Super Low Light HD Lens Tested

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Jun 26, 2015

A smaller F-number can make a big difference in how much light reaches an imager.

For example, the difference even between a f/1.2 and f/1.0, which may seem very close, can be significant, as shown by our F-Stop Calculator:

However, almost all megapixel cameras use lenses of at least f/1.2, with many at f/1.4 and even some lower cost ones at f/1.8 or higher.

We recently bought a F/0.95 6MP rated lens from Hikvision (the HV0733D-6MP). This lens is huge, shown below in the middle surrounded by 'normal' size megapixel surveillance lenses:

We tested this lens on three cameras from Axis, Arecont, and Samsung, ranging from 720p to 5MP, to see what differences, if any, existed between this super low F number lens and typical megapixel lenses.

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Comments (8)

It makes sense to evaluate it in night mode, but some cameras claim good low light performance in color (day mode) as well. Will you test these lenses in color as well?

Thanks Ethan. Could you clarify one thing? You said:

A smaller F-number can make a big difference in how low light reaches an imager.

...the difference even between a f/1.2 and f/1.0, which may seem very close, can be significant.

But this seems at odds with the information in the f-stop tutorial:

Small differences in F numbers (e.g., f/1.2 vs f/1.4) generally do not impact low light performance significantly.

Is there a subtle distinction I'm missing?

Yes, statement #1 talks about how much light reaches the imager. Statement #2 refers to how much it impacts performance. Two Different things.

Consider statement #3 inside the report, weighing both:

"The F/0.95 lens improved low light performance of all cameras tested, however, the level of improvement was typically modest, especially relative to the level of theoretical increased light passing."

Two Different things.

Let's just talk performance then.

This article says "modestly improving performance"

The tutorial says "not significantly impacting performance"

In this test, we tested F/0.95 vs lenses up to F/1.8, which is much larger than the example we gave in the tutorial, quote "f/1.2 vs f/1.4".

Would be interesting to see a depth of field comparison or calculation of the lenses as well.

John, does the fact that the Hik lens and the Computar lens have different formats have to be considered? The Computar is listed as a 1/2.7" and the Hik is listed as a larger 1 1/8" format.

This means the diameter of the image circle formed by the lenses is different. For the Computar looks to be around 6.6mm, whereas the Hik should be around 9mm. The 5004's sensor is a 1/3" or 6mm diagonal, so although using a lens with a 1 1/8" format lens is possible, it wastes much more of the light passed by the lens, than the 1/2.7" format:

I didn't look up the other sensor sizes, I just wanted to throw this out for discussion and see if it makes any sense first.

Correction: Format type should read 1/1.8", not 1 1/8".

Relative sizes and sizes in mm are unaffected.

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