Lux Rating / Minimum Illumination Guide

Author: IPVM Team, Published on Dec 23, 2016

Lux ratings are one of the poorest specifications to use in selecting cameras. Now, with the rise of integrated IR, they are increasingly useless.

You need to be able to understand why lux rating (aka minimum illumination specifications) are so problematic, how they are established and what tricks / techniques are used.

In this guide, we explain why lux rating (aka minimum illumination specifications) are so problematic, how they are established and what tricks / techniques are used:

  • How lux ratings are tested / determined
  • The incorporation of shutter speeds in lux ratings
  • Dealing with lux ratings that include 'sens up' settings
  • Color vs B/W Impact
  • Understanding how IRE levels are used
  • Advances in super low light cameras
  • The practical lux levels typically specified based on analyzing 2000+ camera specifications
  • How to avoid getting burnt by lux levels
  • IR illumination and lux ratings

*** ******* *** *** ** *** ******* ************** ** *** in ********* *******. ***, ******* **** ** ********** **, **** *** ************ *******.

*** **** ** ** **** ** ********** *** *** ****** (aka ******* ************ **************) *** ** ***********, *** **** *** established *** **** ****** / ********** *** ****.

** **** *****, ** ******* *** *** ****** (*** ******* illumination **************) *** ** ***********, *** **** *** *********** *** what ****** / ********** *** ****:

  • *** *** ******* *** ****** / **********
  • *** ************* ** ******* ****** ** *** *******
  • ******* **** *** ******* **** ******* '**** **' ********
  • ***** ** */* ******
  • ************* *** *** ****** *** ****
  • ******** ** ***** *** ***** *******
  • *** ********* *** ****** ********* ********* ***** ** ********* ****+ camera **************
  • *** ** ***** ******* ***** ** *** ******
  • ** ************ *** *** *******

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

Lux ****** ***** / *************

**** ***********, ***** ***************** ** ******** ***** ** ****** ************ *** *******. **** are ****** ****-******** ***, ** *** ********** ** *** ************.

**** ***** **** **** ************ **** ** ****** **** ***** source **** ***, *** **** ** *** ******* ****, *** positioning ** *** *****, *** **** ******* / ***** ********, etc.

**** **********, **** ************ ******* **** ** ***** ** ** is*********. ** ** **** *****, ****** ** ***** ********** **** becomes *** ****-******** *** ******.

*** *******, ** *** ***** *****, **** *** ***** ***** easily ** ********** "****", *** **** ** *************** ** ****** nor ******* *********, ***** ** "*****"?

images

***** **** ************ ** **** ** **** ***** *** ****, they **** ** ********* ** ****** *** ******* *** ********, knowing **** ** ***** *********** **** ** *** **** *****.

Shutter ****** *** *** *******

***** ************* **** **** *** ******* ** ********* ** ******** shutter ******. **** **** */***, ****** */**, **** ***** * full ****** *******. ***** ****** ****** ************** ** *** ******* speed ***** **** */***. ***** ***** ****** ******* ****** ***** more ***** *** ***** ******* ************ ******,****** **** ** * *********** *********** **** ******* ******.

** *** **** ***** ******* *****, *** ************ ***** ******* illumination ** */*** *** */** ******* ******:

beware shutter speed in specs

** ******, *** ******* ************ ************* '*****' ****** ** */**, but **** ** *** ************* ***********, ****** ******* *** **** light *** **** ****.

F ****** *** *** *******

***** ** ***** * ************ **** ******* ***** ******* ************ assuming * ********** ********** *** **** *** ****** ****. *** *******, * ************ might *** ***** ****** *** ****** ** *.** *** ** f/1.0 *** *** ****** *** **** ** ********** */*.* ****.

** *** ******* *****, **** ** *** ****, **** ******* illumination ****** ** **.*, *** *** ****** ******** **** ** F1.8 ****, ***** ************ **** **** *** ****** ** ***** ** ** **.* lens.

beware differing f-numbers

**** ******** *** ************'* *** **** **** **********, ********** **** basic ***** ***** *** ******* ************ ** ** ***** .*** lux ****** **** .* ***.

