The Duovox Mate Pro night vision camera promises the ability to capture color photos and videos in near total darkness. It fulfills that promise as a fun, if not limited, tool.
The new Mate Pro aims to “replace traditional black-and-white infrared night vision devices,” according to Duovox founder David Chen. Aimed at night adventurers, campers and content creators, the Mate Pro is an unassuming compact device with the incredible ability to see in extremely low-light scenes. The camera is now funded by Kickstarter.
A compact camera with night vision chops
Duovox provided PetaPixel with a pre-production sample of the Mate Pro and therefore observations of its build quality and design may be limited to my unit and may not be indicative of the final production run.
The Duovox Mate Pro measures 4.5 inches (11.4 centimeters) wide, 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) deep (including the fixed lens protrusion), and 2.125 inches (5.398 centimeters) tall. Apart from the fact that the lens is in a fixed position and not removable, this is a compact sized camera that stores well when not in use. The camera does not come with a lens cap, so it will be up to you to protect the front element when storing.
Most of its 7.6 ounces (216 grams) of weight is weighted towards the lens, making it front-heavy. At this weight it might not make much of a difference in using the handheld, but it does make it harder to set up to frame a shot because it will tilt forward and will rest at a downward angle. Included in the box is a mini tabletop tripod that can connect to the 1/4 inch socket on the bottom of the camera to help set up a better angle.
The body chassis is plastic with six hard plastic buttons on top of the camera. There’s a power button, a shutter button, and four other buttons that act as shortcuts to different menu settings. These menus are just as easily accessible via the non-tilting 3-inch touchscreen on the back of the camera.
On the right side of the camera is a port cover hiding the USB-C charging port and microSD slot, which Duovox says will accept cards up to 512GB. For my testing, I used a 128GB SanDisk Extreme card, which performed unsurprisingly and showed 8.5 hours of available video recording time. The USB-C charging port is a little more particular in what was compatible, with a 5-watt USB-A charger and a USB-A to USB-C cord doing the trick.
According to Duovox, the non-removable battery has a capacity of 3,000 mAh. In practice, it drains at a moderate rate with around an hour of total video recording and occasional standby time available per charge.
A plethora of settings
On the touchscreen, there are a number of toggles and menus to control Mate Pro settings. There are immediate controls for screen brightness, color and monochrome switching, screen lock activation, photo and video playback, on-off switch for audio recording, tethering Wi-Fi and flashlight control with three brightness levels. There are also buttons that let you change the camera mode (photo, video, and vertical video) and access camera mode menu settings and system settings.
The available video mode settings are:
- Instant recording: Powering on the camera automatically starts recording.
- Loop mode: choice of 3 minutes, 5 minutes and 10 minutes.
- Time-lapse mode: Interval options of 1 second, 2 seconds, 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 30 seconds and 1 minute.
- Motion detection: Detect changes in a scene to start recording.
- Wayback Mode: Kind of like cached recording. It records continuously but does not keep the video file until you press the record button. I tested this with 10 minutes of pre-record time and it saved the 10 minutes before hitting record.
- Delayed Stop: Pressing the shutter button to stop a recording takes extra seconds to stop. Choice of 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 20 seconds and 30 seconds.
- Audio: Enable or disable audio recording.
- Timestamp: Enable or disable the timestamp embedded in the footage.
- Logo Watermark: Enable or disable the Duovox logo at the top left of the recorded video.
- Quality: High, medium, and low quality options.
The available photo mode settings are:
- Quick Capture: Takes a photo when the camera is on.
- Face Detection: Automatically takes a photo when up to 8 faces are recognized in a scene at the same time. Options to set 1 to 8 faces.
- Burst mode: continuous images of 3, 5 or 10 photos when the shutter button is pressed. The display freezes at the first image taken. Burst mode can be combined with other modes, such as face detection.
- Selfie Timer: 3 second, 5 second and 10 second shutter delay options.
- Quality: Fine, normal and economy photo quality option.
- Timestamp: choice of date, time, both or stop.
- Image Format: Choice of JPEG or RAW file formats.
- Shutter sound: Enable or disable the shutter sound.
See in the (mostly) dark
The ability to see in color in dimly lit scenes comes from its Sony STARVIS 2 CMOS sensor which was originally released in 2015 and is used in a range of products, such as Dell’s UltraSharp 4K webcam. Duovox claims the Mate Pro can achieve images as low as 0.0001 lux and has 22 stops of dynamic range. The camera’s optics include a seven-lens system that captures an image across different resolutions to combine it into a single shot and there’s also an infrared filter to help retain color fidelity.
When testing, there must be at least one light source for the sensor to work. I tried to set it up in the garden one night, hoping a raccoon or something would come by, but it couldn’t see anything and what I got was a pure black recording. However, the Mate Pro can make the most of the smaller amount of light and delivers full color and luminance in situations where it would appear dark to the naked eye.
Videos are recorded at 2560 by 1440 resolution and JPG photos are 5.7 megapixels (3200 by 1808 pixels). The camera can shoot in a RAW file format, however, I couldn’t open them with Adobe apps.
Duovox applies some level of noise reduction and other optimizations to the images coming out of the camera, but it’s quite obvious that the result is still a very boosted signal. For an image that comes straight out of the dark, that’s a little impressive, but it’s clear that, from an image quality point of view, what you can do with these recordings is limited.
However, the ability to reproduce fairly faithful colors impresses me. Brightening up a dark image is one thing, but the color fidelity is much better than I expected.
After my time with the Duovox Mate Pro, there are some things I’m not a fan of. My first and perhaps biggest complaint is the very far minimum focus distance. The lens has a fixed focus which is fine, just like a GoPro, but you need to be at least 37 feet (11.3 meters) from a subject for it to be in focus.
Shooting indoors or almost anywhere in my backyard didn’t have the required distance to render something sharp. When I first heard of the Mate Pro I wanted to set it up more to trap wildlife with the motion sensor, but that requires such a large area in front of the camera that I found it very limited to use in the practice. When in sharp focus, small creatures will also be quite small in frame.
Two other issues are that it’s prone to stroboscopic effects of light from artificial sources, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to adjust the shutter speed to compensate for it. There’s also a pretty heavy rolling shutter effect with all sorts of sideways movement.
Whether the Duovox Mate Pro has application for artistic approaches to photography and videography will be up to you, however, in my experience it’s more like a toy for general nighttime viewing or it could be used for s have fun showing what places or things look like in the dark.
The Duovox Mate Pro is currently funded through Kickstarter with a support price as low as $599. The Mate Pro’s retail price is currently set at $1,200. The company says it tends to deliver finished cameras by October 2022.
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