Post # 6 - Review Summary & Wrap Up
Time to wrap this review. One extra little detail before I jump in (also mentioned in Pro's below) is that this Dahua cam DOES
support *Video (Target) Cropping so wanted to give that a shout out here for those wanting that functionality (its on Sub-Stream 2 and supports HD up to 24 FPS).
After spending over a month with this camera and building out many videos, I wanted to provide my final thoughts along with pro’s, con’s and considerations as this camera gets ready for release next week
As I mentioned up front, I went into this review skeptical of what this cam would offer and be capable of. Up to this point ‘color at night’ has either been a marketing slogan with little to back it up, a gimmick which has invoked a ton of noise OR limited to areas where you need equivalent light equal to daylight ! All of this and in a number of cases only on lower megapixel (MP) cameras.
4K (even during the day) while always a popular request of those new to security (and an area we generally advocate against) has only really just started to see the restrictions and performance limitations imposed on it by SOCs & optics, lifted but to date has been limited to ‘ok’ footage (unless in full daylight). You then introduce a darker (not even full night) scene and all bets are generally off. On top of these, in the past there were a ton of compromises, limited FPS, lower bitrates, noise that couldn’t be mitigated and restricted exposure settings leaving few that were any good at producing usable images with minimal blur. A large part of the restrictions on noise and quality being due to cramming in way too many megapixels into sensors too small to effectively handle them (I even wrote a post on this).
Lastly, competing manufacturers in the security market would try to mitigate any remaining gaps over each other by employing SOC & algorithmic tricks to improve appearance and perceived light penetration at the expense of image quality.
So as you can see, with a lot of previous experience coupled with a ton of unfulfilled marketing promises, I approached this review with more than a hint of skepticism as I went hands on with this new Dahua 4K and especially with color at night.
However as I started to dive in deeper, this Dahua cam started to show it could address a number of these previous concerns and push the area of 4K and color at night to a new level that makes a compelling argument for itself.
Lets Talk About This Dahua Camera (IPC-Color4K-X) Itself:
So onto this Dahua camera, have all of the concerns been mitigated ? Well, there are areas that still exist because of the way 4K color at night is implemented regardless of manufacturer (I’ll discuss the state of these next) but overall this camera is very impressive.
As I mentioned in my review, optics and SOC improvements have come a long way here but still have to be boosted through clever use of under the hood, non user accessible configuration such as AGC, Auto Iris + algorithmic adjustments. These code-base variables out of the box are mostly over-tweaked by all manufacturers right now and as I discussed, the Dahua was no exception when I first got it with its test FW. With that said Dahua has done a great job of working with me to improve this in not only what will become the shipping FW version but even more so in the 'Wildcat tweaked' version coming soon after (should be in August). What I hope I’ve shown Dahua and others is that boosting AGC and Auto Iris levels in code is NOT the right approach, it’s about balance with the ultimate goal to keep noise low and quality high. I've tried to show that by doing this in a calculated approach you can still achieve a good level of darkne penetration but in a more balanced, non 100% iris open, AGC on full approach
Does this mean you can see in pitch black areas, of course not BUT for those of us that utilize and deploy these products globally it’s never been just about getting an image regardless of quality but rather getting usable and identifiable captures for recognition directly or through LEO partnerships when needed. Marketing and sales like to push claims that while ‘can’ be substantiated (in perfect situations with AGC boosted to the hilt) are not useful in the real world.
Therefore I’m glad to see Dahua listen and work actively with me, take a step back and instead pursue the right path with me pointing out both image and code-base changes that could assist.
Is the camera perfect ? No (spoiler: no camera is) but it is more than a step in the right direction and definitely a camera that I would recommend
. With this camera Dahua are definitely on the right path by providing good quality day and night caps with minimal noise while critically giving you access to features and configuration that are useful in the real world.
Features & functions of the camera that provide real world value, especially with color at night:
Take an area like onboard illuminators. While we can certainly debate whether warm (along the lines of 2700-3200k) or daylight tuned (5600k as accepted standard for high midday sunlight) would be more useful, you certainly can’t miss the fact that by having 4 LEDs with options for separate near vs far adjustment that you open up deployment opportunities especially in areas where light is at a premium. More on this in Pro's below.
Exposure Range vs Fixed Ranges
Another area is in allowing exposure ranges. While this may sound like a small thing, I can tell you from experience that being able to dial in a range is much more useful for areas with changing conditions rather than settling on 1 fixed exposure and then having to let Auto Iris and AGC adjustments take care of the rest with no control exposed to you as the user or installer. Some companies are forcing us to used fixed exposures primarily because it keeps it simple and sandboxes you into configs that they tested and are happy with. This can work for some but personally and professionally I prefer having the control so it’s nice to see this as an option on this camera.