Sens ** *** *** *******

****-**** ********* * ********* **** *** **** *******. *** ****** the **** ** "*****", *** ****** *******, **** **** ********** (2x, **, ***, ***.) ****** ********** ***** */*** ** ******* the ********* ******* *****.

*** *******, *** **** ***** ***** ***** * ******** ******* illumination ** "**** ****-**." **** *********** ******* ** ** ********** 8.5 ****** (***/*** = *.**) ******** ****, ***** ***** ****** in ******* ******** ** ****** *******.

*** **** ** **** *** *** *** ***** *** ****** and *** *********. ******.

Color ** */*

******* **** ******* ********** *** ******* (*** */* *******) **** often **** * *** *******, *** ***** ** ***** ****, the ****** ** **********. **** ********** ** *** ** ********* performance ** ********** **** *** ** ******* ** ***** ***** the ** *** ****** ****** ** ***** ****. ******* *********** are ***** ***********, ** ** *** ******** *****, ***** **** list ********** ******* ************ ***** */**** ** ***** **** (************* 10x ******).

minimum illumination specs

***** ***** *** ** ******* ********* ***** ** *****, *** increases *** ********* **********. ****** ***** *********** *** ******** *** has ******* *********** ** ***** *** ********** ******* **** ******, as **** ** **** ********** ***** **** * ******* ********** camera ** *** **** *****.

color vs monochrome

IRE ******

*** *********** ** ******* *** ****** ******* *** *** *** ********** in **. *** ** * ******* ** *** ******** ***** in ** ****** ***** ******, ****** ***** ********* ***** *******. Since ** ******* ** *** ******* ****** ****** ** ***** full **********, ** ** * **** ******.

* *** ************* ***** **** ** ** **** ******, ******* different ******* ************ ****** *** ********* **** (**** ***** ** and **). *******, ***** ** ** ******* *** ************* *** testing **** ***, ** ********* ***** *** ***** ******* ************ spec ** ***** ***** (********* **), *** ******** ***** ********.

ire level in specs

******* ** ****** ******* **** ***** ** *** **** ***, almost *** ** **** **** ********** **, ** **** ***** IRE ****** ***** ** ******* ** ** ****** *******, **** would *** **** * **********.

Beware ** *********

**** ************* (******* *******) ******* ** ******* ********** ** ******* "0 ***, ** *********" *** ***** ***-********** ** *******. **** they *** ****** ** "** *** *** *** *** **** own ** ***** ******, *** ******* **** ** *****." **** is ********* **** *** ****/* ********* ********** ******* ** ******** ****** ***'* *** ** *********** units.

Super *** ***** ********

** **** *****, ** *** ********* *** ****** ********** ******** that *** ******* **** **** ** *** *****, **** *** 'best' ***** ******** **** **** ****** ** ***** *** ******** in ***** **** **********.

**** *** ******* ** *** **** *** ***** ** (*) advances ** *** ***** ***** ********** **** ********* *** (*) as **** ****** ******* *** ****. ******* *** *** *********** process *** ******* ***** ******* ** ********** ***** ********* ****** the ****** ********. ********, */*" ***** ******* **** ******* ** a ***** *** ***** *******, ******** **** ***** **********, ******* low ***** ****** *********** ** *** **** (*.*., *** ******* */*"************ */*"****** *****). *******, ***** *** * *** **** ***** ****** IP ******* (*.*. *' ** ****) **** ******* ** ******** low ***** ****** ****** ** *** ****** ****** (*.*.,****'* ** **** ****).

Practical *** ******

**** ***** *** ******* ************ ************** ** ****+ ******* ** its ****** ******. **** ****, ** ***** ***** ********* ******:

  • .*** *** *** *****
  • .** *** *** *****
  • .* *** *****

0.00X *** *** *****

*********************** ******* ************ ** ***** ********* ***** ************ *********** ***** ******'* *** ***** ***********. ** some *****, ***** ****** *** *** ************** ****** **** ** **** *******, ***** ** ******, ** ** ****** *************.

