Testing Axis' 1/2" Q1635 Camera

By Ethan Ace, Published Nov 23, 2015, 12:00am EST (Research)

Low light performance continues to improve, first driven by advances in image processing and now increasing number of 1/2" imagers in 1080p HD cameras.

IPVM has recently tested new super low light, super low cost offerings from Hikvision and Dahua, and in this report we see how Axis' 1/2" Lightfinder model, the Q1635, stacks up.

We tested it against other large imager super low light models from Dahua, Hikvision, and Samsung, and past 1/3" low light leaders from Axis and Samsung in multiple scenes, including outdoor low light scenes including a dark field area (left) and a moderately lit parking lot (left):

The Q1635 provided details similar to other 1/2" super low light models at night with significant reductions in bitrate in these scenes (due to Zipstream), using significantly less bandwidth than other super low light models. 

However, it produced dimmer images than other 1/2" models tested, which may make it less suitable in very low light (below 0.1 lux), where details are not required, only detection. Those looking for very brightest imaging in these scenes are likely better served by Hikvision or Dahua 1/2" models.

For those looking to stay in the Axis line but requiring the absolute best low light (non-IR) performance, the Q1635 offers better imaging than any other Axis model we have tested.

Competitively, the challenge will be choosing from close low light performance, better bandwidth but significantly higher pricing of the Axis to Dahua, Hikvision and Samsung.

Notable Other Findings

The Hikvision DarkFighter 6026 produced the overall brightest images, though introduced noticeable blurring in low light when using the F0.95 Hikvision DarkEye lens, reducing details to the levels of other cameras.

The 1/2" Q1635 performed significantly better than the 1/3" Lightfinder model, the Q1615, in low light scenes aside from very dark (<0.01lx) where both captured only a black image.

The Q1635, due to Zipstream features, had by far the lowest bitrates of all 1/2" super low light models, under 1 Mb/s at ~0.01 lux. Hikvision and Dahua consumed 8-9x the bandwidth.

Pricing

The Axis Q1635 sells for ~$1,300 USD online, including C mount F1.5 lens.

This pricing is significantly higher than many 1/2" models, such as Dahua, Hikvision, and Samsung, more in line with models such as the SNC-VB635, Sony's 1/2" competitor.

Physical Overview

This video reviews the physical construction of the Q1635. Note that hardware/software features are nearly identical to the Q1615, with the major differences being the larger imager and corresponding lens (F1.6 C-mount with adapter ring). This lens is nearly as large as Hikvision's F0.95 DarkEye lens, much larger than standard lenses.

The Q1635 and Q1615 both include advanced gyroscopic features, such as image stabilization, shock detection, leveling assistance, etc., detailed in our test of the Q1615.

The photo below shows the relative size of the Q1635's image sensor (1/2") compared to the Q1615, noticeably smaller.

Hikvision F0.95 Lens Testing

Readers may notice in the comparisons below that there is noticeable blurring of the chart and object edges in the Hikvision DarkFighter camera with the F0.95 lens. We tested this lens on the Axis Q1635 to see if this blurring was present, and vice versa, testing the Axis lens on the Hikvision 6026 to see if images were crisper.

In low light (~0.1 lux), we found that letters on our test chart, as well as the edges of the chart itself were less defined when using the Hikvision lens. Using the Axis F1.5 lens on the Hikvision camera, the scene darkens, but edges are sharper. This results in an overall brighter image using the Hikvision camera/lens, but little to no increase in usable details, as text and object are no less discernable.

Open Field Testing

We tested the cameras in two real world outdoor scenes, first looking across the rear of a building/open field, about ~0.01 lx. No outdoor lights from the building were turned on.

In this scene, the Q1635 was dimmer than other 1/2" imager models tested, though details delivered are roughly similar due to the increased noise in other cameras and blurring of the Hikvision lens. It is notably brighter than the 1/3" Q1615, which produces no image of the subject.

Increase FOV, PPF drops to ~25. Results are similar here, with Axis darker, Hikvision brightest, but usable details practically similar.

Color Low Light

Forcing cameras into color mode at night, performance decreases in all cameras but the Hikvision DarkFighter model. In this camera, the increased color definition makes our subject's outline clearer against the green grass background.

Parking Lot Testing

Next we tested the cameras in a lit parking lot, ~0.3lx on target, relatively bright, seen here:

Due to the relatively bright lighting in this scene, performance of all cameras is closer, with the subject and chart easily recognizable in all cameras in a ~35' HFOV.

Slight differences become more pronounced when the FOV is widened to ~70', though relative performance is again much closer than in lower light scenes. In this scene, only the Axis cameras do not wash out the chart, while all other cameras tested did, to varying levels, with the 1/2" Samsung SNB-6005 being worst.

Color Low Light

Forcing the cameras into color mode, performance is similar to monochrome. Colors in this scene were not as pronounced as in the field scene, with its green grass background. Most objects were black, white, brown, etc., in this FOV.

Indoor Comparisons

Indoors, at ~0.05 lux, results are similar. Hikvision Darkfighter provides the clearest images in this scene, followed by the Dahua starlight model. None of the other cameras produced usable details of our test subject.

In very low light, below ~0.01 lux, only the Hikvision and Dahua cameras produce images at all.

 

Bandwidth Comparisons

The Q1635 had the lowest low light bitrates of any camera in this test, due to Zipstream, consuming less than 1 Mb/s at both ~0.3 lux and ~0.01 lux. The next lowest 1/2" super low light model was the Hikvision DarkFighter 6026, which includes their H.264+ smart CODEC (similar to Zipstream). Note that both Samsung models spiked dramatically in very low light, maxing out bitrate to their caps (~32 Mb/s and 16 Mb/s in the 6005 and 6004, respectively). 

Test Parameters

Cameras were tested using default settings, with the following settings applied to all cameras:

  • Shutter speed was set to a maximum of 1/30s
  • H.264 High Profile, 10 FPS, ~28 quantization was used

The following firmware/software versions were used:

  • Axis Q1615: 5.80.1.2
  • Axis Q1635: 5.80.1.2
  • Dahua IPC-HF8281E: 2.420.General 02.0.R, build: 2015-06-11
  • Hikvision DS-2CD6026DHWD-A: V5.3.4
  • Samsung SNB-6004: 3.01_140804
  • Samsung SNB-6005: 1.00_150723
  • Exacqvision: 7.0.3.82314 

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