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 Summer 2017 on May 25, 2017
Learn video surveillance and get certified. IPVM provides live online classes, recorded videos, personal help, cutting edge education and...
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...
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...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Anti-Hack Access Card Shields Tested on May 26, 2017
Keeping your access control card information secure is becoming a big priority, especially since cheaper copiers can hack details easily. Multiple...
H.265 / HEVC Codec Tutorial 2017 on May 25, 2017
Since 2013, video surveillance professionals have talked about the potential for H.265. Now, in 2017, H.265 is starting to gain mainstream...
Camera Course Summer 2017 on May 25, 2017
Learn video surveillance and get certified. IPVM provides live online classes, recorded videos, personal help, cutting edge education and...
Most Respected Manufacturer Competitors on May 25, 2017
Manufacturers told IPVM what competitor they most respected. In terms of total revenue, Hikvision, Dahua and Axis are certainly tops but would...
CyPhy 'Unlimited' Flight Time Security Drone Examined on May 25, 2017
Drones face several issues as commercial security platforms - legal restrictions (e.g., in the US, the FAA), costs, and limited flight durations...
Milestone Entry Level Mobile Password Vulnerability Disclosed on May 24, 2017
While many manufacturers have only addressed cybersecurity vulnerabilities after public disclosures were made (or threatened), Milestone has...
How Integrators Use IPVM on May 24, 2017
150 integrators explained how they use IPVM and how it helps them stay informed and improve their business.  The 4 main uses integrators cited for...
Alarm Supervision Guide on May 24, 2017
Burglar alarms can constantly monitor the health of attached circuits, sensors, and devices to ensure that they remain operational. This is known...
Arlo Go Cellular Cloud Camera Tested on May 23, 2017
Totally wireless surveillance cameras are growing but almost all typically depend on a hub and local Internet access. However, many outdoor...
Avigilon New COO James Henderson Profile on May 23, 2017
It has been nearly 2 years since the infamous Bryan Schmode 'resigned' as Avigilon COO. Now, Avigilon once again has a COO, promoting James...

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