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

Camera Course Winter 2017 on Jan 05, 2017
Learn video surveillance and get certified. IPVM provides live online classes, recorded videos, personal help, cutting edge education and...
Avigilon Pro 4K Camera Tested on Jan 03, 2017
Avigilon is best known for their large sensor, high megapixel cameras. But with new offerings from Sony and soon Axis, the questions is how well...
Surveillance Cameras 2017 Review on Jan 02, 2017
This report concisely explains the developments and most common options for surveillance cameras offered in 2017, including resolution, H.265, HD...
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...
Lux Rating / Minimum Illumination Guide 2017 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...
The PPF / PPM Video Surveillance Guide on Dec 23, 2016
Pixels per foot / Pixels per meter is the most fundamental and valuable, though imperfect, metric for specifying video surveillance image...
Surveillance Camera Imager Tutorial on Dec 23, 2016
Imagers - CCD, CMOS, 1/2", 1/4", big pixels, small pixels, etc. In this tutorial, we explain the fundamental issues and drivers in surveillance...
IR Video Surveillance Tutorial 2017 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...
WDR Tutorial 2017 on Dec 20, 2016
Understanding wide dynamic range (WDR) is critical to capturing high quality images in demanding conditions. However, with no real standards, any...
HD Analog vs IP Guide 2017 on Dec 19, 2016
For years, HD resolution was IP camera's greatest advantage. However, starting in 2013, analog cameras with HD resolution started shipping and,...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Vivotek Favorability Results on Jan 20, 2017
Financially, Vivotek is doing relatively well. The company did ~$130 million in 2015 revenue and 2016 revenue (through Q3 reported) was up more...
PR Firm Pleads Don't Scrap PR Spending on Jan 20, 2017
PR is not dying, warns pleads PR firm. Take 40+ year old industry PR firm LRG, who recently lamented the 'misconceptions' that: Traditional PR...
Getting Started With Your IPVM Membership on Jan 20, 2017
Here's how to get started and get the most out of your IPVM membership. Books for Members All members can download the 3 member-only books below...
Jim Cramer Sucks Up To Knightscope on Jan 19, 2017
Credit must be given to Knightscope. They are raising money right now and despite their $80 million pre-money valuation against a lowly sub $1...
ADT Launches Canopy - Professional Monitoring For DIY Devices on Jan 19, 2017
The intrusion industry has criticized DIY security systems for years, claiming systems like Canary or Scout cannot match professionally installed...
Dahua UnFavorability Results on Jan 19, 2017
Dahua, the mega-Chinese surveillance manufacturer not primarily owned by the Chinese government has been trying to break out of the shadow of...
Paxton Hosted Access - Disruptive Low Dealer Pricing on Jan 19, 2017
Paxton is entering the hosted access game, with BLU, at a cost that is a fraction of key competitors. The different approach could be very...
Geovision Launches Direct Cloud Offering on Jan 18, 2017
Add cloud, subtract integrator. Geovision has launched myGVcloud, an offering that allows consumers to buy cameras and cloud services directly...
Anixter / Bosch Sells Direct to Amazon on Jan 18, 2017
Anixter regularly says they do not sell direct to end users or that they do not do it anymore. However, over the past year, Anixter has sold Bosch...
Smart Power Tools For Security Installs on Jan 18, 2017
Installing a smart camera? Perhaps you should use a 'smart' drill. The intelligent appliance / IoT trend has hit power tools. In this note, we...

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