Here we discuss what impacts how far a night vision security camera can see and how it performs.
Whether it be about sufficient infrared (IR) light, the lux rating or other camera components, all these factor into how well night vision security cameras
perform and how far they can see into the dark.
Better performance, more processing power
A camera’s range performance
is partly dependent on how the camera is powered. Whether or not there is enough processing power
may not only affect how far the camera can see, but also the image quality. Processing power, though, comes at a price, and not one that all end users are willing to spend on or able to afford.
The cost difference between an entry-level and high-end night vision camera could be US$200 compared to $5,000. Andres Vigren, Global Product Manager at Axis Communications
, noted that it would be remiss for companies with smaller premises to invest in high-end models, as the cost would exceed their budget without necessarily adding value.
“Ultimately the choice of camera is dependent on the total cost of investment and the use case. Entry-level fixed focal cameras often start at around 10 meters of coverage. For smaller premises on a tight budget, this type of camera may be sufficient. For larger premises, an average standard 1080p camera with a range of about 30 meters may work better,” he said.
However, chipsets are constantly improving, which in time may allow more night vision cameras to run further complicated algorithms and provide the additional processing power required to produce clear and reliable color images.
Sufficient IR light, power is required for longer range
The amount of light in the camera is another factor that could greatly impact a camera’s range performance.
“As a general principle, more light equals a better image and this becomes more relevant at longer distances,” Vigren said. “Achieving a good quality image requires sufficient built-in IR light, which consumes more power. In this case, it may be more cost effective to provide additional IR light to support the camera’s performance.”
For use cases where a longer range is needed (e.g., bridges, roads, border control, etc.), Vigren says high-end zoom cameras would be suitable. Adding, that these cameras can reach up to 400 meters by adjusting the IR beam to match the camera zoom.
“For customers who need to detect objects at long ranges, a combined solution using additional radar or thermal cameras
will offer the best results, as these technologies do not depend on light to be effective,” he said.
Let’s talk about lux
We hear a lot about lux ratings when it comes to low light cameras. Lux is used to measure the amount of perceived intensity of light that hits or passes through a surface. For example, illuminance under direct sunlight measures up to 100,000 lux; whereas, office lighting might be around 500 lux and a moonless, cloudy night 0.0001 lux. Basically, the less light, the lower the lux number.
At present, the average lowest illumination a traditional security camera can handle is 0.01 lux, opposed to 0.001 lux for the average night vision security cameras, explained Max Fang, Director of IP Products at Hikvision Digital Technology
. The best low light cameras can reach 0.0001 lux.
However, it’s important to note that lux isn’t a foolproof method of measuring low light performance. While lux ratings may be a good place to start when looking for a camera, many will point out that a camera’s lux rating is determined by the manufacturer’s own tests. Without a standard process to determine lux ratings, cameras with the same lux rating could perform wildly different.