This is a incredibly important area and I’m glad to see that Dahua has continued to make great strides in reducing and keeping video noise to a minimum. This 4K cam has much more manageable noise than in their original 4Ks. That’s not to say the 1831/2831 V1’s weren’t good (I still have a number of these deployed myself) BUT in this new cam not only has noise been reduced further but that which remains (will always be some) can be managed easily as I’ve shown many times since this is a crawl vs pulsing noise. This is a testament to the sensor being used and again represents a good pairing of SOC package to optics in the case of this IPC-Color4K-X.
Pro's, Con's & Considerations
- Performance at night - Have to put this one at the top as night performance is key to any camera especially one being marketed on color at night. As shown in the videos you can achieve some great quality captures and overall footage with this camera whether you are using only on-board illuminators or with additional light. All of this with low amounts of noise. Just remember to dial in for your FOV and location conditions as I advocate for continually
- Build Quality - feels well built, sturdy
- Illuminators - 4 LEDs (near and far control) allows for fine tuning the lighting which is key to a balanced scene. Being able to dial down 'near' lighting vs 'far' can make or break captures in an FOV, even more so when you have a lot of foreground objects. Remember in the testing video's I have the power set to full on both to show whats capable in ultimate dark scenarios BUT these absolutely can be dialed back down and should be
- Exposure range options - mentioned above but having control to implement a ranged approach allows for more flexibility to the changing FOV during day or night
- Frame Rate Support - A number of cams top out at 15 or 20 (more than enough for most applications) BUT this cam supports 30 fps for smoother motion and more headroom to adjust regardless of your end application. Gives you more frames to work with
- Microphone + Speaker - allows you to not only record audio from scene but also supports 2 way audio which for installations around entry and exit points is a great benefit
- Exposure Compensation Controls - allows for a further element of control of how the camera responds to light read on scene albeit is not full manual iris control
- ** Scheduled Smart Plan Changes - New to This Menu ** is the Ability to set smart plan event changes by schedule therefore you can have face monitoring during the day, IVS at night and people counting or heat mapping in the afternoon as an example
- IVS Rule Options - IVS rule upgrades to include ‘appears’ within intrusion zone, ‘crosses’ line / intrusion zone (present before) and now ‘Inside’ (new option). This new addition allows your alarm and/or recording to be triggered only after x period of time a target is present in a zone
- Additional IVS Rule Types - Object Monitoring (was working but disabled due to feedback from me on further development needed) which should return soon, People Counting, Heat Mapping
- Audio Linkage - allows you to tie an audio file of your choice (or using on cam defaults) to a triggered alarm. LED flashes with alarm count
- S(mart) M(otion) D(etection) 3.0 - for improved target detection and recognition at distance (Human + Vehicle) with a higher quality of target confidence over standard motion detection and SMD 2.0
- Sub-Stream Support - rather than being limited to 640x480 etc on sub-stream, this cam supports full HD (1920 x 1080) on sub-stream 2
- * Target Cropping * - Yes this cam does support capturing a specific portion of the image in full HD (again on Sub-Stream 2) at up to 24 FPS therefore allowing you to capture full FOV on Main Stream and a zoomed/cropped portion on Sub Stream 2 should you wish
- Menu - I know this is a small one but important especially if you use / rely on the Web Gui (as I advocate for in configuration). The Dahua menu structure is strong, intuitive and is evolving with each release as I've noted on a number of cameras. This one is no exception with the addition of Smart Plan changes by schedule. To be fair on this point, If there is one small criticism to this, its menu consistency. While I certainly understand that certain cams (PTZ, LPR, Multi Sensor etc) need there own additional menu items, I would like to see Dahua standardize on the common elements of the menu that impact all cameras and update those in parallel.
