Sony SNC-VB770 Lowlight CCTV Camera: First Impressions

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Sony SNC-VB770 - best low light CCTV camera on Earth
Sony SNC-VB770 - best low light CCTV camera on Earth

IN the lead-up to SecTech Roadshow’s camera shootout, SEN got hold of Sony’s 4K SNC-VB770, a full frame Exmor-powered CCTV camera with a stonking ISO rating of 409,600. Make sure you see the VB770 on the rack at SecTech - register here

Typical full-frame still cameras have ISO performances of up to 24,000, so the VB770’s ISO number is stupendous. The SNC-VB770 offers low light performance under 0.004 lux thanks to an enormous ISO of 409,600, which allows signal amplification that's strong enough (yet controlled enough) to make for shutter speeds fast enough to snag motion in low light. Does it get down to 0.004? We can’t test light levels that low, but minimum illumination is spec’ed at 0.004 lux (30 IRE) with normal (1/30th sec) shutter speed, not slow shutter.

This camera is compatible with Sony’s E-mount FE lenses with the lens supplied separately. In this test, we’re running the 770 with Sony’s FE F1.4 35mm full frame lens attached. At full frame 35mm offers an angle of view that’s similar to around 5mm at 1/3-inch, which is ideal for the street. Let’s do the specifications first. 

The full-frame CMOS gives a resolution of just over 12MP, minimum scene illumination is claimed to be 0.004 lux at F1.4, a 1/30th of a second shutter speed and an ISO of 409,600. Dynamic range is equivalent to 100dB (View-DR technology), gain is zero to +72dB, shutter speed is from 1/1 to 1/10,000 of a second. You have to take a considered view of the seemingly low dB number for WDR – Sony cameras, including this one, handle backlight very well. 


No moving plate but best faces at 16 metres at this focal length we've ever seen...and static plate through headlights over the road.

I start my test at 5.15pm and it’s already getting gloomy between the buildings. The 35mm F1.4 lens has a good wide view of the street and I position it to avoid trees and walls. It’s a nice focal length for a full frame camera on the street, 35mm. As soon as I look at the monitor I can see that Sony’s VB770 is something special – performance is not the same as other cameras we’ve tested. Detail is very high – this makes digital zoom more than an annoying toy. This is a wide-angle lens yet I get levels of face recognition quality I’ve not seen before – if you put an 85mm lens on the VB770 you could take portraits with it – this camera really is that good. Colour rendition is sweet, too. 


Colour with zero lux measured at the lens - amazing performance, this...

I can still get plates at distances of up to about 20m depending on vehicle speed even though it’s gloomy outside now. Depth of field is sensational – all those pixels really do add up. I think I have admissible face recognition at 25m, which is super performance. Even past the point of face recognition, levels of detail are exceptionally high. That word ‘detail’ really is the key in daylight performance. There’s loads of detail everywhere you look at a wide-ish focal length of 35mm (that’s about 5mm at 1/3-inch). I’m getting wristwatch faces, the patterns in socks, shoelace colour, the design of pendants hanging around necks, the funny looks on people faces – none of this stuff is typical in a wide street scene and I have it from a few metres out to 16m in extreme detail, softening but remaining exceptional all the way out to 80-plus metres on the other side of Albion Street. ♦