Wrong: Why Imager Size Is NOT Key To Low Light

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Feb 06, 2014

We hear it all the time: bigger imager means better low light performance. But is it really true? In this note we compare imager size to low light performance from our industry leading testing in order to settle this once and for all.

The Truth

1/3" inch imagers are by far most common in our tests (and in IP cameras), followed by the marginally larger 1/2.8" and 1/2.7" sensors. Cameras with these imager sizes, similar resolution, and F stop ranged from best to worst, and everywhere in between, illustrating the point: better gain control, noise removal, and other image improvements resulting from increased processor performance in recent cameras far outweigh simple imager size.

Here is our test chart with highlights showing how the same hardware specs (such as imager size) delivered radically different low light performance:

** **** ** *** *** ****: ****** ****** ***** ****** low ***** ***********. *** ** ** ****** ****? ** **** note ** ******* ****** **** ***** ***** *********** **** *** ******** ******* ******* ** ***** ** ****** **** **** *** *** ***.

The *****

*/*" **** ******* *** ** *** **** ****** ** *** tests (*** ** ** *******), ******** ** *** ********** ****** 1/2.8" *** */*.*" *******. ******* **** ***** ****** *****,******* **********, *** * **** ****** **** **** ** *****, and ********** ** *******, ************ *** *****: ****** **** *******, noise *******, *** ***** ***** ************ ********* **** ********* ********* performance ** ****** ******* *** ******** ****** ****** ****.

**** ** *** **** ***** **** ********** ******* *** *** same ******** ***** (**** ** ****** ****) ********* ********* ********* low ***** ***********:

[***************]

Imager **** ***** ***....

****** **** ******* **** *** **** ***:

  • ** **** ****** ********* ** *** ****** ******* (********** */*" or *****), **** ** *** **** ** *** ******* *** lenses ** *** **** ****. ***** **** ********'* *** ****** (*** **** ****** ******* ** ****** **** ******* ** ************) and *** *** */*" ****** **** ***-*****, *** ******** *** ****** ** ************.
  • ******** ********* ** ****** **** (*/*" ** */*.*") *** *** less ********* **** ******** ** **** ******* / ***** ********** and ***** ****** (**** **** *** ******). *** ***** ***** shows *** **** ****** ***** ********** ********* ********* *** ***** performance *** ******** ** *** ****** **********.

Image **********

*** *** **** ***** *** '*****' *** ***** *********** - LightFinder, ************, *********, ***** ***** ********, ***. - **** **** all **** ** ****** ** (*) ******** ***** ********** *** (2) ******* **** *******.

What ** **?

** ********** **** ** ***** ** ****** ** ****** **** up *** ****** **** ** * **** ***** *** ******** that *** ****** ****** ** ****. *** *******, ******, ** that ** * *** ****** ** ***. 

Comments (21)

* ***** *** ******* **** **** **** * ***, ** people *** *** **** **** *** *** ****** ** *** be-all *** ***-*** ** *** ***** ***********... ** **** ***** any ***** "******* **********" ****** (*** ** ** ****, **** applies ** **** ***** *** **** ** ****). ********* ****** and ******* ** *** *****, *** ****** ***** ********* *** Delicious ****** ** ****** ******, *** *** ****** **** **, some *** ****** *** ****** *** **** *** ****** *** baking ****.

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******* **, *** **** ** ***** *****... *** ****** ********* "TENDS ** **" **** "**** **".

******. **** ** **** *** ** **** *** ****** ** image ********** / ******** **** ******* ** ********* ******* ** unknown ** **** ******** ******, ********** ***** ** ***** *** easy ****** ***** ****** **** ****.

* ***** **** **** **** *** ****'* ********. ********** **** ( ********* ****** ***********) ***** ***** ***** **** ****** ****** has ****** *** ***** ***********.

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"* ******* *** ******* ***** **** ***** ********* ** *** light ***** ********* **** ****** *** **** ** ****."

