Interest in 4K video cameras is on the increase, driven predominantly by end user expectations for the technology. Due to a range of recent increases in processing power, today’s higher resolution cameras can typically combine the best quality video performance with a range of smart features and functions, thus increasing the value for money on offer. Hikvision claims to have done just this with a new addition to its Smart IPC range, the DS-2CD4185F-IZ. Benchmark took a closer look at the 4K UHD static dome camera.
The introduction of 4K UHD cameras across the video surveillance sector is advancing at a good pace, with a wider selection of devices becoming available every day. The mainstream marketing of 4K UHD video in the consumer sector is a benefit for everyone involved in security, because it allows the end user to understand exactly what they’re buying. The investment in 4K UHD from various sectors is huge, whether it be broadcasters, streaming services, television and AV manufacturers, smartphone and tablet suppliers and even the IT sector.
If end users are looking for higher video resolutions, then the world outside of security has taught them 4K UHD is the current technology of choice. Whilst HD still offers outstanding performance in many applications, the demand for ever-greater resolutions has seen the profile of 4K UHD become prominent in the current technological landscape.
Mention 4K UHD, and there’s an almost universal acceptance that the technology equates to higher performance. In the consumer world, HD is fast being replaced by 4K UHD devices and services, and whilst everyone accepts that quality is enhanced, few outside of technical industries can discuss the finer points of the standard. The fact that video is 4K UHD is often all the information they require.
For the video surveillance sector, this is not a bad thing. The same was true of HD, and the result of that trend was a significant step forwards in the quality of images. With devices that capture 4K UHD video streams, image quality is set to take another hike upwards.
Of course, for the vast majority of security applications, it is not enough for a camera to just capture higher resolution video streams. Surveillance-specific cameras must also be able to deliver consistent and usable images around the clock, have the ability to cope with extreme conditions such as harsh and variable lighting, and must also provide the many features and functions that end users have come to expect from security cameras. These include detection capabilities and functionality designed to allow 24 hour protection in changing (and challenging) environmental conditions.
Hikvision’s DS-2CD4185F-IZ is claimed to offer 4K UHD video performance along with a wide range of ‘smart’ functions including integral video analytics and tamper resistance.
The DS-2CD4185F-IZ is billed as a smart 4K camera for internal use. Maximum resolution is 4096 x 2160 at 22fps, although the camera does also offer 3840 x 2160 streams at 25fps. It should be noted that 4096 x 2160 is the DCI 4K resolution and not the 4K UHD standard.
The DCI resolution has been adopted by the film and video production industries. The resulting image is 1.9:1 aspect ratio, which is slightly wider than the 16:9 aspect ratio used by 4K UHD devices (and other HD video products). As mentioned, the camera will deliver 4K UHD streams, but using the DCI settings may cause a very small amount of distortion (it will, however, be hard to see) if deployed with standard surveillance devices. Along with 4K UHD streams, the camera can also deliver HD1080p and HD720p video standards.
Video compression options are H.264+, H.264 and MJPEG. H.264+ is a proprietary algorithm claimed to reduce bandwidth and storage needs by up to 50 per cent. Bit-rate can be up to 16Mbps, and triple streaming is supported.
The camera makes use of a 1/1.7 inch CMOS image sensor, and has a quoted sensitivity of 0.009 Lux with AGC on using an F1.2 lens (which has a wider aperture than the fitted optics). Integral infrared illuminators are also included, and these have a quoted range of 30 metres. Day/night operation and WDR are supported.
The dome is fitted with a 2.8-12mm varifocal auto-iris F1.4 lens. It also includes two way audio, an alarm input and output, and a MicroSD slot for edge recording.
Other features include digital noise reduction, slow shutter, auto-focus, image distortion correction, BLC/HLC, regions of interest and defogging.
The camera is a part of Hikvision’s Smart IPC range, and as such includes additional ‘smart’ functionality.
This includes video analytics options, with rules supported for intrusion detection, line crossing, object left/removed, area entering/leaving, scene change, audio surge, audio loss, defocus, face detection and object counting.
Power input is 12V DC or PoE.
The DS-2CD4185F-IZ is supplied with a quick start guide, a miniature CD containing documentation and utilities, a connecting lead for composite output and two sets of fixing screws. The latter are very small and most installers will opt for something more substantial.
With regard to the documentation on the CD, there are a number of PDF files. Most are quick start guides for other cameras, plus there is one generic full manual which covers a wide range of cameras; this makes it clumsy at times).
The dome cover is fixed with security screws but you don’t get a driver for these. Thankfully they are of a common type, which means the driver is freely available. There is a debate as to whether this makes them somewhat redundant. There is also a need for a simple plug-in connector is you opt to use 12V DC; this also was not supplied.
