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

Axis Door Station Tested (A8105-E) on Jul 19, 2017
Axis continues their push into niche markets, especially audio, with network speakers, an IP horn, and video door stations. We bought and tested...
Axis P3225 Mk II Tested Vs. Original on Jun 20, 2017
Axis has released a number of 'Mk II' versions of their cameras, which are the same fundamental camera but with specific improvements. We tested...
VMS UI - Light vs Dark Preferences on Jun 16, 2017
Several VMS manufacturers have the ability to choose a user interface with either a light or dark color theme. 150+ integrators told us which they...
Axis 20MP Q1659 Camera Tested on Jun 13, 2017
Axis has joined the super high resolution camera trend with their Q1659, a 20MP model equipped with Canon's APS-C sensor. We tested the Q1659...
Samsung SmartCam A1 Totally Wireless System on Jun 06, 2017
Hanwha is keeping the Samsung brand alive in consumer cameras with the SmartCam A1, a new offering combining an autotracking 1080p camera with base...
48MP 180 Camera (Digital Watchdog) Test on May 10, 2017
Camera resolution continues to advance, with Digital Watchdog offering the MegaPIX PANO 48MP 180° camera, the highest resolution mainstream camera...
Hanwha 9MP Fisheye Camera Tested (PNF-9010R) on May 09, 2017
12MP sensor fisheye panoramic cameras are becoming increasingly common. We have tested Hikvision's DS-2CD63C2F as well as Panasonic's SFV481 4K...
Axis Lowest Cost Outdoor IR Camera M2025-LE Tested on Apr 24, 2017
Axis has lagged offering low cost IR cameras while their Asian competitors have made IR standard even in their most entry level cameras. Recently,...
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...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Hikvision H.265+ Bullet Tested (2035) on Jul 24, 2017
Continuing our tests of Hikvision's new low cost Value Plus line, we bought and tested the 3MP DS-2CD2035FWD-I, now including H.265+. We shot the...
Sports Stadium Security Design Recommendations on Jul 24, 2017
Sports stadiums pose many challenges for designing security systems. The facilities vary from being mostly vacant, to packed with tens of thousands...
Competing Against Convergint on Jul 24, 2017
No integrator is more aggressively expanding than Convergint Technologies. Owned and funded by private equity firm KRG, Convergint has acquired...
Security Robots Are Just Entertainment on Jul 21, 2017
Great entertainment, no real security value.  That is the happy (or sad) state of security robots in 2017. Knightscope robot's drowning, the...
Wireless Burglar Alarm Sensors Guide on Jul 21, 2017
Wireless sensors for burglar alarm sensors are an increasingly common option for the historical labor intensive wired alarm systems. However,...
Competing Against ADT on Jul 20, 2017
ADT is one of the biggest players in the security industry, with ~$4 billion revenue. In 2017, they were acquired / merged with Protection...
Hikvision Launching Deep Learning Recorders on Jul 20, 2017
Hikvision has become a common choice for super low cost NVRs. Now, Hikvision is aiming to move up market, with deep learning NVRs that claim far...
PR Campaign Exploiting Manufacturer Cybersecurity on Jul 20, 2017
Manufacturers increasingly have a bulls-eye on their back. As cyber security solutions providers grow, they realize a great way to get publicity...
Axis Door Station Tested (A8105-E) on Jul 19, 2017
Axis continues their push into niche markets, especially audio, with network speakers, an IP horn, and video door stations. We bought and tested...
Manufacturer Favorability Guide on Jul 19, 2017
This 120 page PDF guide may be downloaded inside by all IPVM members. It includes our 20 manufacturer favorability rankings and 20 manufacturer...

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