Testing Sony HD Dome Camera

By Ethan Ace, Published Sep 18, 2014, 12:00am EDT

Top WDR and low light performance are generally only offered in manufacturer's high end cameras.

In particular, Sony users historically needed to use their expensive high end V series cameras for these options.

Now, Sony says their new 6th generation mid-level cameras (the E series), offers these capabilities at hundreds of dollars less than the V series.

Is this really the case?

Here are our key findings:

  • The Sony SNC-EM600's image quality is similar to Sony's high end VB series cameras in full light, dark, and WDR scenes.
  • WDR performance similar or better than other 720p true WDR cameras.
  • Low light performance similar to other leading 720p super low light models.
  • Average bandwidth performance in full light and low light scenes.
  • VBR encoding now includes a bitrate cap, not available prior to firmware version 2.1.

Price

Compared to competitive models, the E series (SNC-EM600: ~$550 online) is lower than some high end low light/WDR models, such as the Axis P3384-V, Panasonic WV-SFN611L, and Sony's own V Series SNC-VM600.

However, lower cost manufacturers such as Hikvision and Samsung offer dome models at the EM600's price point and below, often at 1080p or 3MP resolution and frequently including integrated IR.

Recommendations

For those who prefer Sony, the E series offers performance equal to higher cost V series cameras at a much lower price point. Those who do not need the audio, I/O, or local storage of the V series should use these models whenever possible.

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Versus competitors such as Axis and Panasonic, these E series domes are also competitive, at a lower price point. However, those in search of better value may find it with manufacturers such as Hikvision or Samsung, which offer similar domes at lower prices, or similar prices with higher resolution or built-in IR.

Physical Overview

In this video, we outline the physical construction of the Sony SNC-EM600. Users should note the exclusion of audio, I/O, and SD card components and ports.

Configuration / Web Interface

The SNC-EM600's web interface is predominantly the same as other 6th generation cameras, though absent are audio, I/O, and SD card options. WDR, low light, CODEC, and other settings are the same.

This screencast overviews Sony's 6th generation web interface:

Image Quality Comparisons

First, we began testing indoors in our conference room scene at various lux levels. Below is the FOV used for testing.

Full Light

In full, even light, ~160 lux, the Sony SNC-EM600 performs without issue, with image quality very similar to the SNC-VB600. Our test subject is clearly visible and the chart is legible down to line 5.

Dark

At less than 1 lux, details such as our subject's face and characters from line 2 and below on our test chart are unrecognizable on the Sony SNC-EM600. The integrated IR cameras, not surprisingly, produce clear images of the subject and test chart.

WDR

We tested the cameras' WDR performance in a warehouse scene against both strong backlighting from the sun outside as well and the dark area beside the open door.

Again, the SNC-EM600 and SNC-VB600 are extremely similar, among the top performers in this test. Only the Panasonic WV-SFV611L provides slightly clearer images of the subject.

Bandwidth

The SNC-EM600's bandwidth consumption was average, lower than the Axis P3354 but higher than the Hikvision and Panasonic models which include integrated IR. Again the Sony E series and V series offer similar performance.

Methodology

All cameras were tested using default settings except exposure, which was standardized to 1/30s max, and CODEC, which was standardized to H.264, 10 FPS, Q~28.

These are the firmware versions used for each camera:

  • Axis P3354: 5.40.17
  • Hikvision DS-2CD4132: 5.2.0
  • Panasonic WV-SFV611L: 1.52
  • Sony SNC-EM600: 2.2.1
  • Sony SNC-VB600: 2.2.1

ExacqVision 6.2.7.63216 was used for recording.

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