Bosch Starlight Tested vs Axis

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Mar 03, 2013

[UPDATE June 2013: We tested the Bosch Starlight camera against the new Sony Gen 6 camera. When doing so, we upgraded Bosch to its newest available firmware (5.80). We found this change (moving from 5.70 to 5.80), resulted in significant improvements in image quality and bandwidth consumption. The March 2013 test has been updated inside.]

Low light performance is critical for high end surveillance cameras. Delivering high quality, detailed low light images without any added light is highly valued and a key competitive differentiator.

In the past two years, Axis has boasted 'Lightfinder' technology in their top tier camera line, claiming quality color images even in extremely dark environments. And those cameras have performed well in IPVM shootouts - see our tests of the Q1602 and Q1604. Plus, Axis has integrated Lightfinder to many new cameras, helping to differentiate and justify its premium prices.

Now, Bosch has launched a new 'Starlight' series claiming exceptional low light performance.

Lightfinder vs Starlight

We wanted to see how they would compete so we matched up Axis's Q1602 and Q1604 vs Bosch's Starlight NBN-733V and their NBN-932V 1080p box camera.

We did series of tests indoors at very low light levels including 0.1 lux, 0.5 lux and outdoors from 5 lux to less than 1 lux.

[UPDATE: The report now includes comparisons of image quality and bandwidth for Bosch's new 5.80 firmware.]

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Market ******

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Comments (19)

Hi Ethan,

What about testing the Bosch against Axis P3353? That is a dome camera with lightfinder capabilities that is very cost effective.

Andrew, we tested against the Q1602 and the Q1604 because they've been our best performing low light cameras. The P3353 has the same minimum illumination specs as the Q1604, so we expect it would handle low light similarly. It's SVGA as opposed to 720p, though it does look to be in the $500-600 range, as opposed to $700-800.

Hi Ethan, for the 720p version, you can go with the P3354 (probably $100 more than the P3353). I took this out to the field for some test shots together with the Q1602. The extra resolution helps capture more details, and the lightfinder technology is at least on par to the Q1602. So if price becomes a factor in deciding which lightfinder camera to go for, these two Axis dome cameras fit the bill well.

Now, with that said, I only took these two cameras out for quick shots. There were no other cams, so I am not sure if they do as good as a job compared to other brands and I didn't do any settings changes. But all I can say is that I am impressed by what they can do. They see better than my eye did.

Andrew, no doubt, Axis Lightfinder is very strong. The thing our tests are showing is that Bosch Starlight is competitive, which is a surprise given that almost all new cameras (like the new Arecont and Avigilon we just tested as well as the recent Panasonics from last year) are not.

Hi John, from the above test shots, it appears so. I am impressed by the Bosch's crispness.

By the way, Bosch's claim that blur is coming from DNR and not shutter speed has some truth to it. Many cameras I've evaluated lately that have DNR enabled also show blur even in moderately lit scenes, so much so that I've been setting DNR as off by default.

It really depends on how DNR is done. If it's 2D only (interframe) then the averaging that can occur can significantly blur moving objects. The more sophisticated 3D DNR (intraframe) looks at pixels surrounding the noise within a frame and can achieve great results without the same level of blur occurring. Of course the best cameras combine 2D and 3D to achieve greatness but that can be fairly processor intensive.

Hey Jason, the NBN-733V is using both interframe and intraframe. They refer to them as temporal and spatial, and they can be adjusted independently, as well. The way they balance them is one of the key things they adjusted in the 5.80 firmware.

Ethan, yep I know. I wasn't speaking specifically to Bosch so much as I was DNR in general, but thanks for the clarification.

How would these cameras compare to a low light core from Flir, TAU CNV? (Demo video)

Have you done any tests on these kind of modules? (They are very expensive...)

Birger, thanks for sharing them. We have no looked into Flir's Tau offerings. We will contact them to learn more for ourselves.

We did do a Q1602 vs thermal shootout recently that you might find interesting.

According this test and the products they have released since 2011, does IPVM put Bosch in the top tier of imaging qualitiy? Would you say Bosch is now ahead industry incumbents as well as their traditional rivals like Pelco, Panasonic and Sony?

We have not tested the new Sony Gen 6 so we can't make a statement there (though it's on our test plan for the next few months). I am also hearing that Pelco will have a major new release at ISC West so that could change things.

That said, relative to Panasonic's new stuff from last year, Sony's Gen 5 and the existing Pelco Sarix Surevision, Bosch's top cameras are equal or superior in low light and WDR to those.

