Hikvision 2013 IP Cameras Tested

By: Ethan Ace, Published on Dec 02, 2013

Hikvision claims to be the #1 surveillance manufacturer in the world. That's, well, debatable.

What's not in dispute is that they have become huge, fueled by the massive Chinese market, with revenue rocketing over $1 billion USD last year (by contrast Axis is the in $750 million range and Avigilon ~$150 million).

But how good are they?

In this report, we share test findings of 4 of their cameras:

Including (and yes, the naming convention is crazy):

  • The 1.3MP WDR Box Hikvision DS-2CD864FWD-E [link no longer available]
  • The 1.3MP D/N Dome Hikvision DS-2CD7164-E [link no longer available]
  • The 3MP IR Bullet Hikvision DS-2CD2232-I5 [link no longer available]
  • The 3MP IR mini-bullet Hikvision DS-2CD2032-I [link no longer available]

We tested them against Axis, Dahua and Sony to see how Hikvision would perform in even, WDR and low light scenes.

Note: Readers may see additional Hikvision tests since publication, including their high end integrated IR dome, the DS-2CD4132, and integrated IR panoramic models.

Key Findings

First, findings on individual cameras:

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DS-2CD864FWD-E Box Camera

  • Substantial improvements in low light and WDR performance in new firmware, released since our original test of this camera.
  • Excellent low light performance, better than both Dahua and Sony, though with more noise and less detail than the Axis Q1604.
  • WDR performance was excellent against strong back light, among the top performers in this test. In darker areas, performance was average, lagging behind both Axis and Sony.
  • Default WDR setting of 50 provided the best balance of increased visibility without substantial visible noise. Increasing to maximum (100) results in increased noise in darker areas, while the minimum setting (1) drastically degrades performance.

DS-2CD7164-E Minidome

  • Low light performance (~1 lux and below) far better than Axis M3004 (which produced no usable image) and slightly better than Dahua HD2100N, with the ability to read one line further on test chart.
  • Some artifacting present near edges of objects in full light, such as our subject and chart, though on par with or less than other cameras in this test. Artifacting did not affect subject recognition or chart legibility.

Integrated IR Bullets

  • Both bullets achieved ~40m illumination range. This was only 80% of the 2232's specified 50m range, but beyond the 2032's claimed 30m distance.
  • IR illumination of both cameras was focused more toward the center of the image, with substantial fading at the edges of the FOV, especially in the 2032.
  • The 2032 suffered from overexposure on targets in the center of the field of view at about 12' and under. The 2232 did not suffer from this overexposure at any range. We found this to be more from evenness of illumination than Smart IR functionality.
  • Turning WDR on in both integrated IR cameras modestly increased contrast and brightened areas not well-covered by the IR illuminator.

General

  • Simple web interface, with most commonly accessed settings on two pages.
  • Occasional issues installing browser plugin, sometimes not working in Internet Explorer, other times not working in Chrome.
  • Cameras default to variable bitrate with a cap, "medium" quality, which we verified to be a quantization level of 30.
  • Box and bullet cameras did not default to slow shutter, instead using 1/30s max exposure. However, the 7165 minidome defaulted to 1/6 second.

Price

The Hikvision cameras tested priced out favorably against most competitors in all categories, with the exception of Dahua, lowest across the board.

Box Cameras:

Domes:

Bullets:

      • Hikvision DS-2CD2232-I5 [link no longer available]: ~$290 Online
      • Hikvision DS-2CD2032-I [link no longer available]: ~$260 Online
      • Dahua IPC-HFW3200SN [link no longer available]: ~$220 Online

Recommendations

Like we have found with recent Samsung and Dahua tests, Hikvision's overall video quality was strong compared to much higher priced offerings from Axis and Sony. For those looking for a low cost alternative to the bigger brands, Hikvision has potential.

Specifically, of the 3 form factors tested, the Hikvision IR bullets were the least impressive, given the uneven IR coverage and the near field hot spotting risk.

