X
Get all access to the world's best video surveillance information.
Logo
680-70-2015-free-banner

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

Testing Scallop Panoramic Cameras on Dec 19, 2014
For years, Arecont Vision's SurroundVideo line has been practically the only multi-imager option, but with their poor reputation, multi-imager cameras are still not widely used. Scallop Imaging ai...

Avigilon Acquires All ObjectVideo Patents on Dec 18, 2014
Wow. You thought Object Video played hardball suing large manufacturers like Bosch, Samsung, Sony, Pelco, etc. Now, Avigilon has acquired all of OV's patents for $80.3 million, and all of th...

Best & Worst Places to Buy Surveillance on Dec 17, 2014
Stores, distributors, manufacturers, the Internet, Chinese spam emails? Today, there are more options to buy surveillance than ever. But what are the best and worst places to buy? IPVM surveyed ...

2015 IP Camera Book on Dec 15, 2014
This is the best, most comprehensive IP camera training in the world, based on our unprecedented testing. Now, all IPVM PRO Members can get it in a single 300+ page ebook, downloadable inside. T...

Tested: Quality Worse Dome Bubble On? on Dec 11, 2014
Often, industry professionals will warn about three problems with using domes: The dome bubble degrades image quality The degradation is worse with megapixel cameras The degradation is worse t...

Hikvision HDTVI VS Dahua HDCVI on Dec 10, 2014
With super low cost and full HD video, Analog HD has the most potential to disrupt the surveillance market of any new technology in years. With 1080p HD IR cameras, routinely being priced at ~$100...

Testing Day vs Night With IR on Dec 09, 2014
IR illumination helps. When it gets dark, especially real dark, with no nearby artifical lighting, pretty much every surveillance camera (even 'super' ones) are going to deliver signific...

Major Moves - Security Manufacturer 2014 on Dec 08, 2014
This guide summarizes the biggest moves of security manufacturers in 2014, concentrating on acquisitions, fund raising, significant stock price shifts and major new product lines introduced. ...

HD Analog DVRs With VMS Software Tested on Dec 05, 2014
New HD analog offerings from Dahua and Hikvision have proven to deliver HD video at radically lower prices (see IPVM test results - Dahua HDCVI 1.0, Dahua HDCVI 2.0, Hikvision HDTVI). However...

Manufacturer Sales Pitches Revealed on Dec 02, 2014
IPVM sent a 'secret shopper' to ISC East 2014 to talk to manufacturer sales reps at their booths. We wanted to understand and contrast how they pitched to a prototypical end user. Would they fol...