Hikvision PanoVu Multi Imager Tested
Hikvision has entered the multi-imager market with their 180° PanoVu DS-2CD6986F-H, an 8MP, 4-imager model equipped with ~1/1.8" imagers and Hikvision's Darkfighter super low light capabilities.
We bought the Hikvision DS-2CD6986F-H and tested it against:
We tested the cameras outdoors, day and night, in scenes ranging from 2000 lux to 0.02, to see how Hikvision stacks up in image quality, low light performance, bitrate, and more.
The PanoVu 6986 has three main advantages:
- Price: The DS-2CD6986 is simply less expensive than other multi-imager models, $1,000 vs. $1,500-2,000 for others in this test.
- Taller FOV: The PanoVu's field of view is significantly taller than other multi-imager models (e.g., the Hikvision vertical FoV was 80° while the Axis was just 45°). This allows it to capture more area below/in front of the camera compared to others.
- Very dark/close range: For those who are mainly concerned about shorter distances (<25' distance to target) in very dark scenes (<0.1 lux), the PanoVu is likely to provide moderate increases in image quality compared to other multi-imager models due to its super low light performance. However, at longer ranges, this advantage is greatly reduced.
However, the Hikvision PanoVu 6986 had key disadvantages as well:
- Poor Pixel Density: Captured fewer details in most full light and low light scenes than competitive models due to its much lower pixel density (PPF / PPM), a result of its rotated imagers compared to other multi-imager models (e.g., the Axis pixel density was 66% greater than Hikvision). This reduction outweighed the potential increases of the camera's larger imagers and Darkfighter super low light features in all but very dark scenes at close range.
- High Bandwidth: Despite its lower resolution, because it was conventional H.264, the 6986's bitrates were among the highest tested, much higher than smart codec equipped Axis and Vivotek models.
The PanoVu 6986 sells for ~$1,000 USD online, notably less expensive than other multi-imager models, which typically sell for ~$1,500, and about 50% less than Axis' Q3708.
- Axis Q3708-PVE: ~$2,000
- Pelco Optera IMM12018: ~$1,600
- Vivotek MS8391-EV: ~$1,400
We review the physical construction of the PanoVu camera in this video. The 6986 is typical of multi-imager models, a large vandal dome form factor, discussed below.
Note that while the lenses of the camera look adjustable, the camera is factory focused with fixed lenses, and the thumb screws seen on the lenses are actually iris open/close and should not be adjusted.
The Hikvision 6986 is similar in size to the Axis Q3708/3709, larger than average dome cameras, but no quite as large as a typical speeddome. Note that the Pelco Optera is notably smaller than other multi-imager models tested, shown below.
Stitched Stream Only
The 6986 sends only a stitched panorama scene, 4096x1800 pixels, not an individual stream for each imager. As with other cameras which include stitching (such as Vivotek's MS8391), this simplifies integration, but due to its non-standard aspect ratio, it does not properly fit into 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio layouts.
We had no issues integrating the DS-2CD6986 with various VMSes, including Avigilon, Exacq, Genetec, Milestone, and Nx Witness. The camera functioned via the standard Hikvision drivers or ONVIF, with the full stitched 180° stream available.
Tall Aspect Ratio Results In Lower PPF
Unlike most multi-imager models, the Hikvision PanoVu turns all of its imagers 90°, aka "corridor/hallway mode", in a 9:16 aspect ratio. This can be seen below:
Because of this rotation, the PanoVu has a much taller aspect ratio than other models, seen below. This captures more area directly in front of the camera, shown compared to the Axis Q3708 below:
However, this increase in vertical FOV results in a proportionate decrease in horizontal PPF. For example, at ~25' distance, PPF of the Hikvision is only ~60, compared to 100+ in other models, resulting in fewer subject details and legible test chart text.
Increasing distance, PPF drops to ~25, with only very rough subject detail such as clothing available in the PanoVu, while others show some facial detail, as well as multiple lines of legible text.
Finally, at ~100' distance, Hikvision PPF drops to ~17, with video suitable for detection only.
Nighttime Image Quality
The Hikvision 6986 was notably brighter than other (non-IR) multi-imager models in low light and dark scenes. However, due to its lower PPF, detail delivered are similar to or worse than competitive models.
For example, in a lit parking lot/field, at ~25' distance from the camera(s), some facial details are visible in the Hikvision camera, though Axis and Pelco are both stronger.
Increasing distance, usable details are essentially eliminated in all cameras, though the 6986 is noticeably brighter than other non-IR models, closer to the integrated IR Vivotek MS8391.
Finally, at ~100' range, with PPF low in all cameras, only detection is possible.
Main Advantage: Lights Off / Close Range
With lights off, the PanoVu Darkfighter shows a clear advantage in detection and details, with some text chart legibility and rough subject details at close range (<25'), while the subject is difficult to discern in the other non-IR models.
However, increasing distance/lowering PPF, this advantage is removed, as the subject becomes much more difficult to detect due to higher levels of digital noise:
No H.264+ Smart CODEC
The PanoVu does not include their H.264+ Smart CODEC, unlike most other current Hikvision models, resulting in much higher bitrates day and night than those models which do (Axis and Vivotek). Notably, the Hikvision PanoVu has the lowest pixel count in this test (<8MP vs. 12 or 15), but higher bitrates than other models except Pelco.
(These measurements were taken with Zipstream enabled ("High"), and dynamic GOP set to 1200. The Vivotek camera was set to Smart Stream II enabled with dynamic intra-frame period on.)
The following firmware versions were used for this test:
- Axis Q3708-PVE: 184.108.40.206
- Hikvision DS-2CD6986F: 5.3.8 build 160525
- Pelco IMM12018: 220.127.116.11.8360-A0.0
- Vivotek MS8391-EV: 0101h