***** *** ************ ****** ** **** ******** *** ********* **** as *****'* ** *********** **** (***** ******* ****** ******* ********* due ** **** *******,*** *** **** *******) *** *******'* *******, * *** ********* ****** **** * very **** **.* ****.

** *****, ** ******* ** ************* ****** ****** ***** *.** lux, ** *********** ****** ******* ***** *****.

0.0X ***

** ********* ******* ** ***** **** ***** *** ***** ******* *** ********* specified. **** ***** ******** *** *** ***** ********** **** ** Axis' ************************,******* ***-**** *** ***-****, *******'* *** *** ***-***** *** ***-*****, ****** ** *** "******" ************** *** ***** ******* *** low ***** ***********.

**** ** *** ** *** ** ************* *** *********** *********** at ***** ******. *** *******, **** *** ******** *.**-**-** *** Axis ***** *** ********* ** *.** ***. *******,*** ********* *** ******** ******'* *********** ** **** ***** **** ** the *****.

0.X ***

******* ********* ** **** ******** ********* **** ** *** *****. **** ******** ******** **** previous ********** ******* ***** *** ***** *********** *** **** ********** by *** ********** ******. ************, **** ***** **** ***** ****/**** F-stop ****** ***** **** ****** ****** ** *** *+ *** range *** ********* ****.

**** **** ** ***** ******* **********, ** *** ***** ** a *** *******, ******* ********* ** **** ***** **** ****** not ******* ********* ***********.

1+ ***

******* **** ******* ************ ******* ***** * ******* ** **** ** **** ******** *** ***** **********. ***** ratings *** **** ****** ***** ***** **** ***** **** ********* (such ** ******* *********** **********) *** ********* ****** **** ** ********** ***-**************** **-*****/***.

IR ************ *** *** ****** - *** ******

**** ******* ***** **** / ******** ******** ********** **.

******* ** ****, *** ******* ** *** ********* ***** ** them, ***** ***** ******* **** ***** *** ********. ** ** possible ** **** ** ******* ** ******* *** ** *********** but **** ** ********* *** ****. ** ****, **** ** cameras ****** * *** ****** ** * ***, ***** **** do *** **** *****.

** ********** *** ****** ** ***** ******** *** ** ******* when ** ** ********, ********* ****** ***** **** (***** **** IR ** **, *** ****** **** ** ***** *** *****). See **** ******* *****:

**** *** ************* ******* **** *** **** ******* ** *** other *******. ********, ***** ** ******* **** ***** *** ************, many, ********** ***** **** ****, *** **** ** *** *****, relying ** ***** *****-** ** ************* ** **** *** ***** bright (*.*.,*** ********** ****** ***** *******).

What ** **

** *** ***** ** ********* ** ***, *** ** *** want **, *** *** **** ******* ******* ************, **** ********** the ********* ************* ********:

"******* ************ ** *.** *** ** */*** *******, ** *********** allowed."

*** ********* *** **** ** **** ******* ********* ** *.* lux ** ****** *** ****** ****** ****** *** ** *** light, **, ** *****, *** *** ****** ***** *******. *******, if *** ******* ********* ***** **** ****, **** .***, *** significantly ******** *** ****** ** ********* ****-******* *** ***** ******* that *** ************** *********.

*******, **** **** ** ******* *** "*/*** *******, ** **** shutter *******" ** ******* ************* ********* ************** **** *** ******* gamed *** ******* ** ********* *********** ****** ****.

****** ****,****** **** **** *********** *** ******* *** ***** ************ ******* *** **** ******** to *** *** **** ** ***** ** **** ****** / light ******.

[****: **** ***** *** ********** ******* ** **** *** *** updated ** ******** **** *** **** ** ******* ******** ** integrated ** ***** *** *********** ** ***** *** ***** *******.]

Comments (13)

Great article ! Every manufacturer puts all kinds of tricks to give spectacular demos at their boot, but once you test the cameras in the lab, you see the real performance ! And there's a big difference in behaviour, also according to the lenses you use. Same camera with same settings, but varying brands and types of lenses also give a wide variety of performance. Maybe this can be an interesting test as well.

