Why My Vivotek FD8134V Camera Was NOT a Good Choice

The Vivotek FD8134V should have been a great camera for me, but unfortunately it suffers from two main problems that make me regret purchasing it.  This model is now discontinued but it's worth talking about because the problems that it has are actually fairly common and can happen to many cameras on the market today.

I needed a small dome camera for one location on my house so I bought this camera for $309.95 in April of 2013.  That seems like a lot of money for a 1 Megapixel camera, but at the time it seemed to be the best bang for the buck in a camera that would fit where I needed it.

That just shows how much surveillance camera technology has improved and how much prices have dropped over the past few years.  There are now many cameras that are even smaller than this Vivotek that have higher resolution and much better performance in all areas, and they cost 1/2 or even less than 1/3 of the price that I paid back then.

This isn't meant to really be a full review of the camera, but the specs were pretty good at the time that I got it and the online reviews were also pretty good, so I felt confident buying it at the time.

Key specifications:

  • ​Fixed 3.6 mm F 1.8 lens with 56° FOV
  • 1/4" 1280 x 800 CMOS image sensor
  • IR illuminator with a 10 meter range
  • Mechanical IR-cut filter
  • Multiple streams up to 30 fps
  • H.264, MPEG-4, and MJPEG streaming
  • PoE or 12 VDC power
  • IP66 weather and IK10 vandal resistance
  • microSD card slot for up to 32GB card
Vivotek FD8134V dome camera today

So I get the camera mounted and pointed where I want with no problem.  It has a 3-axis adjustment that works smoothly and has good range of motion.  The daytime picture is greatly improved over the old analog camera that it replaced and I am a happy camper until it gets dark out.

Vivotek FD8134V night image with utility power out

Vivotek FD8134V night image with IR reflection

Problem 1:  Terrible night image due to the dome and IR light

As usual for pretty much all cameras like this, when the sun sets the IR-cut filter moves out of the way, the camera switches to black & white mode, and the 8 built-in IR LED lights come on.​  There is one problem with my camera though, there is so much IR light reflecting back from the dome that the image is awful!

Looking back I should have just taken it down the next day and returned it, but I thought I could try some things and improve the night image.​  Vivotek has a really good document on their website to help people troubleshoot IR reflection problems, so I imagine it's a common support question for them.  I was able to mess around with it and improve the image a little bit, but it never was very good and there was always some IR reflection causing problems.

Most dome cameras with built-in IR lights that I've seen use a foam ring​ around the lens to keep it from seeing any IR light being reflected off of the dome, but Vivotek uses a rubber ring around the lens instead.  Both should serve the same function but based on what I've seen, the rubber seems to be less forgiving than the foam.

In my installation the IR reflection was caused by the rubber ring not working well coupled with me having the lens positioned at the upward limit of the tilt travel.  Vivotek mentions the 70° tilt travel range in their IR reflection troubleshooting document and I was certainly at one end of that.  Had I been able to point the lens in the middle of the tilt range I probably wouldn't have had as much of a problem as I did.

Vivotek FD8134V day image out of focus

Vivotek FD8134V day image out of focus

Problem 2:  It's slowly going out of focus and getting worse!

After using the camera for around a year I noticed that the image seemed to be getting a little blurry like it wasn't quite in focus anymore.  As time went on it became obvious that it was out of focus and it was getting worse.

A quick search online revealed that other people were experiencing the loss of focus with this particular camera, and there was even a nice document over in the forum at the use-IP website in the UK.

Like many security cameras, the FD8134V uses an M12 lens threaded into a lens mount.  At the factory they simply turn the lens in the mount until the image is in focus, and it's held in that position by the friction of the threads.  The mount on some cameras has additional hardware to lock the lens in position and keep it from moving but this one does not.

When this Vivotek is mounted outside and subjected to large temperature swings from the weather or heating from direct sunlight, the plastic lens and lens mount expand and contract.  This repeated movement over time actually causes the lens to move itself out of focus little by little, making the focus progressively worse and worse.

So I followed the re-focusing instructions and got it back in focus then in 2014 when the camera was a little over a year old, and the image was back to normal.  I found some discussions online with people suggesting possible ways to keep the lens from moving but I didn't try anything and left it as it came from the factory to see if it would happen again.

Sure enough, over the next year the lens had moved itself out of focus again!

Vivotek FD8134V night image with utility power out

Vivotek FD8134V night image with utility power out

In September 2014 I had been using this camera for almost 2 1/2 years and became tired of it.  The night vision was still poor and it had become out of focus again for the second time.  That was it, I took down the FD8134V and replaced it with a Hikvision ​DS-2CD2132F-I (4MM), that was twice the camera and cost around half of what I paid for the Vivotek.  The 2132 has since been replaced too, but that's a story for another time.

​When I dug this camera out of storage to write this article it was still out of focus from when I took it down.  On a good note though, it's still working fine other than that and I installed the Vivotek iViewer app on my Android phone and it works with the camera perfectly.

I may just adjust the focus one more time and try to come up with a way to keep the lens from moving in the future.  I'm sure I can find somewhere around here to put it to use with the built-in IR lights disabled.

I hope you've found this article helpful by showing a couple of rather common problems with security cameras, and also some possible solutions in the links to Vivotek and use-IP that I shared above.  Please leave a comment or question below if you'd like.

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