Color Versus Day/Night Shootout

Author: Antony Look, Published on Apr 16, 2011

Most people prefer color over black and white but when it gets dark out, almost all surveillance experts agree that black and white video provides superior performance. To that end, professional surveillance users generally choose Day / Night cameras over Color only cameras for night time outdoor applications.

A number of important questions, though, remain unanswered:

  • How dark does it need to be before you should switch to black and white mode?
  • How much better of an image does black and white mode provide over color mode?
  • How much better is a Day / Night camera over a Color only camera?
  • What is the impact on visual quality for people and vehicles?

To better understand these tradeoffs, we conducted a series of 4 tests using 6 IP cameras.

  • 6 IP Cameras: We selected 2 color only cameras (an SD from Axis and a MP from IQinVision) and 4 day / night cameras (2 Bosch's - one at SD and HD, and MP Sony and Pelco Sarix cameras). We wanted a broad range of cameras to see how performance varied across camera types and camera manufacturers.
  • 4 Test Scenes: We tested (1) in an unlit field at under 1 lux to understand challenges in poorly lit scenes; (2 and 3) in a parking lot with typical street lighting for vehicles and people; (4) Finally, we tested in an outdoors athletic complex at ~50 lux to see the impact of very well lit night time scenes.

The images below provide a visual overview of some of the tests we conducted.

Inside, we share our results and video test samples.

This is part of our series of comparative tests. Also, review our Analog vs MP Night Time Shootout and our WDR Shootout.

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