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Low Light  Or Infrared Camera Technology - Which Is Right For You ?

by andy Wendt

The question of how best to cover a low light area with an affordable video security solution is a pretty common one. However with a basic understanding of the technologies involved it is a question that anyone could answer for themselves. 

One of the first things to keep in mind about the two technologies is that of course each has its place.

The place for Infrared Cameras:

Infrared (I.R.) is a good fit for areas with virtually no light that only need coverage in a limited or confined area. I often make the analogy that using an I.R. camera is like walking around into the pitch dark with a flashlight: The smaller the flashlight the smaller the visible area. It's this simple concept that makes I.R a good fit for a limited area as it allows for respectable coverage without a big "I.R. flashlight"

Of course if that large area must be covered with I.R technology it can be done. Just be prepared to budget accordingly as the large banks of I.R. emitters necessary to cover large spaces can become quite costly.

But even if the budget will allow and all other aspects of your situation make it seam like an I.R. cameras is a good fit keep in mind that give any two identically secured areas the space with the least lighting is going to be the space most targeted by thieves. It could then be argued that if the  primary goal of your system is  to deter crime and reduce loss this instantly puts the "I have no light at all so I need an I.R. Camera" theory at a disadvantage as compared to a Low Light solution backed up by any amount of lighting.

The place for Low Light Cameras:

While I.R. cameras attempt to make their picture more useful by supplying their own I.R.  light source Low Light cameras take the opposite approach and they attempt to take advantage of any ambient light available, including natural sources such as the light emitted from a star filled night sky, to provide their solution to the problem.

Low Light cameras can also more easily benefit from standard Varifocal lenses. For example if you have a gate you need to watch and it sits 100ft from your camera a Low Light Standard Body Camera with say a 50mm lens could easily give  you the close up shot of the gate you want. While standard body I.R. sensitive cameras can take advantage of the same lens they often hit the limit of their I.R. lighting long before the optical limits of the lens come into play. So again if the gate must be watched with an I.R. camera the same lens would have to be used as well as a very large bank of I.R. emitters necessary to light the shot out to the required 100ft range.

This in my opinion gives Low Light cameras at least a monetary leg up in large spaces. As it allows for coverage of the space using the same concepts that would apply given the camera was operating in non stop daylight.

Also if your need for a security system is great enough there is a chance that you are already asking about medium to high quality standard body cameras. And once in this market the Low Light technology often comes standard on the camera. Or in other words you get to spend your budget more efficiently as it is not eaten up by the additional I.R. emitters.

For more information or for sample camera shots using the above two technologies please contact:

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See our IR Camera Recommendations

See our Low Light Camera Recommendations

CCTV Terms and Definitions

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Toll Free Voice: 800-440-1662

Andy Wendt is a technology writer for CSN1 Technologies.

Note: "I.R. Camera" is another term Infrared Security Cameras