X
Get all access to the world's best video surveillance information.
Logo
Free-book-promo-680-70

MP Camera Low Light Shootout 2011

by John Honovich, IPVM posted on Dec 05, 2011 About John Contact John

With the market sharply moving to megapixel cameras, an increasingly important question is: what MP cameras offer the best low light performance? In this report, we answer this question based on months of field testing. We then take the best performing megapixel cameras and test them against a top SD camera to see how big and what type of performance gap exists between the best low light megapixel cameras and SD cameras.

Fair Tests and Manufacturer Tricks

If you take megapixel cameras out of the box and test them for low light performance, the results will be badly skewed - guaranteed. The reason is that manufacturer's default maximum shutter speed vary widely. This is critical because shutter speed determines how long light is captured by the camera. Some manufacturers default to 1/30s, others as low as 1/6s. A camera with a 1/6s default shutter gets 500% more light than the camera with the 1/30s exposure (all things being equal). There is no fundamental difference or technology superiority, just a choice for default.

We strongly recommend that all camera tests use normalized shutter speed to make sure that no camera has an unfair advantage based simply on how aggressive their default settings are. And remember, longer shutters can have very bad side affects - specifically motion blur / ghosting. We normalize all cameras to 1/30s shutter for our tests as this matches the normal top frame rate (30fps) for surveillance cameras. You could certainly choose a different level - all images would be brighter (or darker) depending on the level but the relative performance would remain the same.

Secondly, it is imperative that cameras be tested simultaneously and under recorded light levels. It is very easy to mistake one camera as being better than another when testing cameras at different times. Most frequently, the problem we see in industry reviews is that the light levels change between tests and the tester/reviewer is unknowingly comparing Camera A's performance at 1 lux with Camera's B performance at 2 lux, drawing erroneous conclusions.

Our Tests

Over the last few months, we have done numerous tests - indoors in a dark environment and outdoors at night to determine relative performance. We've tested Arecont, ACTi, Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Pelco, Panasonic, Sony, Vivotek, etc.

UPDATE: We've taken the top performers of this test and did a shootout against Axis's new Lightfinder camera / Q1602.

Here is a sample of the format we use inside to contrast image results and demonstrate differences:

Inside, we examine the results, show image comparisons and then compare to SD.

The complete report is available only to PRO Members.
Inside the Pro Section

Pro members may read the full report including more than 16 comparison images, watch a video screencast of tests in action and review our categorizations/ranking of camera low light performance.

Want to read the rest of MP Camera Low Light Shootout 2011 and get immediate access?






Most Recent Industry Reports

Lenel OnGuard Tested on Sep 17, 2014
Lenel is one of the biggest names in Access Control with many thousands of systems installed around the globe.  In this report, we examine Lenel's OnGuard access management platform, look how...

Testing Axis High End HD Camera Q1615 on Sep 15, 2014
Axis core focus is the high end of the market. Their newest high end camera is the Q1615, aims to continue that, which they claim offers industry leading image quality and novel features, such as: ...

Testing Avigilon ACC 5 VMS on Sep 10, 2014
In this report, we provide in-depth videos covering Avigilon Control Center 5's operation and configuration with 30+ minutes of screencasts providing clear explanations of ACC features including: ...

Testing March MegaPX Domes on Sep 04, 2014
March Networks has been one of the bigger names in video surveillance recorders for a decade, with significant adoption especially in banking and retail. For a number of years, since the Cieffe&nb...

Milestone XProtect 2014 Tested on Sep 03, 2014
In this third entry in our ongoing VMS test series we provide in-depth explanation and analysis of Milestone XProtect Enterprise 2014. Inside this report, we have 40+ minutes of video screenc...

The New Generation of Security Startups on Sep 02, 2014
New entrants to the security market are few and far between. However, there is one area that is clearly driving new security startups - crowdfunding. Crowdfunding has grown from a curiosity ...

IP Camera Firmware Upgrade Directory on Aug 28, 2014
Updating firmware can be one of the most tedious tasks involved in any IP camera system. It is not always clear what version is latest, what has changed or been fixed, and where to even download it...

Testing Hikvision High End Camera on Aug 27, 2014
Chinese manufacturer, including the two mega ones, Dahua and Hikvision, are best known in the West for super low cost, entry level cameras. However, how well do their 'higher end' ones one work? ...

A Major Flaw in Long Lenses and PTZs Found on Aug 26, 2014
Theoretically, long lenses should let you capture faces and license plates very far away. For example, over 900 feet away from a 1080p camera one should get over 40ppf from a 100mm lens. But how ...