MP Camera Low Light Shootout 2011

Author: John Honovich, Published on Dec 05, 2011

With the market sharply moving to megapixel cameras, an increasingly important question is: what MP cameras offer the best low light performance? In this report, we answer this question based on months of field testing. We then take the best performing megapixel cameras and test them against a top SD camera to see how big and what type of performance gap exists between the best low light megapixel cameras and SD cameras.

Fair Tests and Manufacturer Tricks

If you take megapixel cameras out of the box and test them for low light performance, the results will be badly skewed - guaranteed. The reason is that manufacturer's default maximum shutter speed vary widely. This is critical because shutter speed determines how long light is captured by the camera. Some manufacturers default to 1/30s, others as low as 1/6s. A camera with a 1/6s default shutter gets 500% more light than the camera with the 1/30s exposure (all things being equal). There is no fundamental difference or technology superiority, just a choice for default.

We strongly recommend that all camera tests use normalized shutter speed to make sure that no camera has an unfair advantage based simply on how aggressive their default settings are. And remember, longer shutters can have very bad side affects - specifically motion blur / ghosting. We normalize all cameras to 1/30s shutter for our tests as this matches the normal top frame rate (30fps) for surveillance cameras. You could certainly choose a different level - all images would be brighter (or darker) depending on the level but the relative performance would remain the same.

Secondly, it is imperative that cameras be tested simultaneously and under recorded light levels. It is very easy to mistake one camera as being better than another when testing cameras at different times. Most frequently, the problem we see in industry reviews is that the light levels change between tests and the tester/reviewer is unknowingly comparing Camera A's performance at 1 lux with Camera's B performance at 2 lux, drawing erroneous conclusions.

Our Tests

Over the last few months, we have done numerous tests - indoors in a dark environment and outdoors at night to determine relative performance. We've tested Arecont, ACTi, Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Pelco, Panasonic, Sony, Vivotek, etc.

UPDATE: We've taken the top performers of this test and did a shootout against Axis's new Lightfinder camera / Q1602.

Here is a sample of the format we use inside to contrast image results and demonstrate differences:

Inside, we examine the results, show image comparisons and then compare to SD.

**** *** ****** ******* ****** ** ********* *******, ** ************ important ******** **: **** ** ******* ***** *** **** *** light ***********? ** **** ******, ** ****** **** ******** ***** on ****** ** ***** *******. ** **** **** *** **** performing ********* ******* *** **** **** ******* * *** ** camera ** *** *** *** *** **** **** ** *********** gap ****** ******* *** **** *** ***** ********* ******* *** SD *******.

Fair ***** *** ************ ******

** *** **** ********* ******* *** ** *** *** *** test **** *** *** ***** ***********, *** ******* **** ** badly ****** - **********. *** ****** ** **** ************'* ******* maximum ******* ***** **** ******. **** ** ******** ******* ******* speed ********** *** **** ***** ** ******** ** *** ******. Some ************* ******* ** */***, ****** ** *** ** */**. A ****** **** * */** ******* ******* **** ***% **** light **** *** ****** **** *** */*** ******** (*** ****** being *****). ***** ** ** *********** ********** ** ********** ***********, just * ****** *** *******.

** ******** ********* ******* ****** ***** *** ********** ******* ***** ** **** **** **** ** ****** *** ** ****** ********* based ****** ** *** ********** ***** ******* ******** ***. *** remember, ****** ******** *** **** **** *** **** ******* - specifically****** **** / ********. ** ********* *** ******* ** */*** ******* *** *** tests ** **** ******* *** ****** *** ***** **** (*****) for ************ *******. *** ***** ********* ****** * ********* ***** - *** ****** ***** ** ******** (** ******) ********* ** the ***** *** *** ******** *********** ***** ****** *** ****.

********, ** ** ********** **** ******* ** ****** ************** *** under******** ***** ******. ** ** **** **** ** ******* *** ****** ** being ****** **** ******* **** ******* ******* ** ********* *****. Most **********, *** ******* ** *** ** ******** ******* ** that *** ***** ****** ****** ******* ***** *** *** ******/******** is *********** ********* ****** *'* *********** ** * *** **** Camera's * *********** ** * ***, ******* ********* ***********.

Our *****

**** *** **** *** ******, ** **** **** ******** ***** - ******* ** * **** *********** *** ******** ** ***** to ********* ******** ***********. **'** ****** *******, ****, ********, ****, Bosch, *****, *********, ****, *******, ***.

