What is Night Vision Camera? How does it work?

Night Vision Camera

Installing a security camera in your home is a great way to protect your family, property, and business. What happens at night or when your security camera is installed in a low-light area? What is a night vision camera and how does it work?

There are many night vision cameras in the market. They offer more than what a standard security can.


What is a Night Vision Camera?

A night vision camera captures videos of any activity in low-light to near dark areas or conditions where a standard security camera will not work. The ability of night vision cameras to work under these conditions allows your security camera to work around the clock.

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How does a Night Vision Camera Work?

A night vision camera consists of a camera and the emission of bright light. The security camera easily picks up this light because it is sensitive to it. How does it work?

The lens of your security camera is surrounded by infrared bulbs. These bulbs will shine the light within the field of view of your security camera. Infrared light is invisible to the human eye but can be seen by the lens of the security camera.

The capacity of a night vision camera is the distance the infrared light of the security camera can shine into its field of view. A security camera usually has between 50 to 65 feet night vision. Other high-end cameras can have up to 300 feet of night vision.

Night vision cameras work even in totally dark areas only if it has a light source, no matter how weak. Night vision cameras use infrared light to brighten objects in the dark. Infrared light cannot be seen but it is around. 

How then does a night vision camera work even in near-total darkness? There are three ways a night vision camera can work to protect your home, family, property, and business. Here are the three types of night vision cameras:

Infrared Night Vision

Infrared night vision cameras use motion detection and infrared illumination to effectively monitor your property or business at night. This means, that when motion is detected by your security camera, its infrared illumination is triggered and captures the object or image.

Infrared cameras are commonly used outdoors.  The inclusion of LED lights improves that turn ON when light levels are below specified points increase performance of the infrared cameras to generate great black and white images and videos.

Thermal Imaging

Thermal imaging uses temperature or heat to produce videos and images. This is so because temperature causes objects to radiate infrared. Higher temperatures intensify infrared energy that in turn generates the thermal image.

When objects are cold, the image produced is white while cold objects produce black images. Some thermal cameras can even produce colored images.

Security cameras with thermal imaging require minimal light to capture a video or image from a distance. Images are not, however, are not really pictures but instead spots where the warm temperature was detected as it is by humans and animals.

Low Light

Low-light security cameras make use of image intensifiers coming from a vague light source. Since these cameras work with little light sources, they can produce excellent pictures. Some low-light cameras are even capable of identifying persons.

Low-light cameras are most commonly used in homes because they are the most affordable.

Image Credit: flickr.com

Do you Need a Night Vision Camera?

If you need to monitor and protect your home or business day and night, then you will need a night vision camera. Night vision cameras produce good quality day and night images and videos without any distortions.

To make the right choice, you need to know what is available in the market. Smart choices can be made when you understand what makes a good night vision camera based on consumer reviews and also on what you need.

You will need a night vision camera when you want to monitor an outdoor area that is not well-lit during night. Before looking at night vision security camera options, decide on the kind of night-time visibility you need.

  • Do you want the most affordable option?
  • Do you want the best quality image capture?
  • Do you want a camera with the longest distance range?

It is important to understand how your night vision camera will work at night in a slightly-lit area. 

What are the Important Features of a Night Vision Security Camera?

The following features determine the quality and performance of a night vision camera:

Infrared Illuminators

The infrared illuminators do not often match the field of view of a night vision security camera. For night vision cameras where the field of view is wider than the IR illuminator, a bright area can be seen in the center of the image. The darkness increases as it gets further from the center.

It is, therefore, important to choose a night vision security camera where the field of view is equal to the IR illuminator to get a clear video of the image area. It may be a bit more expensive, but it is worth it.

Powerful Illumination Beams

Powerful illuminators produce good night vision images and videos. The most ideal is to choose a night vision camera with an IR illumination of 100 ft.

IR Cut Filter

The IR Cut Filter of night vision security cameras makes it possible for the camera to have the same image quality as during the day.

When the lens of the camera detects daylight, the infrared cut-off filter moves and turns off the IR light so it does not affect the quality of the image. When the light level drops, the camera moves the lens to the area it needs to record through night vision.

This switch in filter produces quality images round the clock. The absence of IR-cut filters will result in distorted daylight images with pin-greyish colors that are lacking in-depth and the possibility of being out of focus.

 Is Colored Night Vision Possible?

Powerful image sensors make it possible for night vision cameras to produce colored pictures because they are very sensitive to light. In short, these sensors absorb more visible light than regular image sensors.

Regular night vision cameras will automatically revert to black and white images and videos when conditions shift to low light. Color night vision cameras can capture color videos and images even in low-light areas because of their powerful sensors.

Color night vision cameras, however, need some light such as a street light or porch light to produce colored videos and images at night.

Image Credit: flickr.com

Can you Improve the Night Vision of your Security Camera?

Many night vision cameras have bad quality night vision. These cameras produce sharp images and videos during the day.  When at night, you can hardly see anything. There are some things you can do to improve the night vision of your security camera?

Have More Lighting

It is important to keep the area as bright as possible. There are many ways to improve the lighting around your home without having to install new lighting fixtures.

Keep Lights ON

Keep outdoor lights ON at night in the area your security camera is installed. You can install a timer to automatically open the lights when it gets dark and allow it to turn OFF at dawn. The security camera will see better with the outdoor lights ON.

You can install LED lights so it will consume little electricity.

