FLIR IP Cameras Tested vs Hikvision

By Ethan Ace, Published Feb 19, 2016, 12:00am EST (Research)

Hikvision is well known for being a low cost leader, but our recent Camera Price Comparison Report showed an unexpected challenge from FLIR, one of Dahua's top OEMs, and one of ADI's favorite vendors

We bought two FLIR models representing the high and low ends of the line to see how they compare to Hikvision, the 3 megapxiel motorized zoom outdoor vandal dome N437VEW [link no longer available] and the 1080p compact bullet, the N133EB [link no longer available].

We tested these models against Hikvision to see how they stack up in day, night, and WDR image quality, bandwidth, and other features.

Summary

Though FLIR's models offer slight to moderate price advantages over main low cost rival Hikvision, these cost savings come with some disadvantages. Daytime and nighttime image quality were slightly worse than Hikvision models in our tests, and Hikvision has significant bandwidth/storage advantages over FLIR in all scenes tested due to their recent addition of the H.264+ smart CODEC (see our test). 

Additionally, FLIR includes some quirks or missing features not present in other cameras, ranging from problematic (no automatic disabling of WDR at night) to annoyance (such as requiring software to change I-frame interval). These issues require workarounds or extra configuration not found in other models.

Key Findings

Here are our key findings from this test:

  • Daytime image quality of both FLIR models was slightly worse than competitive models due to increased visible noise, which reduced facial/test chart details.
  • Nighttime image quality of both FLIR models was slightly worse than Hikvision integrated IR equivalents, again due to increased digital noise.
  • N437VEW does not automatically disable true WDR function at night, significantly degrading low light performance. WDR may be disabled manually or via a schedule.
  • Both cameras' bitrates were high compared to smart CODEC equipped models, from Hikvision (H.264+) and Axis (Zipstream). FLIR (Dahua) does not offer smart CODECs.  
  • I-frame interval is inaccessible via the FLIR web interface (though present in Dahua camera) and defaults to 60 (six seconds at 10 FPS). Users must use FLIR Cloud Client to adjust this setting. 

Pricing

The N437VEW, ~$500 online price, is ~$100 less expensive than Hikvision's outdoor 3MP dome equivalent, the DS-2CD4332FWD-IZH, and about $250 less than Axis' P3225-LVE (~$750 online).

  • FLIR N437VEW: ~$500 USD online
  • Axis P3225-LVE: ~$750 online
  • Hikvision DS-2CD4332FWD-IZH: ~$600 online

Pricing of the FLIR N133BD (1080p fixed lens bullet) is similar to the Hikvision 2022, both ~$150 USD, and significantly lower than Axis' lowest priced 1080p model, the M3005-V, ~$250 online.

  • FLIR N133BD: ~$150 USD online
  • Axis M3005-V: ~$250 online
  • Hikvision DS-2CD2022WD-I: ~$150 online

Note that FLIR's 720p bullet camera, the N133BB (not included in this test), sells for ~$100 online, 30% lower than Hikvision DS-2CD2012-I, which sells for ~$150.

Physical Comparison

The N437VEW is similar in size and features to other IP66 rated outdoor domes. Notably, the camera includes a zoom/focus control on the camera itself, so users may easily adjust these settings with a test monitor or laptop without needing to access the web interface. While other cameras include this, as well, we found the 437's larger joystick more responsive and easier to use.

The N133BD is similar to other compact bullet models, in size and features. The image below compares its size to the Hikvision 2022, which it is only slightly larger than.

Configuration

The FLIR web interface will look very familiar to those used to Dahua IP cameras (or their OEMs), even down to the color scheme.

However, in one strange omission, users cannot adjust I-frame interval from the web interface, and in both models this value was fixed at 60 (6 seconds between I-frames at 10 FPS). The FLIR Cloud Client (below) must be used to change these options.

Also note that the 437's WDR is either always on or always off, with no option to automatically turn it off when the camera switches to night mode. Users may turn WDR using a nighttime profile, but this requires manual configuration, not necessary in other models.


FLIR Cloud Client

The FLIR Cloud CMS client allows live viewing, playback (from NVRs/DVRs), and configuration of FLIR/Dahua cameras, similar to Hikvision's iVMS-4200 for Hikvision devices. Camera compatibility is limited to FLIR/Dahua devices only, with no ONVIF or third party support. Basic mapping and event management features are also included.

We provide a brief overview of the Cloud client in this video:

Outdoor Motorized Dome Testing

During the day, the 437 performs similarly to other models tested, though with slightly more digital noise around our subject's features, though he remains easily recognizable. The test chart is slightly more legible than the Hikvision 4132, which is overexposed past line 5, though slightly less legible than the Axis Q1615, evenly exposed down to the bottom line. 

Low Light

WDR does not automatically turn off when the N437VEW, significantly reducing low light performance, seen below. With IR manually turned off at night, low light performance improves drastically.

Users may also create day and night profiles to switch WDR on and off, with the camera switching between the two based on a schedule. See our Trend: Day/Night Profiles for IP Cameras report for more information.

With IR turned off, the N437VEW performs similarly to the Hikvision 4132, with the subject evenly exposed. However, visible noise is moderately more noticeable in the 437, reducing details slightly. The Axis Q1615 is omitted here as it lacks integrated IR.

 

Wide Dynamic Range

The FLIR N437VEW produced slightly less detail of our test subject than the Hikvision and Axis cameras in both light and dark areas of the scene. Details are still solid against the outdoor scene, but weaker in the dark area beside the door.

Compact Bullet Testing

In full light, the N133BD performed similarly to the other low cost models tested. All three cameras provided roughly similar details of the subject, and chart legibility down to line 5. 

Low Light, ~0.1lx

At night, the N133BD suffered from increased digital noise compared to the Hikvision 2022, with slightly worse details of the test subject and chart. The Axis M3005-V was unusable at this light level.

Wide Dynamic Range

The N133BD does not include true WDR, only digital "WDR"/contrast adjustment; nor does the Axis M3005-V. However, the Hikvision 2022 uses true multi-exposure WDR, like its higher resolution counterpart (see our 4MP Shootout).

Because of this, the Hikvision 2022 outperforms both FLIR and AXis, with better details of our subject against the bright backlight of the open overhead door, and visibility of the chart and subject in the dark area beside the door. The FLIR camera is moderately better than the Axis M3005, which produces no usable images of the subject in the dark area of the scene.

Bandwidth Comparison

Compared to the other outdoor dome models tested, the N437VEW's bitrates were much higher, as it lacks smart CODECs found in competitive models from Hikvision and Axis. For example, using H.264, 10 FPS, and quantization around 28, the N437VEW's bitrate was over 6x that of the Hikvision 3MP model during the day, and over 4x at night.

 

Bitrates of the FLIR N133BD were also significantly higher than the Hikvision 2022 with H.264+. The N133BD was only slightly higher than the Axis M3005-V during the day, though the M3005's nighttime bandwidth dropped at night as it produced no usable image.

Test Parameters

All cameras were tested using default settings unless otherwise specified, with the following applied to all cameras:

  • H.264, 10 FPS, ~28 quantization was used
  • 1/30s maximum shutter speed

Firmware versions used in this test:

  • FLIR N133BD: 2.212.FL00.0.R.20140828
  • FLIR N437VEW: 2.400.FL00.2.R.20150917
  • Axis M3005-V: 5.50.5.4
  • Axis Q1615: 5.80.1.3
  • Hikvision DS-2CD2022W-I: 5.3.6
  • Hikvision DS-2CD4132FWD-IZH: 5.3.5

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