Training: Using a Lux Meter

By: John Honovich, Published on Jun 06, 2009

Getting good images at night is one of the most challenging problems in video surveillance. Making this worse is that generally you cannot trust the illumination ratings provided by manufacturers.

The best tool to solve this problem is a lux meter. Lux meters provide a quantified measurement of the amount of light available. Without a lux meter, you are simply guessing. With a lux meter, you can clearly see and compare the impacts of various lighting conditions. Here is a video overview of the benefits and use of a lux meter:


Choosing a Lux Meter

There are an enormous number of options for lux meters on the market ranging from under $50 to over $500. For video surveillance, the key consideration is that a lux meter can accurately measure under 1 lux (critical for low-light and night-time testing). The cheaper consumer models usually do not do this. Based on Carl's [link no longer available] recommendation, I selected the Extech LT300 [link no longer available] (for $140 USD) and I am happy with it.

Benefits of Using a Lux Meter

Using a lux meter lets you determine exactly how much light you need for video that is usable for you. This is almost always far higher than what a manufacturer states as their minimum illumination.

With this knowledge, it makes it much easier to plan new camera deployments. Take a lux meter to the proposed camera site and check the light reading. You will know in advance how well it will work or if you need to use a different camera or infrared illuminators.

For more in-depth analysis and demonstrations of low light performance, see our premium report on "How Well Do IP Cameras Work in Low Light?"

Lower Cost Options

In addition to the LT300, Extech has begun offering lower cost compact models. The LT10 [link no longer available] is part of their "Pocket Series", and sells for ~$60 online, less than half the cost of the LT300. However, two features are lacking compared to higher end models:

  • No remote sensor: The unit is all in one, with the sensor attached to the base unit, so users cannot aim the sensor with one hand while holding the base with readout in the other.
  • Claims accuracy only to 0.1 lux: By contrast, the LT300 claims accuracy down to 0.01. 0.1 is likely dark enough for many users, but not those concerned with super low light scenes.

6 reports cite this report:

Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) Guide on Oct 01, 2019
Understanding wide dynamic range (WDR) is critical to capturing high quality images in demanding conditions. However, with no real standards, any...
Fail: Dahua "Didn't Check The Lux Levels but It Was Dark" on Jul 20, 2018
Dahua UK has been promoting their camera quality on LinkedIn: I, and others, asked what the lux level of the scene was. (background: Lux Rating...
Calculating Video Surveillance Storage / Bandwidth on Dec 29, 2016
Calculating surveillance bandwidth is complex, and inexperienced users can easily underestimate bandwidth, leading to reduced storage durations...
21 Scenes Lux Readings For Video Surveillance on Aug 11, 2016
IPVM went to numerous locations and measured the lux readings / light levels at each one. Here is an example of the approach we took and output...
How Well do IP Cameras Work in Low Light? on Jun 06, 2009
[2016 Update: Camera technology has changed substantially since 2009. The same pattern occurs but cameras are generally much better in low light....
Guidelines for Testing IP Cameras on May 25, 2009
What is the best way to test an IP cameras? We have established guidelines for our tests. These guidelines are listed below for your review and...

Related Reports on Low Light

Pelco Sarix Pro3 Camera Tested on Oct 16, 2019
Pelco has released their Sarix Professional Series 3 cameras, claiming "more security detail in challenging scenes with excellent low light and...
Avigilon H5A Analytic Cameras Tested on Oct 07, 2019
Avigilon has released its H5A analytic cameras, claiming to "detect more objects with greater accuracy even in crowded scenes." We tested the...
Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) Guide on Oct 01, 2019
Understanding wide dynamic range (WDR) is critical to capturing high quality images in demanding conditions. However, with no real standards, any...
Vivotek 4K S-Series Camera Tested on Sep 30, 2019
Vivotek's highest-end S-series camera claims "Supreme Night Visibility", "Smart IR II", "Smart Stream II", "WDR Pro for unparalleled visibility in...
Uniview Prime Series 4K Camera Tested on Sep 18, 2019
Is the new Uniview 'Prime' better than the more expensive existing Uniview 'Pro'? In August, IPVM tested Uniview 4K 'Pro' but members advocated...
Panasonic 4K Camera Tested (WV-S2570L) on Sep 13, 2019
Panasonic has released their latest generation 4K dome, the WV-S2570L, claiming "Extreme image quality allows evidence to be captured even under...
WDR Camera Mega Shootout 2019 - Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Panasonic, Vivotek on Sep 04, 2019
This is the biggest WDR Shootout ever, with 23 cameras from 8 manufacturers: We included true multi-exposure WDR and non-WDR models, ranging...
Uniview Pro 4K Camera Tested (IPC3238ER3-DVZ) on Aug 29, 2019
In our 8MP / 4K Fixed Lens Camera Shootout, Uniview's low end 8MP was firmly in the middle of the pack. Does their higher end Pro Series 4K camera...
Wyze Image Quality Tested vs Axis, Hikvision And Nest on Aug 27, 2019
With Wyze's new AI feature, it is strong at analytics, but how good is the camera's image quality? Is it just as good as incumbents like Axis,...
Anyvision Facial Recognition Tested on Aug 21, 2019
Anyvision is aiming for $1 billion in revenue by 2022, backed by $74 million in funding. But does their performance live up to the hype they have...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Alarm Veteran "Demands A Criminal Investigation" Of UL on Oct 18, 2019
The Interceptor's Project pressure against UL continues to rise. Following Keith Jentoft's allegation that "UL Has Blood On Their Hands", Jentoft...
Camect "Worlds Smartest Camera Hub" Tested on Oct 18, 2019
Camect is a Silicon Valley startup that claims the "Smartest AI Object Detection On The Market", detecting not only people and vehicles, but...
Hikvision Global News Reports Directory on Oct 17, 2019
Hikvision has received the most global news reporting of any video surveillance company, ever, ranging from the WSJ, the Financial Times, Reuters,...
Camera Calculator V3.1 Release Improves User Experience on Oct 17, 2019
IPVM has released a new version of our Camera Calculator, V3.1, with significant user experience improvements, a new development plan, and an...
Securing Access Control Installations Tutorial on Oct 17, 2019
The physical security of access control components is critical to ensuring that a facility is truly secure. Otherwise, the entire system can be...
Access Control Course Fall 2019 - Last Chance on Oct 17, 2019
Register Now - Fall 2019 Access Control Course. Thursday, October 17th is the last day to register. IPVM offers the most comprehensive access...
US DoD Comments on Huawei, Hikvision, Dahua Cyber Security Concerns on Oct 16, 2019
A senior DoD official said the US is "concerned" with the cybersecurity of Hikvision, Dahua, and Huawei due to "CCP" (China Communist Party)...
Pelco Sarix Pro3 Camera Tested on Oct 16, 2019
Pelco has released their Sarix Professional Series 3 cameras, claiming "more security detail in challenging scenes with excellent low light and...
IPVM Camera Calculator User Manual / Guide on Oct 16, 2019
Learn how to use the IPVM Camera Calculator. The guide below includes instructions, images, gifs, and videos demonstrating and explaining the...
Altronix Claims Tango 'Eliminates Electricians' on Oct 15, 2019
Power supply provider Altronix claims its new Tango power supply 'eliminates the need for an electrician, dedicated conduit and wire runs'. In...