The main issue with lenses and low light is variance in f stop. Higher f number, less light passes.

We actually tested / demonstrated this in our f stop tutorial:

That said, this only is possible with cameras where you can swap out lenses, which are in the minority in the industry today (most commonly box format).

With all of the trickery that manufacturer’s use to hide their products’ true low light level capabilities, I have given up specifying low light performance. Even using performance recommendations like you have suggested are challenging because the manufactures don’t publish all of the detail needed to properly analyze the camera’s performance. Until there are some meaningful standards and the products are tested by an independent testing agency (like IPVM), I will stick to specifying a few cameras that I have confidence in.

Rob, I think that is a solid approach.

We put out those performance recommendations because some organizations are not allowed to specify specific models (procurement rules, etc.). Our goal with our recommendation is primarily to stop unrealistic lux rating specs (like camera must be 0.00001 lux) that reward the bad actors and screw good products.

John, this is vey helpful in situations like ours. I work for a university and everything over a certain price has to go through the procurement (bid) process or be gotten from a recognized "sole source vendor". Specific language is important. Thanks.

Usually when i need to value cameras sensitivity i check the illumination level necessary to form the full signal at Gain=1, Texp=1/50, if possible turn off gamma correction and auto-iris just in case. mostly it is in the range 10 - 40 lux (F1.4) easy to measure. the behaviour in other conditions is very predictable.

#1, yes, once you have the camera you can definitely use techniques to measure / assess.

The big challenge for many specifiers is knowing before buying / getting a camera.

All above is valid but there are additional factors that also need to be considered.

1) As shown at the beginning of this article video noise is a major factor in the usability of the picture . The A, B, and C show this clearly with "C" having the best signal to noise ratio ( S/N). Manufacturers again distort their specs based on S/N by giving the sensitivity spec with "AGC ON" and/or "Sense Up ON" then the S/N with "AGC OFF" and/ or "Sense Up OFF" obvious that specs. should be done with the same settings.

2) The lux rating for the scene is given but critically no manufacturer speaks about the reflectivity of the scene. So they measure with a white card or other highly reflective object. Then the installer puts the camera viewing a parking lot that is black asphalt with virtually no reflectivity.

3) The old IRE was a valid measurement for surveillance and broadcast. It, combined with the S/N values, gave a more accurate picture of how a camera performed. The 30% number with a high S/N would indicate a good minimum usable picture. It would be nice if there was way to duplicate this with IP cameras and manufacturers using this as a standard ( We can dream can't we).

4) In actuality the best way to standardize light measurement and take the lens "f" stop and reflectivity out of the equation is to use a measurement of the light at the faceplate of the sensor as the specification. A number of manufactures tried to implement this many years ago ( analog cameras) and it fell to the wayside because this would keep all honest and many did not want to be honest.

5) At the end of the day the user is the victim of all the specification manipulation as many times they buy product that does not work in their application. The single best way for the user to protect themselves is to have an onsite demo with competitors doing side by side before they buy the system.

4) In actuality the best way to standardize light measurement and take the lens "f" stop and reflectivity out of the equation is to use a measurement of the light at the faceplate of the sensor as the specification.

I agree, measurement at the sensor takes the reflectivity out of the equation. How do you take the lens out of the equation, though? Measuring uncollimated light doesn't seem accurate.

a measurement of the light at the faceplate of the sensor as the specification.

Some manufacturers will just pass along the minimum illumination from the imager supplier. But that does not help since those numbers are not any more realistic or helpful for an end user buyer nor will it help compare to others who use different approaches.

There were and maybe still are light meters that accept a C or CS lens and have correct spacing to measure the light at the back of the lens which is equal to the faceplate.

You can always make one:

You of course are correct about manufactures using the sensor manufacturers specs. In fact this goes even further. Much like Brian pointed out the other day about the OEM China's makers specs being used by the seller verbatim, some camera manufactures just copy specs from the higher class manufacturers and put them on their spec. sheets so they are comparable.