Considerations - Neither Pro's or Con's
- D(epth) O(f) F(ield) Adjustment - This could be adjusted slightly by Dahua albeit it’s a fixed lens and will always have a sweet spot based on your chosen focal length (2.8, 3.6, 6mm). However you have to be careful what you wish for as over adjustment on these current optics lead to the very real end case of crushing either near or far object recognition. Again there will always be a sweet spot. These current optics used in these 4K at night have a very small window of adjustment leading to shallow DOF. As these cams start to have vari-focals added to their product lines you'll see optics change that allow more DOF capabilities resulting in improved focus throughout the entire focal range
- Object monitoring - I want to see this added back and look forward to testing ASAP. This is a brilliant rule addition and has applications such as package delivery alerting for home owners as well as item monitoring in secure areas for businesses front and center. Imagine this on your porch with notifications on your next security camera delivery or in business lobbies / loading docks for un-manned drop off alerting
- No direct LED linkage controls - If Audio Linkage is set then when an event is triggered it will cause LEDs to flash to the duration of the audio repeat (i.e. 3 repetitions of audio file = 3 sets of LED flashes). Would like to see more control over when and how the LED flashes rather than just tied to audio repetitions such as flash LED's without audio etc
Updated Bug List
- Light Always Helps - Remember, you still need visible light (even using the illuminators) if you want to pull the best out of cams at night (unless using IR). This also acts as a visual deterrent. Don’t look at it as a challenge to push these cams as hard as you can with no light otherwise you could be disappointed and end up with an image that’s not useful. If you can pull a great image with just the illuminators, fantastic but if you have additional light don’t be afraid to use it. Also, remember that IF you rely on the onboard illuminators you may need to white balance for the FOV as auto can lean warmer in color. Daylight (adjusting for sunlight) is generally regarded as 5600k and these bulbs obviously are a lot warmer around 2700-3200k so unless manufacturers change out warm for daylight LED’s (unlikely for a while as they try to blend with 'standard', non led light (incandescent) on scene) your options are to leave auto with warm cast or white balance for night. Luckily with the Dahua you have Day vs Night profiles so you can set WB per profile once and forget
- Still a Few Bugs Need Fixing - Update on list below although the most impactful ones have for the most part been fixed
I included this in my first few posts and wanted to post an update so you knew the latest status:
- SD Cards Could Not Be Read + FIXED
- IVS Rules Would Not Capture / Trigger Video = FIXED
- IVS Rules Would Not Allow Appears & Cross To Be Selected = FIXED
- Object Monitoring Rule
- Object Placement Would Only Trigger Recording On Boxes Consistently, Not Other Items - IN DEVELOPMENT EXPECTED TO BE REMOVED FOR FURTHER INVESTIGATION
- Object Removal Would Not Detect An Object Being Removed From The Scene = IN DEVELOPMENT EXPECTED TO BE REMOVED FOR FURTHER INVESTIGATION
- Camera Would Not Adjust Correctly For Contrasting Scene/FOV Where Shadow Area + Well Lit Existed In Same FOV - Affects Day & Night Scenes (ref. WDR in day video) = PARTIAL FIX that works much better now in shipping FW than my original test FW but next fixes expected in ‘Wildcat tweaked’ version IN DEVELOPMENT EXPECTED Soon
- Illuminators on Auto Would Only Come On When Target Was Within 2-3ft of Camera = FIXED
- Illuminators Turn On & Off Briefly When Set To Manual And Target Is Close To Camera = FIXED
- Custom Video Bitrate Does Not Survive A Reboot = IN DEVELOPMENT
- WebPlugin Used on Color4K-X Impacts Older 4K Plugins Causing Blank Screens in IE (for live view of older 4K cams) and Re-Download Prompts. Impacts 1831/2831/5831 models = IN DEVELOPMENT EXPECTED FIX IN NEXT FW
This cam may not be 100% perfect (as mentioned in my opener, no cam is) BUT
it does represent 1 of the best options we’ve seen to date in this specific market segment and is an exciting kick off point to what comes next such as varifocal optics + larger sensors along with integration into other camera applications such as PTZ and multi sensor units.
I’m looking forward to where Dahua and other manufacturers will take this and as long as they continue to listen to feedback (as they have here and I applaud them for that) and keep FW and HW in check (as I’ve mentioned through this thread), then we all benefit from a future of solid performing products in this area.
This camera represents a solid investment now IMO and a smart stepping stone to future products. For now it offers an extremely capable and versatile diving point into 4K both day and at night (now in usable color) for personal or professional deployments and is the current best Dahua model to tackle both for this segment. Should you flood your deployment with only 4K cams (regardless of make/model) ? Absolutely not, I always advocate for choosing the best cam for each area you are installing and certainly that would include a mix of IR cams as well as special application cams (LPR, Face Recognition etc.) to meet your overall needs. However, adding this 4K cam into those deployments/setups is now something that you can / should more strongly consider even IF you want color at night due to the performance improvements seen in this camera.
Lastly, for reference, in my real world testing, the 3.6mm has its sweet spot out (from camera) to about 24 feet (approx 7.5 meters) in current shipping versions from center of lens.
This camera is definitely one I would recommend
for anyone considering a 4K camera to tackle day & night and finally takes this specific resolution from 4K
an't to 4K
Hope you've all found the review useful and I'll see you on the next one.