WDR Camera Shootout 2011

Author: IPVM Team, Published on Feb 05, 2011

One of surveillance's biggest challenges is bright sunlight, especially when that sunlight shines into a building's entrance. Sunlight tends to wash out images, often making it impossible to determine the person entering. Unfortunately, capturing people as they enter your building is one of the best and most effective ways of conducting video surveillance.

Camera manufacturers offer a variety of technologies to rectify this problem. The general name given to them is Wide Dynamic Range or WDR. By design, WDR should provide accurate image capture of both dark areas (e.g., shadows covering a person's face) and adjacent bright areas.

However, there are no standards nor easy way to figure out if one WDR function is better than another. While there is a metric for measuring dynamic range (dBs, e.g., 65 dB or 110 dB WDR), each manufacturer can choose their own measuring methodology so comparisons are basically pointless. (This is similar to the problem with determining low light performance. Manufacturers provide minimum illumination measured in lux but using a variety of conflicting metrics.)

In this report, we conducted a series of tests to better understand WDR performance using 3 well known manufacturers - Pixim, a chip manufacturer specializing in WDR, Axis and Sony. For Pixim, we tested 2 cameras - a March dome using the new Seawolf Pixim chip and an ioimage camera using the traditional Orca Pixim chip. For Axis, we used the P1347. For Sony, we used the SNC-CH140.

[UPDATED: We have done additional WDR shootouts focusing on megapixel cameras.]

We wanted to understand how different WDR featuresets and varying resolutions impacted overall image usability.

Inside the PRO section, we break down comparative performance and provide recommendations on tradeoffs and options.

Key Findings

Let's start with our overall key findings from our testing:

  • All WDR cameras provided notable increases in WDR performance over a high quality control camera
  • Not only did megapixel not hinder WDR 'ability', the combination of WDR and megapixel provided a superior image
  • Increasing resolution from SD to Megapixel provided substantial image quality gains even in tough WDR conditions; However, a 1.3MP camera (Sony) outperformed a 5MP camera (Axis) showing resolution benefits have limits
  • Sony delivered the most substantial image quality benefits and overall highest quality images of test subjects
  • Axis and the Pixim powered cameras provided similarly moderate WDR benefits; Axis's increased resolution delivered a better overall picture
  • SD cameras exhibitied slightly better low-light performance than megapixel
  • While Pixim does not have an option to turn off WDR, Pixim camera's low-light performance was still better than Sony 1.3MP even with WDR off

Recommendations

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

We recommend cameras with WDR features to improve image quality in scenes with direct sunlight. Additionally, we recommend the use of megapixel WDR cameras to maximize the overall image quality benefits. Specifically, the Sony's performance stood out as providing the strongest WDR benefits. However, note that Axis and Sony only support WDR in their premium series of cameras so do not expect to achieve such benefits from all Axis nor Sony cameras. For Axis, WDR is found in the P series (not the M) and for Sony, the V series (but not the E nor X).

The Pixim cameras clearly showed WDR benefits and the best low light performance overall. However, Pixim's limitation to Standard Definition resolution clearly limited the overall image quality. While the WDR benefits looked to us to be similar to Axis's, the higher resolution of the megapixel camera provided a much better surveillance image. Finally, while Pixim has a reputation as being the WDR provider, the Sony's camera performance looked superior.

Cost Considerations

Cameras with WDR feature sets will generally cost a substantial premium over non-WDR cameras. All else being equal, expect to pay $100 - $200 more (online price) for IP cameras with WDR (the variance depends on the supplier).

For wider Fields of View, the modest HD price premium over SD warrants consideration of megapixel. The price difference between Pixim SD and Sony's/Axis' 720p WDR cameras is around $100 to $150. Representative SD cameras featuring Pixim's WDR average roughly $675 online, while 720p Sony CH140 and Axis P1344 cameras average $800. As such, the cost to go from SD to HD/MP (even w/ WDR) is fairly small.

Pixim Representatives:

It's interesting to point out that the Axis P1344 is $759 online, while the Sony CH140 is $845 online. The trade-off for Axis' lower price point, is that the Axis does not feature as strong a WDR nor an automatic method to turn it off during low-light conditions. Thus, 24 hour surveillance applications, without low-light conditions (e.g. indoor with controlled lighting, but daytime requires WDR), would be a good fit for the Axis P1344.

While narrower FoV applications will look at price/performance trade-offs involving SD vs. HD, wider FoV applications will generally look at the entire sprectrum of HD to higher MP. Sony and Axis premium (w/WDR) 3MP camera's, the CH240 and P1346 are both priced online around $1100. The 5MP Axis P1347 used in our testing is $1450 online. Sony does not currently have a 5MP camera - w/ WDR or otherwise.

