We tested a number of IP cameras so we could recommend the right camera for low light level applications. Other key features include resolution, wide dynamic range, and frame rate, which we evaluated in our other posts.
In our latest product test we compared the low light performance of the new Sony SNC-VM630, Samsung SNV-6084R, and Axis P3384 IP cameras. The Samsung dome IP camera includes a built in IR illuminator which we turned off for the test.
The Published Specifications
Before we did the testing we reviewed the published specifications. All the cameras had about the same low light level when in color. The Samsung camera had the best B/W low light sensitivity specification. The test would tell us if the cameras met their specifications.
|Samsung SNV-6084R||Color: 0.1 Lux (F1.2, 50IRE)
B/W: 0.01 Lux (F1.2, 50IRE)
Image sensor: 1/2.8″ PS Exmor 2.38M CMOS
|Sony SNC-VM630||Color: 0.1 lx (F1.2, 50IRE, View-DR OFF, VE OFF, AGC ON, 1/30 s, 30 fps)
B/W: 0.07 lx (F1.2, 50IRE, View-DR OFF, VE OFF, AGC ON, 1/30 s, 30 fps)
Image sensor: 1/2.9-type progressive scan Exmor CMOS sensor
|Axis P3384||Color: 0.15 lux, F1.2,
B/W: 0.03 lux, F1.2 with Lightfinder
Image sensor: Progressive scan RGB CMOS 1/3”
Note that it is very important to make sure the specifications are using the same frame rate (shutter speed) and IRE. The frame rate relates to the shutter speed. The longer the shutter is opened the lower the frame rate. If the IRE is at 30 IRE instead of 50 IRE, the lux value will be much different and the noise level will be higher. Take a look at our article about IP Camera Low Light Sensitivity for more details about how low light sensitivity is measured.
Low Light Test
We tested the cameras under various low-light circumstances. We compared the Samsung and Sony 2 megapixel cameras to the 1 megapixel Axis P3384 because it has a reputation for good low light performance (this is their specialty low-light camera). Please note that a 1 megapixel camera is expected to have better low light performance than a 2 megapixel resolution camera. In spite of this, the 2 megapixel Sony and Samsung cameras outperformed the 1 megapixel Axis camera.
All the cameras viewed the same image under increasing levels of darkness. Our summer intern, Eli Schildkraut, devised a nice test box from cardboard boxes. It’s always nice to have a smart intern around.
We first viewed the images at relatively low light where they all provided decent images. We gradually decreased the lighting until all the cameras could not see anything. All the cameras tested did not have an IR illuminator or had them turned off. We didn’t include cameras that couldn’t turn off the IR light.
We set each camera for the best performance at low light without reducing frame rates. This included turning off WDR, turning on the light enhancers (which is called different things depending on the camera), keeping the cameras at 30 fps, and keeping amplification at 50 IRE.
Note that it was difficult to measure the actual light level (lux) because most light meters do not go below 0.1 lux. We took snapshots from each camera at four light levels. The goal was to capture images at each level of darkness and to compare all the cameras at the same relative lighting level. We observed which camera displayed the clearest image with the least noise level.
Test at approximately 0.5 lux
At this light level all of the cameras displayed little to no amplifier noise with good visibility and brightness. For reference the light from a full moon is about 0.3 lux to 1.0 lux depending how close to the equator you are. The moon is brighter as you get closer to the equator.
The Sony and Axis cameras had the least amount of amplifier noise and the highest brightness. Additionally it is important to note that because the Axis camera has a 1 megapixel sensor, it displayed the image in color while the 2 megapixel Samsung and Sony cameras had switched to black and white mode. In this regard the Sony and Samsung camera did not meet their published low light specifications in color.
Sony SNC-VM630: The image is very bright and clear. We can see the details of the scale. (Note this is a 2 megapixel camera).
Axis P3384: The image is in color. We can see the colors of the pen and the details of the scale are visible. (This is a 1 megapixel camera)
Test at approximately 0.2 lux
With the light level reduced, all three cameras displayed high quality images. The Axis camera stayed in color. All the cameras showed detailed clarity and only a small drop-off in brightness with low noise. The Samsung and Sony compared well with the Axis camera. The Sony displayed slightly better image quality at this light level.
Sony SNC-VM630: Display is bright and clear with low noise
Samsung SNV-6084R: Noticeably darker image, but is still displaying a fairly clear image with little to no amplifier noise.
Lower Light Level (approximately 0.05 lux)
With the lighting reduced the Axis switched to B / W and showed the darkest image with noticeable amplifier noise. The Sony displayed the brightest image with the most amplifier noise. The Samsung displayed average brightness with the least amount of amplifier noise. Overall the Samsung displayed the image with the best combination of brightness and low amplifier noise.
Axis P3384: Noise level increased and it was difficult to make out the details of the scale.
Sony SNC-VM630: Increased noise but can make out more details than the Axis camera
Samsung 6084: The image is dark, but the least amount of noise with the clearest image.
The Lowest light level (approximately 0.01 lux)
This test was done at extremely low light level. It was below the light sensitivity of the Axis camera. Under these conditions the Samsung tested best. Despite showing a dark image there was very little amplifier noise and the objects are visible. With the Samsung you can clearly see the markers and the scale. The Axis camera displayed very little and it was nearly impossible to identify our objects, the scale and the markers. The Sony showed the outline of our objects to some degree. The image is hard to see because of the lack of brightness, but the extreme level of amplifier noise is the main factor causing our inability to view the image on the Sony.
The Samsung 6084 was the winner in this test. It was interesting to note that Sony provides conservative specifications for its IP cameras. The tested performance was better than their published specifications. Even though the camera has a published specification of 0.07 lux, it was almost as good as the Samsung camera, with published specification of 0.01 lux.
All the cameras displayed good images at light levels as low as 0.5 lux. The Axis camera stayed in color longer as the light was reduced, but didn’t perform well when it switched to B / W mode. At light levels down to about 0.05 lux, the Sony camera provided a bright image, and low noise, but at the lowest light level of about 0.01 lux, the Samsung camera displayed the lowest amplifier noise and best image.
For assistance in selecting your IP camera, please contact us for help.