Clear video images in low-light scenarios are a must for many security installations. With the abundance of options on the market, however, it can be confusing to figure out which kind of technology to use. Here, we take the mystery out of low-light technology and give you practical information to help you see more with nighttime surveillance.
When affordability and flexibility are key, infrared (IR) illumination is a cost-efficient option for nighttime surveillance scenes. A camera with built-in IR Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) will capture an image when there is no light at all, but it is best for short distances. IR cameras produce black and white images once light reaches a certain low level; around 90% of the low-light cameras on the market use an IR cut filter (also called “true day/night”). The filter is designed to switch to night mode when the camera senses that insufficient light is available and can no longer provide color images. Users have the added flexibility of altering the threshold at which the camera switches color to black and white. Our ePoE 4MP standard IR camera (N45CL5Z) is a top seller, with a 1/3” CMOS lens.
One downside of IR LEDs is that spiders tend to build webs around these cameras – a natural location for them to catch the insects that are attracted to the light emitting from the LEDs. This can become a serious issue because spiderwebs can obstruct visibility and spiders can trigger false motion detection alerts. Another pain point of IR LEDs is rain reflection, which makes it difficult to get clear video in bad weather.
For an environment where there’s some degree of lighting present, finding a camera that will render useful video won’t be a problem. The challenge is when there is no light at all. To combat this challenge, our portfolio encompasses three different kinds of Starlight technology, each with different levels of light sensitivity. Light sensitivity is defined by lux, a unit of illuminance. To give you some comparison, full daylight is 10,000 lux while a full moon is full moon 0.1 lux. A quarter moon emits 0.01 lux, and a moonless sky is illuminated by 0.001 lux of starlight.
Basic Starlight, our most cost-efficient Starlight option, offers good low-light performance with illumination down to 0.008-0.009 lux. Enhanced starlight has – as the name suggests – enhanced low light performance, with illumination down to 0.005-0.007 lux.
Starlight+ has the best low-light performance in the Starlight suite of products: illumination of 0.004 lux or lower. It is fantastic for very dark environments, areas that are not well-lit without ambient lighting. The ePoE 4MP Starlight+ camera (N45DM62), with a 1/1.8” CMOS sensor, provides an image with two times the brightness of the standard 4MP IR camera mentioned above.
As the name indicates, Night Color cameras offer color images with superior detail and contrast – at night. These images are suitable for forensic investigations; they will be best in environments that have around 1 lux of ambient lighting, such as streetlights. Night Color cameras perform well at mid- to long-range distances, such as residential locations, parking lots, storefronts, and loading docks. As you can see in the comparison photos, our ePoE 4MP Night Color camera (N45EM63) lets you see more, capturing color in dark scenes while other cameras revert to black and white.
White-Light Night Color
Sometimes you don’t want your security system to be a secret. Cameras with white-light LEDs emit white light into the field of view to allow color images in dark scenes. White light has the added benefits of being a visual deterrent and also providing security lighting.
Our new white-light, Night Color technology provides details in bright color. The 4MP ePoE camera (N45EJ62) has white light LEDs built into it. With an illumination distance of up to 65.62 feet, the camera can better handle far-away subjects compared to other low-light cameras. It’s ideal in places with nearly no light at all, such as new construction sites and wooded areas. Smart illumination lets the camera automatically activate the LEDs when ambient light levels fall, this also adjusts the exposure time and LED intensity to prevent overexposing the image. Additionally, advanced image processing decreases noise and reduces smear.