Increases in processing power has resulted in cameras from the leading manufacturers delivering a combination of increased image quality with enhanced functionality. Hanwha Techwin’s WiseNet III platform has been around for a good few years and whilst it underwent numerous upgrades was arguably in need of a real performance boost. With the launch of the WiseNet V processing engine, the manufacturer has revisited its camera options, with the WiseNet X series becoming the company’s new mainstream range of devices. Benchmark took a closer look to see whether the devices represent a significant step forwards.
Hanwha Techwin has recently restructured its WiseNet range of cameras, with the new WiseNet X series as its flagship product. Making use of the WiseNet V processing engine, the range is designed to deliver mainstream functionality which was previously addressed by the WiseNet III platform.
WiseNet X cameras are available in two-and five-megapixel versions, and include bullet, static dome, box and PTZ models. The series includes many of the features and functions typically associated with the WiseNet platform, albeit with multiple upgrades as would be expected from a new version of the processing engine.
Headline features include the introduction of H.265 compression, the second generation of the WiseStream dynamic encoding engine, 150dB WDR (which uses a combination of four frames rather than the more typical two frame approach), gyro sensor-based image stabilisation, enhanced lowlight performance, dual slots for SD-based edge recording, a wide range of advanced analytics and support for Wi-Fi-based setup.
The WiseNet X range will still support the company’s open-platform approach, allowing the use of third-party applications to enhance functionality. However, the manufacturer does appear to have slightly realigned its attitude with regard to this, focusing more on specific partnerships than the delivery of a wide-ranging number of options. Given that the world of third-party apps for platform-based cameras is still very much in flux, this is an understandable direction to take.
For the purposes of our test, we looked at the XND-6020RP and the XNV-8020RP. Both are static dome cameras: the former is a two-megapixel model and the latter is a five-megapixel variant. The only other major difference is that the XND model is designated for internal use only, while the XNV version is also suited to external applications.
The WiseNet X-Series cameras are supplied with a miniature CD which includes the IP Installer utility, plus documentation: a network setup guide, a quick guide and the full user manual. The utility can be run from the CD and does not require installation. On first use it found both of our test cameras immediately despite being on a different network segment.
Once the cameras have been identified by the utility is a simple job to alter the network parameters. To do this does require either the default password if it is the initial connection to the devices, or the user-defined password if they have previously been configured. The utility works well and the changes implemented were quickly applied.
On initial login the software enforces a password change; Hanwha Techwin has implemented a secure password policy across its camera range, including the WiseNet X series. With this done you can access the camera. It is possible to view footage and carry out configurations via a browser without installing a plug-in, but some functionality will be restricted and video is in M-JPEG format at 1fps. In reality, installing the plug-in is quick and easy and is the recommended approach.
The WiseNet X interface and menu structure is reminiscent of the WiseNet III GUI, but is arguably cleaner and more intuitive. It does include enhanced functionality over and above that offered by the previous platform, but the configuration process remains simple and straightforward.
Setting the video stream profile is a straightforward affair. Few installers or integrators will make use of M-JPEG compression; the choice will inevitably be between H.264 and H.265, dependent upon which formats the recording and/or management system can support. Both are well implemented and where a sensible level of bandwidth is configured, the image quality is very good.
Detail is sharp and crisp in both the five-megapixel and the two-megapixel models. Colour fidelity is very high, with no visibly discernible bias to either warm or cool tones. Motion is smooth and there is little of concern with regards to picture quality.
It is fair to say that the WiseNet III chipset didn’t disappoint in terms of image quality, and as with most technological advancements the new WiseNet V chipset deployed in the X-Series does improve on things. As a result, if there are issues with regard to performance it will inevitably be because of a camera setting which is unsuitable for the conditions.
The X-Series cameras are feature-rich and include a lot of processing options. This does mean that installers and integrators should be aware that changes to one configuration may well impact on another.
Various claims are made in relation to bandwidth savings from the deployment of H.265. Often the quoted percentages are somewhat academic is so much is dependent upon the type of scene being viewed. During our test we saw savings of between 30 to 55 per cent when H.265 was deployed instead of H.264. The newer compression algorithm is undoubtedly more efficient when well implemented, as is the case with the WiseNet X models we tested.
If bit rate reduction is a significant concern, then the cameras do make use of WiseStream II technology. This is Hanwha Techwin’s dynamic encoding engine. It requires minimal setup and has four levels: off, low, medium or high. The camera also supports dynamic GOV and dynamic frame rate. In scenes with occasional motion or activity occurring in specific areas within the field of view, this can also help to deliver significant bandwidth savings. As is the case with savings between H.264 and H.265, the benefits of dynamic decoding very much depend upon the viewed scene. During our test we saw bandwidth savings of just over 50 per cent.
