China suppliers are improving the optical performance of their CCTV cameras and lenses to expand applications.
The rapid adoption of digital and networked security systems worldwide is prompting China manufacturers of CCTV cameras and lenses to release products supporting these applications. High-definition configurations, in particular, lead R&D activities in these segments.
Megapixel cameras are rising in number, with total output last year growing 150 percent from 2009 at 150,000 units. Increasing demand from the financial and traffic management sectors, and continued price reductions, are driving the uptrend. Makers expect the average annual growth rate in production and exports of such versions will exceed 50 percent in the next two to three years.
Mainstream megapixel cameras adopt a 1.3MP CCD sensor, and enable 0.1lux minimum illumination, 32Kbps to 8Mbps adjustable compression bit rate and dual-stream encoding. These support 720p resolution at 25fps, MPEG-4 or H.264, automatic exposure and white balance, and multiple Internet protocols.
China suppliers are working on products with 2, 3 or 5MP CMOS, new SoC solutions and 1080p resolution at 25fps.
Among the midsize and large China lens manufacturers that have released high-definition cameras are Fujian Forecam Optics Co. Ltd, Fuzhou Aheadex Electronic & Technology Co. Ltd, Fuzhou Keekoon Electronic Co. Ltd, Fuzhou Senview Optics Co. Ltd and Fuzhou Zheng Sheng Photoelectric Instrument Co. Ltd.
The popularity of high-resolution cameras is boosting production of compatible lenses. The current supply includes fixed-focus or varifocal types with 1/3 or 1/2in formats, CS or C mounts, and 1 to 1.3MP or 720p resolution.
Many lens manufacturers have released megapixel models. Most companies are working on improving the focal length and aperture, and developing manual or motorized variants with adjustable focus, zoom and iris. Aspherical and infrared-coated versions will also rise in number.
Lenses with 2 to 5MP are available from major industry players. Fujian Forecam offers 2 and 5MP types, and Phenix Optical has launched 3MP varieties.
China makers, however, do not expect high-resolution lens production to match growth in the camera sector due to a number of reasons. The high technology threshold is a major obstacle. Companies are injecting more capital into R&D to address this problem.
Moreover, demand for upscale lenses among local manufacturers remains low. Camera makers offering 2 to 5MP models prefer imported lenses, which limits lens suppliers to those yielding 1 to 1.3MP variants.
Many are hoping, however, that lens prices will decrease further once high-definition cameras breach the mainstream. This could then boost demand for the category.
The entry of new players such as Phenix, which established a subsidiary, Phenix Optical Security Industry (Shanghai) Co. Ltd, would also add impetus. The latter began developing CCTV lenses for the security industry in August2010 to tap the sector's prospects. Its main products include 1 and 3MP HD models, 20 to 100x motorized zoom types, and auto-iris and IR versions.
The parent company is a veteran in lens technology and is one of the largest optical enterprises in China. Its releases have been chosen by international camera brands such as Canon, Fujinon, Olympus and Samsung.
Aside from high-definition products, R&D efforts among China makers target long-range surveillance. The emergence of equivalent lenses and enhanced IR illuminators is boosting the development of systems supporting more than 500m effective distance in both night and day settings.
Suppliers are also improving the design, load capacity and position precision of PTZ cameras and decoders. Ultrazoom variants are growing steadily as well.
Lenses with a focal length exceeding 100mm or a zoom rate higher than 20x are being added to the product roster. Units with 300, 750 and 1,000mm focal length have been introduced and are enabling ultralong distance monitoring of more than 1km.
Current R&D initiatives to step up optical performance include structural design optimization, high-precision molding and machining accuracy improvements. Some companies are working on aspherical and extra-low dispersion lenses.
Aspherical lenses enhance focus, lower the chromatic aberration, simplify structure and reduce the camera's weight. Despite these advantages, output of these types will not rise substantially as not all China companies can manufacture the product in-house due to the high technology threshold. Except for large enterprises such as Fujian Forecam, Fuzhou Senview and Phenix, most subcontract to local and foreign factories.
ED lenses enhance image sharpness and display contrast. Many have introduced this variety in their midrange and high-end lines.
