DRS Thermal Camera Tested

By: Ethan Ace, Published on Feb 25, 2013

Recently, DRS entered the IP thermal market with far lower pricing than any incumbent, aiming to make this technology affordable to users who could never previously consider it. However, with such low pricing, performance and usability concerns are obvious, wondering what is lost at such a far lower cost.

The WatchMaster IP Elite performs relatively well, especially considering its price. Generally speaking, while images may produce slightly less detail, detection capability was fairly close in our tests.

Some factors to keep in mind:

  • Third-party integration, via ONVIF, supported VMS integration with Exacq, Avigilon, and Genetec without problems.
  • Sparser featureset than most competitors, with fewer options for image adjustment.
  • Fewer lens options than most competitors, with only 40°, 16°, and 9° options standard.
  • No options for on-board analytics, and no analog output for integration with analytic appliances such as VideoIQ, similar to FLIR. 
  • MSRP is $1,995, with estimated street price to be approximately the same. Most other IP thermal cameras are in the range of $4,000-6,000.

Recommendations

For most commercial security deployments, the WatchMaster IP Elite is worth considering. Under normal conditions, where high heat, humidity, or precipitation are not factors, the lack of image adjustment features will likely have little impact. 

However, in more adverse conditions, or in high security deployments where performance must be guaranteed, users should consider and contrast to other options. We recommend at least testing DRS in place, however, as its price point likely means 2 cameras may be afforded for the same budget as a single camera from other manufacturers.

Physical Overview

In this screencast, we briefly review the physical characteristics of the WatchMaster IP Elite. As can be seen, the WatchMaster does not offer the "bells and whistles" common to many cameras, such as I/O or audio. Also it is smaller and lighter weight than most thermal competitors, with only the main camera body made of cast aluminum, while other parts (sunshield, back cover, mount adapter) are ABS plastic. Many users may consider this as a weakness, especially in areas where the camera is subject to vandalism. Users should also note that the WatchMaster IP Elite is PoE powered, including the heater. Some other cameras, such as the Axis Q19 and FLIR FC may power the camera only via PoE, but not the heater.

DRS also offers a very thorough installation overview via Youtube, which walks users through mount and cabling installation:

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

Configuration Overview 

In this brief screencast, we review the web interface and configuration of the WatchMaster IP Elite. Most notable are the contrast and brightness controls, DRS' only image adjustment features, which users should adjust to fit the scene.

DRS Optimization

As we demonstrated in our configuration video, DRS provides few adjustments to the camera's image in its web interface. Users are able to change contrast, brightness, and white balance modes (hold or automatic), along with whether white or black is shown as hot. We tested using defaults, and again after making adjustments to contrast and brightness, specifically moving contrast to the range of 38-42 (default is 50) and brightness to about 40. The difference between the two may be seen in this image:

DRS Image Adjustment Comparison

As shown in the comparison, these adjustments provide a moderate improvement to image quality. Because this allowed slightly more clarity and defined edges, our subject was a little bit easier to distinguish against the warmer area of the background. This adjustment becomes more necessary as ambient temperature approaches body temperature, as opposed to the winter's day this example was recorded. The bottom row of images show the detrimental effects possible if contrast or brightness are adjusted too high.

Range Comparison

At close range (~150'), the WatchMaster produces images roughly comparable to other 320x240/384x288 models from Axis, FLIR, Pelco, and SightLogix. Compared to others, DRS' contrast is modestly lower.

At ~1,800' range, the lower contrast of the WatchMaster makes it slightly more difficult to spot our subject than some competitors. However, detection is still possible.

