Testing Speco HD IP Intensifier

By Ethan Ace, Published Oct 06, 2014, 12:00am EDT

Chances are you have seen Speco's promotion of its Intensifier HD IP line [link no longer available], with ads online and in trade mags claiming color images down to an incredible 0.0005 lx.

Speco funded a vacation for security trade magazine editors this summer, showcasing Intensifier:

With such astounding performance claims and marketing efforts behind this launch, we wanted to see how well these worked.

Here are our key findings from this test:

  • Intensifier resulted in varying levels of blur on a walking person, from very little at minimum settings to severe at X64, obscuring subject details even when moving slowly.
  • Increasing digital noise reduction beyond 17 (on a scale of 20) results in severe blur. Combined with Intensifier, subjects may be barely detectable as they move across the scene.
  • Low light performance with the Speco models, when eliminating motion blur, was well below average, with no usable details of subject or test chart in our low light test.
  • Full light performance similar to competitive HD cameras.
  • Higher than average bandwidth consumption in low light, ~7 Mb/s for both cameras, compared to 2.25-4.3 Mb/s in competitors.
  • Camera defaults to 2 Mb/s CBR. This resulted in quantization over 40, and diminished quality, in low light.
  • Even when using VBR, quantization does not remain constant, increasing from ~20 in full light to 34 in low light.

Price

The Speco varifocal OiD4 is priced below major brands 720p/1.3MP dome models:

However, the fixed focal length OiMD1 is priced on the high side compared to other compact domes:

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Given Speco Intensifier model's tradeoff of weak low light performance or significant motion blur, coupled with high bitrates in low light scenes, they are not very attractive in any application.

These models's best quality is their lower cost, especially for a varifocal minidome. However, those looking for top quality low light should look for similarly priced IR domes or moderately more expensive 'super low light' cameras.

Physical Overview

This video reviews the physical construction of the cameras:

Configuration

This video reviews configuration of key Intensifier low light settings, gain, noise reduction, and profiles.

In this video we review the OSD, used for some low level configuration changes not found in the web interface, as well as CODEC settings.

Finally, in this last video we review Speco automatic firmware update feature, not commonly found in IP cameras.

Intensifier Motion Blur

Intensifier level is set on a scale in powers of 2, e.g. X2, X4, X8, through X64. Each step on this scale increases motion blur, though Speco does not define Intensifier as simply slow shutter. However, the effects are similiar.

The images below show varying Intensifier settings.

  • With Intensifier off, the subject and chart are very difficult to detect, though motion blur is minimal.
  • At the default X8 setting, the subject and chart are easily visible when still, but blur is substantial, with our subject's features indiscernible, though he is visible.
  • At maximum settings, X64 (with AGC and DNR turned up), multiple lines of the chart and subject features are visible. However, walking across the scene, the subject is a ghost against the background and nearly impossible to see against the background at all.  

Our subject was still in the top images and walking across the room about 10' from the camera in the bottom row.

This image shows the Speco OiD4 compared to a Samsung SNB-5004 in the same ~0.1 lux scene. The Speco camera shows substantial blur while the Samsung, though noisy, does not, with edges of the subject more clearly defined.

To show the effects of these settings in motion, we review clips of various intensifier settings in the following video. These clips are also available for download for further review (59 MB .zip file).

Image Comparisons

We first tested the Speco Intensifier cameras using default settings (Indoor profile, Intensifier X8). With these settings, both Speco cameras fair well against other low light models with the subject and chart perfectly still. However, users should note the substantial motion blur issues shown above, obscuring subject details even when the target is walking at normal speed, at high PPF ranges.

Turning Intensifier off to standardize exposure to 1/30s with other cameras, performance is drastically worse. Neither Speco model provides usable details of subject or test chart in our <1 lux test scene.

In full light, both cameras perform similarly to other cameras tested with no issues.

Bandwidth Performance

Bitrates of both Speco cameras were over 2 Mb/s higher than any other camera tested in low light with the exception of the Geovision GV-MFD1501. Bitrates in full light were similar to others cameras in this scene.

 

Methodology

Image comparisons were performed using default settings except for exposure which was standardized to 1/30s except where noted. 

Firmware versions used:

  • Axis P3354: 5.40.17
  • Bosch NBN-733v: 5.92.0090
  • Geovision GV-MFD1501L: 2.11
  • Samsung SNB-5004: 1.13
  • Sony SNC-VB600: 2.2.1
  • Speco OiD4: 1.0.47
  • Speco OiMD1: 1.0.47

ExacqVision 6.4.2.67554 was used for recording.

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