The initial connections are straightforward. There is an RJ45 port for LAN connectivity and PoE. Two phono jacks take care of audio connectivity, and alarm I/Os and RS485 are managed via a simple push-fit block.
With connections made the camera can be activated and configured via the supplied SADP Utility which is on the CD.
Once installed this finds connected devices. They will show as ‘Inactive’ and need a password to be set before they become active. If the server being used is not on the same network subnet as the camera (it has a static IP), then it cannot be activated, and you cannot set a new IP config without it being activated. It makes the process a tad slower but it’s not as smooth as some other 4K UHD cameras.
Once connected, the configuration process can begin. Much of this is carried out via the Configuration menu, which has sub-menus for Local, System, Network, Video/Audio, Image, Event, Storage and Counting.
The menus are relatively straightforward, and we don’t see installers or integrators having issues configuring the camera. There are certain parameters which require a reboot, such as switching to the H.264+ compression. This also prevents some of the other features from operating, as it uses a greater level of processing to enhance compression.
Configuring the smart detection functions is relatively straightforwards. Whilst these do deliver a decent level of performance, they do not include the depth of flexibility shown by some of the leading 4K UHD cameras. However, for mainstream low- to medium-risk applications, they will be sufficient.
In general, the set-up and configuration will not present any real problems for installers and integrators.
Our initial opinion of image quality from the DS-2CD4185F-IZ was good, although in some very busy scenes it did lack the sharpness of the best performers in the recent 4K UHD camera test. This was more noticeable in areas of continual tone and at the very edges of the image.
Colour fidelity was high, with no obvious bias towards either warm or cool tones. Greyscale fidelity was also good across the whole range.
The camera dealt with motion well. With decent levels of ambient light there was no obvious blur, and as light levels fell the various processing elements could generally be deployed to ensure that motion remained crisp and well presented.
Early on during testing, at one point the camera went off-line for no reason. A reboot brought it back, but the image included a series of vertical lines. Checking through the various settings showed no changes, and we couldn’t find any settings which would eliminate the interference.
The initial fault-finding process involved moving the camera onto a different system with its own dedicated server, display and switches, but this had no impact. Power was switched from PoE to 12V DC, again without any effect. The lines were very obvious in 4K UHD mode, and appeared when the camera stream was viewed in Internet Explorer, our own test VMS and Hikvision’s iVMS. Having varied all the variables, we contacted Hikvision’s technical support team.
The technical support team sent us the latest firmware, but this did not resolve the problem. The consensus from Hikvision was a hardware failure, and a replacement was sent.
The replacement unit did not exhibit the same issues, even with power cycled over a long period of time. This does seem to indicate that the first unit suffered a premature failure.
The camera’s low light specification is quoted as 0.009 lux with AGC on. The default setting for AGC is maximum, and even backing that off a bit we found that noise became obvious at around 4 lux. There is a sensitivity setting for day/night switching, and by setting this at the highest level (7), the camera would switch at around 3 lux. This is before the noise becomes too significant, although it would be nice to be able to set the auto switch even earlier.
The DS-2CD4185F-IZ is an indoor unit, which means that it will have to handle the occasional sudden change in ambient illumination. There is a bit of a delay as the processing works hard, and when switching to night mode you’ll see a white screen for a few seconds while the camera settles.
The ‘smart’ functionality does offer some additional benefits, but care must be taken as to how these are deployed. There are some discriminations such as sensitivity and threshold to help filter out unwanted applications, but when compared to the video analytics available with some other 4K UHD cameras, they lack the precision with regards to configuration. However, in mainstream applications with fairly basic needs, this does make them quicker to set up.
As with all analytics, the decider comes down to expectations. If you are realistic, the DS-2CD4185F-IZ can deliver some benefits in this regard. If you require a more precise and flexible analytics provision, there are other devices which add much more, but you will be paying for that additional performance.
Putting the hardware problem to one side, the Hikvision DS-2CD4185F-IZ is a competent camera in terms of video performance. It does include a wide variety of functions, which gives it a wider appeal. However, some other competitive units have fewer features, but offer those they do offer with a real depth of flexibility. Which approach is best depends on the requirements of any specific application. The DS-2CD4185F-IZ does carry a lower price than many similar units, but it’s not significantly lower. You can see where costs have been saved, but the end result is an acceptable 4K UHD camera.
The fault with our initial camera did seem to be a one-off problem, so we’ll put that down to experience. If the unit was designed for external use, we’d have an issue with low light and switching. However, where there is greater control over illumination in an internal application the camera is recommended for general and mainstream surveillance applications.