Hikvision Darkfighter X PTZ: First Impressions

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Hikvision Darkfighter X PTZ
Hikvision Darkfighter X PTZ

Darkfighter X is a new 2MP 1080p surveillance camera range from Hikvision that features a new sensor design that allows much improved low light performance in colour. If what we saw on the Hikvision stand at Security 2017 was anything to go by, then this camera might take the market to another level.  

DARKFIGHTER X is available in 2 form factors on release – a standard box camera for indoor applications, or external applications when installed in a suitable housing, and an attractive and rugged-looking PTZ dome. At the heart of this technology is what I am going to describe as a new camera engine though I may be going too far – I’ve not seen a white paper on the technology and the camera is so new the local Hikvision team doesn’t know all there is to know about the camera yet. 

According to Hikvision, Darkfighter-X delivers the best possible colour images in low light by employing techniques used by human eyes, which use different groups of cells to collect signals generated by the reflections of colour and brightness from surfaces in the scene being viewed. These are then merged within the brain to create an enhanced composite image. In the case of Darkfighter X, the camera takes information from an IR sensor (for brightness) and a visible light sensor (colour) and combines them to provide a bright image in full colour without blur or extremes of noise. According to Hikvision, Darkfighter X technology can provide colourful, sharp images down at 0.001 lux – that’s half starlight. 

The demo on the stand has 3 cameras setup – the new Darkfighter X bullet, the current Darkfighter and another Hikvision camera. Because the team only has one Darkfighter bullet – the one in the cloth-swathed box – I don’t get to see this camera – instead I get some images of the Darkfighter X pendant PTZ, which is a handsome half stainless and half poly unit that looks as though it would be at home in applications as rugged as they come. For reference, the lenses in the full body Darkfighter X and PTZ are the same – the only difference is the form factor. 

According to Hikvision, typically cameras in low light will offer blurry images if brightness is required (due to a slower shutter speed), or sharper images in monochrome. With Darkfighter X, these 2 images are combined to create a bright image that is also sharp. There’s obviously some work going on the in the processor to manage this. 

“It’s a fact that 70 per cent of crimes happen at night, but with Darkfighter-X, that’s no problem”, says Peter Guan, Hikvision’s channel sales director. “Faces are sharper and easier to recognise and the surroundings much clearer to see, even in the lowest light. All of this makes images much more valuable for evidence collecting and case solving.”

The Darkfighter-X series includes a PTZ and bullet camera. Both come with optical defog, 25x optical zoom, 2MP resolution and smart detection. They also include the new H.265+ codec and are weatherproof to IP66 standard.

Evaluating the Demo

How does it look in the demo? Looking at the image stream coming from the black box on the Hikvision stand, I don’t think the Darkfighter X image is brighter than the current Darkfighter image – what looks much better is colour rendition and control of amplification noise. Sharpness and contrast – the drivers of detail are all much improved with Darkfighter X. Colour – the more you look at it the more you can see the vast improvement. 

Every single tile in the colour pallet is well defined and distinctly different in tone from its neighbours. With Darkfighter, there are generalisations of colour which will rob scenes of detail in the real world. Interestingly, it looks like the shutter speed is about double the speed of the current model, which seems to be dragging a noise trail most the way around the target. 

The wider image from the Darkfighter X, which is viewing the exhibition hall, is instructive, too. Low light cameras can give away some performance during daylight hours, typically with blooming in backlight and through over exposure of lighter parts of a scene. In the case of Darkfighter X, areas of light and dark are well handled and depth of field looks very strong at the wide end of this 25x optical zoom lens. There’s mild purple fringing around bright points. What looks exceptionally good is colour contrast, which is rich and strong.

According to the official release, which is pretty much all the specification detail I could get at press time, the camera handles faces much better in the ‘lowest light levels’ but exactly how low in real world applications, it’s tough to say. What was clear from the demo at Security 2017, Darkfighter X considerably out-performed current-gen technology for colour rendition, sharpness, noise and blur. 

Out-performed by how much? It looks as if by multiple times on the monitor and that is likely to be mirrored in applications. Better low light performance through increased sensor sensitivity means less ISO and faster shutter speeds, which mean sharper images and more chance of court admissible faces in support of criminal investigations. ♦

Features of Darkfighter X include: 

* Dual optical and IR sensors
* 25x varifocal zoom lens
* 2MP, 1080p resolution
* IP66 rated bullet and PTZ
* Optical de-fog
* Smart detection functions
* H.264 and H.265.