Super Low Lux Geovision Minidome Tested

By Derek Ward, Published Apr 10, 2014, 12:00am EDT

'Super' low light cameras have become increasingly common in box and full size cameras. However, no one we know has offered them in a minidome, the most common form factor for many users, valued for their small size, aesthetics and low cost.

Recently, Geovision released its Aurora line of 'Super Low Lux' cameras [link no longer available]. A member alerted us to this promotional video:

He asked whether this was too good to be true. Were these claims simply manufacturer marketing hype?

Here are our key findings from this test:

  • Best low light image quality of any minidomes tested at both ~2 lux and <1 lux light levels, though below that of higher end super low light models.
  • Clear images at 2 lux, with details of both subject and chart visible, while other minidomes displayed artifacting and digital noise.
  • Easy detection of the subject below 1 lux, though greatly increased digital noise obscures facial details. Lines 1-3 of the test chart still legible. Other minidomes provide minimal detection of the subject and no legible details of the chart.
  • Very high bandwidth consumption in low light, 2x to 5x more than competitors. Below average bandwidth consumption in full light.
  • Camera was out of focus "out of the box" and should be checked/fine focused prior to use. 
  • Camera specifications claim "WDR", but we found this was simply contrast and exposure adjustment, and not true multi-exposure WDR.

Pricing Comparison

The GV-MFD1501 is priced below most other tested minidomes, with pricing as follows:

Recommendations

Like 'super' low light box and full size dome cameras, while night performance is strong for the Geovision, the key competitor is integrated IR cameras. There are many low cost integrated IR cameras that would, by design, provide equal or better details, in low light, than any super low light cameras. 

Therefore, these Geovision cameras are best for those who have moderately low light (2 - 5 lux) and want color imaging, that is sacrified with integrated IR cameras. This is similar to our general recommendation for Super Low Light vs Integrated IR cameras.

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Physical Overview

This video reviews the physical construction of the MFD1501:

Configuration

The web interface of the GV-MFD1501 is largely the same as other GeoVision models we have tested. This screencast reviews only the low light options unique to this model:

This video provides an overview of the full web interface (taken from our test of the UBX1301). 

Minidome Comparisons

We compared the GV-MFD1501 to other low cost minidomes in full light, ~2 lux, and <1 lux scenes. This image shows the approximate field of view of all cameras.

In full light, image quality is comparable to other cameras, with no issues.

Low Light

In low light, ~2 lux, the MFD1501 is markedly better than other minidomes, with more visible details of both subject and chart.

Dark

In a fully dark room, <1 lux, the MFD1501 still outperforms other cameras, with lines 1-3 of the chart legible, though no details of the subject are visible. The Axis M3004 and Bosch Microdome display no usable image at this light level, while Dahua and Hikvision provide detection only, with no details.

Super Low Light

We also compared the GV-MFD1501 to top performing super low light cameras, from Axis, Bosch, and Samsung.

Low Light

At ~2 lux, the MFD1501 is close in performance to the other cameras, though with more digital noise, reducing details of the subject.

Dark

Below 1 lux, performance is reduced compared to other, with increased noise completely obscuring the subject, while the Q1604 and NBN-733V show rough details. Axis, Bosch, and Samsung are all able to read further down the test chart, as well.

Motion Example

We have included a short clip of the Geovision GV-MFD1501 with our subject walking through a dark scene, in order to show the camera's performance in motion, displaying no motion blur.

Download Exacqvision Geovision GV-MFD1501 clip.

Focus

The GV-MFD1501 uses a fixed lens, focused at the factory. We found that this was slightly soft, and required manual refocusing, affecting performance in full light, as seen below:

As well as in the dark. The eye chart is more legible at this light level after refocusing.

Bandwidth Comparison

Normalizing all cameras to 720p resolution, 10 FPS, 1/30 shutter speed, using H.264 codec, the Geovision GV-MFD1501 has the lowest full light bandwidth consumption of all cameras tested. However, bandwidth spikes ~2X - ~5X in low light and dark scene compared to other cameras tested. Measurements are presented in Mb/s.

Methodology

The following firmware versions were used for each camera:

  • Axis M3004: 5.40.5.5
  • Axis Q1604: 5.50.3
  • Bosch Flexidome Micro: 12512590
  • Bosch NBN-733V: 12510590
  • Dahua HD2100N: 2.210.General 01.0.R
  • Geovision GV-MFD1501: v2.11 2014-02-14
  • Hikvision DS-2CD7164-E: V5.0.0 Build 130412
  • Samsung SNB-5004: 1.13_131218

ExacqVision 6.0.5.57118 version was used for this test.

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