A User's Guide to Digital Video Surveillance


For low light situations there are two possible camera technology solutions. If there is total darkness then the only possibility is infra-red or otherwise known as night-vision.

Infrared (IR) radiation — electromagnetic radiation of a wavelength longer than that of visible light, but shorter than that of radio waves. The name means "below red" (from the Latin infra, "below"), red being the color of visible light of longest wavelength. The infrared portion of the spectrum has a number of technological uses, including target acquisition and tracking by the military; remote temperature sensing; short-ranged wireless communication; weather forecasting and for our purposes night-vision.

Infrared is used in night-vision cameras when there is insufficient visible light to see an object. The camera uses the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, sometimes referred to as thermal imaging. The radiation is detected and turned into an image, hotter objects showing up in different shades than cooler objects, enabling the camera to see warm targets, such as human beings and automobiles.

Day/Night — a sensitivity enhancement technology which improves light sensitivity of a camera by a factor of 2 for visible light and a factor of 4 for near-infrared wavelengths. It still cannot work in near zero light as will an infrared camera.

While both infrared and day/night technology sound expensive, both have become commercialized and are surprisingly affordable. The difference in camera pricing for one of these cameras versus a traditional camera is nominal.

The rule of thumb we like to use is if you walk the area where you intend for the camera to be and view it at its lowest possible lighting, if you can see with the naked eye, then the day/night camera should be fine. If you cannot see, then an infrared camera would be recommended.

CCTV cameras similar to your movie camera are rated in terms of “lux” for purposes of lighting. In addition to night vision and day/night cameras there are low light cameras, which are standard cameras with a low lux rating (0.1).
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