Test Methodology

We selected four (4) cameras for WDR comparisons. Each camera is equipped with a different implemenation of WDR. For example, the Axis P1347, features Axis' own unique brand of WDR called 'Dynamic Contrast'. Both the March CamPX and Ioimage wdc-100dn feature a Pixim chip for WDR functionality. However, it is important to note that the CamPX is based on the latest Seawolf while the wdc100dn uses an older Orca series Pixim chip. The Sony CH140 features Sony's own 'View-DR' (offered in numerous other Sony models).

We used the following four (4) WDR cameras in our tests (w/ max resolutions):

  • Axis P1347 - 5MP
  • Sony SNC-CH140 - 720p
  • March CamPX Microdome - D1
  • Ioimage wdc100dn - 4CIF

For all cameras, max resolution and frame-rates were used. Other settings were left at their defaults. Additionally, each camera's lens is adjusted to the same approximate FoV. Testing also includes a non-WDR IQEye 4 series camera, as a control.

The cameras/WDR are compared throughout three test cases:

  1. Indoor WDR (Hallway)
  2. Outdoor WDR (Park)
  3. Low-Light WDR

The first scenario is of an indoor hallway. The hallway is dimly lit, providing a 'dark' area (~100 lux), and the propped exit door provides a 'bright' area (~1300 lux) to the scene. These elements produce a very challenging WDR scene under which to make comparisons. We use the IQEye 4 series camera to provide a non-WDR point of reference.

The second scenario is of a park. The scene is in general, very bright (~12,000 lux). However, there are patches of shade (~4,000 lux) provided by trees and a small building giving the scene some lighting variation. We are able to turn off WDR in both the Axis and Sony cameras to provide a non-WDR point of reference. Note that the CamPX and wdc100dn do not support disabling of WDR.

The third scenario is a simple indoor low-light scene. The Sony and Axis cameras are tested at the 1.0 lux and 0.3 lux level with WDR-on and WDR-off. The March and Ioimage cameras are tested at the same lux levels but only with WDR-on (WDR-off not supported).

WDR Comparative Results/Performance

In the next 3 sections, we show and explain the specific differences we found. You can see the exported video for yourself: IPVM WDR Comparison Video Samples (~500 MB).

Indoor WDR (Hallway)

The four WDR cameras demonstrated key differences in performance compared to the non-WDR control. For example, in the control the subject's facial details were very difficult to examine, while positioned in the highly bright area (1,300 lux).

Of the four WDR cameras Sony's performance indicates best WDR. In contrast, Axis, March, and Ioimage produce evidence of fair to moderate WDR capability. However, despite fairly similar levels of WDR between Axis, March, and Ioimage, the Axis provided overall better image quality (yet not as good as Sony's). Here, it is apparent that higher resolution is having a large effect on the video.

The Sony (1.3MP) and Axis (5MP) comparison underscores the importance of both WDR and resolution in determining overall video quality - especially under difficult lighting. In this interesting comparison, Sony's image quality was better than Axis' despite Sony's much lower resolution. The superior WDR on the Sony appears to 'compensate' for its lack of resolution with respect to the Axis camera.

Outdoor WDR (Park)

Under the bright lighting of this test, the Sony and Axis cameras demonstrate better picture quality with WDR turned on versus off. Further, with WDR-on the Sony and Axis appear to illuminate 'dark' areas to a greater degree than the March and Ioimage cameras.

As this test shows, a wider field of view will benefit from higher resolutions. While both the Sony (1.3MP) and Axis (5MP) WDR perform well in the test, Axis shows slightly better image detail.

Low-light WDR

Both the Sony and Axis exhibited slight to moderate differences in picture quality with WDR-on vs. WDR-off. At low-light levels of 1.0 lux and below, WDR tends to detract from the overall image quality in the Sony and Axis. Interestingly, the Axis WDR tends to 'wash-out' the scene while the Sony WDR tends to 'darken' it.

The best overall low-light performance (w/ WDR-ON) is demonstrated by the March CamPx (Pixim Seawolf) followed by Ioimage's wdc100dn (Pixim Orca). The Axis P1347 and Sony CH140 tended to produce lesser quality images than the Pixim based cameras with their WDR-ON.

In the low-light scenes, megapixel cameras (Axis and Sony), with their WDR off, competed better against the standard resolution (March and Ioimage) cameras. (Note, that the ordinal positioning in terms of low-light performance remained the same, with March best, Ioimage second, and Axis/Sony trailing Ioimage by a slight margin). Such findings may be congruent with the belief that SD has advantages over MP in low-light imaging, but the magnitude of difference was less than dramatic. Indeed, when WDR is turned off in Axis and Sony, the difference between low-light performance among the four cameras narrows perceptibly.

