Testing IR Illuminator Performance 2010

Author: Benros Emata, Published on Sep 05, 2010

Low light can cause problems for surveillance cameras. IR illuminators may improve this situation. However, questions remain about the price and performance of IR illuminators.

Over the last year, we have examined a variety of issues and approaches for dealing with low light problems:

Each of the above have their limitations, respectively: motion blur, high price and restricted camera choice.

In this test, we examine stand-alone IR illuminators that can be added to surveillance cameras to improve low light performance. Specifically, we purchased 3 inexpensive stand-alone IR illuminators via Amazon (the YY-IR100, YY-IR50, and the YY-IR30 that claim respectively 100m, 50m and 30m IR coverage).

We examined the following issues/aspects:

  • How far can the illuminators really illuminate? Inside we show video samples of limitations of half the specified distance.
  • What impact does reflectivity of the object has? Inside we show video samples of the dramatic differences between visibility and distance viewed for high reflectivity vs low reflectivity objects.
  • Where should the IR illuminators be mounted? Inside we show video samples demonstrating placing IR illuminators perpendicular to the camera and using multiple illuminators.
  • What bandwidth savings are acheivable? Inside we show video samples showing that bandwidth savings are likely achievable only in test, non-real world conditions.

Key Findings

Here are our key findings:

  • The IR illuminator's actual maximum distance was significantly lower than the manufacturer's documented distance
  • The maximum distance is highly dependent on the reflectivity of the object (e.g., a licese plate can be seen much further out than a person in a black shirt and jeans
  • Bandwidth savings from IR illumination is dependent on the reflectivity of objects in a given scene
  • The camera's field of view may need to be adjusted to match the illuminator's fixed horizontal beam width to eliminate dead spots
  • Placing IR illuminators away from the camera will have trade-offs to the maximum effective coverage

Recommendations

We recommend strong consideration of the YYTrade IR illuminators for simpler, less critical applications. Although it lacks advanced features and performs under the specified maximum distance, the units provide clear benefits over no illumination at an extremely low price ($60 for the larger unit). When compared to a competitor's similar IR offering at approximately $780, the inexpensive IR model provides a savings of over 92%.

Overview

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

We tested the YY-IR100, YY-IR50, and the YY-IR30 models of IR illuminators from YYTrade in indoor and outdoor low light environments. The following features were observed:

  • All models have a specified IR wavelength of 850nm
  • The YY-IR100 and YY-IR50 have a 30 degree horizontal angle
  • The YY-IR30 has a documented 60-90 degree horizontal angle (this was not verified)
  • All models integrate a low light sensor in the illuminator that turns off IR in daylight
  • All models are built for indoor and outdoor use (IP65 rated enclosures)
  • All models include an extra connector pigtail, to connect your own power cabling to the AC adapter
  • The YY-IR100 consumes 12W, and includes an 8' long 12VDC adapter
  • The YY-IR50 consumes 12W, and 12VDC adapter is only 3' long
  • The YY-IR30 consumes 8W, and does not include a power adapter
  • YY-IR100 has an array of 96 LEDs
  • YY-IR50 has an array of 48 LEDs
  • YY-IR30 has an array of 30 LEDs

Price

All three models are available for direct purchase over the Internet through YYTrade's website. The YY-IR100 is $56.95 USD, YY-IR50 is $37.95 USD, and the YY-IR30 is $19.99 USD.

Overview of Other Manufacturer Offerings

The YYTrade models should be compared to Bosch/ExtremeCCTV and Raytec. Both specialize in IR illumination, offering a significantly wider and more advanced offering than YYTrade.

For Bosch, the comparative IR series is the AEGIS UFLED line, which has illuminators in both 850nm and 940nm wavelengths. The UFLED30-8BD operates at the 850nm wavelength, has a 30 degree horizontal angle, and 110m specified max distance.

In contrast to the YY-IR100, the Bosch model's LED array consists of 18 surface mount LEDs, up to 45W max power consumption, and input voltage that supports either 12 to 24 VDC or VAC. This model claims additional features like, automatic light control for longevity (they claim a 10 year product lifespan), even illumination to eliminate hotspots, and a link port to connect other illuminators as a master / slave configuration. The online price is approximately $780 USD.

Raytec's similar model is in the RayMax 100 Fusion series, which also has 850nm and 940nm wavelength selections. The RM100-F-30 works in 850nm wavelength, has a 30 degree horizontal angle, and 80m specified max distance.

Raytec differs in that it allows manual power and photocell level adjustment, photocell placement (located behind the unit instead of in front as part of the LED array), has an integrated power supply, and input voltage of 12 to 24 VDC or VAC. They also claim automatic LED light control for longevity (projected 10 year product lifespan). The online price is approximately $776 USD.