******: **'** ***** *** *** ********** ** **** **** *** did * ******** ***********'* *** *********** ****** / *****.

**** ** * ****** ** *** ****** ** *** ****** to ******** ***** ******* *** *********** ***********:

******, ** ******* *** *******, **** ***** *********** *** **** compare ** **.

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

[****: **** ******** ** *** *** ** ****. ****, ** not ****, ************ ******* *** **** **** *** **** ******* in **** **********. ** ** **** **** *** ********** ********.]

Performance ***************

***'* ***** **** *** ******* ************** ** ********* *** ***** performance. ****: * ****** - ** *** ********* **** *********** day/night ******* *** ******** ********** ******** (*.*., ** ******* ** saying **** ** *** ****, **** **** *** ** *** longest ******* **** ******* ***** ***** ****** **** *******).

***

*** *** *** ******* *** ************ **** ****** ** *** light **** **/*** *******. ************, *** ***** **** **** ** the **** ***** ***, *** **** *** *** *** ******* 20MP (* ***** ** *** *******).

***** *******

*** ******* ******, *** ******** *.*** *.*** *-**** *****, *** Bosch **** ******, *** ********* **-*****, *** ***** ******* (*** SureVision) ******* **** ******* *** ************ ****** ** *** ***** than ***** ********** ********* *******. ***** ******* **** **** ****** than *** **** *****.

*******

* ****** ** ********** ********* ******* (**** ******** ** **********) tend ** **** ******* *** **** *** ***** ***********. *********** ******* ****** ******* ** **** **** *** **** *** ***** *****. ***** cameras ******* *** **** *****, *** **** ***** *** *** Panasonic **-*****. ** *** *****, *** **** ***** ** ********* slightly ***** **** *** **** *** ********* *** *** **** is ***** ************ ****** **** *** ******* ** ******** ******* *****.

********

**** ** * ******* ************** *** ** *** ****** * strange **********.*** *** *************** *** *** ******** ************ *************** **** ***** ********* ******* ** *** ***** *** *** overall ******* ********* *** ********* *** **** **** ******* ******.

** *** *** ****, ****** **** ****** ******. ** *** other ****, ** *** ******** ****** ** *** ******* ********* details ** ******, ******** ** *******, *** ********* ***** ** questionable. **** ** ********** ********* ** *********** *** ***** ********** whose ********** *** ******* ***** ********* *** ************* ****** **** others.

Comparison ******* **

** ******** *** *********** ** *** ******** ******** ******* - Bosch ***** ******** ************ ***** ***** ***-***, ****** ******** ** *** ** *** *** *** ***** performing *******.  *** ******* **** ****** ***** **** *** ** camera **** ***** ******** ******** *** ********** ******** **** ***** details.

*******, ** *** ****** ********** ******* *** **** *****, **** ** ***** ******* **** **** ** ***** *** new **** ******.

Video ************* *** *******

*** ***** ***** ** * ****** ** *** **** ******* we **** ******* ** *** ** *** ** *******, ********* exposures, ****** ***** *******/***** ********** *** ******* ***** *******. ** is *** ********* ** ***** *** *** ******* **** ***** into *** ** **** *** *** ******* ** *****:

*** *** *** ****************

***'* ***** **** * ****** ** *** *** *** *******.** *** ***** **** ********** ***** *** ******* *** *** *** **** *** *** 20MP (* * ***) ******* ****** *******. ** *** *.* lux ******** **********, **** ******* *** ***** ***** *** ******* can ** ****. ******** ** ** *** *.*** ******* ** the **** **** ** ***** **** *** **** ** *** scene. ******** **** *** **** ***** *** *** ******* **** are *** **** *** **** *** ***** ********** *******.

**** ****** **** **** *** **** *** *** *** ******* 20MP ***** **** ********* ******** *** ***** **** **********.

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

***, ** *** **** *** *** **** ***** *** ** the ***, ** **** ******** **** ****** *** ***** ********. However, **** ** ****** **** **** * ******* ************* *****. As *** ***** ***** *****, ** *** **** ***** ** above, ****'* ******* */** ******* ***** *** *** ****** ** have **** ****** *** ***** *********** **** ** ************* ********.

Avigilon *** ******* *** ****** ***********

***, ***'* **** **********'* *.*** *** *.*-**.*** */*.* ******. ** *** ***** *****, *** ******** ** *** *** right ** ***** **** *** ******* **** ****** **** *** competitor *******. *** ****** ** **** **** **** ******** ******: (1) ******** *** * ***** *********-*** *.*** *.* ** ********** ****** **** ****** *** ***** ***********. (*) ******: ********'* H.264 ******* *** ******* **** ******* ** ** */**.

