Analog vs HD Night Shootout

Author: Benros Emata, Published on Mar 26, 2011

The whole point of megapixel is better image quality but what if megapixel was actually worse than analog at night? In the consumer world, maybe this is acceptable but in surveillance, most cameras need to 'see' 24 / 7.

[WARNING: This report is OUT OF DATE and should only be used for historical review. Megapixel / HD camera low light performance has improved significantly since 2011. See: Ranking IP Camera Low Light Performance]

In this report, we share our test results of head to head comparisons between analog, SD IP and Megapixel cameras. We asked a number of analog centric integrators, including the folks at CCTVForum.com, for their recommendations on their favorite analog cameras for use in low light scenes. Based on their recommendations, we bought a Bosch Dinion and CNB Mona Lisa and set them up side by side with megapixel cameras from our previous tests. We then tested them in a series of real world scenes.

Here is a preview of our test :

Inside the Pro section, we dig through the tradeoffs and key findings revealed in the tests. For background, make sure you understand the issues in exposure setting adjustments that we explained in detail in our 'How Exposure Impacts Low Light Surveillance.'

In the next few months, we will add more tests in these series including 'Color vs Black/White Image Quality Testing' and 'Advanced Analog vs Megapixel Low Light Testing'.

[UPDATE 2013: New IP cameras in the past few years, including HD IP have gotten far better and now equal or beat the analog cameras in this test. For instance, the see the Axis Q1602 and the Bosch Starlight cameras.]

Key Findings

We note 3 key findings:

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

  • In a parking lot lit with street lamps (3 to 5 lux), megapixel cameras provided only minimal improvements in image detail over analog - far less than the number of pixels would expect to provide.
  • In a field with no direct street lamps and only ambient light (~0.5 lux), analog cameras provided far more detail than the megapixel ones. The analog cameras provided outlines of human subjects at a 32 ft width FoV while the megapixel cameras were so dark that it was almost impossible to make out the human subjects.
  • In under 1 lux scenes, the only way the megapixel cameras could provide similar image detail as the analog cameras was to significantly lengthen the exposure setting. However, of course, this increase motion blur - a major negative tradeoff.

In the video below, we show the key findings by analyzing the recorded test samples:

Recommendations

With these key findings recognized, here are our recommendations:

  • Using megapixel in an outdoor scene with street lighting is likely still superior to analog (or SD IP). At night, minimal benefits are gained and during the day, significant benefits can be achieved. However, at night, megapixel cameras essentially waste bandwidth. If possible with one's VMS system, consider dropping the resolution level during the night.
  • Using megapixel in a scene with no direct lighting at night is problematic. If the scene must be surveilled in these conditions, either (1) lengthen the shutter, (2) add IR illumination or (3) use SD instead of megapixel. All of these have important drawbacks. Do not lengthen the shutter beyond 1/8s if you need to capture clear details of moving subjects (i.e., if you are not confident that an intruder will stop in the scene). Use integrated IR only if the subject is close to the camera (less than 40 feet). Otherwise, use add on IR (though expect to pay an additional $300+). [Note: for more, see our IR comparison report.] Finally, use SD only if you can accept less detail or the use of more cameras during the day.

Video Clips Download (ZIP File)

Review our Analog vs Megapixel Sample videos zip file (~230 MB) containing all the video clips and images generated during our testing. The clips are embedded inside an ExacqVision player and simply needs to be double clicked to view. In the Exacq player's Options menu we recommend enabling 'Show Camera Names' to show the names of the cameras on-screen.

The clips and images are from our Outdoor test (presented in this report) and Indoor (preliminary) tests as well as alternative setting tests.

Methodology

Three (3) Standard Definition, and two (2) Megapixel cameras are included in our low-light performance testing.

Standard Definition Cameras:

  • CNB BBM-24F - 1/3" CCD; F1.0 Computar; 600TVL (650TVL B/W); 0.005 Lux (B/W); online $120
  • Bosch LTC0498 - 1/3" CCD; F1.0 Computar; 540TVL; 0.98 Lux (100 IRE, B/W); online $400
  • Bosch NBN-498-21P - 1/3" CCD; F1.3 Bosch, 4CIF (704x480); 0.98 Lux (100 IRE, B/W); online $700

Megapixel Cameras (IP):

  • Sanyo HD4000 - 1/2.5" CMOS; F1.8 integrated lens; 1920x1080; 0.1 Lux (F1.8, b/w, gain: High); online $950
  • Pelco Sarix IXE20DN - 1/3" CMOS; F1.2 Pelco; 1280x720; 0.25 Lux (Mono, 33 ms); online $1,300

All SD cameras were analog, except for the Bosch NBN-498. A Sony SNTEP104 encoder was used to stream the analog cameras to our ExacqVision VMS. During testing default settings were used on the Sony encoder including a 720x480 resolution. The two MP cameras were configured for 720p resolution during all tests.