Physical Overviews

Minidome physical overview:

 

Integrated IR physical overview:

Configuration

This screencast reviews the web interface of the current Hikvision line:

Box

We compared the 864 running updated firmware against Dahua's HF3101N box camera, as well as the Axis Q1604 and Sony VB600, both claiming low light and WDR capability.

Indoor Comparisons

In full light, ~160lx, colors in the 864 are moderately desaturated compared to the Axis Q1604, but otherwise true.

Lowering light to 1-2 lux, visible noise and artifacting increase in the 864, though the subject remains recognizable and the chart legible down to line 3/4. Note that the 864, as well as Dahua HF3101N and Sony VB600 turn off WDR in night mode. In the Axis Q1604, we manually turned WDR off and set shutter to a max of 1/30s.

Below 1 lux, the 864 is one of the best performers in this test, behind only the Q1604. The subject's face is obscured by noise, but line 1 of the chart is fully legible while line 2 may be partially made out. Both the VB600 and HF3101N prove too noisy to provide details of either.

WDR Comparisons

We also tested the 864's WDR performance in an warehouse scene against a strongly backlit overhead door:

Against the strong backlighting, the 864 performs well, with subject and chart clearly visible, though not as clear as Dahua and Sony. In the darker section beside the door, performance is not as strong, with fewer subject details than in the Q1604 and VB600, though better than the HF3101N.

The following comparison shows the effects of WDR levels 1, 50 (default), and 100. At 1, performance is poor, with details more difficult to see, and objects in the bright area outside more difficult to see. At 100, details are modestly improved, but digital noise is introduced in dark areas, limiting benefits. 

Dome

We compared the 7164 against low cost 720p models from Dahua (HD2100N) and Axis (M3004-V). Indoors, in full light, the 7164 provides less noise and artifacting than others, with true colors.

At 1-2 lux, the 7164 outperforms the other two cameras in this test, with the subject still easily visible and the chart legible to line 4. 

Finally, below 1 lux, the 7164 is edged out by the Dahua HD2100N, which provides slightly better detection of the subject. The Axis M3004 is essentially black.

IR

Finally, we tested two of Hikvision's current generation IR bullets, the standard 2032, and "EXIR" 2232.

First, we placed our subject at approximately 50m, the maximum claimed range of the 2232. At this range, he is not visible in either camera, simply beyond the IR illuminator's reach.

At about 40m, our subject is visible in both the 2232 and 2032. This is approximately 80% of the 2232's claimed 50m range, but exceeds the 2032's 30m specs.

Illumination Performance

Neither camera's IR illumination pattern fills the entire FOV, as seen below. Illumination is much stronger in the center, with our subject nearly unnoticeable at the edges of the image.

Finally, the 2032 suffered from significant hotspotting at close ranges, about 12' and under. The 2232 did not suffer from these effects until much closer to the camera, about 6', when he was halfway out of view.

Bandwidth

Below are bandwidth measurements of cameras used in this test. We standardized the cameras at 1/30 exposure, using H.264 codec, at default compressions for each camera.

Test Parameters

The following firmware versions were used for this test:

  • Hikvision DS-2CD7164-E - V5.0.0
  • Hikvision DS-2CD864FWD-E - V5.0.2
  • Hikvision DS-2CD2232-I5 - V5.0.2
  • Hikvision DS-2CD2032-I - V5.0.2
  • Avigilon 2.0W-H3-B01-IR - 2.4.10.6
  • Axis Q1604 - 5.40.3.3
  • Axis M3004 - 5.40.5.4
  • Dahua IPC-HFW3101N - 2.210.General 01.0.R
  • Dahua IPC-HFW3200SN - 2.210.General 01.0.R
  • Dahua IPC-HD2100N - 2.210.General 01.0.R
  • Sony SNC-VB600B - 1.9.2
  • Vivotek IP8371E - 0100j

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