Outdoor zoom cameras tend to be pricier than standard varifocal lens cameras and those tend to be pricier than fixed lens cameras. Dahua broke the price barrier offering a 2.8-12mm zoom camera for not much more than their standard fixed lens mini bullets. The camera has a new attractive look and surprisingly smaller than Dahua’s or Hivision’s current varifocal bullets. I call it a zoom vs. a motorized varifocal because it auto-focuses as it zooms where motorized varifocal cameras have a two step process where you set the field of view, then click to focus.
- 1/3” 3 Megapixel Aptina CMOS sensor
- H.264 dual-stream encoding
- 30fps @ 1080P (1920 x 1080) or 20fps @ 3MP (2048 x 1536)
- 2.8-12mm motorized zoom lens
- Day/Night IR Cut Filter
- IR LED advertised working distance 30m
- IP66 Rated Outdoor Bullet
- Powered by PoE (8.5W max) or 12VDC
- 3D Digital Noise Reductions
- Digital Wide Dynamic Range and Backlight Compensation
- Working tempertures -30°C ~ +60°C, at less than 95% RH
- Smartphone apps available
Overall, this is an impressive camera with very good image quality and decent low light performance. It’s about 20% smaller than the vari-focal Dahua IPC-HFW3330C or Hikvision DS-2CD2632F I previously reviewed, but certainly not in the mini bullet category. The new square design actually has a practical side in that you can see when the camera is parallel to the ground making it easier to aim the camera and have it level with less trips up/down the ladder, at least for me.
Installing it is a pleasure. Just screw it to where you want it, aim it and then you adjust the lens from the web interface. No more having to remove parts of the camera body to focus or adjust a varif-focal lens on a ladder. There are 3 adjustment screws on the base to aim and rotate the camera as needed and once tightened, the mount has a very solid feel, more so than their mini bullets.
This is what the web interface looks like when you first log in. There’s options to take a snapshot, manually record, chose a stream and you can chose the aspect ratio which should be automatic, but it’s not as with other cameras. You can also zoom or focus from this screen by clicking the plus sign icon at the bottom.
To configure the camera, click on the Setup tab across the top. Using the menu on the left, under Network you can change the IP address of the device.
What’s not as obvious where to change port numbers if you need to. Sometimes you need to change port numbers for port forwarding on older routers that do not have the port mapping feature.
Under the camera menu are two items, Conditions and Video. Conditions is where you control image like brightness, contrast and such. Also this is where you set wide dynamic range (WDR) or backlight compensation (BLC) options as well as noise reduction.
The next tab in Conditions is Profile Management. You can set a time period during the day where you apply different image settings. For example, you may decide you want WDR on during the day and off at night. Here’s where you define that period of time. You then select day or night from the conditions tab, profile setting and chose settings for that time period.
The last tab is Zoom and Focus, my favorite for this camera. You slide the Zoom slider to about where you want it, wait for the camera to zoom in to the desired location and automatically focus. This actually worked very well, one of the best I’ve use. Even got good focus at night with poor light.
Under the Video settings you set the resolution and frame rate. There are 2 streams. The main stream is your typical high resolution stream you want to record. If your NVR, NVR PC or smartphone app allows it or even if you just want to use the web interface, the Sub Stream comes in handy by providing a lower resolution and frame rate stream to reduce network bandwidth, for example for remote viewing from your smartphone.
The Overlay tab is where you set what you want displayed on your screen, like date, time, location name. You can move the text to the location of your choice by dragging the yellow box with your mouse.
If you want to setup video motion detection, select the Event menu item, Video Detect and you can enable it here.
Click on the Setup button next to Area and you can select different motion detect areas and their sensitivity. This actually worked quite well, better than Hikvision’s motion detect that’s can be overly sensitive. That does not mean shadows, lights and rain won’t trigger it, just a little better.
The next menu item is Storage. Since this camera does not have an SD card slot, you can have it record to an FTP server. I tried the NAS option but did not work, was grayed out. I have used the FTP feature and it does work quite well, although harder to manage than an NVR solution. The FTP tab is where you setup the FTP server info, IP address, user/password and such.
The next menu item is System. Most importantly this is where you set the time and daylight savings time settings. I use the NTP server that was defaulted to on the camera and that worked well, kept accurate time.
Another point of confusion is why does the camera reboot itself every day, is there something wrong with it. Under System, Auto Maintain, you will see the camera is set to reboot itself at 2:00AM every morning unless you uncheck this. It’s up to you, but I found no reason to have it keep rebooting itself. I think this is throwback from when cameras were less reliable and kept freezing up.
The last menu item is information and it shows you the software version, who’s connected to the camera and the log.
Now onto the images. I mounted the camera with the lens set at 2.8mm wide angle under the eave of my garage. Also mounted in my backyard and set the lens at both ends of the range. As before, you can click on the image to see the full size 3 megapixel image straight from the camera.
This is a day shot in the backyard, color balance is quite good and it’s a clear and sharp image. This is with WDR off and you can see the strong contrast from the patio cover. What’s nice is while there is less barrel distortion than I’ve seen in similar cameras I’ve reviewed at this wide of an angle.
This is with WDR turned on and set to 20. The shadows start to get lighter with more detail revealed.
Crank it up to 50 and the shadows are again lighter, but the other colors are more muted, so finding a nice balance for your situation is key.
At night, the camera does pretty well and actually fairly even light, something that Dahua does well without a strong “flashlight” effect.
Setting WDR on and to 20 provides a little more detail in the shadows. The down side to using WDR at night is you get more noise, but still decent.
Now onto the front of the home, the driveway. Different lighting situation. This is with WDR off, color accuracy is good, none of the over-saturation I see some other brands. The shadows are dark but detail is still visible.
Turning WDR on to 20 lightens the shadows a bit. What I did in the day video is let you see both ways where I switch WDR on/off.
At night, I want to show what happens if you leave this camera in Day mode at night. Actually quite good. Not sure if this was my permanent camera, if I would use B&W. You do get a little more noise, but the color makes the image look better and things like plate numbers come out better because there’s no IR reflecting back.
This is the same shot, but in Night mode, IR LEDs on and B&W. Not sure if it’s better. Like to get your feedback on this. The lights are the street light across the street and two 60W equivalent bulbs in the porch lights.
Here’s the same shot but with WDR turned on to 20. The darker areas definitely look brighter, but at the loss of contrast and more noise.
I uploaded day and night videos to YouTube. You must click on the gear icon and select 1080P quality and then click on the icon with 4 corners to see the video full screen. The videos were extracted from Milestone XProtect NVR software.
Day Video – watch for were I switch the camera from WDR ON to OFF
Night Video – both in Color and B&W
For a motorized lens/zoom IR bullet, this camera has good clarity, decent low light performance, good color accuracy. I found the camera as low as $199.99 with free shipping from Wrightwood Surveillance, it’s definitely worth trying one out.
The pluses for this camera are;
- Price & Value
- Easy install without dealing with focusing and vari-focal lenses at the camera
- Very good low light performance in color
- 3MP, 1080P or 720P resolution
- Day/Night IR Cut Filter
- Ability to record to FTP
The shortcomings for this camera are;
- SD card slot would be nice
I don’t have a link to Dahua’s website for this camera because it’s so new it’s not on there yet.