Testing Arecont's WDR Camera (AV3116DN)

By: Ethan Ace, Published on Feb 07, 2013

Arecont Vision has long offered many of the highest resolution cameras in the market but they have never been particularly strong in WDR nor low light. Now, Arecont Vision is releasing a new series of cameras that are explicitly marketed for WDR performance and running a broad marketing campaign for this.

We bought the new Arecont AV3116dn WDR camera and put it to the test against leading WDR cameras from Axis, Avigilon, Bosch, Panasonic and Sony. Inside we break down the results in day, night and WDR scenes.

Key Findings

Here are our key findings from our tests:

  • Solid WDR performance compared to top WDR cameras.
  • Moderately below average low-light performance with binning enabled. However, without this (default settings) low light performance is poor.
  • Both day and night bandwidth consumption, with default settings, was much higher than others. However, with binning mode, bandwidth consumption dropped dramatically and was one of the lowest. Moreover, we found that the default quality settings are far too conservative and can safely be lowered to be consistent with other manufacturers.
  • Compared to earlier Arecont cameras, much better WDR performance and low light capaiblity when using binning, at a modestly higher price.
  • Price: The AV3116DNv1 sells for about $550-600 USD online, not including lens (manual iris only). Arecont recommends the Computar T3Z0312CS-MPIR lens, ~$100 online. This brings the total price of the 3116 to about $600-650, making it less costly than many competitors, usually in the range of $800 online, or $1,000+ in the case of Axis, Bosch and Sony.

Recommendations

The AV3116DNv1 is a competitively attractive camera for those looking for high resolution, solid WDR and modest low light performance (with binning enabled). Its strongest advantage is delivering these capabilities at a comparatively low cost. However, like all Arecont compact cameras, it lacks 'bells and whistles' that might be critical to your use - such as on board storage, auto back focus, analytics, audio, etc. If you want above average overall video quality and can tolerate the limited overall feature set, this camera can save substantially over many competitors.

For those who currently use Arecont, we believe the advances in WDR and low light performance for this new series makes it an attractive upgrade proposition over existing models (such as the AV3115dn) given its modest ~$50 price increase for this key capabilities.

Configuration Overview

This screencast overviews key camera configuration and settings.

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Low Light Performance

Using default settings, the AV3116 is one of the worst performers in low-light compared to others in our WDR test. The image is both dim and noisy, producing no usable video in this scene, <1 lx.

IPVM Image

However, in an attempt to improve nighttime imaging, the AV3116DN offers binning when the camera switches to night mode. For those unfamiliar, binning groups adjacent pixels together so that they are able to gather more light. However, this reduces resolution accordingly. In Arecont's case, binning groups four pixels together, reducing resolution from 3MP (2048x1536) to below 1MP (1024x768). With this mode turned on, a brighter image is produced, but our subject is markedly pixelized, with the chart unreadable and facial details obscured. This may be worthwhile to at least provide some detection level video at night, but users should be aware of this drastic resolution reduction.

IPVM Image

The difference in low light performance is made even clearer in this direct comparison image:

IPVM Image

WDR Performance

We tested the AV3116's WDR performance against five competitors in our 2013 WDR Shootout. We found that performance was solid in all of our test scenes.

These example images show performance in a garage scene, with an overhead door open with strong sunlight behind the subject (click for larger versions). In this comparison, we can see that the subject's face and the chart are well-lit, and details outside are visible, as well.

IPVM Image

With the subject standing in the darker area next to the door, the chart and subject remain quite visible, more so than in the Bosch, Panasonic, and Sony models.

IPVM Image

Indoor Performance

In our indoor, well-lit test scene, the AV3116 performs well, with one minor issue. Compared to others, the 3116 is moderately more noisy, with some artifacting present, which can be seen at the edges of the chart against the subject's dark clothing, as at the edges of his clothing against the lighter wall. However, this did not have a major impact on image quality, nor did it increase when subjects were in motion. Color representation was mostly true, with only slight issue displaying some shades of green on our chart, which looked more grey than other cameras upon review. Again, this is not a major issue.

IPVM Image

Bandwidth Consumption

The AV3116DNv1's bandwidth consumption was higher than all other cameras in our tests using default settings. Only Avigilon came close to its bandwidth consumption, and only while in night mode. All cameras were set to VBR mode with a 12 Mb/s cap in our test, to provide substantial headroom before the cap was met. Notably, Arecont's bandwidth consumption was also most volatile, fluctuating 2-3 Mb/s, while others were generally more steady.

Iin our daytime scene, bandwidth was as follows:

  • Arecont AV3116DNv1: 8-10.5 Mb/s
  • Avigilon H3 3MP: ~3 Mb/s
  • Axis Q1604: 1.4-1.6 Mb/s
  • Bosch NBN-932V: 700-1,000 Kb/s
  • Panasonic WV-SP509: ~8 Mb/s

At night, bandwidth increases, but is still low relative to all cameras but Panasonic. Note that the WV-SP509 was producing a very dark image, and thus transmitting less information, which may account for the significant drop in bandwidth from day mode.

  • Arecont AV3116DNv1: 9-12 Mb/s
  • Avigilon H3 3MP: 10-12 Mb/s
  • Axis Q1604: ~9 Mb/s
  • Bosch NBN-932V: 4.5-5 Mb/s
  • Panasonic WV-SP509: 2.5-3.5 Mb/s

With binning on, the reduction in resolution has a drastic effect on bandwidth, decreasing from 9-12 Mb/s at full resolution to only 1.2-2.2 Mb/s, a 75%+ reduction.

Bandwidth Defaults Too Conservative

A major driver of Arecont's much higher bandwidth is their default quantization level of 16, while other manufacturers generally default to around 27-30. Changing the AV3116DN's quality from 16 to 27 in our test scene resulted in a drop in bandwidth from 10-11 Mb/s to a much more reasonable 4-5 Mb/s, with little impact to image quality. Users should be aware of this default setting, and be careful to change it to a suitable level for their scene.

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