In the camera segment, IP, megapixel, long-range, ultrazoom, IR and WDR models dominate supply. Mainstream releases use CCD sensors. The standard specifications are 480 to 540 TVL resolution, 0.1lux minimum illumination, greater than 48dB S/N ratio, and automatic gain control and white balance. The surveillance range depends on the type of lens used.
HD IP, IR, WDR and PTZ represent the major trends in this line. New hardware solutions, including chipsets and sensors, are influencing makersâ R&D direction.
The CMOS sensor is challenging CCD's leading position, while IP platforms are expanding market share.
Speed dome models continue to be popular in the PTZ segment as new technologies such as IP compression and IR are integrated.
As regards CCTV lenses, megapixel, telephoto, ultrazoom, wide-aperture and IR are the R&D trends in China. These come with varied focal length and aperture, and in fixed-focus, varifocal, motorized focus, and fixed, manual and auto-iris versions. Mainstream selections adopt C or CS mount and 1/3, 1/4 or 1/2in format. Board- and MTV-mounted models are on offer. Fixed-focus units with 2.8, 4, 6 or 8mm focal length, and varifocal types with 3/3.5 to 8mm and 2.8 to 12mm constitute the bulk of output.
Suppliers are working on IR and wide-aperture lenses to widen nighttime or low-light surveillance applications. They use special coating and ED technology to expand the spectrum and resolve problems in focal shifts, thereby improving IR performance. Makers also offer better rate for wide-aperture models, at F1.2 or F1.0 from F1.4. Super-wide-range and synchronization focus are two of the important configurations being developed in this segment.
Price of CCTV cameras vary according to design and key components. Standard box or dome variants range from $20 to $80. Typical IP models are between $50 and $200. Megapixel versions list at $100, while the PTZ and speed dome types start at $200. The rising cost of raw materials and labor is expected to push up quotes slightly for low-end and midrange selections in coming months.
As regards CCTV lenses, an entry-level board-mount version is priced below $1. A basic C or CS-mounted, fixed-focus and -iris model ranges from $1 to $10. IR units usually exceed $10, while varifocal types are from $5 to $20.
Auto-iris lenses start at $10 and can reach $30, motorized zoom ones $40 to $100, and high-resolution varieties above $50.
China manufacturers do not plan to increase lens prices in the next six to 12 months despite rising production outlay caused by higher labor costs and currency exchange rates.
The shift to digital surveillance in other parts of the globe has not had an impact on Hong Kong's traditional CCTV cameras and lenses. There is no widespread abandonment of analog products, especially as shipments are strong in both developed and emerging destinations. Cameras, in particular, remain staple, and will continue to be for at least two more years.
Volumewise, infrared day/night cameras are the best-sellers for many companies. Dome, speed dome, PTZ, hidden, miniature and vandal-resistant units are also offered. Most models are available in CCD and CMOS versions in various configurations and solutions. Products come in a wide price range depending on several factors, including the image and motion sensors, processor, housing, lens, IR LEDs and controls.
Suppliers take advantage of advancements in key component technologies to refresh their lineups continually. For instance, high-resolution 700 TVL CCTV cameras based on the Sony Effio-E DSP have been introduced.
Besides camera functions, makers invest in attractive exteriors. Ergonomic and futuristic shapes, and piano or rubberized surface finishes are adopted to entice buyers.
Hong Kong has more than 20 CCTV camera manufacturers. Some provide a range of homeland security and commercial models. Others cater primarily to the small commercial and home markets.
Besides discrete products, many makers develop starter and expansion kits consisting of a number of cameras, DVRs and related accessories.
As regards lenses, even though there are at least 15 suppliers in Hong Kong, most do not manufacture the parts. They are typically surveillance camera companies that added lenses and other accessories to the selection as part of a one-stop-shop strategy. Many double as distributors for one or more brands from mainland China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.
Other CCTV camera makers in the territory recommend lens sources to clients when asked. The selection consists of auto- and manual-iris, fixed-focal, IR-corrected, manual- and motorized-zoom, manual-focus fixed-iris, pinhole and varifocal auto/manual iris series.
Effortsplus Development Co.
Flir Systems Co. Ltd
Fuzhou Keekoon Electronic Co. Ltd
Fuzhou Keekoon Electronic Co. Ltd
Fuzhou Keekoon Electronic Co. Ltd
Shenzhen Boshen Electronics Co. Ltd
Shenzhen Boshen Electronics Co. Ltd
Note:This article 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.
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