Thermal vs Day/Night Shootout

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Nov 27, 2012

What should you do for dark outdoor scenes? Thermal cameras are getting a lot less expensive. Conventional cameras are getting better in low light. We decided to test these two categories - thermal and day/night - head to head to better understand what's better to use.

The Test

We tested in a large outdoor level field, overviewed below:

test site

Three cameras were used:

  • A DRS WatchMaster IP Elite, 320x240 imager, with a 40-degree field of view. Other cameras were matched to this field of view.
  • Axis Q1602 with Computar F1.0 lens.
  • Bosch NBN-932V with Fujinon F1.2 lens.

The DRS was selected because it is the least expensive thermal IP camera on the market while the Axis and Bosch were chosen do to their strong performances in previous low light shootouts (see the Q1602 test and the MP low light shootout).

The following scenarios were tested:

  • Daytime, between ~4500-5000 lx (a partly cloudy day).
  • ~0.1 lux with both visible cameras defaulted, 1/30s shutter speed, day/night set to auto.
  • ~0.1 lux with the Q1602 set to 1/30s shutter speed, in black and white.
  • ~0.1 lux with the Q1602 set to 1/2s shutter speed, in color.
  • All tests were performed at ranges between 150-550', the specified limit of human detection range of the DRS camera.

With this approach, we could determine not only what was 'best' in low light but what tradeoffs existed during the rest of the day.

This is the first in a series of low light shootouts. Stay tuned for Thermal vs IR Illuminators and a Thermal camera shootout (featuring Axis, Bosch, DRS, FLIR, Pelco and Sightlogix).

**** ****** *** ** *** **** ******* ******? ******* ******* are ******* * *** **** *********. ************ ******* *** ******* better ** *** *****. ** ******* ** **** ***** *** categories - ******* *** ***/***** - **** ** **** ** better ********** ****'* ****** ** ***.

The ****

** ****** ** * ***** ******* ***** *****, ********** *****:

test site

***** ******* **** ****:

  • * *** *********** ** *****, ******* ******, **** * **-****** field ** ****. ***** ******* **** ******* ** **** ***** of ****.
  • **** ***** **** ******** **.* ****.
  • ***** ***-**** **** ******* **.* ****.

*** *** *** ******** ******* ** ** *** ***** ********* thermal ** ****** ** *** ****** ***** *** **** *** Bosch **** ****** ** ** ***** ****** ************ ** ******** low ***** ********* (*** ******** ******* ***** *** ***** ********).

*** ********* ********* **** ******:

  • *******, ******* ~****-**** ** (* ****** ****** ***).
  • ~*.* *** **** **** ******* ******* *********, */*** ******* *****, day/night *** ** ****.
  • ~*.* *** **** *** ***** *** ** */*** ******* *****, in ***** *** *****.
  • ~*.* *** **** *** ***** *** ** */** ******* *****, in *****.
  • *** ***** **** ********* ** ****** ******* ***-***', *** ********* limit ** ***** ********* ***** ** *** *** ******.

**** **** ********, ** ***** ********* *** **** **** *** 'best' ** *** ***** *** **** ********* ******* ****** *** rest ** *** ***.

**** ** *** ***** ** * ****** ** *** ***** shootouts. **** ***** *** ******* ** ** ************ *** * Thermal ****** ******** (********* ****, *****, ***, ****, ***** *** Sightlogix).

[***************]

Key ********

  • ** ***** *******, *** ***** ********* ******* *** ***** ************* better ** ********* ******** **** *** ******* ** ****** **** using *** '********' */*** *******.
  • *******, ***** * */** **** ******* *** *** **, *** two ******* *********** ****, ***** *** ********** ***** *** ********* dark *** ***** **** ********** ****. ********* ***** ***** **** using **** ******* *** *** ******** ** *** ********** ** the ******.
  • ***** *** ***** ** ****** *** ************* ****** ** *** day **** **** ******* *** **, ** *** ***** ****, at */*** *******, ** ********* *** ******** **** ** *** closest **** *****.

**********: *** **** *****, **** **** **********, * *** *** light ** */* ****** *** ** ****** *** **** ** used ** **** ******* ****, *********** *** *********** ** **** shutter. *******, ***** * ******* ****** **** ******** '*****' ******, the ********** **** ** * */* **** **** ******* ** minimal.

**********: ** ********, ** **** ** * ******** ***** *** on ** ************ ** ******* ***********.

*******

** *** *******, *** ************, **** ** ***', **** ** and ** ********* ************* **** *******:

daytime 150'

*******'* ******** *********** ******** ** ***' ** *** ***** ****** get **** ********:

daytime 300'

********** *** ******** ** ***',

daytime 450'

*******, ** ***', ***** *** ******* ** **** ** *** with **** *** ******* *** *** **, *** ***** ****** shows *** ******* ****** ******* - * ******* ********* *** HD.

daytime 550'

Low ***** **** */*** *******

***** *** *** **** ****, ** ****** *** ******* ***** the **** ******* ********: */*** ******* *****, **** ********* ****** to ********** ****. **** ***** ** ************* ~*.* ***.

** *** ** ***** ******, *** ***** ****** *** *** deliver ****** ***** **** ****** *** *** **** (*****) *** the **** ********** ***** *** ***** ****** ** **** ****** so ***.

** ***', *** ******* ****** ***** *** ******* ******** *** clear ***** *** ** ********* ** **** *** ** *******.

low light 1/30s

** ***' *** ******* *********:

night 1/30s 300'

** ***', ** **** ****** ** **** *** *** ******* on ******* *** ***** ****** *******. ** **********, **** *** SD, **'* ****** **********.

night 1/30s 450'

******* ****'* ***' **** *** ***** *********:

night 1/30s 550'

Low ***** **** ***** ****

** **** ***** ** **** ***** **** ** *** *** SD *** ***** *** *** ******* *** ******* **** ******* the ****.

****'* * ****** ** ***':

night 1/30s 150'

*** ** ***':

night 1/30s color 450'

Slow ******* ** **********

*******, ** ***** ***** * **** ******* ** *** *** tradeoffs. *************, * */** **** ******* ** *** **** ***** hardly ********* *** ************ **** * */*** *******.

****'* ** ***':

night slow shutter mono 150'

*** ** ***'

night slow shutter mono 300'

Slow ******* ** *****

****** **** ******* ** ********** **** ******** ****** ***********, ******* the ****** **** ***** **** **** * */** ******** ******* brightened *** *****, ****** ** ***** ** **** **** ** were ******* ** * ******* *****. *******, *** ******* ****** extremely ****** **** ** ******, ****** *** ******* *****************, **** at ***** *****. *** *********** ** ********** *** **** ******** can ** **** ** **** *****:

Ghosting in Axis 1/2s exposure

*** ****** *********, *******, **** ******* **** **** ** ***** the ***** ** *** **** *** *** *******. ******* *** much ****** ** ***********, ** ****'** *** ***** ** ****** against *** ******* **********, ******* ** ****** *********. **** ** evident ** *** ******:

***** ** ***':

night slow shutter color 150'

**** ** ***'

night slow shutter color 300'

*** ** ***'

night slow shutter color 450'

******* ** ***'

night slow shutter color 550'

** */** *******, *** ***** ********* ** * ******** (** slow ****** ******) ** *********** * ***. *******, ***** ********* / ***** ***** **** ******* ** ** ****** ** **** a **** *******:

  • ********* **** ****** ******** ********, ****** ******* *** ** **** manually / ******** ******.
  • ****** ****** ******* **** ****** ****** ** * ****. ** the **** ****, ** ****** ** **** ** ******** ****** something ** ****** *** ** **** ** **** ** *** what ** **.

Video ***** ** ******

***** *** ***** *** ********:

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