Over the years I’ve purchased many Hikvision cameras from all sources, Ebay, Aliexpress and Amazon. Ever in search of that good deal.
There are 3 type of cameras
Physically, the cameras have identical hardware. Firmware on the other hand is a different story. Hikvision was trying to stem the flow of Chinese region cameras from hitting other markets. I’m sure Hikvision USA was having a hard time selling the same hardware when you can go online and buy it for much less.
The Chinese version typically only had Chinese as the language option and came in brown boxes.
In 2014, I could buy the brown box Chinese version on Aliexpress, follow a few simple steps and get the language option back, set the dropdown to English and all set to go. As long as I didn’t upgrade the firmware, they are good to go. Most of my cameras are 5.2.0.
Around spring of 2015, we started seeing Hikvision getting aggressive with stopping the Chinese cameras from getting out. The standard Aliexpress resellers stopped selling them. And the firmware was different, 5.2.5 and 5.2.8. The same old hack no longer worked. And if you tried to downgrade, your camera was bricked.
Since then, people more cleaver than I have been trying to sort out the differences and it is likely the hardware is different also, meaning the firmware can now identify the camera as Chinese or otherwise.
So nowadays, you buy Chinese region cameras with the risk of having all Chinese menus and if you try to hack it to English, you might brick it. Many people still buy them, understanding this risk and using Google Chrome with it’s built in translator.
Along the way, the inventive Chinese sellers have been hip to the hacks, and have started to offer pre-hacked versions of the cameras that have English menus. But, don’t try to do any firmware changes, as your camera will be bricked.
The red & white box on the left is from a genuine USA region camera. The one on the right is a Chinese region camera. Both are for the DS-2CD2032-I camera.
It used to be the Chinese region cameras only came in brown boxes. But once word was out that the Chinese region cameras were not English friendly, people would only look to buy the cameras in the Red & White boxes. So then we started seeing Red & White boxes coming with the Chinese region cameras. The sellers knew that the Red & White boxes were selling better, so they went out and sourced them somehow. So now you can’t rely on the box to tell you what you are buying.
I’ve heard that grey boxes are now also shipping with Chinese region cameras.
English language manuals like the one on the left come with International and USA region cameras.
Genuine USA region cameras will come with a UL sicker on the camera body. This might be the only way to tell the difference from a USA and International region camera.
The Serial Number
Chinese region cameras have a CH in the serial number.
International and USA region cameras will have a WR in the serial number. Perhaps WR means Western Region?
What does this all mean?
Which camera should you buy?
(CH) Chinese region camera?
If you are a hacker and don’t mind spending hours learning the ins and outs of updating firmware, and don’t mind risking bricking your camera, go ahead and get the CH version. They are easy to find and cheaper.
If you don’t mind working with Chinese menus (using Google Chrome translator) and are happy with not doing firmware updates, get the CH version. I isolate all my cameras from internet access, so I’m not worried about old firmware with security holes. And 5.2.0 does everything I need. And my DVR is my interface to the cameras, so I rarely log into the cameras once they are setup.
(WR) International Region?
If you must have English menus and you must have the latest firmware, you should get a WR camera.
These are identical to the international region, except they are UL listed. You would need this for a commercial installation, like a bank, where your insurance carrier requires all your security system to be UL listed gear.
Also, the benefit of buying USA Hikvision is the support you get, technical support and a 3 year warranty.
Hikvision USA only sells thru their dealer/installer network at full retail.
Alternatively, there are unbranded Hikvisions to be had, look for milkisbad or Nelly’s. Nelly’s provides a 3 year warranty.
Be careful buying from Aliexpress or Amazon. They will try to tell you or hint that they are WR cameras, but most likely they are CH, usually with hacked firmware. They will work fine, but don’t attempt to update the firmware.
Disclaimer: These notes and photos are from my personal experience and there may be differences with your experience. Online sellers get pretty creative in trying to trick the buyers. Buyer beware. Hopefully this helps.