The Duovox Mate Pro night vision camera promises the ability to capture full-color photos and videos in near-complete 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. Targeted toward nighttime adventurers, campers, and content creators, the Mate Pro is an unassuming compact device with the incredible ability to see into very low-light scenes. The camera is now being funded through 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) in depth (including the fixed lens protrusion), and 2.125 inches (5.398 centimeters) tall. Other than the fact the lens is in a fixed position and non-removable, it’s a compact-sized camera that tucks away nicely when not in use. The camera doesn’t 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 toward the lens, which does make it front-heavy. At this weight, that may not make much of a difference in handheld use, but it does make setting it down on its own more difficult for framing a shot because it will tilt forward and 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 the 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 can be just as easily accessed through the 3-inch non-tilting touchscreen display on the back of the camera.
On the right side of the camera is a port cover hiding away the USB-C charging port and microSD slot, which Duovox claims will accept up to 512 GB cards. For my testing, I used a SanDisk Extreme 128 GB card, which unsurprisingly worked and showed 8.5 hours of video record time available. 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, ghe non-removable battery has a 3,000 mAh capacity. In practice, it drains at a moderate pace with about an hour or so of total video recording and casual standby time available per charge.
A Plethora of Settings
On the touchscreen display, there are a number of toggles and menus to control the settings of the Mate Pro. There are immediate controls for screen brightness, color and monochrome switching, screen lock activation, photo and video playback, an audio recording on-off switch, Wi-Fi connection, and flashlight control with three levels of brightness. There are also buttons that allow you to change the camera mode (photo, video, and vertical video) and enter camera mode menu settings and system settings.
The video mode settings that are available are as follows:
- Instant Recording: Powering on the camera will automatically start recording.
- Loop Mode: Choices 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: Detects changes in a scene to start recording.
- Wayback Mode: Kind of like cache recording. It continuously records but does not keep the video file until pressing the record button. I tested this with 10 minutes of pre-record time and it saved all 10 minutes before pressing record.
- Delayed Stop: Pressing the shutter button to stop a recording takes extra seconds to actually stop. Choices of 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 20 seconds, and 30 seconds.
- Audio: Enable or disable audio recording.
- Timestamp: Enable or disable the timestamp baked onto footage.
- Logo Watermark: Enable or disable the Duovox logo on the top left of the recorded video.
- Quality: Options of high, medium, and low quality.
The photo mode settings that are available are:
- Quick Capture: Takes a photo when the camera is powered 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 frames of 3, 5, or 10 photos when the shutter is pressed. The display will freeze at the first frame taken. Burst mode can be combined with other modes, like face detection.
- Selfie Timer: Shutter delay options of 3 seconds, 5 seconds, and 10 seconds.
- Quality: Option of fine, normal, and economy photo quality.
- Timestamp: Choices of date, time, both, or off.
- Image Format: Choices of JPEG or RAW file formats.
- Shutter Sound: Enable or disable the shutter sound.
Seeing in the (Mostly) Dark
The ability to see full color in dimly lit scenes comes from its Sony STARVIS 2 CMOS sensor which was originally launched in 2015 and is being used in a range of products, like Dell’s UltraSharp 4K webcam. Duovox claims that the Mate Pro can attain imagery in as low as 0.0001 lux and has 22 stops of dynamic range. Optics in the camera include a seven-lens system that captures an image through different resolutions to combine into one photo and there is also an infrared filter to help retain color fidelity.
In testing, there does need to be at least some source of light in order for the sensor to work. I tried setting this up in the backyard 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 out of just the smallest amount of light and does provide full color and luminance in situations where it would appear pitch dark to the naked eye.
Videos are recorded in 2,560 by 1,440 resolution, and JPG photos are 5.7-megapixels (3,200 by 1,808 pixels). The camera can shoot in a RAW file format, however, I was unable to open them with Adobe applications.
Duovox does apply some level of noise reduction and other optimizations to the images coming out of the camera, but it’s plainly obvious that the result is still a very boosted signal. For an image coming straight out of the dark, it’s kind of impressive, but it’s still clear that, from an image quality standpoint, there are limited avenues in what can be done with these recordings.
Still, the ability to reproduce fairly accurate colors is impressive to me. Brightening a dark image is one thing, but the color fidelity is way better than I expected.
After my time with the Duovox Mate Pro, there are a few things I’m not a fan of. My first and maybe largest complaint is the super far minimum focusing distance. The lens has a fixed focus which is fine, just like a GoPro does, but you have to be at least around 37 feet (11.3 meters) away from a subject for it to render sharply.
Shooting indoors or almost anywhere in my backyard did not have the distance required to make anything sharp. When I first heard about the Mate Pro, I wanted to set this up more for camera trapping wildlife with the motion detector but it requires such an expansive area in front of the camera that I found it very limiting to use in practice. By the time there is sharp focus, smaller critters are going to be quite small in the frame, too.
A couple of other issues is that it’s prone to light strobing effects from artificial sources and there does not appear to be a way to adjust the shutter speed to compensate for it. There’s also a pretty heavy rolling shutter effect with any sort of side-to-side movements.
Whether the Duovox Mate Pro has an application for artistic approaches to photography and videography will be up to the you, however, from my experience, it seems more like a toy for general nighttime observation or it could be used for fun to show off what places or things look like in the dark.
The Duovox Mate Pro is currently being funded through Kickstarter with backing price as low as $599. The retail price for the Mate Pro is currently set to be $1,200. The compay says it tends to deliver finished cameras by October of 2022.
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