Comments (2) : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Axis Perimeter Defender Improves, Yet Worse Than Dahua and Wyze on Sep 19, 2019
While Axis Perimeter Defender analytics improved from our 2018 testing, the market has improved much faster, with much less expensive offerings...
Silicon Valley Cybersecurity Insurance Startup Coalition Profile on Mar 20, 2019
Many industry people believe cybersecurity insurance is not worth it, as the voting and debate in our Cybersecurity Insurance For Security...
Best Alternatives to Banned (and Sanctioned) Dahua and Hikvision on Oct 17, 2018
With the US government ban and now sanctions for human rights abuses, one key question is what to use for low cost? While Dahua and Hikvision were...
$800 Axis Thermal Camera Examined on Jan 02, 2018
Axis is releasing two of the lowest cost thermal IP cameras ever. But will low cost be enough to spur adoption? In this note, we examine the 2 new...
Camera Multi-Streaming Usage on Nov 22, 2017
IP cameras typically support multiple streams, allowing a single camera to transmit multiple streams at different resolutions, frame rates and even...
Exacq M Series Low Cost NVR Tested on Oct 12, 2017
With recent cyber security issues hitting NVRs and cameras from low cost leaders Dahua and Hikvision, users are increasingly seeking alternatives...
Varifocal Vs Fixed Lens Statistics 2017 on May 04, 2017
Varifocal camera lenses provide more flexibility at installation time, but come at a higher cost. Fixed lens cameras reduce hardware costs, but can...
Milestone Hardware Accelerated VMD Tested on Apr 28, 2017
In their 2017 XProtect release, Milestone announced support for hardware accelerated video motion detection, touting a 2X increase in server...
Dell EMC Surveillance Division Profile on Apr 20, 2017
With revenue growth from traditional IT customers slowing, Dell has set a focus on the security industry as a market where the company can offer...
Cutting Costs 70% Using Milestone With HD Analog on Feb 23, 2017
HD analog and enterprise VMSes are often thought of as being on opposite sides of the spectrum, with HD analog best for small jobs due to its low...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Hikvision Illicitly Uses Back To The Future In Marketing on Jul 03, 2020
NBCUniversal told IPVM that Hikvision UK's ongoing coronavirus marketing campaign using NBCUniversal's assets was not allowed. Hikvision mass...
Verkada: "IPVM Should Never Be Your Source of News" on Jul 02, 2020
Verkada was unhappy with IPVM's recent coverage declaring that reading IPVM is 'not a good look' and that 'IPVM should never be your source of...
Vintra Presents FulcrumAI Face Recognition on Jul 02, 2020
Vintra presented its FulcrumAI face recognition and mask detection offering at the May 2020 IPVM Startups show. Inside this report: A...
Uniview Wrist Temperature Reader Tested on Jul 02, 2020
Uniview is promoting measuring wrist temperatures whereas most others are just offering forehead or inner canthus measurements. But how well does...
Dahua USA Admits Thermal Solutions "Qualify As Medical Devices" on Jul 02, 2020
Dahua USA has issued a press release admitting a controversial point in the industry but an obvious one to the US FDA, that the thermal temperature...
Access Control Online Show - July 2020 - With 40+ Manufacturers - Register Now on Jul 01, 2020
IPVM is excited to announce our July 2020 Access Control Show. With 40+ companies presenting across 4 days, this is a unique opportunity to hear...
Hanwha Face Mask Detection Tested on Jul 01, 2020
Face mask detection or, more specifically lack-of-face-mask detection, is an expanding offering in the midst of coronavirus. Hanwha in partnership...
UK Government Says Fever Cameras "Unsuitable" on Jul 01, 2020
The UK government's medical device regulator, MHRA, told IPVM that fever-seeking thermal cameras are "unsuitable for this purpose" and recommends...
Camera Course Summer 2020 on Jun 30, 2020
This is the only independent surveillance camera course, based on in-depth product and technology testing. Lots of manufacturer training...
Worst Over But Integrators Still Dealing With Coronavirus Problems (June Statistics) on Jun 30, 2020
While numbers of integrators very impacted by Coronavirus continue to drop, most are still moderately dealing with the pandemic's problems, June...