With regard to WDR, the WiseNet X cameras capture four frames of video at different exposures in order to compensate for uneven lighting. Typically WDR functionality makes use of two frames. Do the additional two frames of video used by the X series cameras make a significant difference? It’s a difficult question to answer, and the Benchmark team has seen very good WDR performance from a number of devices using the traditional approach. That said, the X series cameras have been elevated to the group of the best performers in terms of wide dynamic range.
The cameras also include a number of analytics tools as standard. These include both video and audio options. Motion detection functionality is also included and this includes a Hand-Over feature. This allows an event caused by activity in the motion zone to trigger switching to a secondary camera. This could allow, for example, a PTZ unit to zoom in on a user-configured preset when an incident occurs. That Hand-Over function is not included with the more advanced video analytics.
With regard to IVA, the cameras support virtual line crossing with directional discrimination, intrusion into a detection zone, entry/exit, appear/disappear and loitering. The analytics also allow minimum and maximum sizes for targets to be set. Other options include tamper detection, defocusing, fog detection and face detection.
With regard to audio detection, the camera also includes sound classification. This allows some degree of filtering rather than relying upon volume alone. The classifications are screen, gunshot, explosion and breaking glass. Whilst these are not fool-proof classifications, they do a decent degree of filtering given that they’re a standard feature.
The analytics and event management options work well and for many mainstream applications will be more than sufficient. Given that these are licence-free they add value to the camera range.
Another area of performance highlighted by Hanwha Techwin is low-light capability. The manufacturer states that colour images can be captured in low-light environments. Whilst the claim does not specify lux levels, frame rates or other details, it does intimate that image quality should be on a par with many other cameras that currently include a variety of light-scavenging technologies.
The camera setup menu is tab-based, which is an installer-friendly approach given the amount functionality on offer. The tabs are for sensor, SSDR, white balance, backlight, exposure, day/night, special, OSD and IR. Some of the screens only include one or two basic options, and to some degree you are reliant upon the intelligence in the camera.
To test these claims, with day/night switching disabled, we set the camera to deliver an HD1080p colour stream at 25fps. The camera retained a good quality colour image down to around 5 lux. As light levels were further reduced, the first sign of any impact on overall quality was a slight increase in latency. At around 3.5 lux noise became visible, especially on the edges of objects in motion. The X series cameras use SSNR, which is one of the better proven noise reduction systems in the surveillance market. Once light levels fell to 2 lux, there was some debate as to whether the quality was ‘acceptable’, and when ambient illumination had fallen to 1.5 lux, the consensus was that the camera had given all it could in colour mode.
With day/night switching enabled, the camera – which includes integral infrared illumination – performs well. There are five selectable levels for the switching point, or a relay input can be used to allow more precise control for any given application. The earliest point at which the camera switched was four lux; at this level it still had a clean and clear colour image.
The WiseNet X cameras have a number of other features and functions the will be of interest to many installers and integrators. For example, digital image stabilisation is enhanced through the use of gyroscopic sensors. In some applications, DIS can mistake in-scene motion for camera movement. The use of sensors limits stabilisation to incidents when the camera itself is vibrating or shaking.
Another benefit is the use of Wi-Fi connectivity to assist in the setup process. The series X cameras include a micro USB port. This can be used to deploy a Wi-Fi dongle, allowing a smart phone connection (with the appropriate WiseNet Installation app) to give a high resolution image output for installation purposes. The process is simple: attach a suitable lead and connect the dongle, then connect to the camera’s Wi-Fi via the smart device. This will then allow the smart phone or tablet to be used as a high-resolution colour set up monitor.
There is an option to allow a snapshot of the screen to be captured on the mobile device which can be used as a reference image. The app will require permission to link with the camera and photograph functions on the phone; if this is not implemented a notification shown is in Korean, which isn’t much help!
The WiseNet X series of cameras from Hanwha Techwin are an improvement over the previous range of cameras using the WiseNet III platform. Image quality is enhanced and flexibility is also high. The H.265 algorithm is well implemented and delivers clean and smooth video. Low-light performance is also improved and image quality is very clean with good colour fidelity.
The addition of a wide range of analytics options ensures that the cameras can compete with models from other leading manufacturers’ high-end ranges. Given the price point of the Hanwha Techwin series, this will make them attractive to many installers and integrators.
The Wi-Fi connectivity for installation purposes is promising: a webviewer app does allow a higher degree of control over the camera’s configurations and settings and provides a more useful tool, especially for one-person installations.
The WiseNet X series of cameras is a significant step forwards for a number of reasons, and as such it has to be recommended for a wide variety of mainstream applications.