** *** ***** *****, *** ******* ******** ** ******* ****** than *** ****. ****, ********* ** ****, *******'* ******** *** the ***** ********* *** ** *** *** ***** ******* (**** Axis's ***** **** ***** ****) **** ********* *********** ****** ******* over ****/*.

Pelco ***** **********

*****, ** * ********** ** *****'* ******** ********** *** ******* and ***** *** ********** ******. ** *** **** **** ** an ******** **** ** **** ****** *** ** *** ***** side **'** ****** ** ** *** *******'* ****.

**** ********** ***** *** **** *** *** ** *****'* *** generation ** *******. ********** ** ******* *** ******** **** ***** previous ********** *** **** ** **** ******* *****, *** ********** details ********* *** ******.

Bosch ***** **********

***** ***** *** ****** *** ***** *********** ** **** ***** SD *** ***** ******, ***** **** ****** ** ******* *****. The ****** ***** ***** *** **** ************* *** *********** ** the ****** ** *** **********.

**** ** * **** ******** ** *** *********** ** ******** simply ** ***** ** ****** *********** **** ****** * **** can **** *************. ******* ******* ** *** ***** **** ***** ***** **** **** vs ***** ************** ******* **** ******* ** ****.

Panasonic ***** **********

*****, ****** *** *** ***** ********** ********* *** ** ************* brighter *** ******** ************* **** ***** ******* **** *** ***** generation ***:

Axis - ********* - **** **********

*** ********** ***** **** * ******* **** ****, *****, ********* and ***** ********. *******, *** ********* *** *** **** *** Panasonic *** ** *** *** ****** *** ***** ********** **.

***, ***'* **** **** *** *** ****** ** **** * closer ****. *** ********* *** ** *** *****, ** ***. Next ** *** **** ***** ***** ******** **** ** ********** ********** **** **** *** ***** *******. *** **** ***** ** the ***** ***** *** *** **** ***** ***** ***** (** terms ** ******* ******* ***** ** *** ***** ** *** overall **********).

SD ***** ***********

*******, ***'* ******* ** *** ***** ** ******. ** *** first ** * ***********, ***'* **** ******* ** * ********** dark ***** (~*.* ***). *** ******* ********** ** *** * images *** ***** **** *** ***** ********** ***** **** ******** than *** ***** **. *******, ******* ** *** *******'* ***** (who ** ******* **** *****), *** *** *** *** ************ and ************ *** ********** ** *********** *** ***** (****** *** pants **** **** ***** ******).

***, ***'* **** **** ****** *******. ** *** *, *** Bosch ***** ******** *** **** ****** **** **** ********* ** the ****, ***** *** ****** ********. *** **********, ******* *** brightness ******** *** ***** ****** ** *******.

***, ***'* ****** **** ** *** *.* *** ****** ******* with * ****** ** ********** ** *** * *******. ** this **** ***** ***** *****, *** *** ******'* ****** *** darker. ***, *** ** ***** ******** * ********** ******** *** more ******** *****. *** ***** ********** ******** *** ***** ******* and ************ *** ******* *** ******* ***** *******.

******, **** ** * ********** ** ***** **** - **** scene, **** *.* *** ***** ****** *** *** ******* **** been ****** **** *****. ***** ***** *** ***** ** ********* accepted ** *****, **** ********** ***** *** ******* ******: (*) image ******* ******** ** ******** (** ********) *** (*) *** Bosch ***** ***** ** *****. ** ********* **** ***** **** this ** ** ******. ***** ** ***** ******* **** *******, it ***** ***** **** ****** ******* ** **** ********* ** actually *********.

********

**** ** *** **** ** *** ******** ******* ******, ******** and ****:

  • ******* ****** ********, ******** *****, ** *.*-**** *********** ****
  • ******* ****** *******, ******** *****, ********** ****
  • ******** *.***-**-****-**, ******** *.**.**, ********** ****
  • **** *****, ******** *.**.*, ***** ******** ** ****
  • **** *****, ********, ***** * **** ****
  • ***** ********** *******-*******, ******** *.*.*, ***** ***** ****
  • ***** *******-*******, ******** *.*.**, ***** ***** ****
  • ***** ** ***-***
  • ***** **** ***-***, ***** ***** **** (***** **** ******* ***)
  • ***** ****** ** ***** */* *** ***-***, ******** ********, ******* *** lens
  • ********* **-*****, ***** ********* *.*-*** ****
  • ********* **-*****, ***** ********* *.*-*** ****
  • **** *****, ******** *.**, ***** ******* ****
  • **** *****, ******** *.**, ***** ******* ****
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 on Low Light

Ring Floodlight Cam Tested on Apr 20, 2017
Ring has released their latest entry, the Floodlight Cam, calling it the "Evolution of Outdoor Security", touting motion activated floodlights,...
Hanwha Lowest Cost WiseNet X Camera (XND-6010) Tested on Apr 13, 2017
IPVM bought and tested the lowest-cost WiseNet X model, the indoor 2MP fixed focal XND-6010 dome, continuing our testing of Hanwha's new WiseNet X...
Pelco Surevision 3 Tested on Apr 12, 2017
Pelco has released generation 3 of its Surevision cameras, claiming improved performance in both super low light and WDR performance. We bought...
Hanwha Wisenet X Tested on Mar 27, 2017
Hanwha has released their latest generation, the Wisenet X series, powered by their new Wisenet 5 processor. This new series claims improvements...
SimpliSafe Camera Tested on Mar 07, 2017
SimpliSafe is one of the most controversial companies in the industry, as they have become the symbol of the DIY threat to traditional alarm...
Vivotek 3MP 180 Wall Mount Camera Tested on Feb 28, 2017
Purpose-built wall mount panoramics have become an attractive niche to cover entranceways. In 2013, we bought and tested Vivotek's 1MP...
Uniview (UNV) IP Cameras Tested on Feb 22, 2017
"We're #3," in China says Uniview (UNV). While the company significantly trails Hikvision and Dahua in total sales, one notable difference is that...
Arecont Vision MicroDome Duo Tested on Feb 14, 2017
Arecont Vision is back with another multi-head camera, this time thinking smaller with the MicroDome Duo, a two-imager model, with the tagline...
Hikvision PanoVu Multi Imager Tested on Feb 08, 2017
Hikvision has entered the multi-imager market with their 180° PanoVu DS-2CD6986F-H, an 8MP, 4-imager model equipped with ~1/1.8" imagers and...
Axis 15MP Multi-Imager Tested (Q3708-PVE) on Feb 07, 2017
Axis continues to expand in the multi imager market, adding to a segment started with the 33MP Q3709. We bought the Q3708-PVE and tested it...

Most Recent Industry Reports

IP Networking Course May 2017 on Apr 21, 2017
NOTE: Registration ends this Thursday. This is the only networking course designed specifically for video surveillance professionals plus it...
PureTech Video Analytics Examined on Apr 21, 2017
PureTech's analytics were chosen for a US border protection system (see related post), which the company claims no other analytics vendor was able...
US Border RVSS / Video Analytics System Examined on Apr 21, 2017
US Customs and Border Protection has been rolling out a video analytics-based detection system along the US/Mexico border, with detection ranges...
Beware The "Hit List" Ranking on Apr 21, 2017
The hit list. Kirschenbaum's recent newsletter complained about a 'hit list', bemoaning how a company took aim at ADT. Alas, that's the Google...
Ring Floodlight Cam Tested on Apr 20, 2017
Ring has released their latest entry, the Floodlight Cam, calling it the "Evolution of Outdoor Security", touting motion activated floodlights,...
Lenel President Is Out on Apr 20, 2017
Lenel's challenges continue. Now, Lenel's President is out, suddenly. This follows increasing challenges for the company who has broadly upset...
Dell EMC Surveillance Division Profile on Apr 20, 2017
With revenue growth from traditional IT customers slowing, Dell has set a focus on the security industry as a market where the company can offer...
PatriotOne Deep Neural / Radar Weapon Detection Examined on Apr 19, 2017
The bodyscanner/weapons detection sector has seen several new products, some using advanced approaches like metamaterials (Evolv) or terahertz...
Failing at Marketing, "ALL HIKVISION PRODUCTS" On Sale on Apr 18, 2017
The ballerinas are out. The price cuts are back. Hikvision is struggling to build a premium brand (i.e., 'The Art of Video Surveillance') so...
Axis Network Horn Tested on Apr 18, 2017
We bought and tested the Axis network horn C3003-E, examining setup and calibration, event audio, VMS integration, and sound pressure levels...

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