Invisible IR Camera Tested (Vivotek)
Integrated IR is everywhere in surveillance, from high-end long range cameras to even the lowest cost models. But this IR usually comes with a distinct red glow from its 850nm illuminators, giving away the camera's position at night.
Now, Vivotek has released the FD8166 microdome, a compact camera with invisible 940nm IR illuminators for discreet surveillance.
We bought and tested this new model to see how it stacks up against Axis and Hikvision minidomes and whether this new addition is marketing hype or useful in real world scenarios.
The Vivotek FD8166's use of invisible 940nm IR is a standout feature, and combined with its size, makes the camera more difficult to spot than other IR domes in low light scenes.
Users concerned with aesthetics and discreet surveillance may find these features preferable, especially at a relatively low price.
However, its weaker IR illumination and positioning limitations can be problematic.
The FD8166A-N sells for about $200 USD online. This is comparable to other 1080p minidomes, such as Hikvision's DS-2CD2522FWD-I, and slightly less expensive than others, such as Axis' M3045-V (~$230 online).
Note that the Vivotek FD8166 is one of few minidomes to use 940nm IR, instead of the more visible 850nm LEDs. Xiaomi's Yi Home 2 camera also uses invisible 940nm, but this wavelength is typically found only in high end cameras and/or external illuminators.
The Vivotek FD8166 is about the same size as other compact domes, shown here:
The camera's construction is notably different from many compact domes, as its gimbal is more limited (though, unusually, screw driven) and IR LEDs are placed in the body of the camera, instead of surrounding the lens, both reviewed below.
IR LED Placement
The FD8166 places its IR LEDs in the body of the camera instead of surrounding the lens as is typical of IR domes. This means that the LEDs do not follow aiming of the camera.
In our tests, the LEDs coverage pattern was sufficiently wide enough to illuminate subjects even at the extremes of up/down tilt, despite not following the camera's angle.
The 940nm LEDs used in the Vivotek camera are invisible to the human eye and many digital cameras (such as the iPhone used to take the image below). In a dark room (~0.5lx), the camera is barely visible, making it much more difficult to spot, while the Hikvision IR dome's LEDs may be seen from across the room.
Bright LED Status Light
Note that though the camera's IR LEDs are invisible to the human eye, it ships with a very bright status LED enabled, which is visible through the camera's clear dome and even through the plastic dome housing, giving away its location. This LED may be turned off via the web interface, but many installers may not even realize this problem as installs are performed with lights on.
The FD8166 is essentially adjustable only on one axis: up/down tilt. There is no way to rotate the camera gimbal or level the imager, which may be a problem on sloped ceilings.
Downtilt is adjusted by a screw next to the gimbal, shown below:
The camera may be rotated about 70-80° by loosening mounting screws and rotating the entire body along slotted mounting holes, but there is no other rotation.
Low Light Performance
Despite including only two small IR LEDs with a spec range of 6M (~20'), in our tests the FD8166 illuminated a 20x30 room evenly, but weakly. Illumination was strong enough to easily detect subjects throughout the room.
Illumination was similar to the Hikvision 2522 IR dome, shown below for comparison.
Though detection was solid, details at ~55 PPF / 15' range were weak, with test chart text barely legible, and no facial details delivered. However, other cameras tested did not perform much better, with the Hikvision 2522 showing the first test chart line clearly, but no facial details, and the non-IR Axis M3045-V displaying details of neither chart nor subject.
Full Light Performance
In full light, the cameras all performed similarly, with text legible to ~3/4 in all cameras, and facial details visible.
The following firmware versions were used in this test:
- Vivotek FD8166A-N: 0100i
- Axis M3045-V: 6.15.6
- Hikvision DS-2CD2522: 5.4.1