The Truth About Infrared Security Cameras

CamCloseupFor the home and small business market, infrared security cameras has out sold just about every other type of camera configuration available.  Over 69 percent of security cameras sold in the U.S. market in 2010 had some type of infrared feature. But does this feature do what most customers expect them to do?  Well, the short answer is no.  Infrared cameras have been touted as the perfect camera for low light conditions. In reality, it was originally meant for locations that have NO light within a small confined space like a storage room, entry/exit doors, closets or a never lit entryway. In most cases what you see in the dark from an infrared camera in a wide area is a foggy image of whatever sits within 10-15 feet of the camera lens.  Beyond 10 feet in dark areas, most infrared cameras can only pick up reflective surfaces.

As a security camera consultant, I try to steer my customers away from most infrared cameras for long or wide views whenever possible. There is a need for regular infrared cameras but only under certain conditions. Customers who are trying to cover wide or long areas in the dark should use cameras that use Star Light or Sony EX-View chips.  These cameras can see in almost complete darkness in a wide area like a backyard or a warehouse floor with details you can’t get with a regular infrared lighted camera.

Super low light cameras with Sony EX-View or StarLight chips can see as far as 30 yards in low light conditions. On moonlit nights an outside area could look as if it was bathed in sunlight and indoor areas seem well lit with only the exit sign lighting a whole floor. What you can’t see with the naked eye, your super low light will see just fine. I have switched out dozens of infrared cameras here in the Chicago area in lieu of super low light cameras for customers who had lost court cases based on what you couldn’t see 20 feet away on their infrared camera.

Being able to see in very dark areas is not the only benefit you will get, another plus to super low light security cameras is the amount of superb video resolution it has.  A regular infrared camera usually has to 420 lines of resolution while a Super low light camera can get up to 700 lines or more.  This is very important considering that you want to see as much detail in dark areas as possible.

Unfortunately, I find nightclubs using regular infrared cameras all the time that flicker between their color daylight and B&W nightlight settings every few seconds because the low light conditions in a club can vary because of movement, the type of clothing patrons are wearing or the amount of flickering show lights that are used in the club.  In the case of nightclubs, I use black & white super low light camera inside the club to get extreme details without the distraction of color cycling on and off with bad resolution from an infrared camera.  I use Infrared Combo VideoSecu SONY Effio CCD 700TVL
outdoors to see the color of the patrons clothing when they walked into the club.  Inside a low light nightclub, I use Sony 700 TVL Dome IR Camera, Indoor/Outdoor, EX-VIEW

Regular infrared cameras are only used in stock rooms or small confined areas with little or no visible light at all.

Be careful, there are numerous websites and stores that sell cameras that tout that they are super low light cameras.  Some stores only sell infrared cameras without knowing the benefit of a true super or ultra low light camera. Make sure you hire an experienced independent security camera consultant who will thoroughly go over your location and recommend the right camera equipment and installation options for your needs.


About Armand Lucas 89 Articles
I've installed security cameras and home automation systems for over 17 years. Now as a consultant, I Investigate and write about new technology as they emerge to help all of us to become more secure, independent and productive in our homes, businesses and vehicles.