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Tuesday 2 August 2016

HikVision IP CCTV First Impressions

We've had CCTV at home for many years. The main use is to keep an eye on the horses while we are at work. Initially this was with analogue cameras and for the last few years, exclusively IP to get the highest quality picture.

Previous cameras

Most of our IP cameras have been Vivotek. I've tried some low cost makes and was always disappointed or they broke after a short while and I'd need to buy a more expensive Vivotek to replace them.

In the last few years many more mid-price brands have come to the market so when we needed to extend our coverage I wanted to try them out. A colleague at work is pleased with his HikVision setup so I bought a 4 camera setup with a network video recorder (NVR.)

Full HD is now a minimum requirement for any video and the HikVision cameras I purchased are 4Mega Pixel. At 2688x1520 they are well over full HD (1920x1080) quality.

I only buy dome cameras. I have found that spiders always build webs across cameras but with no overhangs on a dome camera we spend far less time cleaning them.

Spiders webs reflect IR very well so night vision is useless if there is a web over the lens even if the day view looks fine!

Before you get that far the first thing you will notice when you turn on the power is how noisy the recorder is. I have mine in the study where it is just about tolerable. There is a constant background fan noise. It would not be any good in a living room. I am still deciding if I need to buy or build an enclosure for it to cut down on the noise!

Now for the configuration. The manual and the quick start guide are a little unclear about where to start. It has lots of models in the same manual that you have to wade through and tells you how to fit the hard drive but not what to plug in to get it working.

I had assumed it needed a monitor and the supplied mouse because the manual showed a network screen without DHCP enabled and the quick start guide had nothing about the network configuration.

Anyway, I went through the setup wizard on a monitor connected with HDMI. It had however configured the IP address automatically using DHCP, which on my DS-7604 was enabled by default despite what the manual implied!

Anyway, the wizard was fairly easy and I was surprised to see all my existing Vivotek cameras listed as choices to add. I did not try any of them because this NVR was intended for use with the new additional cameras.

Setting up the cameras was arduous. As the instructions are so confusing it is not immediately obvious that the cameras themselves come with a fixed IP address of by default. I am so used to these defaulting to DHCP that it took me a long time to get going.

If you connect the cameras directly to the Power over Ethernet (PoE) ports on the back of the NVR and use the Activate feature from the config page then they install very easily. They all get an address on the 192.168.254.x subnet.

If you want them elsewhere on your LAN you will need to download the SADP software from the HikVision web site to be able to detect and change the camera settings.

I opted to connect one of the PoE ports back to my LAN so I was running a second subnet on my switches. The cameras were then detected and could be activated from the config screen.

Quality and construction
The 4Meg cameras are excellent with such a high resolution. The night vision was also better and further than I have had on previous cameras. The plants were still visible at night at 10m and just about at 15m.

The build of the cameras is very strong but the external fly lead for the RJ45 PoE network and the 12v power connector are hard to hide neatly out of sight. Particularly the large water proof joint on the RJ45 connector is very inconvenient and unless you make up you own patch lead, pretty useless.

Both myself and a colleague decided to use a separate water proof electrical box next to the camera to protect the connections.

I mounted all of mine on the wall. This appears to be an option the designers have not thought of but I would have expected to be the most common for outside mounting. The partial gimbal arrangement requires the whole body of the camera to be rotated for some positions but there is only one cable exit slot in the side so it is not always in a convenient position.

The very short elastic safety cord between the two parts of the body is very inconvenient so I removed this on all of mine.

The seal between the two halves of the body stays in place. I did not try to see if this was just luck or if it was glued in but either way it stayed put which was much easier to work with than other makes I have used.

I probably have less minor niggles with the HikVision cameras than others so these would be my first choice at the moment.

Ease of use
What bugs me about all the NVR's and cameras I have used is that they insist on using their own web browser plugin. This pretty much means they only work with Internet Explorer (IE)! The HikVision is the same. The downloaded component only works in IE. I use Edge (Windows 10) or Chrome. I had to deliberately run IE to be able to view the cameras. YouTube does not need a browser add-in so why do CCTV cameras need one!

That said the rest of the interface is good or at lease acceptable. Features were fairly well laid out and easy to find.

View and playback worked well. It is a bit odd having to press the a play button even to see the live feed but that's OK once you know.

I would recommend this setup. I don't think it is any better than others I have used, it is about the same but it has everything I need and the price is very competitive. The camera quality is excellent although the fixed IP address by default is a little confusing.


Where to buy?
If you plan to buy any of the things mentioned on this page, please consider using one of the following links as they pay me a commission:
Vivotek cameras
HikVision cameras and NVR

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