Dahua vs Bosch and Axis 4K Cameras

By Ethan Ace, Published Mar 02, 2015, 12:00am EST

4K is here, but not without issues.

High prices and poor low light performance constrain adoption.

Now Dahua, one of the two Chinese mega-manufacturers, known for its incredibly low-cost HDCVI line, has entered the 4K market, with an IR bullet, that is a fraction of the cost of 4K offerings.

At such low prices, can Dahua's 4K deliver? Can it match the image quality of bigger brands like Axis and Bosch?

To find out, we tested Dahua's HFW4800E against 4K cameras from Axis (P1428-E) and Bosch (Dinion 8000) in full light, low light, and WDR scenes to see how they compare.

Key Findings 

This chart summarizes the key findings from this test:

Details

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  • Details in full light (~160 lux) at narrow FOVs were similar to 4K cameras from both Axis and Bosch and better than 1080p compact bullet.
  • Details roughly equivalent to Axis 4K and Dahua 1080p models at wider (~67') HFOV in full light, with less chart legibility than Bosch 4K camera.
  • Best details of any camera tested in low light with IR on, moderately better than 1080p IR model, and significantly better than either 4K non-IR model.
  • IR range did not meet specified 30m distance, providing weak illumination even at 10-15m.
  • Good WDR performance, superior to Axis P1428-E and Dahua HFW1200S in both light and dark areas. WDR performance was near that of the Bosch NBN-80122 against strong backlight, but much worse in dark areas of the scene.
  • Bitrates higher on average than 4K and 1080p models, though notably the HFW4800E was the only 4K camera to produce usable details at night due to its integrated IR.

Pricing and Availability

The HFW4800E is currently available to buyers in North America only from import sources such as Alibaba, for ~$300 USD. This is a fraction of the price of other 4K cameras, such as the Axis P1428-E (~$1,000) or Bosch NBN-80122 (~$1,500 online), and much closer to other fixed lens compact IR bullets, such as 1080p/3MP models, which average ~$250 USD.

However, products purchased through these channels may not receive tech support or warranty. Dahua lists aliexpress.com as unauthorized [link no longer available], though Alibaba.com is not explicitly mentioned, and attempts to clarify this issue have been unsuccessful. As a general rule, buyers should expect limited, if any tech support and warranty service from these sources.

Recommendations

The Dahua IPC-HFW4800E improves upon low light problems seen in other 4K cameras tested due to its built in (though limited) IR illuminator. Further, WDR performance was solid, better than the Axis P1428-E and near that of the Bosch 4K Dinion. And these features come at prices close to competitive 1080p bullets, making the jump to 4K much more budget friendly.

On the negative side, this Dahua 4k camera lacks on-board storage, audio, I/O, and varifocal support.

Physical Overview

In this video, we review the physical construction of the IPC-HFW4800E, fairly typical in size and feature set for compact bullet cameras.

Configuration

This video briefly reviews key configuration points for the HFW4800E, notably:

  • Exposure and gain default to auto, not using slow shutter, but reducing gain below maximum. We recommend this be increased to improve low light performance (see below).
  • In addition to 16:9 UHD mode (3840x2160), a wider 17:10 4K aspect ratio is available, not found in other 4K cameras we have tested.
  • Compression settings correlate to higher quantization levels than other Dahua cameras, 31-39 vs. 22-30.
  • Turning (digital) WDR on provides better details of subject and test chart (off by default), but increasing beyond default has little effect.

Note: this video reviews issues specific to the HFW4800E only. For a general review of the Dahua web interface, see our Testing Dahua Cameras report.

Gain Control Settings

The Dahua IPC-HFW4800E defaults to "Auto" for exposure and gain control, which results in dark images, despite built-in IR.

Increasing gain to a customized range with a max of 100 (found in the "Conditions" menu, see screencast above) allows the camera to apply more gain as needed, moderately brightening the scene, displaying more detail.

Image Quality Comparisons

We began testing using a ~22' HFOV, seen here:

In full light, ~160 lux, image quality is similar in the three 4K cameras due to their extremely high PPF, ~175. The 1080p bullet provides fewer details of the chart, but still easily captures the license plate and subject's facial details.

In the same field of view at ~.1 lux, both IR cameras deliver significantly better details than either Axis or Bosch 4K models. The Dahua 4K HFW4800E is noticeably dimmer than the 1080p HFW1200S, but still provides better chart legibility and roughly similar facial details.

Wide FOV

Next, we moved to a ~67' FOV, moving our subject further from the cameras, still under office lighting, shown here:

In this scene, the Dahua 4K camera provides few facial details, as do the other cameras. The test chart is most legible in the Bosch 4K camera, down to line 5/6, while Dahua and Axis can read only to 3/4, and the 1080p camera to 2/3.

With lights off, no subject or chart details are visible in any camera. Neither integrated IR camera's illuminators properly lit the subject at this range.

Wide Dynamic Range

We tested WDR performance against strong sunlight through an open overhead door and the dark area next to it, seen here in this FOV from the HFW4800E.

The HFW4800E is not a true multi-exposure WDR camera. Instead, it offers various contrast enhancements via software, which Dahua calls simply "DWDR." We found the difference between WDR off and on at its defaul setting (50 on a 1-100 scale) was substantial, with much better details of the subject and chart in both light and dark areas. Increasing WDR to max (100) produced little improvement. Using BLC instead of WDR, the subject is more recognizable, but the background is near completely washed out.

Despite not being a true WDR camera, the HFW4800E (using WDR level 50) performs well in the bright area of the scene, similar to the Bosch 4K model, and better than the Axis 4K and Dahua 1080p cameras. Performance decreases in the dark area beside the door, with the subject only moderately visible. However, the HFW4800E still outperforms the Axis 4K and Dahua 1080p cameras in this scene.

Compression/Bandwidth

Note that unlike most Dahua cameras, whose compression levels (1-6, 6 being least compression) range from ~22-30 on the quantization scale, the HFW4800E ranges from 30-39. Because of this, we attempted to standardize cameras at this increased compression level for our measurements below.

Overall, the HFW4800E's bitrates remained fairly low, below 4 Mb/s in all scenes. It was the highest of the 4K cameras tested in low light and dark scenes, though the only one of the three providing usable images at these light levels. Bitrates were moderately higher than the 1080p Dahua bullet, as well.

Firmware Versions Used

The following firmware versions were used in this test:

  • Axis P1428-E: 5.55.5.1
  • Bosch NBN-80122: 6.00.0079
  • Dahua IPC-HFW1200S: 2.420
  • Dahua IPC-HFW4800E: 2.400

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