Examining the YY-IR100 Illuminator's Maximum Distance

The YY-IR100 specificies an effective maximum distance of 100 meters. According to YYTrade, they verified the distance for the YY-IR100 in an enclosed warehouse test. In our test, we placed the IR illuminator in a common outdoor low light scene with less controlled variables. We placed three day/night IP cameras with the same field of view in front and below the IR illuminator. Our subject started close and walked away from the cameras so we could observe to what distance he would disappear from the IR light.

Key points include:

  • In the scene, the subject is wearing black clothing, a color that absorbs more light than reflects
  • At 30 meters (100 ft), the subject just starts to become difficult to see on some cameras
  • At 44 meters (145 ft), the subject is becoming harder to see on all cameras
  • At 49 meters (160 ft), the subject cannot be seen on all cameras

Our test shows that in an outdoor environment, The YY-IR100's maximum effective distance (49 meters) is half of the manufacturer's listed specification (100 meters).

The Impact of IR Light Reflectivity and Absorption

The following screencast examines reflectivity, absorption, and diffusion's impact on IR illuminated scenes.

Key points include:

  • All objects react to light by a combination of absorption, diffusion & reflectivity
  • Colors and materials reflect and absorb light differently
  • In an IR illuminated scene, we have our subject hold license plates as he walks away from the camera
  • As the subject walks away from the camera, his black clothing absorbs more light than it reflects back
  • At 43 meters (140 ft), the subject is barely visible, but the license plates are still reflecting light
  • Dark colors absorb more light, while light colors are more reflective
  • Outdoor scenes may have less objects that reflect light back to the camera

IR Illuminator Physical Positioning

We examine what is the most appropriate physical placement for IR lighting. In the following screencast, we look at the most common lamp placement, how to adjust for the best image, and the trade-offs of placing IR lighting away from the camera.

Key points include:

  • The most common placement of IR lighting is above and behind the camera, pointing the beam towards the camera's field of view
  • It is important to have the IR light cover the entire camera's field of view; If camera's field of view is wider than IR coverage, dead spots will appear on corners
  • Specify an IR illuminator that matches the camera's field of view, or if possible, adjust the camera's zoom to match IR coverage
  • We test the effectiveness of placing an IR illuminator perpendicular to the camera so the light shines horizontally across the 30 meter (100 ft) mark
  • One trade-off of perpendicular placement is the subject is not evenly lit
  • Another trade-off is effective coverage of the IR light is wasted
  • Although another option is to use two illuminators (one perpendicular and co-located with camera), potential IR coverage is still wasted with the farther illuminator
  • Traditional lighting may be sufficient for lighting away from the camera

The Impact of Bandwidth from IR Illumination

Some manufacturers claim their IR products provide large bandwidth savings over an IP camera network- some even claim that their illuminator can provide a 90% bandwidth savings.

The claims come from the fact that in a low light scene, the gain level within a camera produces a certain amount of noise, and this noise increases a video stream's bit rate. When illuminators are applied, the IR light washes out the camera noise, resulting in the bit rate to drop.

In the following screencast, we discover that IR light's effect on bit rate in a low light scene is dependent on specific environmental factors.

Key points include:

  • Manufacturer IR bandwidth test results may be from testing in closed, controlled environments
  • We place a camera and an IR illuminator in a small indoor low light environment at approximately 0.3 lux
  • The indoor low light video has a high amount of camera noise and the bit rate is at 2Mbps
  • When the IR light is turned on in the indoor scene, the bit rate drops to 240kbps- which provides an 88% bandwidth savings
  • The environment in the indoor scene is mostly white, resulting in high reflectivity of the IR light
  • The reflectivity of IR light in the environment washes out the camera noise, which drops the bit rate
  • We move our tests to an outdoor low light environment at approximately 0.2 lux
  • The outdoor video has a high amount of camera noise and the bit rate is at 3Mbps
  • As we turn on the IR lighting, then turn it off, no significant change in the bit rate is observed
  • The lack of reflective objects in the scene allowed the camera noise to persist, resulting in no effective drop in bit rate
  • Bandwidth savings is dependent on an environment's reflectivity and scene complexity

9 reports cite this report:

IR Video Surveillance Tutorial on Dec 21, 2016
Almost all surveillance cameras perform worse in low light than they do in the day time. One of the most common techniques to overcome this is to...
5 Low Cost IR Illuminators Tested on Sep 03, 2015
IR illumination has increased in popularity, with built in IR becoming a common feature in low-cost models. But when low light needs exceed the...
Megapixel Solar Wireless (Micropower) Examined on May 12, 2015
A fully wireless professional surveillance offering, no networking cables, no power lines. That has been the goal of Micropower for 5 years....
Pixord IP Camera Overview on Oct 16, 2011
In this update, we will examine the IP camera line of Taiwanese manufacturer Pixord. While Pixord has low name recognition, they provide some of...
New Surveillance Products Directory Fall 2011 on Sep 21, 2011
This report provides a summary of key announcements and news being made related to or around the ASIS 2011 show.For each product or change, where...
The Truth About IR Lighting and Bandwidth on Aug 13, 2011
One of the industry's top growing myths is that IR illumination massively reduces storage and bandwidth costs. No one has done more to perpetuate...
New Surveillance Products Spring 2011 Final on Apr 06, 2011
In this report, we provide a single source listing new video surveillance products announced in Spring 2011 and in conjunction with ISC West.For...
Axis's IR Add-On (T90C) Examined on Jan 17, 2011
In this note, we provide a detailed examination of Axis's newly announced T90C, an IR illuminator add on to their P33 dome series. We explore how...
Examining IR Illuminator Bandwidth Savings and Raytec's Test Results on Oct 09, 2010
In the past few years IR illuminator vendors have made strong marketing claims about dramatic bandwidth savings achieved by using IR (80-95%...

Related Reports

Directory of Video Intercoms on Nov 13, 2018
Video Intercoms, also known as Video Door-Phones or Video Entry Systems, have been growing in the past decade as more and more IP camera...
Genetec Privacy Protector Tested on Nov 12, 2018
Genetec has built Kiwi Security's Privacy Protector into Security Center, an analytic which anonymizes individuals in cameras' fields of view...
Axis 2N Intercom Tested on Nov 08, 2018
Axis expanded its video intercom business buying Czech-based 2N in 2016. Despite competing against owner Axis' intercoms, 2N recently registered as...
Ubiquiti Protect Video Surveillance Profile on Nov 07, 2018
Ubiquiti has now been in the video surveillance market for 7 years (see our first coverage back in 2011). In that time, the company's revenue has...
Dahua Dual Imager Dome Camera Tested (HDBW4231FN-E2-M) on Nov 07, 2018
Dahua has introduced a dual-imager dome model, the HDBW4231FN-E2-M, with two independently positionable sensors including integrated IR, not found...
Directory Of Video Doorbells on Nov 06, 2018
Video doorbells are one of the fastest growing categories in video surveillance, especially among residences. The optimal placement of these...
Winter 2019 IP Networking Course on Nov 05, 2018
This is the only networking course designed specifically for video surveillance professionals.  Lots of network training exists but none of it...
Solar-Powered, Smart-Phone-Based Access Kit (VIZPin) Examined on Nov 02, 2018
Cloud-based access control company VIZPin is releasing a solar-powered and smart phone based access control system for gates and other remote...
Video Surveillance Hard Drive Failure Statistics 2018 on Nov 02, 2018
Hard drive failures can be significant service problems but how common of an issue are they in video surveillance? How long do drives last when...
Cloud Video Storage Usage 2018 on Oct 31, 2018
Storing email and documents in the cloud have long been common, with on-site email or file servers increasingly eliminated. However, what about...

Most Recent Industry Reports

'Sticker' Surveillance Camera Developed (CSEM Witness) on Nov 16, 2018
The Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) has announced what it calls the: world’s first fully autonomous camera that can be...
ISC East 2018 Mini-Show Final Report on Nov 16, 2018
This is our second (updated) and final show report from ISC East. ISC East, by its own admission, is not a national or international show, billed...
Facial Detection Tested on Nov 16, 2018
Facial detection and recognition are increasingly offered by video surveillance manufacturers. Facial detection detects faces in an image/video...
Throughtek P2P/Cloud Solution Profile on Nov 15, 2018
Many IoT manufacturers either do not have the capabilities or the interest to develop their own cloud management software for their devices....
ASIS Offering Custom Research For Manufacturers on Nov 15, 2018
Manufacturers often want to know what industry people think about trends and, in particular, the segments and product they offer.  ASIS and its...
Hikvision Silent on "Bad Architectural Practices" Cybersecurity Report on Nov 14, 2018
A 'significant vulnerability was found in Hikvision cameras' by VDOO, a startup cybersecurity specialist. Hikvision has fixed the specific...
French Government Threatens School with $1.7M Fine For “Excessive Video Surveillance” on Nov 14, 2018
The French government has notified a high-profile Paris coding academy that it risks a fine of up to 1.5 million euros (about $1.7m) if it...
Integrator Credit Card Alternative Divvy on Nov 13, 2018
Most security integrators are small businesses but large enough that they have various employees that need to be able to expense various charges as...
Directory of Video Intercoms on Nov 13, 2018
Video Intercoms, also known as Video Door-Phones or Video Entry Systems, have been growing in the past decade as more and more IP camera...
Beware Amazon Go Store Hype (Tested) on Nov 13, 2018
IPVM's trip to and testing of Amazon Go's San Francisco store shows a number of significant operational and economic issues that undermine the...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact