5MP Super Low Light Tested (Bosch)

By: Ethan Ace, Published on May 27, 2014

Low light performance remains the biggest showstopper for multi-megapixel cameras. Test after test, 5 MP and even 1080p cameras are consistently outperformed by 720p models. Bosch is aiming to change this, however, with their new NBN-80052, a 5 MP model using a larger 1/1.8" imager and the starlight technology built into their NBN-733V, consistently one of the top performers in our tests.

To find out how much this model narrows the performance gap, we put it up against a 5 MP competitor from Arecont Vision, and 1080p and 720p models from Axis, Bosch, and Samsung in four different scenes, ranging from a narrow 20' field of view indoors:

To a 100' field of view outdoors:

As well as a WDR warehouse scene:

Here are the key findings from our test:

  • Low light performance similar to 1080p low light models (Bosch NBN-932V and Samsung SNB-6004) and substantially better than the 5 MP Arecont AV5115DNAIv1.
  • Low light performance generally below 720p models (Axis Q1604, Bosch NBN-733V, and Samsung SN-5004), but better legibility of the test chart in narrow FOVs. 
  • Wide dynamic range performance similar to top performing 720p/1080p WDR models.
  • Significant desaturation using default settings, remedied when using vibrant mode.
  • Non-standard 16:9 5MP resolution increases pixels across the HFOV by 400 compared to typical 5 MP cameras (2992x1680 vs. 2592x1944).
  • No issues with frame drop during night or high motion with a full 30 FPS achieved, compared to 10-15 FPS max for competitive 5 MP cmaeras.
  • Bandwidth consumption similar to competitive 1080p cameras and well below other 5 MP models.

Pricing and Availability

The MSRP of the NBN-80052 is $1,776 USD, not including lens. Based on current street pricing and MSRP of other Bosch cameras, we estimate street price to be ~$1,100. This is higher than other 5 MP models available, such as the Axis P1357 (~$900 online including lens), Arecont Vision AV5115DNAIv1 (~$500 online, not including lens), and Hikvision DS-2CD883F-E [link no longer available] (~$500 online, not including lens). 

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The NBN-80052 is a significant improvement in low light performance over past 5 MP models, especially beneficial in wider fields of view with some light available (2 lux and above). However, it is priced at a premium, at nearly twice the price of other 5 MP cameras, and $300-400 more than current low light 720p/1080p models.

Physical Overview

In this video we review the physical construction of the Starlight 8000 camera. Form factor is the same as other Bosch box cameras, though it is noticeably heavier. The lens, a 5 MP 4.1-9mm IR corrected varifocal model, is also much larger than typical CS mount lenses, in order to accommodate the camera's 1/1.8" imager.

Configuration

Here we briefly review configuration of the NBN-80052. Those familiar with other Bosch cameras will find nothing different here, aside from the option to change "mode" from 5 MP 16:9 to 5 MP 4:3 or 1080p.

Narrow FOV

We began by testing indoors in a narrow field of view, ~20', seen below. 

In full light, the NBN-80052 is notably desaturated, almost appearing monochrome compared to other cameras. More lines of the test chart are visible (down to line 9) than in any other camera due to its higher PPF.

In low light, ~2 lux, the NBN-80052 produces a high quality image as well, with better visibility than both 1080p models tested, the Bosch NBN-932V and Samsung SNB-6004. The other 5 MP camera in this test, the Arecont 5115DNAIv1 produced no usable image here.

Finally, with all lights off, below 1 lux, the Bosch NBN-80052 still clearly displays the chart though details of the subject are lost. Its image is brighter than the NBN-932V and less noisy than the 1080p Samsung SNB-6004. The combination of low light performance and higher resolution results in more visibility in the chart here than even the 720p Axis Q1604 and Bosch NBN-733V, though the Samsung SNB-5004 is slightly more legible.

Wide FOV

Next we tested in wider fields of view to see if the beneifts of 5 MP resolution held up in daylight and nighttime, starting at 50' wide.

50' HFOV

In this scene, the NBN-80052 clearly produces more details than any other camera in the test. At a HFOV this wide, the 720p models simply do not provide enough pixels per foot to provide good details of the subject or chart.

In low light (~8 lux) at a 50' field of view, visible noise increases in the NBN-80052, producing about the same level of detail as the 1080p Samsung SNB-6004.

100' HFOV

We moved our subject back, resulting in a 100' wide FOV at the target, seen in this image:

Again, during the day, the Bosch NBN-80052 produces more details of both the subject and chart than other cameras in the test. 

However, in low light (~3 lux on target), noise and lower PPF result in no visible details of either subject or chart, though the subject is still more visible than in the 1080p NBN-932V, while the Arecont 5115 is barely able to detect even the bright test chart.

WDR Performance

We tested WDR performance in a warehouse scene against an open overhead door, seen below:

With the subject against the bright outdoor area, the NBN-80052 performs well, on par with top WDR cameras such as the NBN-932V and Samsung SNB-6004, and better than the 5MP Arecont 5115. The subject and chart are clearly visible, as is the parking lot outside behind the subject. In the darker area next to the door, performance is similar to 1080p models, but lags somewhat behind 720p models such as the Axis Q1604 and Samsung SNB-5004.

Turning on backlight compensation (standard or Intelligent AE) results in a slight increase in visibility when the subject is in the darker area near the door, but performance against bright backgrounds is practically unchanged.

Bandwidth Comparison

In full light, the NBN-80052's bitrate was higher than all cameras except for the 5 MP Arecont AV5115. However, lowering light to ~2 lux, its bandwidth consumption is lower than the 1080p NBN-932v, and much closer to the SNB-6004 (3.6 vs. 2.54 Mb/s). Finally, with all lights off below 1 lux, bandwidth is lower than both 1080p cameras and approaching two of the 720p cameras, the Axis Q1604 and Samsung SNB-5004.

 

Test Methodology

All cameras were testing using default settings, with exposure standardized to 1/30s. H.264 compression was used, with a framerate of 10 and quantization of ~28 average.

These are the firmware versions used for each camera:

  • Bosch NBN-80052-BA: 5.90
  • Arecont AV5115DNAIv1: 65225
  • Axis Q1604: 5.50.3
  • Bosch NBN-733V: 5.90
  • Bosch NBN-932V: 5.90
  • Samsung SNB-5004: 1.13
  • Samsung SNB-6004: 2.22

Exacq 6.0.10.59050 was used for recording.

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