In a previous post, we briefly mentioned one type of night vision camera: infrared (IR) security cameras. These cameras are a popular option for home and business owners to record at nighttime because they are effective but not too costly. If you are wanting to know more details about these cameras, keep reading.
What Are Infrared (IR) Security Cameras?
You might have come across the terms “infrared” and “thermal” being used interchangeably. Although infrared and thermal do mean the same thing in science, infrared security cameras are not the same as thermal imaging cameras, though they both deal with infrared energy. Thermal imaging cameras are able to detect infrared energy while infrared cameras use infrared light to illuminate objects for the camera to see. For this reason, infrared cameras can also be referred to as infrared illumination cameras.
How They Work
To begin explaining how infrared security cameras work, we should go over how regular security cameras are able to see. Like the human eye, cameras see things in terms of reflected light. When we, or the cameras, see something, we are actually seeing light bouncing off of objects. Regular cameras are not able to see in the dark because there’s no light source to be reflected. Infrared light cannot be seen by the human eye, but every object emits some level of these invisible wavelengths. Infrared cameras are able to see in the dark because they project their own beam of infrared light to illuminate objects. So while they still rely on light to see in the dark like regular security cameras, they provide their own light source.
Types of Infrared Security Cameras
There are two ways for infrared light to be provided to infrared security cameras. IR integrated cameras will have infrared LEDs already installed on the camera. Other cameras will require an external IR illuminator that is mounted above or below the camera. These devices are kind of like flashlights, but they emit infrared light instead.
IR Integrated Cameras
IR integrated cameras can also be referred to as true day/night cameras because they can be used for both daytime and nighttime. These cameras will either have IR LEDs that turn off during the day or will have a light sensor with a mechanical IR cut filter to remove IR illumination during the day. These cameras are effective, but they are limited by a short range. Additionally, the heat produced by the IR LEDs causes the LEDs to degrade and die out faster and when the LEDs die out, the whole camera will need to be replaced. The heat also attracts insects and bugs which could obscure the camera’s view. However, they are cost-effective and have an easier installation since the IR LEDs come already attached to the camera.
External IR Illuminator
External IR illuminators have a longer illumination range than IR integrated cameras. They can illuminate distances of up to 919 feet which is 9x the range of integrated cameras. The IR illuminators also burn more evenly which prolongs their usage life. However, these cameras do have a more complex setup since you will need to install the camera and the illuminator separately, but this also offers more flexibility. In addition, the upfront costs will be more expensive than integrated cameras since there’s two separate devices to purchase.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing between these two types of infrared security cameras. If you want a camera for a home or small business and don’t want to deal with too much hassle, then an integrated camera will do the job. If you need a more reliable and flexible option for larger-scale applications, then infrared security cameras with an external illuminator would be better.