analog has given new life (or at least postponed the death of analog, depending on one's outlook), usage of HD analog has suffered from delays on higher resolution and new features such as Power over Coax.

For example, Hikvision announced HD TVI camera and DVR models with power over coax in 2016. However, even in early 2019, these models are still not readily available/stocked in North America. Additionally, Dahua's 4K HD CVI has been slow to roll out, with some high end, expensive models shipping in 2017/2018, but mainstream lower cost fixed lens models shipping only in late 2018.

Deep Learning / AI Lots Of Marketing, Few Products

Deep Learning and AI have been marketing buzzwords through 2017 and 2018 (see Dahua's "AI Creates Value" campaign below), but product releases have been relatively light compared to marketing dollars.

Further, those AI/Deep Learning products that have been released and tested by IPVM have performed fairly poorly. For example, Hikvision's DeepinMind NVR had significant issues, with missed detections, vehicles detected as humans, animals detected as humans, and incorrect demographic information (see our test report). Dahua's "AI" Face Recognition camera (IPC-HF8242FN-FR) also suffered from low recognition rates, low confidence recognition, and misrecognition issues.

However, we expect that AI analytics will continue to improve as technology matures, with many startups now focused on the segment (see AnyVisionKogniz, Vintra, etc.) and plan to test these new entrants in 2019.

Race To The Bottom / Price Declines Still Over

While the middle of the 2010s experienced significant price cuts, as Chinese manufacturers raced each other, 2018, like 2017, saw minimal further decreases in prices, with ~$100 mark the rough low point for authorized, branded, product sales.

Which factors were most important in leading to price stabilization are hard to determine (e.g., increasing support costs, cybersecurity costs, saturation, and sheer limits in how low prices can go all play some role, at least). We do not expect to see the race to the bottom resume, however, if the economy deteriorates significantly in 2019 (e.g. a global recession impacting China), Chinese manufacturers may at least temporarily sell for even lower prices as they deal with excess production capacity and inventory, however how likely this is to happen is uncertain.

One notable exception is US startup Wyze Labs (led by ex-Amazon employees), who has exploded on to the consumer IP camera market, selling 1 million cameras at ~$20 each in their first year in business. While we do not see this (at least in 2019) having any impact on the commercial market (because Wyze sells proprietary / closed systems with, for business users, low quality), their business model will have a growing impact on the consumer side.

Cybersecurity Still Important, Less Hacks

While cybersecurity's importance in video surveillance exploded in 2017 (with multiple major backdoors and significant hacks) and it remained a major factor, especially for larger scale users, 2018 saw fewer major vulnerabilities and exploits (reference - Directory of Video Surveillance Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities and Exploits). 

Cybersecurity will remain an important issue in 2019 as suppliers attempt to differentiate themselves as being more secure. Proving that one does not have vulnerabilities is inherently challenging since it is difficult for outsiders to know how many or how significant vulnerabilities exist in products (because, by definition, if they did know, they could be fixed). As a proxy, manufacturers are gaining certifications of various degrees of credibility to bolster their credentials (e.g., see this Hikvision certification and this Genetec certification).

Trade War Impacts

Potentially the most significant and most notable shift in the past year has been the China / US trade war, with the US imposing tariffs on some video surveillance products (China has long had high tariffs on foreign video surveillance products) and, more strongly, banning the US government use of Dahua, Hikvision and Huawei video surveillance products.

The direct impact of these moves has been modest globally and moderate in the US (though Dahua and Hikvision's stocks have dropped sharply in response to this). However, depending on how the trade wars plays out (e.g., if it is resolved early in 2019 or it expands throughout 2019), this could significantly impact manufacturers and customers around the world.

Looking Towards 2020

Outside of the political / economic environment, the most significant potential change for surveillance cameras is when and how well deep learning will run on video surveillance cameras.

Manufacturers may announce increases in resolution, additions to IR and multi imager models, and continue to improve H.265 implementations. However, these changes are likely incremental compared to the effective differences deep learning may provide in accurate detection.

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