Over the years I’ve tried a lot of CCTV cameras. Things have come a long way as we moved from coax, CRTs and BNCs to CAT6, IP and PoE.
This time I wanted to organise a new Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ) camera that I could use to watch our building site remotely once the action starts.
Building Site Cam
Our last house was full of random cameras as manufacturers regularly sent me their kit to try out. This taught me one over-riding lesson though. Get a single, properly integrated camera system with an NVR (Network Video Recorder). Like most things in life, spending a bit more means doing the job right (and once).
Now, while I wanted something decent, it still needed to be affordable too. You really can spend a terrifying amount of money on a good quality PTZ IP camera, easily getting into 4 figures. But that’s not in our budget, so I set about looking for a more reasonably priced solution.
I’ve previously had great success with an 8-camera Hikvision NVR setup in work. I’ve found it to be excellent quality at an affordable price. This experience means i am familiar with their setup, including the browser, desktop and mobile apps so it made sense to stick with the same brand. I not only wanted a standalone camera for now, but also one I could re-use once the new house is built too, incorporating it into a multi-camera NVR setup.
In the end I went for this Hikvision DS-2DE4225IW-DE (catchy title). It’s a 2MP camera (1080p HD) with a 25x optical zoom that’s rated for indoor and outdoor use (IP66) and has an RRP of £400.50+VAT.
Mounting & Setup
The package included a power supply already wired to plug into the dome. But this would mean having to run both power and data to the camera.
However, it supports the 30w PoE+ standard (802.3at) and so I bought this PoE+ Injector to use instead. Power over Ethernet is fantastic as it means you don’t need to find an electrical supply at the camera. Instead you send it along the same CAT5 (or better) cable that connects the camera to your network.
We’re currently living with family next door to our building site and this means we are in the lucky position to have access to super-fast FTTP Broadband. Fast upstream bandwidth is a requirement for streaming high quality CCTV images. The property has a pole carrying TV aerials on the gable end of the house which is also in an ideal elevated location to monitor our building site next door. So I went with this DS-1602ZJ-POLE mount (£30 + VAT). There are a variety of other mounts available for this camera, including ones that fit on flat walls and in corners.
This pole does shake on stormy days though, which is particularly noticeable when zoomed in, so that’s something you need to consider when working out how and where to mount it.
While it’s too early to draw any conclusions about the longevity of this camera, the metal construction seems sturdy and durable. Cameras supplied by authorised Hikvision resellers in the UK have a 3 year warranty.
There’s the option to hook up external microphones or speakers to this camera too, should you have a need for that. The list of whizzy sounding features also includes – wide dynamic range (WDR), highlight/back light compensation (HLC/BLC), 3D digital noise reduction technology (3D DNR) and electronic image stabilisation (EIS). Phew.
Get a Proper SD Card
The camera supports H.264 as well as the new H.265 video compression standard which offers a considerable saving on bandwidth and storage space. It can use a micro SD card for recording (if you’re not using an NVR) and can take up to a maximum size of 128GB.
I’ve seen pretty much every ‘normal’ SD card I’ve ever put into my other IP cameras fail. That’s particularly awkward if your camera is up a pole like this one.
So I’ve splurged on a Samsung 128 GB PRO Endurance SD card which is designed specifically for surveillance, security, dash and body cams. They are rated for up to 5 years of continuous recording so hopefully will provide trouble-free use until we get the NVR.
The rear panel of the dome comes off with 4 Philips screws to reveal the micro SD card slot – you can just make it out in this photo, below the bottom right corner of the PCB at the small orange ribbon cable.
Pan, Tilt, Zoom, Patrols, Presets, Events & Alarms
Fixed cameras are the norm, and usually a better bet. But when you want to cover a large area with a single camera like this then a PTZ is ideal.
The 25x zoom is very impressive, not least at night when the camera’s built-in IR illumination can reach 100 metres. It’s part of the ‘DarkFighter’ range that uses ultra-low light technology to provide colour pictures down to just 0.05 lux, and black and white pictures down to 0.01 lux. It can go down to 0 lux at up to 100m with its built-in IR (as a guide, a full moon on a clear night is around 0.25 lux).
Here’s an example of me watching some rabbits at night which shows the amazing zoom as well as the low light capabilities built into the camera (click the image for larger version).
As well as the manual pan tilt and zoom functions the camera can be programmed with up to 8 different ‘patrols’ with each having up to 32 ‘presets’. The pan is continuous 360 degrees so there’s never a time where you have to go back the other way. Remember to check out your local laws on domestic CCTV, privacy and data protection. Here’s some useful looking information for the UK.
Other smart features I’ve not even got into yet include the detection of motion, intrusion, line crossing and object removal.
Spiders webs across the lens were always a problem on the cameras at our last house, but so far the movement of the PTZ seems to keep them at bay on this one, which is another big advantage.
One thing worth mentioning is that there’s no dome covering the camera here, so you can see this one move. This means if you were using it for security surveillance your subject would most likely be able to work out when it was pointed at them.
Here’s another example shot, right at the end of the 25 times zoom looking at a bird table at the side of the house where we’re staying. I think this shot shows off the quality of the camera really well (click the image for full-size version).
I’ve been experimenting with the ‘Event Scheduling’ settings for the camera. An interval of 5 mins (300,000ms) seems about right for this.
I am importing the photos into Lightroom and exporting the movie from the Slideshow module which works great.
If you don’t have Lightroom there are plenty of stand alone apps available to turn a bunch of stills into a time lapse.
I’ll put some example videos up in a future post once the building starts.
Hikvision cameras can be viewed in a browser or via dedicated apps for the PC, Mac, Android or iOS.
Recent updates to Safari have broken the ability to view the camera in a browser on the Mac, so I’m running the iVMS-4200 application instead. It works really well and provides access to all the features of the camera remotely, whether viewing or configuring.
On iOS I’m using the iVMS-4500 app. This allows you to view the camera as well as control the PTZ manually and recall presets too.
What If I have No Power or Broadband?
If your building site lacks either power, broadband, or both, then there are still options open to you.
If you have power but no broadband (perhaps living on site in a caravan or mobile home) then you can still use the setup above recording to a micro SD card, but without the ability to watch remotely over the internet.
If you have decent 3G or 4G LTE coverage then you could use the same system connected to a cellular router. Specialists like Nucleus Networks make quality routers for this purpose.
Lastly there are all-in-one solutions available that integrate a camera, battery, solar panel and a cellular modem like this reolink.
We’ve had this Hikvision PTZ camera installed for around 2 months now and it has genuinely been a joy to use.
I’ve embedded some sample footage below from a YouTube user that gives you a good idea of its flexibility. While we’ve set it up here to monitor our building site, it would of course be useful in dozens of other applications too.
Hikvision has become such a huge success by offering great features at an affordable price. I’ve used a lot of IP CCTV cameras over the years, but this thing blows me away. Recommended.
- 1/2.8″ progressive scan CMOS
- Up to 1920 × 1080@30fps resolution
- Min. illumination:
- Color: 0.005 Lux @(F1.6, AGC ON)
- B/W: 0.001 Lux @(F1.6, AGC ON)
- 0 Lux with IR
- 25× optical zoom, 16× digital zoom
- WDR, HLC, BLC, 3D DNR, Defog, EIS, Regional Exposure, Regional Focus
- Up to 100 m IR distance
- 12 VDC & PoE+ (802.3 at, class4)
- Support H.265+/H.265 video compression