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INSIGHTS

2022 Low-light camera survey: What do users prefer?

2022 Low-light camera survey: What do users prefer?
This report is based on a 2022 asmag.com-Hikvision reader survey aimed at understanding low-light camera market use and user preferences, and identifying future trends.
This report is based on a 2022 asmag.com-Hikvision reader survey aimed at understanding low-light camera market use and user preferences, and identifying future trends.

Low-light cameras in security are becoming mainstream

That is a clear conclusion that we can derive from the reader survey, with a resounding 73% of respondents indicating that they saw a rise in market demand for low-light cameras this year compared to the year before.

This is on par with findings from research reports on the topic. Omdia previously released findings that projected a rapid rise of video security cameras equipped with advanced low-light functionality in 2022 to 51 million, more than 10 times the number of such cameras in 2015 – 4.75 million.

This is no doubt due to factors such as continuous improvements in sensor technology, image processors and AI algorithms that enable high-quality images. Product market price has also decreased due to the increased availability of low-light cameras in the market and competition.
 

When asked whether the security professionals themselves have used low light security cameras in their projects already, 82% of respondents said yes versus 18% who didn’t.
 

The majority of the current low-light camera installations are concentrated in two specific verticals: commercial (22%) and residential (22%), with small businesses (19%) following close behind.

This is not surprising as these verticals typically require video security in operation 24/7 both indoors and outdoors to protect inventory and guard against theft. The low light cameras are also employed as proactive measures to deter criminal activity and promote a secure environment for its occupants.
 

Preferred camera types and lighting

With regards to the low-light camera setup, infrared (33%) and low-light cameras (30%) were more commonly installed compared to regular security cameras with supplementary lighting (22%) and thermal cameras (14%).
 

Being the most inexpensive option, infrared (IR) cameras are one of the most used camera types for low-light video security. They come with built-in infrared LEDs to illuminate adjacent areas so that images can still be processed even in complete darkness. The downside is that they only provide black-and-white images as well as lower visual details.

On the other hand, low-light cameras are equipped with powerful image sensors that perform well even under minimal ambient lighting, enabling them to render high-definition full-color images in dim lighting. Equipped with technology that can combine color data and brightness details in a scene, these cameras are ideal for a wider range of outdoor security applications.

Interestingly enough, our survey found that 85% of respondents would appreciate color capture for their CCTV installations (53% listed it down as a requirement while 42% regarded it as “nice to have”). This would point to a possible scenario where many installations are working with legacy low-light CCTV setups. Therefore, a move to install low-light cameras (and the resulting increase in market demand) in the next few years would be likely.
 

What about the form factor? Bullet cameras were most preferred at 37%, followed by dome cameras (26%), PTZ cameras (20%) and turret cameras (17%).

While many factors would account for these preferences, one major consideration would be the type of application the camera will be used in. Although these cameras can be used in any location, bullet and PTZ cameras are typically ideal for outdoor installations while dome cameras perform quite well indoors.

For commercial, residential and small businesses (the most common verticals for our respondents), bullet cameras would be a good choice as they are weatherproof, easily installed, have long-range vision and can act as a physical deterrent to make the property less desirable to criminals. But dome cameras have the advantage of being harder to see and would be a good option if you don’t want people to notice them.
 


For those who do use regular cameras with supplemental lighting in their projects, we wanted to know which setup would be their first choice. IR light and white lights are commonly used and will affect the quality of images in low-light environments. White light can illuminate a great distance and act as a visual deterrent, but excessive use can contribute to light pollution. Infrared light does provide a degree of invisibility as it’s only detected by the camera.

Our survey results showed that 41% wanted the option of being able to switch from external white light to IR light, while 35% are happy with just IR lighting and 23% with white light. Upon further query, more respondents (39%) were open to soft and warm supplementary lighting versus 14% who cannot. However, the majority (43%) wouldn’t mind which lighting is used as long as it doesn’t affect camera performance.
 

Top low-light security camera brands for users

Now comes the interesting question of which low-light brands are the most popular among our respondent pool of physical security professionals. Based on the results, we can see that the market is still evolving and somewhat fragmented, with no specific manufacturer cornering the market. The top low-light camera brands based on our reader survey include Hikvision Digital Technology at number one with more than a quarter of the votes at 28%, followed by Dahua Technology (14%) and Axis Communications (7%). The top 10 list was rounded off by Hanwha Techwin, Bosch, Uniview Technologies, Avigilon, Pelco, CP Plus, FLIR, VIVOTEK, Honeywell, Mobotix, Tiandy Technologies and TVT.
 

What could be holding security professionals and clients back from installing low-light security cameras?

According to the survey, cost (31%) was cited as the top barrier to adoption, which goes hand in hand with the second reason – the need to replace existing cameras/systems (22%). This would be a legitimate concern for the 18% (and similar professionals in the field) who haven’t used low-light cameras in their projects before.

However, security professionals are waking up to the value proposition of low-light cameras.  According to statistics from the US Small Business Administration, a single act of vandalism (which often happens under the cover of night) can cost businesses up to US$3,370 in losses. The initial installation can be costly but normally have lower long-term costs. Also, it’s important to note that low-light CCTV options are now available at various price points, which would make them more accessible to customers of different levels and project sizes.

The other two major concerns cited are related to installation: integration and compatibility (14%) followed by lack of knowledge and expertise (13%), which points to a need for greater due diligence on the part of installers and integrators and perhaps more detailed product information, education and skill training on the side of manufacturers.
 

 
 
 
 
 
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