Testing Original Dahua HDCVI

By: Ethan Ace, Published on May 19, 2014

Have IP cameras met their first real HD challenger?

Dahua, a major Chinese surveillance manufacturer approaching a billion dollars in annual revenue, is now aggressively targeting a non-IP, coax based HD offering to Western markets, they call HD-CVI.

Coax based, non-IP, HD cameras have been around years (sometimes branded as HD SDI or HDcctv) but the effort has largely failed due to a horrendous marketing effort, weak manufacturer support and uncompetitive prices.

Now, Dahua is pushing hard on HD-CVI, that claims the simplicity of analog plus analog pricing for full HD video.

We bought 3 HD cameras, including 720p [link no longer available] and 1080p [link no longer available] bullet cameras and an integrated IR PTZ [link no longer available], plus 2 HD [link no longer available] DVRs [link no longer available] all for just $1200 total - a remarkably low price for HD cameras and recorders.

We tested those cameras and recorders against comparably low price / entry level IP products.

Our test results answered the following key questions:

  • Image: How did image quality compare for HD CVI vs HD IP? Day and night?
  • Length: How well did HD CVI run over coax up to 1000 feet and with poor connectors?
  • Latency: How much did latency differ between HD CVI and HD IP?
  • PTZ: How well did PTZ controls work with HD CVI?
  • Configuration: How did HD CVI camera configuration compare to HD IP?
  • Value: What is the overall value and potential of HD CVI vs HD IP?

Key Findings

These are the key findings from our test:

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  • HDCVI cameras and DVR were plug and play, with video streaming near immediately with no connection setup.
  • Image quality of 1080p HDCVI and 1080p IP cameras (both fixed lens Dahua bullets) was roughly the same, with no practical difference in details delivered by either.
  • Image quality and latency were not degraded in our long distance cable tests. Video appeared the same over short lengths of high quality RG59, low quality pre-terminated miniature coax cables, as well as 1000' of RG59 with poorly terminated connectors.
  • Live view latency of 1080p and 720p HDCVI and IP cameras was essentially the same, both low when viewed locally on the recorder.
  • PTZ control was low latency, as well, with no issues following subjects in real time.
  • Up the coax control of camera settings allowed configuration of exposure, image quality (sharpness, brightness, color, etc.), resolution, etc., not typically available on analog and HD-SDI cameras.
  • DVR and client usability was simple, with no major issues in live view, search, or setup.
  • Like Dahua NVRs, the HD CVI DVRs support RTSP out so these recorders could be used as super low cost encoders integrated into major VMS systems.

Pricing

Pricing on the HDCVI equipment in this test is as follows:

  • HFW2100S [link no longer available] 720p IR bullet: ~$50 USD online [link no longer available]
  • HFW2200S [link no longer available] 1080p IR bullet: ~$77 online [link no longer available]
  • SD6C120I-HC [link no longer available] 720p IR PTZ: ~$455 online [link no longer available]
  • HCVR5104C [link no longer available] 4-channel 720p DVR: ~$55 online [link no longer available], not including HDD
  • HCVR7208A [link no longer available] 8-channel full HD 1080p DVR: ~$250 online [link no longer available], not including HDD

Compared to IP

This pricing is substantially lower than these cameras' IP counterparts. For example, while the 1080p HDCVI bullet sells for ~$50, a comparable Dahua 720p IP bullet is ~$110-130 [link no longer available]. The same is true of NVRs, as well. Compared to the $55 4-channel 720p HDCVI DVR, a 4-channel IP model in the same size and for factor sells for ~$175 [link no longer available].

Recommendations

With similar quality and simpler setup, HD CVI offers substantial savings over comparable IP offerings. As such, we see this as highly attractive to budget conscious buyers. Plus, since Dahua offers RTSP output from their DVRs, this could be an interesting complement to professional / mid-level VMS systems.

Like other Dahua offerings, important limits remain:

  • The lack of direct Dahua technical support (in the US, and other markets) demands forgoing that or buying from an OEM / local re-labeler.
  • The lack of mid-tier / enterprise software features on Dahua recorders limits the sophistication of the user choosing this system (presuming they do not use the recorders as encoders).

The biggest accomplishment Dahua has done is get the price down to analog levels and clearly below even their own very low cost HD IP lines. Given their existing and growing power, if they execute and expand on this, we think it could become a very significant force in the industry, hurting incumbent IP vendors, ranging from the budget oriented (like ACTi / Vivotek) to the high end providers who want the mass market (most notably, Axis).

Connecting Cameras

Connecting HDCVI cameras was simple, simply plugging in the cable to the BNC connector in the back of the unit and plugging in power, the same as an analog camera. The only additional step required was selecting recording resolution, as all channels defaulted to 720p and did not autodetect 1080p cameras connected.

This process is shown in the video below:

The cameras offer up the coax controls for configuration. Here's how it worked:

Cable Quality and Performance

We saw no difference in image quality, latency, and PTZ control performance based on cable type and quality. One of the key benefits claimed by HDCVI is the ability to reuse existing analog camera cables, with Dahua specifying [link no longer available] up to 500m distances.

We tested with three different cables to simulate typical (and worse) conditions which may be found in the field:

  • Pre-terminated RG59, high quality: First, we connected a short length of RG59, about 10', with factory terminations.
  • Pre-terminated ultra mini coax/power cables: Next, we used a 60' pre-terminated cable like those found in low-cost DVR kits. These cables use very small gauge miniature coax, smaller than is typically recommended in commercial systems.
  • 1,000' spooled RG59, poorly terminated: Finally, we tested using a 1,000' spool of RG59 with poorly crimped connectors, which crushed the cable at both ends and literally were falling off.

All of these cables functioned essentially the same. Even coupling together the mini coax cable and 1,000' spool, we saw no degradation. This video shows the 720p PTZ operating over 1,000' cable with poorly crimped connectors:

Video Quality vs. IP

We shot out 720p and 1080p HDCVI and IP cameras to look for differences in video quality, but found no practical advantages to either.

Live Latency

First, we checked for latency in live viewing by having our subject walk through a similar field of view in both HDCVI and IP 1080p cameras. In this example, we viewed video locally, via a monitor connected to the DVR in the case of HDCVI, and via laptop running Exacq for the 1080p IP camera.

This video shows this test of live latency:

Image Quality

In full light, ~160 lux, we found details delivered by HDCVI and IP at the same resolution are similar, with no advantage to either.

In a dark scene with IR on, HDCVI displays slightly less visible noise than its IP counterparts, most noticeable in the 720p models, with more noise and reduced details in the 720p IP camera. However, details produced in the 1080p cameras are practically the same.

Usability

The DVR's user interface, including web client and Windows software, were essentially the same as other Dahua and Q-See DVRs we have tested, such as their NVR and 960H DVRs. The UI is simple, easy to use for both live monitoring and search.

This video briefly reviews the local user interface:

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