That said, with WDR sensors becoming commonplace, WDR differentiation is diminishing while low light remains a differentiator.

Hi Ethan,

It seems that the Bosh 733-V does still have a significant noiselevel, even with Firmware version 5.80 and vibrant mode. Also does the Axis Q1602 in the .5 and .1 lux demo's.

For analytics, noise and motion blur are killing the detection performance in some applications.

I've found from experience with the Axis Q1602 that the default settings are not optimal regarding noise reduction, but slightly adjusting some camera parameters drastically reduce the noise level whilst still having enough light sensitivity.

To have an idea, could you give the details on the gain, max gain and shutter used on both camera's ?

Thanks !

We just tested an NBN-932V. The motion blur mentioned was very pronounced, even on scenes with >100lux illumination. It was very disconcerting - appearing almost exactly like DSS does.

I'm pretty certain that during my tests, I actually turned off DNR and the effect was still evident, but I can't test that theory because during the course of the test using Geutebruck's VMS while accessing the ONVIF stream, something I changed in the camera's settings caused the VMS' server to freeze up and go through a series of reboots. The only cure was to disconnect the Bosch camera.

We've run into a number of other possibly ONVIF-related issues during our VMS tests with IP cameras. Other ONVIF oddities:

With Axis cameras, you can't change codec settings of the ONVIF stream through the camera's web page. Axis confirms this, saying ONVIF codec settings must be changed through the VMS. That was not the case with the Bosch camera.

The Axis P3384 tends to zoom fully out when the camera is "restarted" or the network is disconnected/reconnected to it while accessing the ONVIF stream. This happened during testing with two different VMS - Geutebruck and IndigoVision. The odd thing is that the P3364 we are also testing hasn't exhibited that problem.

For some reason, the Geutebruck VMS joystick zooms and focuses all tested IP cameras that have power zoom and focus and that are connected via their ONVIF stream. I believe that also happened with IndigoVision but can't confirm because their system has been removed and we didn't actually discover that issue until last week. The VMS is not set for those cameras to be PTZs.

Hi Maggy,

Default settings were used on the Q1602. This means 1/30s max shutter, and 62db max gain. It was left prioritized to low motion blur instead of low noise.

On the 733V, defaults for the modes were used (Indoor and Vibrant). On Vibrant mode, that means ALC level 2, and a default shutter of 1/60s. It can't be slowed to beyond that.

It's possible that all the cameras in the test could be improved by making fine-grained adjustments. Both Axis and Bosch suggested that this was possible, but we do not normally do this, as it's something that most users won't get into.

I hope that answers your questions!

I disagree with Ethan here, especially in response to Maggy's comment about, "slightly adjusting some camera parameters drastically reduce the noise level whilst still having enough light sensitivity." Maggy, if you can share sample images that would really help.

In my experience with the Q1602, I have not seen 'drastic' improvements in reducing noise level without reducing light sensitivity. I am not sure what 'having enough light sensitivity' means. From experimenting with different gain levels in the Q1602, in very dark conditions like what we are testing in, reducing the gain will almost certainly make the imager darker. I suspect, in your specific application, you may have somewhat more light and more issues with digital noise, so it might be better to make the adjustments you did. However, in terms of getting the maximum visual details, reducing gain to reduce digital noise will most certainly reduce visible details captured/displayed.

It all depends on what your priority is. Is it purely visual, or is the image being processed for computer vision. That makes a whole difference at how one looks at the video, and what the optimal settings are.

You are completely right about reducing the gain will reduce visible details, but those, you could optimise again via some other settings that have less effect on the noise level.

My main focus is to optimize camera settings for video detection, which might be a complete different focus then most people on this forum. However, adjusting a few camera-settings (in following case just 2 : Max gain and WDR) might have an enormous impact on the image.

I would like to post 2 images of a same scene, with only 2 params adjusted. I've sent them to your IPVM info e-mail.

One scene is killing my application, on the other it works perfectly.

So when using video analytics on a camera, it is important to know what camera it is working on, and how you can optimise the settings, because this can enormously affect the performance of the analytics, and also visuals.

I'm curious what improvement can be made with the Bosh-camera, probably it's also possible to get it better, but I haven't one to try it on.

But how come the Q1604 is performing almost as good as the Q1602 when the first one isn't using the "Lightfinder" technology. Please correct if I am wrong.

Ayman, while the Q1604 isn't officially listed as Lightfinder, its minimum illumination specs are the same as the Lightfinder P1354. However, this is only true when WDR is turned off, as we discussed in our Q1604 test.

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