Login to read this IPVM report.
Why do I need to log in?
IPVM conducts unique testing and research funded by member's payments enabling us to offer the most independent, accurate and in-depth information.

Related Reports

Top Metrics For Ensuring Integrator Profitability - Statistics on Mar 20, 2019
How do integrators ensure the profitability of their projects? As part of our profitability study, 100+ integrators answered the following...
Installation Course - Last Chance on Mar 14, 2019
This is the last chance to register for the March Installation course. This is a unique installation course in a market where little practical...
Pelco GFC 4K Dome Camera Tested (IMP831-1ERS) on Mar 12, 2019
Pelco has finally released their first 4K IP camera, after years of competitors' releases. Is this move too late? Or is their new GFC Professional...
Camera Pendant Mounting Guide on Mar 07, 2019
It is often necessary to suspend a camera from a high open ceiling. This is commonplace in retail, warehouse, industrial sites, hangars, and other...
Cable Firestopping Installation Guide on Mar 06, 2019
Installing cables through firewalls is a critical installation issue. Failing to properly seal a penetration can cause smoke and fire to spread,...
Mobotix Move OEM Camera Line Tested on Feb 25, 2019
Mobotix has long been criticized for not offering integrated IR, mechanical cut filters, varifocal lenses, optical zoom and other features that...
Outdoor Camera Mounting Hardware Guide on Feb 21, 2019
Mounting cameras outdoors can be challenging, requiring understanding different types of equipment and methods. In this guide, we teach this...
Security Installation Tools Guide - 22 Tools Listed on Feb 19, 2019
In this guide, we cover 22 tools that security installers frequently use. This is one part of our upcoming Video Surveillance...
Axis IR Multi Imager Camera Tested (P3717-PLE) on Feb 18, 2019
Axis has released their first IR multi imager, the P3717-PLE, a repositionable model listing 360° IR illumination and flexible positioning,...
Hanwha Smaller Multi Imager Tested (PNM-9000VQ) on Feb 14, 2019
Hanwha's first repositionable multi imager PNM-9081VQ tested well, but was huge, over 12" wide and weighing in at over 10 pounds. Now, they have...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Avigilon Launches 'Renewed Products Program' on Mar 19, 2019
There are lots of 'pre-owned' cars but pre-owned IP cameras? While such programs are common in other industries, in video surveillance, they are...
Hanwha Tax Evasion Probe, Camera Division Implicated on Mar 19, 2019
A Hanwha group subsidiary was raided as part of a tax evasion probe. While a Korean news media report listed the raided entity as 'Hanwha...
Genetec Security Center 5.8 Tested on Mar 19, 2019
Genetec has released Version 5.8. This comes after a wait of more than a year that caused frustrations for many Genetec partners. Our previous...
Retired Mercury President Returns As Open Options President on Mar 18, 2019
Open Options experienced major changes in 2018, including being acquired by ACRE and losing its President and General Manager, John Berman who...
Large US University End-User Video Surveillance Interview on Mar 18, 2019
Schools have become targets in modern days of active shooters and terrorist fears. The need for video and access security is high. Universities...
Hikvision Favorability Results 2019 on Mar 18, 2019
Hikvision favorability results declined significantly in IPVM's 2019 study of 200+ integrators. While in 2017 Hikvision's favorability was...
ONVIF Favorability Results 2019 on Mar 15, 2019
In the past decade, ONVIF has grown from a reaction to the outside Cisco-lead PSIA challenge, to being the de facto video surveillance standard...
Installation Course - Last Chance on Mar 14, 2019
This is the last chance to register for the March Installation course. This is a unique installation course in a market where little practical...
City Physical Security Manager Interview on Mar 14, 2019
This physical security pro is the Physical Security Manager for the City of Calgary. He is a criminologist by training with an ASIS CPP credential....
US Drafting Separate Rule for NDAA Dahua/Hikvision 'Blacklist' on Mar 14, 2019
The most debated provision of the NDAA ban of Dahua, Hikvision, Huawei, et al. is the so-called 'blacklist' provision which would ban any company...

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