CCTV Test: Networked PTZ Cameras (Part 2)

The growth in networked video solutions has seen the PTZ dome camera slip from its position of being a ‘must have’ item in many applications. Some installers and integrators still think that latency makes it difficult to track targets with the devices. Others have succumbed to the marketing message that higher resolution and 360 degree cameras have made the devices obsolete. Benchmark looks at some of the leading options to assess mechanical and optical performance. The second part of the test includes cameras from Hanwha Techwin, Dahua, CCTVdirect, Bosch Security and Hikvision.

READ THE FIRST PART OF THE NETWORKED PTZ CAMERAS TEST WITH MODELS FROM AXIS COMMUNICATIONS, PANASONIC AND TYCO SECURITY PRODUCTS

PTZ cameras have, for many years, delivered a valuable and credible tool for those seeking to deliver the protection of people and property. The cameras offer a wide range of benefits, and over the years performance has continued to increase as research and development pushes the boundaries. Today’s PTZ cameras offer high performance and are often supplemented by smart technologies.

Despite this, the PTZ has received some negative press in recent years. When IP cameras first arrived in their numbers, PTZ devices were obvious by their absence. Issues with smooth control were hampered by latency, and despite many manufacturers having networked PTZ cameras, few wanted to push them. In the early days Benchmark tested a fair few, and all were haphazard when it came to control over IP.

As manufacturers started to get things right, the surveillance sector also saw higher resolution models with digital PTZ and 360 degree cameras emerging as viable options when designing a system. While traditional PTZ domes were still widely used, they weren’t considered ‘exciting’ by those who wanted to drive development.

The reality is that PTZ enabled dome cameras still make a lot of sense. There are certain things they won’t do; if a camera is pointing in the wrong direction, an incident could certainly be missed. However, that’s a given due to the nature of the device, and to worry about that is to miss out on the manifold benefits that these cameras offer.

TAKING CONTROL
It is important that fully functioned cameras are easy to manage, especially in networked solutions. For those seeking high levels of camera management, read about the IDIS Smart UX Controls feature.

Hanwha Techwin: PNP-9200RHP

The PNP-9200RHP from Hanwha Techwin is a 4K UHD fully functioned dome camera. The camera features a 30x optical zoom and 360 degree endless pan and a tilt. The camera forms part of the new P Series and features a triple codec, delivering H.265, H.264 and M-JPEG compression.

Features include integral IR illumination, a PTZ handover feature, digital autotracking, WDR, audio and edge storage.
Other features include the WiseStream dynamic encoding function. This can reduce bitrate to deliver efficient streaming and storage. It can be further expanded when used in conjunction with dynamic GOV.

Because the camera is so new, our test unit was supplied without a manual or utilities. It’s always a risky strategy for a manufacturer. However, the installation is very straightforward and the configuration menus are intuitive and very similar to other Hanwha Techwin products. Also, the established IP Finder utility works with the camera so discovering it was straightforward.

While the PTZ cameras from the first part of the test all supported PoE+, the PNP-9200RHP is a little more energy hungry because of the camera’s features, so 24V AC power is required. All connections are made via a board in the camera’s top cover, which makes physical installation a simpler task.

For set-up, the latest generation WiseNet cameras require Internet Explorer version 11. A few of the installers and integrators involved in Benchmark’s testing keep laptops with IE10 on them for camera configuration, as this was the last version that worked happily with ActiveX, which is still the dominant tool for initial camera set-up. Many manufacturers are now moving away from ActiveX, so if you have an IE10-based set-up PC, you will need the upgrade for future Hanwha Techwin devices.

Hanwha also forces a secure password policy, which is a benefit given the issues surrounding default passwords. Passwords require a combination of capital and lowercase letters, number and special characters; the requirement is dependent upon password length. Our advice is to opt for the longer password and use special characters with caution, as we’ve seen a fair few ONVIF implementations on VMS systems and NVRs that don’t recognise some special characters. This is an ONVIF issue, not a Hanwha Techwin one, but it’s best to be aware of it.

On initial power-up you might be surprised by the video stream. However, it defaults to M-JPEG at 1fps. To change this you need to click a simple link to install a viewing plug-in.

The menu system is immediately recognisable to those who are familiar with Hanwha Techwin products, and for those that are not it is very straightforward. Everything is where you’d expect it to be and set-up is simple and relatively fast.

If a controller or dedicated surveillance keyboard are not being used, mechanical control can be taken via a dedicated sidebar PTZ menu. This includes a virtual trackpad activated by mouse movements; zoom can also be controlled by a set of sliders.

The trackpad works well, although slower motion is best to avoid overshoot when setting up pre-sets. There is a slight lag but nothing that’s unworkable.

Creating presets is a simple task and can be carried out from the main screen. However, adding additional telemetry functions does require the use of the PTZ set-up menus.

Options include Swing between two presets, Groups (effectively tours) of presets, Tours including a variety of Groups, Trace which recalls a PTZ pattern and Auto-run.

These functions all work well, but we did note an issue with dwell times. These were initially set for reasonable periods but we though the Group hadn’t been saved as the camera did not respond. On investigation we found that the dwell times are not always accurate. For example, a Group of presets with each set with 6 second dwell time had a real dwell time of around 13 seconds. If Hanwha has opted to impose minimum dwell times then this should be obvious.

Auto-tracking is acceptable, but to be fair we’ve yet to see an implementation of the technology that works well in moderately busy scenes.

The optical quality of the PNP-9200RHP is very good and offers genuine 4K UHD video streaming with frame rates up to 25fps. Image quality is consistent throughout the image, and in varied lighting conditions the WiseNet proprietary technologies work well to enhance performance in a wide range of conditions.

Image detail is high, colour fidelity is accurate and low light performance is very good. The camera’s integral IR illuminators also ensure that day/night performance delivers clean images.

Dahua: DH-SD6AL230F-HNI-IR

The DH-SD6AL230F-HNI-IR from Dahua is an HD1080p fully functioned dome camera. It delivers streams at 25fps in HD1080p resolution and 50fps at HD720p resolution. It is part of the company’s Smart Series range of devices.

The camera features a 1/1.9 inch Exmor CMOS sensor to deliver a claimed sensitivity of 0.005 lux utilising the company’s Starlight technology. It also boasts a 30x optical zoom, 360 degree endless pan and a tilt range of 100 degrees.

Features include intelligent video: tripwire, intrusion, cross warning zone, perimeter protection, loitering, abandoned object, missing object, illegal parking, speed monitoring and face detection are all supported.

Other features include noise reduction, fog compensation and edge recording.

The camera is supplied with a quick start guide and installation guide, plus a CD containing utilities and software. A word of warning is that the configuration utility is supplied as a .7z file. This is a compression format that can’t be unpackaged using the default Microsoft zip tool and requires an open source tool to be downloaded. Given heightened concerns from end users about third party downloads and the fact that the utility is supplied on a CD, a basic zip file might be a better option.

The PTZ cameras from the first part of the test supported PoE+, but the DH-SD6AL230F-HNI-IR shares the need for 24V AC power along with a few other devices in this second part. Connections are made via a flylead which includes cabling for power, audio, video out, RS485 and alarm I/Os.

The configuration tool works well and found the camera immediately, even though the pre-configured IP address was on a different network segment. It also allowed the IP address to be changed to suit the network requirements. The change was quick and straightforward.

At initial log-in, the camera loads an ActiveX viewer for initial camera set-up. The camera does not force a change to the default password. With the ActiveX element loaded the configuration can begin.

The menu structure for the DH-SD6AL230F-HNI-IR is typical of a Dahua product, and even those who haven’t used the brand before will find it fairly intuitive. Setting the video stream is straightforward, with the only real limitation being a maximum bit-rate of 8Mbps. This can be fine in many applications, but previous Benchmark tests have shown that full HD streams often require 10Mbps or more where high detail is necessary in a busy scene.

The image quality at the highest bit-rate is decent, although in tonally bland areas you can see evidence of the capped bandwidth. However, the H.264 implementation allows detail to be retained where it is needed.

If a controller or dedicated surveillance keyboard are not being used, mechanical control can be taken via the sidebar PTZ menu. This is basic but will be sufficient for setting up presets, tours, etc.. Control is smooth and there are no issues with regard to latency.

Creating presets is simple. The camera is simply moved to the required position and zoom ratio, a preset is selected and the details are saved with a single mouse click.

Other telemetry functions include auto-scan (with configurable limits), tours of any group of pre-sets, recordable patterns and a continual pan. There is also an assistant mode which isn’t mentioned in the manual, nor did it seem to be anything more than an auxiliary toggle.

These PTZ functions work well, but Dahua hasn’t made the set-up as intuitive as it could be. For example, when you look at the GUI for configurations, the Tour settings allow the required presets to be entered, but there are no other settings. In order to set dwell times, you need to call up the camera’s internal menu which is then displayed in the live video display screen! It’s an odd choice to control an analogue-style OSD through a browser-based virtual keypad! The sensible choice would be to allow control of all settings through the GUI menus, but Dahua has opted to not do this. In our opinion, that’s a negative point.

The DH-SD6AL230F-HNI-IR makes use of Dahua’s smart technologies. A separate quick start guide for these is included, and while it tends to cover most points we found it simpler to work through the menus finding out how things worked. It’s not overly complicated and the rules are relatively simple to implement. A full analysis of the IVA functions is beyond the scope of this test.

Optical quality is decent, and whilst the camera tends to deliver a bias towards warmer tones, you won’t actually spot this unless you do some side-by-side analysis using charts. Low light performance is okay, but given the fact that the camera is a day/night unit with integral infrared illumination, there’s little point in trying to chase the quoted 0.005 lux! Instead use the features provided and switch the camera before noise starts to show in the image.

CCTV Direct: IPC6252R-X22UG

The IPC6252R-X22UG from CCTV Direct is an HD1080p fully functioned dome camera which delivers streams at up to 50fps. It is a Uniview branded camera and features a 22x optical zoom, 360 degree endless pan and a tilt range of 105 degrees.

The camera uses a 1/1.9 inch CMOS sensor and delivers a claimed sensitivity of 0.001 lux.

Features include integral IR illumination, triple encoding (H.265, H.264 and M-JPEG) and smart functionality. The latter includes video analytics (intrusion, line crossing and motion detection), audio detection, face detection and people counting.

Other features include WDR, edge recording, two-way audio and privacy masking.

The IPC6252R-X22UG is supplied with a quick start guide and a flysheet covering waterproofing requirements for the connections. There is no CD or other documentation, so the full manual will need to be downloaded. At the time of writing, we couldn’t find this on CCTV Direct’s website (nor any reference to this specific camera model) but there was a downloadable PDF on the Uniview website.

As in common with a number of the other PTZ cameras in the second part of this test, the IPC6252R-X22UG requires 24V AC power; a suitable PSU is supplied. Connections are made via a flylead which includes cabling for power, audio, video out, RS485 and alarm I/Os as well as the LAN connection. There are also connections for single mode fibre.

Initial connection to the camera is carried out using a default static IP address. This was once a very standard way of configuring devices, but as the switch to functional utilities has spread, the approach is no longer as common as it once was.

The default IP address is published as being in the 192.168.0.xxx range, but on first log-in you’ll discover that this has changed. When the address is entered a splash-screen containing a notification that the default address has changed, along with the new address, is displayed.

With the server reconfigured to accommodate the new address, you can finally connect to the camera. Typically the download of an ActiveX element is made after the initial log-in, but with this camera you have to load the element before logging in.

User authentication is made using a default user and password settings, but changing the latter is not enforced after first connection. However, while it remains as default a message keeps popping up prompting a change.

The IPC6252R-X22UG’s menu structure is pretty typical for this type of product, although there are few terminology issues that need to be verified. For example, processing can be set as Real-Time Prior, Fluent Prior or Ultra-low Delay. These are basically stream profiles for maximising frame-rate, low latency or streams for low bit-rate networks. There’s nothing difficult but at first glance you might end up second-guessing what the menus actually do!

Setting up the video stream for quality is straightforward. When using an HD1080p stream it can be set as 25 or 50fps.

Maximum bit-rate can be up to 16Mbps. Benchmark tests have shown that full HD streams often require 10Mbps or more, and even if you end up selecting 50fps the H.265 implementation does a good job of keeping the video clean.

The image quality at the highest bit-rate is good and there are no real signs of compression, even with a fair degree of motion in the scene. The enhanced frame rate helps, but even at 25fps the video doesn’t suffer with image blur. The H.265 implementation is clean and stable.

The image does show a slight bias towards warmer tones. However, most end users will view this as being ‘natural’ as many consumer video devices exhibit the same qualities. It only becomes obvious if you’re doing repeatable tests with charts. If the camera is used on its own in a real-world environment it won’t be noticeable.

Low light performance is good. We wouldn’t advise pushing for the specified 0.001 lux; with integral IR it’s best to switch to night mode while detail is still high.

For PTZ set-up, unless you’re using a controller or dedicated surveillance keyboard, mechanical control can be taken via the sidebar PTZ virtual controller. Alternatively mouse actions in the live screen can be used to control the device. Along with the virtual controller there are two menu tabs: Presets and Patrols.

Setting up preset positions is very straightforward. With the camera positioned and zoomed as required, a single click adds the preset. All that is required is for the preset to be given a number and a name. This will then appear in the menu. Deleting presets is also a simple operation.

The other menu tab allows the creation of patrols. While some manufacturers like to differentiate between tours, patrols, patterns and numerous other features, the IPC6252R-X22UG does it via a single option. Patrols can be made up of presets with variable dwell times, pan and/or tilt with set direction, speed and time, and zoom configurations. Users can also record patterns as patrols. Patrols can also be scheduled.

Control for configuration is smooth and there are no issues with regard to latency. The process is intuitive and allows for a fast and simple set-up.

The IPC6252R-X22UG’s performance is boosted by the inclusion of smart detection functions. These include line crossing, intrusion and face detection. There is also a people counting feature. Generally these work as well as you’d expect from generic analytics features, but are beyond the scope of this test.

Bosch: NEZ-5320-EPCW4

The NEZ-5320-EPCW4 from Bosch Security is an HD1080p fully functioned dome camera. It is part of the company’s Dinion brand of devices. The camera features a 30x optical zoom, 360 degree endless pan and a tilt range of 90 degrees. The camera makes use of a 1/2.8 inch progressive scan CMOS sensor, and delivers a quoted sensitivity of 0.35 lux for a 50IRE image.

Features include dynamic transcoding technology which delivers video streams requiring up to 50 per cent less bandwidth than other H.264 implementations, according to the manufacturer.

Other features include intelligent dynamic noise reduction, fog compensation, advanced streaming control, edge recording and alarm management.

The Bosch Autodome supports PoE+ and as such offers a number of benefits in terms of installation ease and reduced costs.

Not too long ago Bosch made the decision to no longer include required utilities with their devices. Instead installers and integrators are forced to download these. Whilst this is a growing trend across the industry, with some of the premium brands it does feel a bit like a penny-pinching exercise and given growing user concerns about cyber security, it doesn’t seem to be a policy that considers the needs of those fitting the systems.

Bosch does provide a link to the downloads page and once there the IP Helper utility and MPEG ActiveX element are easy to find. The configuration utility works well and found the camera immediately. It also allows the IP address details to be changed. The process is straightforward and fast.

On initial connection to the camera, the ActiveX viewing element is required for set-up. Typically these are stored on the device itself, but now Bosch has replaced this with a link to its download website. If the system is off-line, you’ll need to manually add the driver.

The camera is supplied without a password set and on-screen reminders push you to set this; it needs to be a minimum of eight characters. Once this is done the camera can be accessed for configuration.

The menu structure is well presented and for those who are used to the Bosch way of doing things it is immediately familiar.

For those who are new to the brand, configuration can be a bit more time-consuming that other devices because of the range of choices, but ultimately you do get a better quality result if you put the time in!

Image quality is very good. Maximum bit-rate can be close to 50Mbps so you’re unlikely to see quality throttled because of the hardware. Even at reasonable bit rates, image detail is high, colour replication shows good fidelity and motion is smooth. Failing light levels are also compensated by processing which never gives the image an artifical look as some technologies do.

Bosch still uses H.264 compression with this camera, and the implementation is very good. Coupled with dynamic transcoding, it enables high quality without heavy bandwidth use.

For PTZ set-up, unless you’re using a controller or dedicated surveillance keyboard, control can be taken via the sidebar PTZ virtual controller. Alternatively, interactions with the live screen can be initiated.

Taking a closer look at the telemetry operations did show the Bosch device to be faulty. Panning functionality was fine, as was zoom, but tilting was non-operational. We did check if there were any limits set and cleared these, but the function did not work. We could hear the motor running but there was no positioning change and the camera module appeared to be ‘floating’ when we moved the dome.

A quick strip-down revealed the culprit to be an errant drive belt, and within a few minutes the issue was solved with a little bit of tinkering.

As with many of the cameras on test, setting presets (Bosch calls them prepositions) is a simple and quick task. It’s simply a case of positioning and zooming the camera as required, then a single click adds the preposition. The only frustration was that it didn’t seem possible for prepositions to be given a name that relates to the viewed scene.

Tours are created by allocating prepositions and dwell times. There is also an option to create sectors within the total viewable scene.

Control for prepositions and tours is smooth and consistent and gives a clear indication that there are no issues with regard to latency.

The NEZ-5320-EPCW4 includes a number of Bosch proprietary smart features, but these are beyond the scope of this test.

Hikvision: DS-2DF8223I-AEL

The DS-2DF8223I-AEL from Hikvision is an HD1080p fully functioned dome camera. It is part of the company’s Darkfighter range of devices. The camera features a 23x optical zoom, 360 degree endless pan and a tilt range of 110 degrees. It uses a 1/1.9 inch CMOS sensor and delivers a claimed 0.02 lux sensitivity for a 50 IRE image.

Features include smart detection and smart tracking. This includes intrusion, line crossing, region entrance, region exit and smart tracking between multiple scenarios.

Other features include integral IR illumination, WDR, defogging, backlight and highlight compensation, alarm I/Os and two-way audio.

The DS-2DF8223I-AEL is supplied with a 24V AC PSU, but this is fitted with a European plug so will need changing. However, the camera also supports PoE+.

The camera is supplied with a quick start guide plus a miniature CD which contains utilities, software and a full manual. The utility is the SADP Tool, and this is used to identify devices on the network. The Tool found the connected devices immediately. The next stage is to activate the dome camera, which involves creating a password. The restriction is that this should be eight characters or more. Once this is completed, modification of the IP configuration can be carried out.

Once initial connection to the camera is carried out, you can commence configuration. The first thing you’ll notice is that as default, the image is quite heavily boosted. Working through the menus turning some of the settings down a bit does help, but many are simple on/off choices so the image never looks entirely natural. This isn’t a great issue when viewed in isolation, as video biased towards warm tones is often acceptable to end users. However, when viewed against other video sources the gain does seem a touch aggressive.

The menu layout is okay, but a more streamlined approach might be beneficial. The emphasis seems to be fitting the settings onto one screen rather than grouping together common configurations. This is especially obvious with PTZ settings, which includes ten separate tabbed menu screens, some of which include one single configuration option.

When using an HD1080p stream maximum frame rate is 25fps and bit-rate can be up to 16Mbps. The image quality at the highest bit-rate is decent, and while there are no obvious signs of compression, the image does retain a ‘boosted’ look. Add in continual motion and you see slight edge blur and the occasional dropped frame.

As light levels fall we found the best performance was achieved by the camera switching to night mode early. Unfortunately there are only three levels for automatic switching.

For PTZ set-up, the DS-2DF8223I-AEL makes use of the aforementioned ten tabbed menu screen. A number of the screens also include a virtual telemetry controller which allows the creation and editing of presets. These are dotted about and appear on the menus where parameters for specific views can be managed. In addition to these a fly-out screen on the main live view can be used.

PTZ settings can include presets, patrols and recorded patterns. Patterns are limited to 100 actions, which will be okay in many applications. Patrols are formed by linking presets. The only issue with this is that dwell times must be at least 15 seconds, which could be awkward for some applications.

Setting up preset positions is very straightforward. With the camera positioned and zoomed as required, a single click adds the preset. Each individual preset has a set button as well as a call and clear button. Names of presets are changed by highlighting and typing over the number.

Camera control for configuration is smooth and consistent and we experienced no issues with regard to latency.
The DS-2DF8223I-AEL does include a variety of smart detection functions such as line crossing, intrusion, face detection, etc.. These are typical of generic analytics features, but are beyond the scope of this test.

BENCHMARK VERDICT

Hanwha Techwin: PNP-9200RHP

The PNP-9200RHP from Hanwha Techwin is a very new camera and forms part of its 4K UHD range. Image quality is good, aided by well-implemented compression, and the dome continues the manufacturer’s approach to its Wisenet range by including a host of beneficial features and functions.

Mechanical control is smooth and consistent, and latency isn’t an issue, even when pushing the video quality to the extreme. Setting PTZ functions is also straightforward.

The one issue we encountered was that dwell times weren’t accurate; setting this at a lower time resulted in dwell times closer to 12 or 13 seconds. It is a very new model, so we’d expect to see that fixed as part of an early firmware upgrade. However, this problem is significant enough to impact on everyday use and so the camera cannot currently be recommended. However, we will revisit the model and adjust the ratings once the issue has been clarified.

Dahua: DH-SD6AL230F-HNI-IR

The DH-SD6AL230F-HNI-IR from Dahua is decent networked PTZ with HD1080p performance. Image quality is fine for most mainstream applications, but the limit of 8Mbps bit-rate does mean that it won’t compete with some of the higher-end dome cameras in terms of fine detail. That said, for some applications where budget constraints are imposed the quality will be sufficient.

Mechanical control is relatively simple, but the fact that some PTZ functionality is accessed via the GUI for the camera’s webserver, while other aspects must be configured via an analogue-style OSD does make configuration somewhat disjointed. It’s hard to find a reason for this approach, and it wasn’t popular with the installers and integrators we showed it to.

Despite this downside, the camera will do a job for many mainstream applications but with the provisos that configuration procedures could be better and bit-rate limitations must be understood.

CCTV Direct: IPC6252R-X22UG

The IPC6252R-X22UG from CCTV Direct is aimed very much at the budget-conscious mainstream video surveillance market, but it’s an attractive proposition that is both installer-friendly and a good performer. Image quality is good, and the option to stream full HD video at 50fps makes it ideal for applications with high motion levels. The H.265 implementation is also clean and efficient.

Mechanical operation at first seems basic, being limited to Presets and Patrols. However, it has as much flexibility as its peers in terms of PTZ functionality, and this is also easy to access.

The IPC6252R-X22UG represents an affordable but effective PTZ solution for many applications. It is not only recommended, but was also felt to be the best buy for those seeking a cost-effective PTZ camera for mainstream use.

Bosch Security: NEZ-5320-EPCW4

The NEZ-5320-EPCW4 from Bosch Security is a good performer in terms of optical quality and mechanical control. Image detail is high and colour fidelity is pretty much spot-on. The camera also boasts a number of proprietary processing features which add value. Bosch recently committed to roll out its impressive IVA functionality across all cameras, but our test unit didn’t have this added feature-set.

The small fault with the tilt drive belt aside, mechanical operation was smooth and consistent, and we had no issues with the telemetry functionality. Performance was good and delivered what was expected.

The only niggle is the lack of inclusion of necessary utilities, drivers and documentation, all of which need to be found and downloaded. Despite this, the NEZ-5320-EPCW4 has to be recommended.

Hikvision: DS-2DF8223I-AEL

The DS-2DF8223I-AEL from Hikvision is a decent mainstream PTZ camera, and delivers more than acceptable images and mechanical operation. However, it just misses out on being recommended by the smallest of margins. The reason is quite simply that a few of the other cameras on test have something of an edge in terms of performance and PTZ implementation.

A slightly overworked gain function and limitations on patrol dwell time won’t be deal-breakers for many applications and as such this represents a viable choice. However, as with a few other models, the narrowest of margins are amplified by the way other manufacturers have upped their game in recent months.

READ THE FIRST PART OF THE NETWORKED PTZ CAMERAS TEST WITH MODELS FROM AXIS COMMUNICATIONS, PANASONIC AND TYCO SECURITY PRODUCTS

BENCHMARK
Benchmark is the industry's only publication for installers and integrators which is dedicated to technological innovation and the design and implementation of smarter solutions. With an unrivalled level of experience in technology-based systems, Benchmark delivers independent and credible editorial content.

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