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*** *** **** ** *** **** ** **** ** **- how **** ******* /***** ** *** **** *** **** ** the ******** ****** ****.

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***** *** ******* ** *** *****, ***** ****** ** *** think ** '****' ** **** ******?

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* ** *** ***% **** *** * ********** **** **** Bosch ********* *** **** *** *** **** ******. ***** ********* is **** ** ****** *** ***** *** **** ****** ***** performance ** *** ** **** ***** **** **** ***********, *** performance ** **** ** ****** *** *** ******* **** ** huge (***** **** ** **** **** ******* *** *** **** profile).

*** ***** ** ********* *** **** ****** ** ********* ** main ** **** *******. ***** *********** ******* *** ********* ****/*+ at **** *** / ***** ******** ** ********* **** ****** firmware ********** ** */**** ****.

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*** **** *** *** ******** ***** *** ***-*****?

****, ****'* * ******* ** ** *** *********. *** ** fix **** ***** **, ******.

* ***** **** *** *********. *'* *** ****** *** ********* here ******* ** ***** ****. ********* (*** ******), ****** ***** size ******* ** ****** *** ***** *********** ** **** ***** is ******** ** **** *****. *** *** **** / *.*" image ******* **** *** **** ***** ****.

** *** ** ****, ************ *** ******* **** ***** ** the ********** **** **** ** **** * *******. **** *** example ** **** *********** ******* ***** ** *** ******* ****** to **** ****** *** ***** *********** **** *********** ***** ******* which ******* *** ***** ** **** ******* * *** ** tiny ********** ****** ******* ** *** ********** ***** ******** *** final ****** ** ***** ***** *********. *** **** ********** ** the ***** ** ********, *** ***** *** ***** ***** **** be, ********** ** *** **** ********** *** ***** ** ******* it

***** *** **** ******, ********* ***** **** *** ***** '************'. Most ****** **** **** ** ******, ****** **** ** *** extent **** **, ** ** *** ********* *** **** ** able ** ********* **** ******* ** *** ***** ****** **** (i.e., */*.*", */*"). *************, ****** ***** ***** *** ****** ********** are ******* *** *********.

**** *** * **** ***** **** **** ***** ******* ** back ** **. **** ******* ******** **** *** ******* *********** drivers *** ****** **** ****** ******* (** ** ***) ** imager ****.

**** ********** ****** ******* *********** *********:

**** **** ******* *** ******* ********* ******** ** ******* ******* than ** ****** *******? ************* *** **** ******* ******** ******* to *********** ***** ****, *** *** ***** ********* ******?

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****, ******* **** ************** *** **** *** ***** ***** ** video *******. *** ***** ******** ********** ******* *** *.*** ******** which *** ********* ** ********* *** ***** ***********? ** **** are, **** ******* **** **** ** ******* *********** ** ***** imaging **********? *** *******, **** *** *********** ********* *** ************ of ***** **** ** *********** ** *** **** ** ****** object ********. * ****** ** **** *** ****** * ************ of ***** ***** ** ******** *** ****** ** **** ****** to *** ***** ***********?