7 reports cite this report:

History of Video Surveillance on Sep 22, 2016
This is a concise history of video surveillance covering the past decade.  The goal is to help professionals newer to the industry understand...
Camera Innovation is Amazing on May 04, 2016
The innovation in the video surveillance camera market has never been higher or faster. While there is much negativity about the race to the...
The Siliconization of Surveillance Cameras on Oct 29, 2015
This is an insightful observation from Vicon's CEO Eric Fullerton: “Over the past couple of years, we have seen the functionality of complex...
Directory of Camera Shootout Series on Dec 27, 2011
The following directory lists all of our camera shootouts. These shootouts pit 4 - 8 different surveillance cameras in simultaneous tests on real...
Axis Q1604 WDR Camera Reviewed on Sep 18, 2011
In September 2011, Axis announced a new HD camera, the Q1604, optimized for Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) performance. This camera joins the low light...
Color Versus Day/Night Shootout on Apr 16, 2011
Most people prefer color over black and white but when it gets dark out, almost all surveillance experts agree that black and white video provides...
Examining Pixim's New WDR Seawolf Chip on Oct 04, 2010
Pixim released a new chipset called Seawolf for IP and analog cameras. The company claims that the Seawolf chip provides a 10x improvement in low...
Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports on WDR

Vivotek 4MP Camera Tested (FD8379-HV) on Sep 13, 2018
Next in our series of updated 4MP testing, we bought and tested Vivotek's FD8379-HV, and entry level 4MP model claiming "top-notch quality video in...
October 2018 Camera Course on Sep 13, 2018
Today is the last day to save $50 on the October 2018 Camera Course, register now. This is the only independent surveillance camera course,...
Dahua Low-Cost 4MP Camera Tested (N44CL52) on Sep 10, 2018
4MP use continues to increase, especially in low-cost models, according to integrators in our 2018 Resolution Usage Statistics. We bought Dahua's...
Hikvision Value Express IP Cameras Tested Poorly on Sep 05, 2018
Even lower cost Hikvision products? Their new Value Express line is marketed for applications where "budgets are limited and performance is...
Hikvision PanoVu Mini Tested (Multi-imager + PTZ For ~$500) on Aug 07, 2018
Hikvision has released their first PanoVu Mini multi imager, the PanoVu DS-2PT3326IZ-DE3, with four 1080p imagers, including a PTZ and integrated...
Uniview Super Low Cost 4MP Tested on Jul 25, 2018
Even lower cost than Dahua and Hikvision, China's self-proclaimed 3rd place company, Uniview / UNV, is offering aggressive pricing including for...
Axis ~$100 Camera Tested on Jul 17, 2018
Axis has released their lowest cost camera ever, the Companion Eye Mini L, setting their sights on a market dominated by Hikvision and Dahua. Can...
Digital Watchdog Low Cost 4MP Camera Tested on Jul 02, 2018
Based on member 4MP testing requests, we bought and tested Digital Watchdog's low-cost 4MP DWC-MTT4Wi to see how it performs in real world scenes,...
Panoramic Fisheye Camera Shootout - Avigilon, Axis, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Oncam And Vivotek on Jun 27, 2018
IPVM tested Avigilon, Axis, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Oncam And Vivotek 12MP panoramic fisheye cameras head to head, as shown in the test setup...
Mobotix Releases 'Move' Into 21st Century on Jun 20, 2018
For years, Mobotix stood resolutely against, well, every other manufacturer, selling it as a virtue: MOBOTIX equipment is designed with no...

Most Recent Industry Reports

BluePoint Aims To Bring Life-Safety Mind-Set To Police Pull Stations on Sep 20, 2018
Fire alarm pull stations are commonplace but police ones are not. A self-funded startup, BluePoint Alert Solutions is aiming to make police pull...
SIA Plays Dumb On OEMs And Hikua Ban on Sep 20, 2018
OEMs widely pretend to be 'manufacturers', deceiving their customers and putting them at risk for cybersecurity attacks and, soon, violation of US...
Axis Vs. Hikvision IR PTZ Shootout on Sep 20, 2018
Hikvision has their high-end dual-sensor DarkfighterX. Axis has their high-end concealed IR Q6125-LE. Which is better? We bought both and tested...
Avigilon Announces AI-Powered H5 Camera Development on Sep 19, 2018
Avigilon will be showcasing "next-generation AI" at next week's ASIS GSX. In an atypical move, the company is not actually releasing these...
Favorite Request-to-Exit (RTE) Manufacturers 2018 on Sep 19, 2018
Request To Exit devices like motion sensors and lock releasing push-buttons are a part of almost every access install, but who makes the equipment...
25% China Tariffs Finalized For 2019, 10% Start Now, Includes Select Video Surveillance on Sep 18, 2018
A surprise move: In July, when the most recent tariff round was first announced, the tariffs were only scheduled for 10%. However, now, the US...
Central Stations Face Off Against NFPA On Fire Monitoring on Sep 18, 2018
Central stations are facing off against the NFPA over what they call anti-competitive language in NFPA 72, the standard that covers fire alarms....
Hikvision USA Starts Layoffs on Sep 18, 2018
Hikvision USA has started layoffs, just weeks after the US government ban was passed into law. Inside this note, we examine: The important...
Chinese Government Praises Hikvision For Following Xi Jinping on Sep 17, 2018
The Chinese government council responsible for managing China's state-owned companies praised Hikvision’s obedience to China’s authoritarian leader...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact