The 4MP Shootout - Dahua vs Hikvision

By Ethan Ace, Published Sep 30, 2015, 12:00am EDT (Research)

4MP cameras are an important emerging trend in video surveillance, aiming to replace 1080p.

This is being driven by new sensors from OmniVision that deliver almost twice the pixel count of 1080p at the same 16:9 aspect ratio. These sensors also include true WDR. They are completely unrelated to the 4MP effort from ACTi from a few years ago.

The diagram below shows the difference in pixel count:

The two companies most aggressively pushing these 4MP cameras are the Chinese mega-manufacturers, Dahua and Hikvision. Not surprisingly, they are offering these cameras at extremely low prices - 4MP, integrated IR, true WDR fixed focal domes for under $300.

With better WDR performance and improved details in wider scenes at roughly the same cost of low cost 1080p, 4MP cameras have the potential to replace a significant amount of 1080p cameras.

On the other hand, the incremental benefits here show that we are reaching a point where the average indoor area will not see much of a practical difference with increased pixel count.

Key Findings

  • 4MP camera models provided modest increases to subject and test chart details delivered for wider FoVs.
  • Low light performance of the Dahua 4MP was similar to better than the 1080p models, but the Hikvision 4MP model suffered from IR overexposure.
  • WDR performance of the 4MP models was similar to leading (expensive) true WDR cameras using default settings. Increasing WDR settings to their maximum levels improved performance in both 4MP cameras, with the Hikvision performing best of any camera in our test using these settings.
  • Full light bandwidth consumption higher than 1080p equivalent models by ~100% in the Dahua cameras and ~25% in Hikvision.
  • Low light bandwidth of Dahua's 4MP was slightly higher than 1080p, while Hikvision's 4MP camera was much lower than the 1080p DS-2CD2032-I, ~0.5 Mb/s vs. 12.


Pricing for 4MP models is moderately higher than 1080p or 3MP equivalents, though both Dahua and Hikvision's 4MP models have an estimated street price under $200.

Pricing for the cameras in this test are as follows:

Compared to most true WDR cameras, generally $400+, this is at least 50% lower, if not more.

Physical Oveview

Physically, Hikvision and Dahua's 4MP models are nearly identical to low resolution models, with the same housings and IR illuminator construction. We look at the physical construction of each in this video:

Image Quality Comparisons

We began testing in our indoor conference room scene, seen below:

In full light, the 4MP models are visually similar to the 1080p equivalents, with little practical gain in details of our subject, as PPF is high in both resolutions.

Finer lines on our test chart are moderately more legible in the 4MP models. 

In low light, the Hikvision 4MP model washes out the subject and test chart slightly. The Dahua models perform similarly, with text slightly more legible in the 4MP model.

Wide FOV

To better show differences in resolution, we tested the cameras in this wider FOV, seen below. In this scene, PPF drops to ~50 in the 4MP models and ~36 in 1080p.

The 4MP provide moderately better facial details of our subject, and 1-2 more legible lines on the test chart in this scene.

WDR Performance

Next, we tested dynamic range in a warehouse scene with open overhead door, seen below: 


Both cameras include true multi-exposure WDR, in addition to digital enhancement, shown as a 0-100 adjustment in the camera's web interface, with a default of "50." 

Increasing the WDR setting to 100 increases performance of both cameras, most noticeably in the Hikvision 4MP model. However, increasing this setting to max risks some overexposure against strong backlight, and increases visible noise in the dark portion of the scene, both shown below:

Using these increased WDR settings, the Hikvision 4MP camera provides the best dynamic range of any camera in our test, with subject details easily visible both against backlight and in the dark area beside the door. The Dahua 4MP provides similar details against backlight, but is moderately worse in dim areas.


Bandwidth Consumption

4MP bitrates in full light are higher than their 1080p counterparts. The Dahua 4MP model consumed about 100% more bandwidth than the 1080p HFW1200S, while the Hikvision 4MP was about 25% higher.

In low light, however, Dahua's 4MP bitrate is only slightly higher than the 1080p model, and Hikvision's 4MP camera consumed only about .5 Mb/s, lowest of all cameras in our test. The Hikvision DS-2CD2032-I's low light bitrates are notoriously high, hitting the camera's cap of 12 Mb/s, as it has in past tests.


Test Methodology

The following camera settings were standardized:

  • CODEC: H.264, 10 FPS, 1 I-frame/second (10 GOP)
  • Compression: ~28 quantization
  • Shutter speed: 1/30s maximum

Aside from these changes, cameras were tested using default settings unless otherwise specified.

Firmware/Software Versions

The following versions were used in this test:

  • Dahua IPC-HFW4421S:2.400.0000.10.R, build:2015-06-18
  • Dahua IPC-HFW1200S:2.420.0001.0.R, build:2014-10-13
  • Hikvision DS-2CD2042WD-I: V5.3.1 build 150410
  • Hikvision DS-2CD2032-I: V5.3.0 build 150513
  • exacqVision Professional: 72.1.85489

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