Testing HikVision's IP Camera 2010

By Benros Emata, Published Feb 08, 2010, 12:00am EST

Hikvision is one of the fastest growing video surveillance manufacturers in the world. Already a leader in their home market of China, Hikvision [link no longer available] is aggressively expanding direct sales efforts throughout North America and Europe.

While HikVision is best known for its analog products (DVRs, cameras, etc.), they are growing an IP video portfolio (such as IP cameras [link no longer available] and VMS software). In this test, we examine HikVision's 2MP box camera - the DS-2CD852MF-E.

Key findings from the test include:

  • Acceptable video quality and detail in well, evenly lit areas
  • Poor video quality in both low light (1 lux or lower) and wide dynamic range scenes (such as sunlight facing a doorway) [Note: this camera does not have a mechanical cut filter, a different model (DS-2CD852MF-ICR) does but it is not publicly listed on Hikvision's website]
  • Cumbersome configuration process with key steps undocumented

While the camera is inexpensive, prudent users should carefully consider the impact of various limitations and issues.

Compare to 9 other megapixel camera tests. Of the cameras we have tested, the Vivotek 2MP camera is the closest for overall price / performance.

Product Overview

The DS-2CD852MF-E is a 2MP camera with the following key features:

  • H.264 resolution at up to 30fps (though their CODEC appeared to be a proprietary variant when we exported it)
  • SD card supported: indexed on web interface and can be searched by time
  • Analog out provided for focusing but no auto back-focus
  • The camera supports both PoE and low voltage power
  • The camera supports audio and direct contact inputs
  • We tested the camera at 3 Mb/s constant bit rate stream
  • We connected the camera to Milestone using a generically labelled driver (i.e., there is no Hikvision named driver in the drop down list). In Device Pack 4.6, Milestone had an undocumented bug where the maximum bit rate is only 2 Mb/s. [Milestone reports that this shall be fixed in device pack 4.7] As such we did our tests with the default 3 Mb/s using Hikvision's own VMS.
We used a Fujinon lens 1.4 F-stop, 2.8-12mm varifocal lens for the test.

Pricing

The DS-2CD852MF-E has an MSRP of $527 USD. The lens is sold separately.

Physical Setup / Overview

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In the screencast below, we examine the physical inputs and outputs of the camera.

Configuration and Optimization

In the screencast below, we examine configuration and optimization of the camera. This is an important and long video (12 minutes) as it covers a variety of undocumented and not easy to guess issues.

Image Quality Analysis

In the screencast below, we examine the image quality of the camera. Key areas to consider is performance in low light and wide dynamic range conditions.

You can download the zip file of sample files (Note: 60 MBs) to review for yourself. You must use the enclosed HikVision player to view the video as it was created with HikVision's proprietary MPEG-4 variant.

Key Limitations and Competitive Alternatives

Here are a number of key limitations users should consider:

  • No Reset Button / No MAC Address printed on unit: This can make troubleshooting difficult as it is hard to reset the camera when a network connection cannot be made. Both are common in almost all other IP cameras we have tested.
  • No web access at all without installing ActiveX control: If you do not have IE or have an issue installing the ActiveX control (as happened on 1 of our 3 test computers), not only can you not see video, no controls or user interface is displayed. Most IP cameras provide a JPEG only version of the web interface that can run in any browser.
  • Cumbersome configuration process with key steps undocumented: We think it's highly likely techs will have to call technical support multiple times to figure out how to use and configure the camera (though our configuration screencast should help). Almost all other IP cameras have readily accessible configuration settings from a few tabs on the web interface.
  • Low light and WDR quality problems: In these scenarios, subjects can be completely unidentifiable. Panasonic is an example of a camera with strong WDR capabilities. Most other IP cameras tested had significantly better low light performance in similar conditions.

Recommendations on Applications

We think the best use of this camera is for well, evenly lit scenes (indoors and without windows directly facing the sun). Integrators should use this model for projects where many cameras of its type are being deployed. Otherwise, the cost of learning the complex setup will become significant.  With that in mind, this camera's price point (MSRP $527) is one of the least expensive 2 megapixel cameras in the market.

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