The Indoor 7 Camera Shootoutby Antony Look, posted on May 29, 2011
Indoors, surveillance cameras are used all over. Given the generally small areas monitored and their shelter from the weather, getting good surveillance video is easier than outdoors. It raises the question: Does it even matter what type of surveillance cameras you use indoors? What type of practical differences or benefits does one camera provide over another?
We wanted to test this rigorously so we set up a 7 camera test kit to do a simultaneous shootout. In our kit we included cameras ranging from SD through 5MP from Arecont Vision, Avigilon, Axis, Bosch and Sony to see if more resolution helps, if D/N versus color only matters and if different manufacturers are 'better', etc.
We mounted our test kit in a corner at ceiling height as is common in real world installations.
We first tested during the day with even artifical lighting conditions to get a baseline test of an 'easy' scenario:
We tested with the shades open to see the impact of outdoor lighting through a window. Often businesses (like retailers) like to have the windows open to bring in natural light and to let prospective customers see in. We wanted to see what negative impact this might have on each camera:
Finally, we tested in the dark to see how cameras would perform after hours in case an intruder broke in. Since manufacturers use varying tricks at night, we did 2 tests here - one with manufacturer defaults and one with exposure normalized.
The overhead image and map below shows the coverage, areas, distances and pixels per foot at different testing positions. The human figure indicates the 3 spots where we performed analysis of image quality:
Analyzing Video Quality
We analyzed a series of scenes to see how performance varied across the cameras. We digitally zoomed each camera to the same level to show differences. See an example scene comparison from our parking lot test.
We conducted our analysis across 12 scenes. They are:
- Even Artificial Lighting (Doorway)
- Even Artificial Lighting (Far)
- Even Artificial Lighting (Near)
- Backlit/WDR via Open Window (Doorway)
- Backlit/WDR via Open Window (Far)
- Backlit/WDR via Open Window (Near)
- Front-lit via Open Window (Doorway)
- Front-lit via Open Window (Far)
- Front-lit via Open Window (Near)
- Low-Light (Default Settings)
- Low-Light (Normalized Settings)
- Low-Light Default vs Low-Light Normalized
Analyzing Bandwidth Consumption - NEW
Not only do we examine which cameras provide the best quality in each scene, we now break down the bandwidth consumption, showing who's the best and worse for the amount of network bandwidth and storage consumed.
Our analysis covers 7 metrics:
- Even Artificial Lighting Bandwidth Consumption Per Camera
- Backlight / WDR Bandwidth Consumption Per Camera
- Front-Lit Bandwidth Consumption Per Camera
- Low-Light (Default Settings) Bandwidth Consumption Per Camera
- Low-Light (Normalized Settings) Bandwidth Consumption Per Camera
- Average Bandwidth Consumption Per Scene
- Average Bandwidth Consumption Per Camera Overall
We found a suprising level of differences amongst cameras for image quality, bandwidth and overall performance. Contrary to common belief, more resolution did not always result in better image quality nor higher bandwidth. Inside the Pro section, we dig into the details and differences.
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