 

Here are the key default settings relevant to low light performance for each camera:

  • CNB BBM-24F - 1/60s shutter; AGC on '15'
  • Bosch LTC0498 - 1/60s shutter; SensUp 4x; AGC on '15'
  • Bosch NBN-498-21P -  1/60s shutter; SensUp 4x; AGC on '15'
  • Sanyo HD4000 - 1/30s shutter; AGC on 'normal'
  • Pelco Sarix IXE20DN - 1/8s shutter; (no gain setting in interface)

In the video below we examine each camera's admin interface focusing on exposure and gain settings, showing the defaults and available ranges for these low-light optimizations.

Scenarios/Applications

Two (2) nighttime/low-light test scenarios were devised that correspond to 'real-world' video surveillance applications:

  • Artificially Lit Area (Parking Lot); 3 to 5 Lux
  • No Light (Open Field) Area; ~0.5 Lux

In both primary scenarios two human subjects provide various examples of motion. The human subjects are positioned at a location within scene corresponding to a 32 foot wide FoV. As such the SD cameras provided roughly 20 pixels/ft. and the MP cameras provided roughly double the SD or 40 pix/ft. at the human subjects.

Tests

In the first Parking Lot scenario two (2) key tests were performed:

  • All 5 test cameras at default shutter and gain settings. This meant that the SD cameras had either 1/30s or 1/60s shutter speeds, the MP Sanyo had 1/30s and the MP Pelco had 1/8s shutter speeds.
  • MP Pelco camera configured for 1/30s shutter speed to normalize with the default 1/30s or 1/60s shutter speeds of the SD cameras.

The Open Field scenario featured four (4) key tests:

  • All 5 test cameras at default shutter and gain settings. This meant that the SD cameras had either 1/30s or 1/60s shutter speeds, the MP Sanyo had 1/30s and the MP Pelco had 1/8s shutter speeds.
  • MP Pelco camera configured for 1/30s shutter speed to normalize with the default 1/30s or 1/60s shutter speeds of the SD cameras.
  • MP Pelco camera configured for 1/250s shutter speed
  • MP Pelco camera configured for 1/500s shutter speed

We considered other MP cameras as well. For example, we considered the Axis 5MP P1347, and the Sony HD CH140. Due to various technical issues we decided to exclude them from our main study. However, it is key to note that their low-light performance levels were similar to the Sanyo and Pelco MP cameras included in the 'main' study.

Testing Issues

The Sanyo HD4000 featured in this report presented several issues during our testing and analysis. The first issue involved an inability to set the correct time on the camera. This became an issue when searching its archived video on our Exacqvision VMS. According to Exacq this is a potential problem when cameras and VMSes are not synced up, since the VMS will try to 'honor' the camera's time setting.  Because of this issue we could not export clips from Sanyo along with the other cameras in synchronous mode.

Another issue we faced with the Sanyo HD4000 was the inability to configure a slow shutter setting. Sanyo calls this a 'long' shutter, and it is a feature of the HD4000. However, we had difficulty in configuring the 'long' shutter setting reliably and excluded it from the study. Thus, the default setting of 1/30s was used throughout all tests.

If cameras shipped with lenses we used them in testing as it represents what users are likely to use in real world scenarios. The three IP cameras shipped with lenses, while the two analog cameras not coming with lenses were fitted with separately purchased Computar (F1.0, AI, varifocal) lenses.

5 reports cite this report:

Multi-Megapixel Deployment Statistics on Jan 01, 2012
Megapixel camera resolution increases regularly, with manufacturers pushing higher and higher resolutions all the time. 2011 saw the introduction...
Directory of Camera Shootout Series on Dec 27, 2011
The following directory lists all of our camera shootouts. These shootouts pit 4 - 8 different surveillance cameras in simultaneous tests on real...
CNB Network Camera Review on Sep 08, 2011
Korean surveillance manufacturer CNB has historically been one of the more popular analog brands for budget / low cost appliations, viewed as a...
ACTi's 4MP Price/Performance Analysis on Aug 30, 2011
Over the past year, Taiwanese megapixel manufacturer ACTi released a line of four-megapixel cameras, while discontinuing most of the standard...
Color Versus Day/Night Shootout on Apr 16, 2011
Most people prefer color over black and white but when it gets dark out, almost all surveillance experts agree that black and white video provides...
Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Video Analytics Integration Guide on Aug 16, 2018
Video analytics is hot again (at least conceptually) but integrating video analytics with VMSes can be challenging. This is especially significant...
ISS VMS / Video Analytics Company Profile on Aug 16, 2018
Who is ISS? In the past few months, they had one of the craziest ISC West promo items in years. Then, they hired industry veteran and ex-Dahua...
Cut Milestone Licensing Costs 80% By Using Hikvision and Dahua NVRs (Tested) on Aug 13, 2018
Enterprise VMS licensing can be quite expensive, with $200 or more per channel common, meaning a 100 camera system can cost $20,000 in VMS...
Uniview Intrusion Analytics and VMD Tested on Aug 13, 2018
IPVM's IP Camera Analytics Shootout featuring Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision created some ill will with a Uniview distributor who...
Camera Focusing Tutorial on Aug 09, 2018
A camera's focus is fundamental to quality imaging. Mistakes can cause important problems. In this guide, we explain focus issues and proper...
Hikvision PanoVu Mini Tested (Multi-imager + PTZ For ~$500) on Aug 07, 2018
Hikvision has released their first PanoVu Mini multi imager, the PanoVu DS-2PT3326IZ-DE3, with four 1080p imagers, including a PTZ and integrated...
Bluebox Video UK Startup Profile on Aug 06, 2018
One UK startup, Bluebox Video has designed, developed and is manufacturing their own streaming video wall appliances. To the right is a picture of...
Zenitel/ Stentofon Turbine IP Intercom Tested on Aug 06, 2018
IPVM has published reports testing an Axis door station and a Hikvision door station (tested). However, those companies are new entrants to this...
Panasonic 9MP Panoramic Fisheye Tested (WV-X4571L) on Aug 02, 2018
Panasonic has released their latest fisheye camera, the WV-X4571L, with 12MP sensor and 9MP resolution, claiming "extreme image quality" under...
Genetec Self-Discloses Critical Vulnerability on Jul 31, 2018
In an unprecedented move for the video surveillance industry, Genetec has self-disclosed a critical software vulnerability across Security Center...

Most Recent Industry Reports

2Gig Gun Lock / Motion Detector Tested on Aug 17, 2018
Safer guns for families and an opportunity for security dealers to sell more services? That is the aim of Nortek's 2GIG 'Gun Motion Detector'...
Video Analytics Integration Guide on Aug 16, 2018
Video analytics is hot again (at least conceptually) but integrating video analytics with VMSes can be challenging. This is especially significant...
Hikvision IP Camera Critical Vulnerability 2018 Disclosed on Aug 16, 2018
The same day that the US government passed a prohibition on Hikvision cameras, Hikvision disclosed a critical vulnerability for its IP...
ISS VMS / Video Analytics Company Profile on Aug 16, 2018
Who is ISS? In the past few months, they had one of the craziest ISC West promo items in years. Then, they hired industry veteran and ex-Dahua...
Chinese OEM Avycon Gets ADI Push on Aug 15, 2018
Who is Avycon? An American company? A Korean company? A couple of guys relabelling Chinese products? The latter is the best explanation. While...
Backboxes for Video Surveillance Tutorial on Aug 15, 2018
Backboxes are a necessity in surveillance, whether for managing cable whips, recessing cameras, adding wireless radios. But it can be confusing to...
Genetec Stratocast / Comcast 'Motion Insights' Examined on Aug 15, 2018
Comcast recently announced "SmartOffice Motion Insights", an extension to their Genetec OEMed cloud video service (covered by IPVM here). This...
SimpliSafe Violating California, Florida, and Texas Licensing Laws on Aug 14, 2018
IPVM has verified that DIY security system provider SimpliSafe, founded in 2006 and acquired in June of 2018 at a billion dollar valuation, is...
Ban of Dahua and Hikvision Is Now US Gov Law on Aug 13, 2018
The US President has signed the 2019 NDAA into law, banning the use of Dahua and Hikvision (and their OEMs) for the US government, for US...
Cut Milestone Licensing Costs 80% By Using Hikvision and Dahua NVRs (Tested) on Aug 13, 2018
Enterprise VMS licensing can be quite expensive, with $200 or more per channel common, meaning a 100 camera system can cost $20,000 in VMS...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact