Dahua has been making waves lately with some new products that are outstanding at a price point that’s breaking barriers. The IPC-HFW3200CN is an HD 1080P outdoor bullet camera that uses the Sony Exmor chip to provide sharp vivid color images during the day. At night, the built in IR illuminators work well in combination with the sensors good low light capabilities as well as the camera’s noise reduction to produce very good clean night images in area with little to no light.
- 1/3” 2.0 MP SONY progressive scan Exmor CMOS image sensor
- High-performance TI DaVinci series DSP
- H.264/MJEPG video compression and JPEG image capture
- Supports dual-stream encoding
- 30fps at 1080P resolution
- Support true Day/Night with an IR Cut Filter
- Built-in 3.3~12mm varifocal/F1.4 Auto Iris lens
- Built-in IR Illuminators with a working distance of 20m
- Supports Alarm I/O
- Support up to 32GB Micro SD card for local storage
- IP66 Water-proof protection
- Powered by PoE or 12V/24V
- Smartphone apps available
Overall, this is an impressive camera with very good image quality, good low light performance, well organized menus, and well built that feels solid in your hands.
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 more.
Across the top are tabs for Live (live viewing), Set (configure the camera), Alarm (setup alarms) and Logout. When you click on the Set tab, it takes you this configuration screen –
Selecting menu choices on the left takes you to various options needed to configure the camera. One of the first settings you may want to change are the TCP/IP network settings. The menus are clean and responsive.
Motion detection areas are cleverly set by clicking boxes to cover or expose the image. The exposed areas can be any shape that you can create using the box grid.
The camera has a varifocal lens (about a 4X manual zoom). To adust the focal length and focus you have to remove two screws to remove the sun shade (tool included), and then carefuly unscrew the black lens cover. Once inside it uses the traditional adjusting wands that are loosened and tightened with a small screw driver.
You may have noticed the rather large pigtail that comes out the back. The big plus here is cable management. When the camera is installed flush on the wall with the attached mount, the camera has a nice clean look. The pigtail does require that you make a hole large enough to feed the pigtail through the wall. The connectors on the pigtail include not only the obvious ethernet outlet, but also video out for field focusing, a reset button and your mic/speaker connectors, 12/24v connector and alarm inputs/outputs. The following excerpt out of the manual describes what’s there.
Now onto the images, how well does this camera peform. I mounted the camera at the front of my garage, under the eave. With the varifocal lens starting at 3.3mm, it was perfect for viewing the entire front of my home. While at that wide of an angle, you can not ID someone across the street, it was very effective as people approached my front gate or driveway. As with my other reviews, click on the images below to see the full size image, straight from the camera.
I also mounted it at a second location, my backyard to see how it does under different lighting situations. The front of my house gets direct sun most of the day, a challange for some cameras, the rear does not get much sun because of the slope behind the house and patio covers but has higher contrast from shadows.
Now onto the low light night performance. Again, two scenarios, the first is my driveway. Because there’s a street light across the street, the camera would not automatically shift to night mode. This is what it looks like with no IR lighting in day mode.
I was able to set the night mode (B&W and IR cut filter off) by setting a schedule and this is the same image in night mode.
In the backyard night time image, there’s no external lighting, just the built-in illuminators. The lighting is broad and even and did a good job of lighting the area. The noise reduction works well without much detail loss.
The camera lacks the ability to set a max exposure for auto exposure mode. After experimenting with manual exposure settings, I found that in auto mode, the camera does not go beyond a maximum exposure of 1/30th of second. This is typical of what I set cameras to that allow for this setting so I feel it fit’s most needs as it is.
The camera has the capability to capture events and send them to an FTP server. I’m using a Western Digital My Book Live Networked Storage as the FTP server. The camera sends videos and/or snapshots of all motion detects or alarm triggered events to the FTP server and does so effeciently. There’s no provisions to set naming templates. It creates a hierachy of videos by date and by hour with all the videos using a timestamp name under the hour directory. The videos are stored in a propriatary format with a .dav sufix. They provide a simple viewer tool to view the videos and export them as AVI files. The tool worked as expected playing videos without delay and converting them to AVI format in a reasonable amount of time. There’s no provision to view videos recorder via FTP or to the SD card directly from the camera’s web interface. You can use the included PSS software to view video recorded to the SD card.
I uploaded day and night videos to Youtube. To see them at the full 1080P resolution, you must click on the gear icon and select 1080P resolution and then click on the icon with 4 corners to see the video full screen.
I tried running the PSS software that’s included with the camera. It was difficult to setup and there’s no remote web access that I could find. I was not able to get it to record even with the help of a few experts. I did test their smarphone app and it worked well. It’s called DMSS and you can get it free in the iTunes store. I tested the free version that only lets you view multiple cameras. They have a pay version with additional features.
Here’s a picture of my iPad running DMSS. Pardon the color shift from taking a picture of the LCD screen, it looks better in real life.
I did test the camera with two 3rd party products that I use. From my Android phone, I tested the popular IP Cam Viewer app, the free version and chose Dahua from the setup screen and it works very well. I also ran it on BlueIris, a popular budget friendly NVR software solution that I’ve reviewed in the past. It worked well as you can see from the image below, I chose Dahua DVR as the camera selection. You have to make a minor tweak by setting the Video Params to “channel=1&subtype=0” to make it work. My only complaint is that the video recordings where choppy but still usable. While I experienced some chop from the FTP’ed video, it was very minor in comparison.
The street price for this camera is about $350 and it has to be the lowest price I’ve seen on a camera with these features. The camera is new in the U.S. so finding a retailer that carries it may be a challange but it’s popularity is quickly growing.
There’s one thing that was dissapointing, and that’s support. They do have a support link on the website where you can pose a question and look at answers to previous questions. My questions did not got answer after several days. As distributors and resellers grow in the U.S. or your local region, your best chance of support is from them. Verify before you buy that they will be able to help you if you have a question or problem. I was able to get support from existing customers I know and forums.
One area that baffled me is the micro SD card slot. Yes, it has one but could not find it. Researching it, I found out that you have to dismantle the camera to get to it.
The pluses for this camera are;
- Price – don’t know where else you can get a camera this good for this price
- 1080P at 30fps
- IR Illuminators that work well
- Varifocal auto-iris lens that’s sharp and clear
- Sony Exmor sensor has excellent daytime quality and performs well in low light
- Smartphone apps – everyone wants to access their cameras from smarphones these days
The shortcoming of the camera are;
- Poor customer support
- Manuals are well written but miss key areas like how to adjust the lens or insert an SD card
The camera is recomended for those that want a really good camera at a bargain price and are savy enough to figure things out on their own and don’t need much support.
Click here to go to the company web page for the camera
UPDATE: The microSD card slot is in the back of the camera. You remove 4 screws using the included allen wrench. Be careful not to disconnect any of the wires.