Hitachi announces low-light surveillance camera

Surveillance cameras will be getting a boost, a light-intensity boost that is, from Hitachi Kokusai Electric's new EM-CCD cameras. EM-CCD (electrons multiplying charged coupled device) intensifies the incoming image, thereby increasing the low light sensitivity to .012 LUX.

The company introduced a total of three low-light cameras, which includes the high-end model HC-258, a platform-integrated electrically-operated sensitivity camera. According to the manufacturer, the new sensors offer 100 times the sensitivity of common chips, allowing the camera to operate under virtually dark condictions. The HC-258 is able to rotate 360 horizontally and 180 degrees vertically - with a 180 a degree movement achieved within one second.

The models KP-DE500 and KP-E500 complete the product series. The KP-DE500 can record video in black and white as well as color, while the KP-E500 covers only black and white.

Many companies are using surveillance cameras and Chris Enzler of Cognitech, a video forensic software company, says any business that is normally open at night would benefit from a low-light camera. "Parking garages and nightclubs are some examples," he said. Enzer emphasized that a high quality camera and recording system greatly helps investigators deter crime and catch criminals.

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A picture taken with theKP-DE500 in virtual darkness

Pixels in a traditional CCD work by counting the number of electrons impacting the sensor - the more impacts the brighter the pixel. CCDs can be made to be more sensitive in low light conditions, but have to contend with noise coming from the environment and other camera components.

A LUX rating measures how sensitive a camera is to light. The lower the number, the better the camera can see in low light. As a general comparison, a full moon sky has a rating of around 0.2 LUX, while an overcast night sky is around .01 to 0.1 LUX. Hitachi Kokusai Electric's camera uses a newer EM-CCD sensor that intensifies or "gains" the electrons before going through the camera's noise filter.

While the .012 lux rating may seem impressive, industry experts say that LUX ratings are generally inaccurate. Fredrik Nilsson, General Manager for Axis Cameras' North American Operations, says "It's an interesting rating, but very subjective. Some cameras have good ratings, but they had to lower the frame rate to get it," says Nilsson.