Sens Up is For Suckers

By: John Honovich, Published on Apr 07, 2012

Run as fast and far as you can, if you are looking for a good low light camera and the manufacturer cites 'Sens Up.' This is a sneaky trick that vendors play when rating low light performance. Instead of admitting that there cameras suck at night, they say things like 'min illumination only 0.000001 lux with Sens Up 512x', etc.

Let's break down what Sens Up is and how it is used to trick people.

Increasing Sensitivity

'Sens Up' implies that low light sensitivity is increased (i.e. sensitivity up - which seemingly is a good thing - who wouldn't want their cameras to be more sensitive to light? However, the problem is how this is done.

To make the camera more light sensitive, the shutter is open longer so that the camera can capture more light but there is a major downside to this. 

But Blurring

The longer the shutter (i.e. exposure), the more moving objects will blur. See it below:

The image with the longer shutter is brighter but the moving person is blurred out. Bad tradeoff.

Sens Up Relative to Default Shutter

Here's how 'Sens Up' comes into play. The default shutter in most cameras is 1/30s because the default number of frames in a second is 30. To get 30 frames in a second, the shutter cannot be open longer than 1/30s for each frame.

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

Sens Up signifies how much longer a shutter is than the default 1/30s:

  • If a camera is at 'Sens Up 2x', then is has a 1/15s exposure (2 x 1/30)
  • If a camera is at 'Sens Up 4x', then it has a 1/7.5s exposure (4 x 1/30)
  • If a camera is at 'Sens Up 32x', then it has a ~1 second exposure (32 x 1/30)

The more you 'Sens Up' the brighter the image will be but the blurrier anything that moves with be. Go back and look at the 1 second exposure image above - that is 'Sens Up 32x' - unusual for most applications.

[NOTE: In analog NTSC cameras, default shutter is typically 1/60s because each frame consists of two fields. As such, 30 frames per second requires 60 fields per second. To get those 60 field, you typically need a shutter of no more than 1/60s.]

How Bad Sens Up Gets

Manufacturers often run wild with Sens Up ratings. Numerous Samsung cameras are rated with a Sens Up of 512x - which is insanely misleading:

[link no longer available]

The shutter needs to be held open for over 8 seconds (1/60s x 512) to achieve 'Sens Up 512' [note: this is an analog camera, that is why 1/60s is used]. Even a slug would be blurry at such an exposure setting. Even more crazy, this is included in PTZ specifications [link no longer available] as well, where presumably the camera is moving.

Many many manufacturers do this - Samsung is not alone. Google results for 'Sens up 512', 'Sens up 256', 'Sens up 128', etc. return numerous results.

Beware

If you want a good low light camera, you should almost certainly disqualify any camera that lists its low light performance using 'Sens Up', it's a dirty trick used to confuse non experts into thinking a camera that is bad at low light is actually good.

2 reports cite this report:

Lux Rating / Minimum Illumination Guide 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...
Shutter Speed / Exposure Tutorial on Nov 28, 2016
Surveillance users do not need to be photography experts but understanding the basics of shutter speed is critical to avoiding major low light...
Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Bosch Budget 3000i Cameras Tested on Dec 05, 2019
Bosch has long had a hole in its lineup for, as it describes, "competitively-priced cameras". Now, Bosch has released its 3000i series cameras...
AVTech ~$70 IP Cameras Tested Vs Dahua and Hikvision on Dec 04, 2019
Taiwanese manufacturer Avtech is taking direct aim at low cost leaders Dahua and Hikvision with ~$70 starlight and white light illuminator...
Budget Covert Cameras Tested on Nov 26, 2019
Covert cameras under $100 are widely available online but are they any good? To see how these models really work in the real world, we bought...
Axis "Best Of The Best" 4K Camera Tested (Q1798-LE) on Nov 21, 2019
Axis has released their "best of the best" Q1798-LE bullet camera, touting "4K without compromise" with a large Micro 4/3" image sensor, custom...
Hikvision Dual Lens Face Recognition Camera Tested on Nov 19, 2019
Hikvision's Dual Lens Facial Recognition camera, claims that it "adopts advanced deep learning algorithm and powerful GPU to realize instant face...
Camera Field of View (FoV) Guide on Nov 13, 2019
Field of View (FoV) and Angle of View (AoV), are deceptively complex. At their most basic, they simply describe what the camera can "see" and seem...
Color Low Light Mega Camera Shootout - Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Panasonic, Speco, Sony, Vivotek on Nov 12, 2019
This is the biggest color low light shootout ever, testing 20+ super low light models from 10 manufacturers: Increasingly, each manufacturer...
Biggest Low Light Problems 2019 on Nov 08, 2019
Over 150 integrators responded to our survey question: "What are the biggest problems you face getting good low-light images?" Inside, we share...
Tailgating: Access Control Tutorial on Oct 31, 2019
Nearly all access control systems are vulnerable to an easy exploit called 'tailgating'. Indeed, a friendly gesture in holding doors for others...
Avigilon Appearance Search Tested on Oct 30, 2019
Avigilon Appearance Search claims that it "sorts through hours of video with ease, to quickly locate a specific person or vehicle of interest...

Most Recent Industry Reports

IP Camera Installability Shootout 2019 - Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Uniview, Vivotek on Dec 09, 2019
What are the best and worst cameras to install? Which manufacturers make it the hardest or easiest to install their cameras? We tested 35 total...
Viisights Raises $10 Million, Behavior Analytics Company Profile on Dec 09, 2019
Viisights, an Israeli AI analytics startup marketing "Behavioral Understanding Systems", announced $10 million Series A funding. We spoke to...
Disruptor Wyze Releases Undisruptive Smartlock on Dec 06, 2019
While Wyze has disrupted the consumer IP camera market with ~$20 cameras, its entrance into smart locks is entirely undisruptive. We have...
Bosch Budget 3000i Cameras Tested on Dec 05, 2019
Bosch has long had a hole in its lineup for, as it describes, "competitively-priced cameras". Now, Bosch has released its 3000i series cameras...
Anixter Resisting Takeover From Competitor on Dec 05, 2019
Mega distributor Anixter is going to be acquired but by whom? Initially, Anixter planned to go private, being bought by a private equity firm....
Security Sales Course 2020 - Last Chance Save $50 on Dec 05, 2019
This sales course is customized for the current needs and challenges specific to professionals selling video surveillance and access control...
Ireland National Children's Hospital Chooses Hikvision End-to-End With Facial Recognition on Dec 05, 2019
The world's most expensive hospital project ever, the New Children's Hospital in Ireland, has chosen an all-Hikvision surveillance system including...
AVTech ~$70 IP Cameras Tested Vs Dahua and Hikvision on Dec 04, 2019
Taiwanese manufacturer Avtech is taking direct aim at low cost leaders Dahua and Hikvision with ~$70 starlight and white light illuminator...
Ultinous European Analytics Startup Company Profile on Dec 04, 2019
European analytics-startup Ultinous pitches customers to "Have your own video analysis service!" We spoke to Ultinous to better understand their...
Access Startup Multi-Mount Aims To Streamline Reader Installs on Dec 03, 2019
Startup Multi-Mount claims it makes installing access readers 'Fast', 'Secure,' and fit 'any size frame.' The company states its bracket 'fits most...