Samsung Wisenet III Camera Shootout

By: Ethan Ace, Published on Nov 18, 2013

Samsung has never been a serious player in IP cameras, despite their success in other markets. Now, Samsung is pushing their Wisenet III [link no longer available] release as their breakthrough offering.

Is it really?

We bought the Samsung 720p SNB-5004 [link no longer available] and 1080p SNB-6004 [link no longer available] and ran a simultaneous shootout against top performers from Axis, Bosch and Sony to see how they could compare.

We did low light, WDR and bright light comparisons, like the one below:

Inside, we answer:

  • Low Light: How do Samsung WiseNet III models match up in low light against 'super low light' cameras?
  • WDR: How do Samsung WiseNet III models match up in WDR against true WDR cameras?
  • Price / Performance: Weighing price to performance, how does Samsung WiseNet III models match up?
  • Here are our key findings from this test:

    • The SNB-5004's low light performance was excellent, delivering significantly more details of our test chart and subject than all other cameras in our tests including leading 720p low light cameras from Axis, Bosch, and Sony.
    • The SNB-6004's performance was average, with subject details more difficult to discern than other models.
    • WDR performance of both cameras was solid, on par with other top performers against strong backlight. However, performance in darker areas of WDR scenes lagged.
    • Digital noise reduction (referred to as SSNR) created motion blur when turned on, reducing image quality on moving objects. However, turning this off increased bandwidth consumption significantly.
    • Digital image stabilization was functional, substantially reducing movement in the image when the camera was shaken or struck, but at a loss of some resolution.
    • Cameras feature MicroSD slots which may be used for edge recording, with archives accessible via Samsung's SmartViewer software.

    Pricing

    The following is the cameras tested and their online pricing:

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    Given the SNB-5004's excellent low light performance, combined with a much lower price than competitive models, it is a competitive choice for these applications, though lagging behind other models in WDR. For those seeking a 1080p WDR camera, the SNB-6004 is a good choice, as well, though its low light performance lags. Users of both should beware of blur created by SSNR and carefully weigh the tradeoffs between image quality and bandwidth when reducing or turning off this feature.

    Physical Overview

    This video reviews the physical construction of the SNB series box cameras:

    Configuration

    In this screencast we review the Samsung web interface and key configuration settings. Key points include:

    • Cameras default to VBR encoding with a 2 Mb/s cap, which may be low in many scenes, especially in low light.
    • Minimum shutter speed is set to 1/5s by default. Users should change this to 1/30s to avoid motion blur.
    • SSNR settings should be carefully selected to balance both motion blur and bandwidth.
    • Both models include autofocus, which can be triggered via the web interface or a button on the camera's back.
    • Both models include RS-485 capability for integration to external pan/tilt positioners and zoom lenses, a niche feature not found in many cameras, especially lower cost models.

    SSNR Noise Reduction Impact

    Samsung's digital noise reduction, called SSNR, created motion blur on moving objects, as seen in the image comparison below. This setting is turned on by default. Users may download clips of this scene with SSNR On and Off to view this effect for themselves.

    Bandwidth Impact

    Turning SSNR off resulted in about a 500 Kbps increase in bandwidth (from ~1.2 Mb/s to ~1.7 Mb/s) in this scene for the SNB-5004, about a 40% increase. This tradeoff between image quality (reduced blur) and bandwidth must be carefully considered when using the SNB-5004/6004 in low light scenes.

    Indoor Comparisons

    In full light, ~160 lux, both Samsung cameras perform without issue. Colors are fairly true, with a faint bluish tint visible on the chart, but not impacting recognition.

    Dark, <1 lux

    With all lights off, below 1 lux, the SNB-5004 outperforms all other cameras in our test. Our test chart can be read to line 3/4, while other cameras barely resolve line 2. The SNB-6004 does not fair as well, with a darker image and more noise, which nearly obscures even the first line of the chart. Only the Bosch NBN-932V provides useful images of our subject's face among the 1080p cameras. In these scenes, shutter speed was normalized to 1/30s across all cameras, and the Samsung cameras' SSNR noise reduction was turned off.

    WDR Comparisons

    We set up the cameras in a garage with the overhead door rolled up to test WDR. Included is an FOV image displaying the scene.

    With our subject against a brightly lit open overhead door, both Samsung cameras perform well. The SNB-5004 is on par with the Bosch 733 and Sony VB600, and outperforms the Axis Q1604. The SNB-6004 lags slightly behind the Bosch 932 and Sony VB630, with details of our subject's face slightly more difficult to discern.

    In the dark area beside the overhead door, both Samsung cameras are the lowest performers at their respective resolutions. Details of our subject's face are much more difficult to make out, though the chart remains legible.

    Digital Image Stabilization

    Both the SNB-5004 and SNB-6004 include digital image stabilization as a standard feature, which is not commonly found in IP cameras. When this is turned on, the camera crops some of the edges of the image in order to compensate for movement, reducing effective resolution by ~20%.

    We tested this feature by shaking and striking the camera's tripod, seen in the clip below. While it did not completely eliminate movement, the feature was a marked improvement over cameras which did not include image stabilization. 

    Bandwidth

    The SNB-5004 had some of the lowest bandwidth consumption in both full light and dark scenes, as seen in the chart below. These measurements were taken using 720p resolution, 30 FPS, with SSNR turned on. Using Samsung's default compression setting ("10") resulted in quantization of 27 in full light, increasing to 32 in low light. This is in line with other cameras in the test which averaged about 30 on the quantization scale.

    Test Parameters

    All cameras were left at default settings for this test, with the exception of shutter speed, which was normalized at 1/30s.

    The following firmware versions were used:

    • Samsung SNB-5004 - 1.11_131011
    • Samsung SNB-6004 - 2.21_131008
    • Axis Q1604 - 5.40.3.3 
    • Bosch NBN-733V - 16500585
    • Bosch NBN-932V - 16500585
    • Sony SNC-VB600 - 1.5.1
    • Sony SNC-VB630 - 1.5.0

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