*** *** ** *** ***** *********** ** ******** ******* *** conversion.

*** ***** ****** ***** *****:

****** **** ********* ******* **** ******** *****

****** *********** ****** ***** **** ** *** ******** ***** **** the ****** ******* ****

***** ***** **** * *** ** ***** ******* **** ***** ignore **** ** *** ***** ***** *** ******** **** *** sensor

******* **** ****** ******-**-******** ********** ********** *** **** *********

***** ********* ******* *********** ******* *** ** **** ****** ******* to ***** ****, *** *****, ****** ****.

**** * **** ******* ** ****** ****, ******* ****** ******* comparable *********** ** ****** ******, ***** ****** ****** ** ***** that **** ******** *** ******** ***** *** ** **** **** takes ** **** **** * ***** ******** (*** **% ** so) ** * *****. ***** *********** *** ******** *****, *** lens ******* ******** ******* **** *** ******, ******* ** ***** size, *** **** ***** ******** ***** **** * ****** **** constitute *** *********** ******** ****** ** *****. *** **** *********** process *** ****** ***** ********** **** ********** ** *** ***, and ******* **** ***** ******* ***** ** * ******* ******. Also, **** ******** *** ********** ***** *** ********* ************ ** chip ****. ** ******* ***** ******* ******* **** *** **** substantially **** **** ****** *****, ** ***** **** **** ******* chips ***** ** **** *********. ** ***-***** ***** **** ****** chips ******* ****** ***** *********** ** ******* **** ************** *** by ***** **** *****. ** *** **************** *****, ** * smaller **** ***** *** *** *** *** ********* ******* **** each *****, *** *** *** *********** ******* **** *** ****, then * ****** **** ***** ****** *********** ****** ***********. ***** these **** ******* **** ****** *********** ***** **** **** *** low ***** ***********, **** ** ***** **** **** ************* **** figured *** *** ** ******* ********* ******* ****** ******* ***** sizes *** **** ***** ******* **********.

*** *** ********* ****** ** *** ** **** ** *** age ** *** ****** ***** ****. *** ****** ******* ******* touted ** ************* *** *** ******* ******* ********** ********. ***** technology *** ******** ********** **** *** ***** ***** *** ***** that *** **** */*" ** **** ***'* **** * ****** to * */*" ****** ** **** (** *** ********).

************* ********, * ****** ***** ****** ****** **** ***** **** a ******* ***. ****** ****** ********* ** ****** *******.

***** ****** *** **** ********* *** *** ** *** *********** for *** #* ******** ** ******* - **** ******.

*** **** **** **** ****** *** **********, **** **** *** targeted ** ****** ****** ** * ********* ***** *** ******** applications. **** **** ***** *** ****** ****** ********* ** ******* unholy ************ ** ****** * **** **** ******* ***** **** a **** ****, ****-***** ****** ** * *** ** ***.

** *** **** ********* ** ***** ********, *** *** - or ***** ****** ********* - ***** * **** **** ** teasing ***** *** ** *********** *** ** ***** ******. ***, or '****** ********' ** **** ************* **** ********** **** *** imager ************ *** ******* ***** **** **** ******** *.*** ******* (Ambarella, **, *********, ***, ***).

**** ** **** *** ** *** **** ***** *** ****** to ************* ********** ** *** ******** *****. **** *** ***** pretty ******* *** ******** *** *** **** **********. ***** ** Axis *** *** *** **** *** ***** ****'** ***** ** create ***** '***********' **********.

****' ********* *** ******* ** ****** *** *********** ***** *** ASICs ******* **** ** ************ ****** *** ******** ***** *** for *** ********** ******. **** **** **** **** ***** ****** working ***** *** **** **** *** ***** ***** **** *** right ****** ********** ****.

**'* * ***** **** ** ** ** *** ********!

******* *** **** * *" **** ******** **** ******* *** of *** ***** **** * */*", *-****-***** ******.

******* *** **** * *" **** ******** **** ******* *** of *** ***** **** * */*", *-****-***** ******.

** ** *** ****, ************* ********, **** *** ****** ****** *will* ****** **** ***** **** *** ******* ****?

** **** ****** ** ***, *** *** ** ***** ***** what ** ** **** ****** *** ***** ********* ******** ** the ******* ******?

******.

******* ****** **** **** ******* **** *** *** ***** *********.

****'* * ***** ******! ***** ** ** **** ****** *** intuitive, * ******* **** ****** **** ***** *** ***** *** statements **** **,

"...* ****** ***** ****** ****** **** ***** **** * ******* one."

"*** ***** ***** ****** ** ********* ***** ************... ** ** just *** * **** *********, ****** ******."