Use Solar Lights

Solar lights are easy to install even without an electrician because there is no wiring involved in the installation. While regular lights are brighter than solar lights, additional lighting can improve the night vision of your security camera.

Motion-activated lights

Motion-activated lights are another option for additional lighting. These lights turn ON when they detect motion. You can also opt to convert your regular lights into motion-activated lights. Motion-activated lights do not consume too much electricity.

External Infrared Lighting

A security camera comes with a built-in infrared light source. It is better that it be supplemented by an external IR light. You can install the IR light away or next to the security camera to illuminate spots that cannot be reached by the internal lighting of the camera.

Choose the Right Camera

The grainy and dark night vision of a security camera is mainly caused by the night vision not being sufficient enough for the area you want to cover. You can solve this issue by, again, providing additional lighting. If this is not possible, you will need to change your security camera to one that is more appropriate for the area you want to cover.

Avoid Tall Shrubs

Avoid installing your security camera near tall shrubs. Shrubs and bushes contribute to the presence of bright spots in the front of the camera. This scenario will make the IR light of the camera shine on the bush or shrub in front of the camera. As a result, the lens of the camera will adjust itself to the brightest part of the image and will make the background dark.

Some security cameras come with a wide dynamic range setting. This can make up for the changes in lighting. The thing is, it does not always work with objects that are too close to the camera.

Use More than One Camera

Never attempt to use only one camera for a very large area. As mentioned, you should always decide on what you want to see before buying a security camera. If you only need to see an overview of your entire property, one camera is enough to do the job.

If you install one camera in one corner of your huge property, you will see the entire back yard. You will also get to see if someone is in your yard, however, you will not get a clear image of the person who is 50 or so feet away from the camera.

Always remember that there is a difference between what you see from your security camera during the day and at night. During the day, it is possible for you to see your entire property.  At night, what you get to see is based on the night vision rating of your camera which is usually 50 feet.

Install more than one camera if you want to have a clear image of anyone walking on your property at night.

Switch to Night Mode

Always switch your security camera to night mode. Your security camera has a built-in IR cut filler. It is responsible for blocking infrared waves from entering the camera during the day through the lens.

During the day, your camera needs the IR filters to create realistic colors of images and videos. At night, the IR filter should not obstruct the lens so the camera can access the IR lights it needs for night vision.

Switching your camera to night mode will allow the images it captures to switch from color to black and white. At the same time, the IR filter gets out of the way of the camera’s lens. Your camera will produce a clicking sound as it switches to night mode.

Not too Close to Light

Installing your camera too close to a lighting fixture will make the lens of your camera absorb the light which will cause image distortion.

When your camera has too much lighting within its field of view, or when the light is too close to the security camera, the light sensor will close its iris. This will cause the background of the image or video to be dark.

Regularly Clean the Lens

Water stains, dust, and spider webs on the glass dome or lens of the security camera can cause light reflections. Water drops and dust can make images blurry because these particles can cause light to reflect on the security camera’s lens. Spider webs who love to hang out in front of the camera block the lens.

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Regular Night Vision Security Cameras vs Color Night Vision Security Cameras

A good view of the surroundings of your home at night through a night vision security camera is extremely crucial these days. The crime rate is rising worldwide and you want to ensure the safety and security of your family and property.

There seems to be a lot of confusion when choosing the right night vision camera. Many homeowners and businesses are in a quandary over choosing a regular night vision security camera or a color night vision security camera. Which one should you choose?

Check out this comparison between both types of night vision security cameras and pick the one that meets your needs and preferences.

Image Quality

if you are installing your night vision camera in a low-light area, you will be better off with a color night vision security camera than a regular night vision security camera.

Colored images of a color night vision security camera have better effects in low-light places. This is because they are equipped with image sensors that provide better contrast in low-light spots.

The image sensors of color night vision security cameras produce more visual details so you can easily identify objects, vehicles, and intruders to your property than a regular night vision security camera. Images produce have clear and not blurry details.


Color night vision security cameras and regular night vision security cameras do not have many installation requirements.

Color night vision security cameras deliver the right color images and videos at night. If you are installing your night vision security camera near a bright street light, porch light, or other sources of light, the color night vision camera is your best choice.

Regular night vision security cameras do not produce good image quality even if there is sufficient lighting in the area. They tend to produce images that lack clarity in black and white.


The aperture of color night vision security cameras is different from that f a regular night vision camera.


Many people are with belief that color night vision security cameras are more expensive than regular night vision security cameras. This is not always the case.

Often, your budget will dictate the choice between a color night vision camera and a regular night vision camera. It is important, though, that you also take into consideration what you require or what you want to see. What quality of images and videos are good enough?

It comes down to preference and choosing what is the most suitable and most cost-effective night vision security camera for your home or business.


Night vision security cameras come with many different features and capabilities. If you are thinking of investing in one for your home, you want one that produces clear images and videos. If you are not on a tight budget, invest in one that will last for many years.

This article gives you a pretty good idea of how good night vision security cameras work. You are now in the best position to make an educated choice.

If you have some questions that were not covered by this article, please feel free to leave a comment.


  1. What You Need To Know About Night Vision Security Cameras”, Video Surveillance, 2020
  2. Buying Guide and Best Practices: Improving Surveillance Footage at Night”, Get SCW, 2020
James Core
I write dozens of helpful informational articles based on topics that I have identified again and again throughout my research and work experience. I am here to help you find the right home security products.

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