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Design upgrades, new light sources lead R&D of night-vision cameras

Night-vision camera makers intensify product development while monitoring Japan’s component factories.

China manufacturers of night-vision cameras are strengthening R&D to boost the line amid concerns about component shortage and cost increases resulting from the earthquake in Japan.

Night-vision camera

Shenzhen LSVT's SW-220C model adopts the latest Seawolf DPS solution from Pixim. It has 690 HTVL effective resolution and up to 120dB wide dynamic range.

Suppliers are working on design upgrades in the infrared segment, exploring structural refinements and new light sources.

The first leads product development efforts in most companies because it presents a cost-efficient method of improving the camera’s performance. It can also be implemented within a short period.

The latest models with optimized structures feature various combinations of IR LED sizes, power and emission angles to provide flexible illumination effects in different distances.

The most popular types can automatically adjust these elements based on the surveillance environment and focal range.

In addition, companies are improving these products’ heat dissipation, adopting constant power supply and large cooling fins in the housing to extend the life span.

Another R&D trend is the use of external IR light modules, especially for bullet and PTZ releases. Aside from illuminating a larger area, this approach allows easier replacement of modules to address buyers’ changing needs.

Shenzhen Sanan Technology Co. Ltd and Minrray Industry Co. Ltd are among the makers offering such products. The SA-1504 model from the first is a bullet configuration with two IR light modules.

Using a 1/3in Sony Super HAD CCD, the camera has 600 TVL resolution and an IR effective range reaching 80m. It incorporates a 9 to 22mm manual zoom lens and comes in an IP66-rated housing.

Minrray’s UV90A-BM-R PTZ model also has two modules. Each integrates seven high-power LEDs and 28 low-power ones for better illumination in both close and long-range monitoring. The product offers 360-degree continuous pan at 0.1 to 90deg/s, 250-degree tilt at 0.1 to 40deg/s, 255 preset positions and 24 privacy zones. It supports an optional block camera module if required.

As regards light sources introduced in previous years, IR LED array and IR laser are increasingly adopted. Spurred by declining prices, the first has penetrated the midrange and high-end categories.

For example, quotes of Shenzhen Jiaxinjie Electron Co. Ltd’s night-vision cameras employing dual-lamp IR LED array dropped $8 to $9 in the past 12 months. This narrowed the gap further between units with traditional and alternative IR light supply.

As for IR laser, use began to widen in recent months as makers overcame technical challenges concerning the heat sink and life span. Current selections adopt 2 to 4W laser diodes and large-zoom lenses, and support more than 500m effective distance. Some are equipped with IR LED sets to compensate for the weakness of the technology within close range.

Aside from light sources, China manufacturers are integrating other surveillance technologies into their night-vision cameras, including wide dynamic range, IP and high definition. A number of Shenzhen LSVT Co. Ltd’s releases are WDR types. The SW-220C model uses Pixim’s latest DPS solution with 690 TVL resolution and 120dB WDR. It has two external IR light modules and up to 100m effective range.

Some enterprises offer IP versions that support MPEG-4 or H.264 and CIF or D1 resolution. The HD variants provide digital compression and 720 or 1080p.

Product gallery

Night-vision camera

The SA-1827E model from Shenzhen Sanan is based on the Sony Effio-E solution, and has 700 TVL resolution and up to 30m IR distance.

China makers cope with component supply & cost issues

The key components in making night-vision cameras such as CCD sensors, DSP chips and block camera modules are sourced mainly from Japan vendors, including Sony, Sharp, Panasonic and Hitachi.

The March 2011 earthquake raised concerns that production of these inputs may decline as news of factory closures in affected areas spread throughout the electronics industry.

As a result, sensor and module costs doubled within days. Although rates eventually stabilized after a week, most solutions have increased 30 to 50 percent from pre-earthquake levels. For example, the Sony package containing the ICX633AK CCD sensor, CXD3142R DSP IC and CXA3796N head amplifier reached $17.70 a week after the quake from $13.70 previously.

Some interviewed makers think the markups were due to China IC wholesalers intentionally hoarding components, creating a fake shortage and selling their supply for a higher value.

To ensure stable supply and rates in the next half year, some companies have signed long-term contracts with providers or agencies in Japan. Others have started to purchase components from Europe.

South Korea is another alternative source of solutions for several enterprises, although brand recognition, production capacity and the resulting device performance may not be on a par with Japan variants. Still, makers such as A1PROS, Samsung, LG and CNB can provide CCD sensors, DSP ICs and block camera modules for nonmainstream variants.

China suppliers continue to monitor the situation. Even if major component factories were not seriously damaged during the earthquake, it may take time for processes to return to normal.

Nevertheless, midsize and large manufacturing hubs in China have been reported to be well-equipped to deal with the impact of lower input production. Most enterprises’ regular inventory can support up to two months’ yield.

Interviewed companies are implementing a no-price-change policy for current clients, but may have to raise quotes if Japan will not recover by 3Q11.

Night-vision camera

Minrray's model UV90A-BM-R camera uses a pair of IR lamps with up to 100m effective distance. Its optical window has a 5mm tempered glass that prevents image distortion.

IR-enhanced night-vision cameras lead supply

China’s selection of night-vision cameras consists of IR-enhanced and thermal imaging types. The first, which dominates supply, adopts a highly sensitive CCD sensor and optional IR light sources.

Mainstream models in this category have IR lenses, 420 to 540 TVL resolution and 0.1lux minimum illumination. Units employ IR cut filters for day/night surveillance. They also support PAL and NTSC TV signals and provide greater than 48dB S/N ratio and auto white balance.

The IR effective range depends on the light source, but most products cover a distance of 15 to 50m.

Meanwhile, thermal imaging cameras are a secondary line and target the upscale segment. Because of the high technology threshold and manufacturing outlay, only 10 suppliers in China pursue the line.

These include Zhejiang Dali Technology Co. Ltd and Changzhou Minking Electronic Co. Ltd. The devices are limited to a few special applications and are not widely used in the security industry. Releases in this sector adopt uncooled FPA detector, 160x120 or 384x288-pixel resolution, 7.5 to 13.5µm spectral range and 2x digital zoom.

Night-vision cameras come in bullet or dome form factors and have fixed or manual zoom lenses, 420 to 540 TVL resolution and 15 to 50m illumination coverage. Those employing IR LED lamps start at $30, while models using IR LED arrays are at least $50.

Bullet-type IR laser variants with a manual zoom lens and more than 200m distance are $250 or higher. IP function adds $30 to $50 to the base price.

For midrange units, IR speed dome and PTZ releases with an IR LED or LED array start at $300. Versions adopting IR laser exceed $600. Thermal imaging cameras can go beyond $5,000 per unit.

The cost of CCD sensors and DSP chips increased 30 percent since the Japan earthquake. Even with the announcement of some makers that they will not raise component rates for old clients, interviewed companies expect product prices to climb by up to 20 percent in the months ahead.

Night-vision camera

Wizard's On-981HVF-IR model adopts a removable IR cut filter with 80m IR distance and a photodiode design.

Taiwan: Video quality improvement tops R&D

Resolution enhancement, video sharpening and IP are the three major development objectives in Taiwan’s night-vision camera manufacturing industry. The targets are aimed to address problems related to night-viewing resolution.

Products in the mainstream have definitions lower than 600 TVL, typically 420 to 540 TVL. Through software adjustment, makers are able to achieve up to 700 TVL. They are also employing automatic white balance and backlight compensation, and shutter and OSD adjustments to improve video quality.

Noise reduction is another R&D trend. Taiwan suppliers are using lenses to eliminate noise from unclean signals and obtain clearer images. The common lens sizes are F1.1 to 1.6. Manufacturers such as Neotech Photoelectric Inc. incorporate larger 4.3mm ones with F1.0 aperture to enable surveillance in color in low-light venues instead of adding infrared cut filters or LEDs.

IR-enabled versions record b/w videos in low-lux environments, including clubs, discos and dark streets.

Some makers integrate IP function to raise image definition and hasten system installation. Products in the segment provide megapixel resolution.

Speed dome variants adopt CCD sensors, of which Sony, Sharp and Panasonic are the preferred brands. The major formats are 1/3 and 1/4in. Those with IR cut filters and LEDs support up to 100m recording distance.

Box and analog models fit for outdoor setups dominate the mainstream supply in Taiwan. Makers use sunshield for weather resistance and aluminum alloy for better heat dissipation.

Suppliers provide value-added features to stimulate sales for the mature line. Wizard Electronics Co. Ltd’s On-981HVF-IR model uses a photodiode design for accurate IR LED trigger activation. Merit Lilin Ent. Co. Ltd’s CMR 7284X model utilizes adaptive tone reproduction to improve the visibility and contrast.

Night-vision camera

Product gallery

Jec Electronics Technology (Tianjin) Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: ET5106
Description: 850nm IR wavelength; 30-degree IR half-power beam width; >100m IR distance; 0.1 to 55deg/s pan rotation, 0.1 to 40deg/s tilt, 36-degree continuous pan, -10 to 90-degree tilt

Night-vision camera

Jec Electronics Technology (Tianjin) Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: ET5110Z
Description: 850nm IR wavelength; 30- degree IR half-power angle; ≥50m IR distance; 3 to 60deg/s pan speed, 2 to 40deg/s tilt, 360-degree continuous pan, -80 to +60-degree tilt; 128 presets

Night-vision camera

Merit Lilin Ent. Co. Ltd

Model: CMR 7284X
Description: 700 TVL resolution; megapixel varifocal lens; removable IR cut filter, up to 60m distance; adaptive tone reproduction, 2D-DNR, high light compensation, color rolling suppression, white balance; privacy zone masking, OSD

Night-vision camera

Minrray Industry Co. Ltd
mainland China

Model: UV20C-R
Description: >100m IR distance; 150, 200 and 300m laser distance; two alarm inputs, with washer linkage; manual control for 0.1 to 100deg/s pan speed control, 0.1 to 40deg/s tilt; 0.02 to 2,000deg/s horizontal rotation, 0.02 to 90deg/s tilt rotation, 360-degree rotation range; up to 24 privacy

Night-vision camera

Neotech Photoelectric Inc.

Model: Magic-MS2-03C
Description: Star light color camera; 1/3in Sony Super HAD CCD; 480 to 560 TVL horizontal resolution; automatic backlight compensation; digital noise reduction; aluminum housing with sunshield; IP66 rating; hidden-cable bracket, wall or ceiling mount; 170x85x95mm; 596g with bracket

Night-vision camera

Shenzhen LSVT Co. Ltd
mainland China

Model: SW-560C
MOQ: 1 unit
Delivery: 7 days
Description: 1/3in Pixim Seawolf solution; 690 HTVL-E resolution; 120dB ultrawide dynamic range; IR cut filter, 20m IR distance; 3D-DNR; OSD menu; 24VAC/12VDC power; IP66 rating; aluminum alloy, 3-axis bracket

Night-vision camera

Shenzhen Sanan Technology Co. Ltd
mainland China

Model: SA-1504
MOQ: 1 unit
Delivery: 7 days
Description: 1/3in Sony Super HAD CCD; 600 TVL resolution; 9 to 22mm manual zoom lens; 80m IR distance; 3-axis bracket; IP66-rated housing

Note: This article "Design upgrades, new light sources lead R&D of night-vision cameras" was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.

All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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