"*** ****** ***** ******* ******* ****** ***** ***** ******** *** camera ** ****** **** *****..."

***, **'* ********** ****, *** ****** ******* ** *** **** LIGHT *********, ***** ** ****** *** *** **** ****** ******* cameras.

**** ** ** ***** ***** ********** **** ********?

"...* ****** **** ****** ****** **** ***** **** * ******* one."

"*** ***** ***** ****** ** ********* ***** ************... ** ** just *** * **** *********, ****** ****."

"*** ****** ****** ******* ****** ******** **** ******** *** ****** to ****** **** *****..."

****** *** ******* ** *** **** ***** ********* **** * given *****, *** ****** ****** ******* **** ** *** *****'* light.

******** ******* ****** ******* *** ***** **** * ***** ** view **** *** ****** ****** ****.

***** *** ****** ** ******** ***** *** ********** ** *** size ** *** **** ********, **** *** ******* **** *** same ****** ** ****** **** *** **** ****** ** ***** per *****, ********** ** ***** ****.

**** ****** ***** ******* ** *********** ****** ***********.

**** * **** **** **** ***** *** *** *****'* ***** onto */* *** **** ******* **** ******? **** ***** **** play **** * **** ********** *** ******** *****, ***** ** not ********* *** **** (***) *** ************ ****** *******.

** ***** * *** **** ******** **** ******* ****** ** one ****** **** *** *****? **** *** ****** **** *** poor ***** **** ****** **** ** **** ******* **** ***** per ***** **** *** ****** **** *** ****** ***** **** factor, ********** ** ****** ****.

** *** ********** ********** ** *** ****** ************* ****** **** the *****? **** *** ****** **** ****** ********** ********** **** perform **** ****** ** *** *****, ********** ** ****** ****.

*** ***** ****** ***** *****, * ***** ****** *** **** expensive, ******* ******. *******, ** ********* *****, * ****** ** smaller ****** ***** *** ****** ** *****, *** **** *** much ****** **** ** * ****** ** ****** ****.

****** ********. *** * ****** ** * **** **** ***** focus * ******* **** ****** ***** ***** ** * ******* size ****** ******* ********** *** ********* ***** ******?

**** ** *** ********** **** *** **** ***** **** **** refraction *** ** **** ***** *** **** ********* **** **** light. ** ********** **** **** **** ********* **** **** ******, so *'* *** ***** ******* ******. :-*

"**** **** *****" ** ** *********** ******: ***** **** ******** and ******* ** ********* * **** ******, ** *** *********** and ********** ** **** ***** ** *********** **** ********* ******** in ****** ** ******** ** **************? *** **** *****: ***** fibers ***** ***** *** **********.

******.

******** *** **** ***** **** **** ********** ** **********. ****** around ** *** *** ********* *** ******** **** ************* ***** from .** ** .**, ****** ** ***** ** .**. *** the ***** ****.

*** * *** **** ****** **** ***** *** *** ************ boosting *** ************* ** **** *** ***** ****** *******, **** the **** ***** ****** ***** ** ****** (*** ***** ****** being *** ****) *** ********* *** *-******. ********* **** ******* do *** **** ** * **** ******** ** ****** *** image ******? *** ** *** *'* ********** ******* *** ****** of ** ************* ** *'** ***** ** ***.

** **** ****** *** *** *****, *** ** *** ******* the (*******) ****** ***-***** *********** ** > *** **** *******?

***** *** **** ***** ****** *** **** **** ****** *****'* create ** **** ****** ***********, ******* *** ***** ***** ********* due ** *** ***** ** **** ********** **************?

***** **** **'* ** ***** **** ******* *** '******' ** go **** ** ****** ***** ** ********, *** ******* ** is *** ******** ** **. ***** **** ***** **** ***** pipe **** ****, *** ** *****'* ** **** ** **** well ** ***. *** ****'* *** ****, *****?

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