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Proceedings Paper

Technical assessment of low light color camera technology
Author(s): Scott A. Ramsey; Joseph Peak; Brian Setlik
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Paper Abstract

In nighttime overcast conditions with a new moon (near-total darkness), typical light levels may only reach 10-2-10-4 lux. As such, standard CCD/CMOS video cameras have insufficient sensitivity to capture useful images. Third generation night vision cameras (Gen III NV) are the state-of-the-art in terms of imaging clarity and resolution at this light level, but rely on green or green/yellow phosphors to produce monochromatic images while true color information is lost. More recently, low-light color video cameras have become commercially available which are purportedly able to produce truecolor images at rates of 15-30 frames per second (fps) in near-total darkness without loss in clarity. This study determined if the sensitivities of two low-light color video cameras, Toshiba's IK-1000 EMCCD and Opto-Knowledge System's (OKSI) True Color Night Vision (TCNV) cameras are comparable to current Gen II/III NV technology. NRL, in a joint effort with NSWC Carderock Division, quantified the effectiveness of these cameras in terms of objective laboratory characterization and subjective field testing. Laboratory tests included signal-to-noise (S/N), spectral response, and imaging quality at 2, 15, and 30 frames per second (fps). Field tests were performed at 8, 15, and 30 fps to determine clarity and color composition of camouflaged human subjects and stationary objects from a set number of standoff distances under near-total darkness (measured at 10-8-10-10 W/cm2 sr @ 650nm). Low-light camera video was qualitatively compared to imagery taken by Stanford Photonics Mega-10 Gen III Night Vision Scientific and Tactical Imagers under identical conditions.

Paper Details

Date Published: 4 May 2010
PDF: 18 pages
Proc. SPIE 7687, Active and Passive Signatures, 76870H (4 May 2010); doi: 10.1117/12.863211
Show Author Affiliations
Scott A. Ramsey, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
Joseph Peak, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
Brian Setlik, Naval Surface Warfare Ctr. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7687:
Active and Passive Signatures
G. Charmaine Gilbreath; Chadwick T. Hawley, Editor(s)

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