What is Low Light Performance?

Within the surveillance camera and security markets, low-light performance for a video camera is measured by its ability to resolve objects based on those conditions. The ability to see detail and color at night and in poorly-lit environments is one of the most important qualities of a security camera, and an important selection criteria during the planning phase of a security project.

 

Human eyes are highly adapted to the range of lighting we experience in nature, and use a number of methods including iris contractions and chemical changes to make constant adjustments to changing lighting conditions. Human eyes are very good at adapting to darker environments, but human eyes take time to adjust to the dark (20 to 30 minutes, scientists say) and lose the ability to discern color in low light. Although these limitations may have worked for humans in the wild, today we need and can achieve better performance from high performance security cameras.

 

Unlike human eyes, conventional surveillance cameras with electronic sensors cannot capture clear, detailed images in low light conditions. They are similar to human eyes in that standard cameras cannot fully differentiate between colors in low light conditions. Until now, many security managers chose to use infrared or thermal cameras for night time surveillance. These choices did not even attempt to capture colors, but did offer an improvement in detection and some degree of visibility, even though their detail level is marginal at best.

 

Today, surveillance cameras with improved low light capabilities have the ability to transcend this problem and capture clear images – with more accurate colors – at lower light levels than ever before. For example, the images below illustrate the type of image that can be captured by a conventional camera versus from a camera with new low light technology. These images were both taken at the same scene at the same time, at a light level of only 2 lux. For comparison, full daylight (not direct sun) is normally between 10,000 and 25,000 lux, and typical office lighting is between 320 and 500 lux. Achieving a useful, accurate image at such low light levels requires a combination of high sensitivity imaging sensors, a high quality lens, and sophisticated image processing. 

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To compare low light performance, look for the minimum sensitivity rating expressed in lux, which is used to measure the intensity of light. Cameras with a lower lux specification will do a better job of capturing images in low light conditions. During the project planning phase, carefully determine which areas would benefit from low light performance based on anticipated light levels. Today, cameras are available with low light performance down to an incredible 0.05 lux for color images. [Sarix Enhanced, with SureVision 3.0]

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