Can Security Cameras See Smoke? 

Security cameras, extensively deployed for surveillance and monitoring, are essential in protecting multiple environments. Besides their main role of capturing visuals, there are always concerns about whether these can security cameras see smoke- an essential sign of fire. 

Can Security Cameras See Smoke? 
A Security Camera

The main role of security cameras is to capture visual information from their defined areas. However, their potential to see smoke is restricted because cameras and human eyes perceive the world differently. Smoke contains tiny particles that disperse light, making it visible to the naked eye. 

When light collides with these particles, it scatters in different directions, making smoke visible. Since human eyes are sensitive to scattered light rays, we perceive smoke as cloudy.

In contrast, traditional security cameras capture light and transform it into electronic signals to form images or videos. 

These cameras are calibrated to capture visible light and might not be as responsive to the scattering properties of smoke particles. So, even if security cameras cannot capture some degree of smoke, smoke visibility in camera footage may be limited, particularly if there is poor lighting or the smoke is light. 

Fortunately, specialized security cameras use infrared or thermal imaging technology to detect heat and smoke particles. Infrared (IR) cameras detect fire’s heat, whereas thermal cameras sense temperature differences triggered by smoke or flames. Such cameras have excellent smoke detection capabilities than standard visible-light cameras.

What Are the Types of Security Cameras? 

The security camera market has exploded over recent years, and there are offers from various security and video technology companies eager for your business. These cameras come in different styles, each engineered to serve specific purposes in multiple conditions. Here are different types of security cameras:

  • Dome Cameras

The dome security cameras are known for their circular covering that safeguards the camera lens. The cover is usually tinted to conceal the camera’s angle, leaving intruders guessing where the camera is pointing.

They are versatile and find wide applications for indoor and outdoor surveillance. In most cases, these cameras are mounted on ceilings and offer a broad field of view, making them a great candidate for keeping tabs on large areas. 

  • Bullet Cameras 

These security cameras are cylindrical and often used for outdoor surveillance. They are more visible and serve as a deterrent to burglars. They also have an extended range and are suitable for monitoring entrances, parking lots, and driveways. 

  • PTZ Cameras (Pan-Tilt-Zoom)

PTZ cameras can move horizontally and vertically and zoom in or out remotely. They are commonly deployed in large spaces where active monitoring and tracking are necessary. You’ll appreciate their ability to cover a wide area and, best of all, the ability to focus on specific points of interest. 

  • Wireless Cameras Vs Wired

Wired cameras, usually available in both indoor and outdoor styles, attach to a central recording gadget through coaxial or HDMI cables. Wired cameras don’t have to be connected to an electrical outlet because the cable connection powers them.

Since they don’t depend on battery power or Wi-Fi, wired cameras can offer steady recording instead of firing up only when a motion sensor activates the camera.

With a non-stop feed, you can set up CCTV for home monitoring using your camera network and mobile. On the other hand, wireless cameras have a slightly deceptive name: they lack a cable that links to a recording device but must be plugged into an electrical outlet.

An indoor outlet has the benefit of covering the wires and making it challenging to cut them by drilling through the wall to thread the plugs through.  

Wireless cameras use Wi-Fi to connect to a cloud server and keep the images there. You don’t have to be apprehensive about power because wireless cameras are plugged in, and they, like wired cameras, can be programmed to record continuous feed.  

  • IP Cameras (Internet Protocol Cameras) 

Internet Protocol cameras can transmit video and data over a network, such as the Internet. They can be wired or wireless, and they provide high-definition video quality.

IP cameras can be accessed remotely from different devices, including computers, tablets, and smartphones. Also, they are highly fancied for their ability to integrate with network-based technologies. 

  • Outdoor Cameras 

Outdoor cameras are designed to be tough enough to withstand cold temperatures, high heat, wind-driven water, and insects without compromising functionality.

They are often housed in durable materials that resist vandalism and include lights or sirens to prevent would-be perpetrators. Additionally, outdoor cameras have infrared night vision capabilities for capturing clear images even in poor light conditions.  

  • Indoor Cameras 

As the name suggests, these cameras are intended for use in enclosed spaces, like retail stores, offices, or homes. Unlike outdoor cameras, these are smaller and more discreet because they only cover a confined area.

You can use indoor cameras to monitor rooms and pets or check in on household members. What’s more? Indoor cameras are easy to install because the indoor surfaces make it simpler to set up a bracket. 

  • Thermal Cameras

These cameras employ thermal imaging technology to detect temperature differences and heat signs. The good thing about thermal cameras is they can capture images in poor light conditions.

Also, they come in handy for applications where traditional cameras would have difficulty, like identifying possible heat sources such as fires or monitoring large areas in the dark. 

  • Fisheye Cameras

Fisheye cameras are outfitted with a wide-angle lens to capture a 360-degree panoramic view. This feature reduces blind spots, allowing a single camera to monitor a wide area. These cameras suit spaces demanding comprehensive coverage, such as wide corridors or open office layouts.  

  • Hidden Cameras

Hidden or spy cameras are meant to be hidden within objects or environments. They are ideal for covert surveillance purposes. Spy cameras can be integrated into clocks, everyday items, smoke detectors, and other things, making them hard for anyone to detect.

  • Smart Cameras

Smart cameras have it all. They incorporate built-in features like motion detection, facial recognition, and the ability to share alerts. They are compatible with smart home systems, meaning you can monitor your home or business remotely and get notifications about unfolding events.

  • Doorbell Cameras 

These cameras integrate with a wide-eye security camera into your doorbell’s wiring (some are battery-powered and work independently) and offer a clear view of your front step and yard when set off by a motion sensor or triggered with a mobile app.

Door cameras allow you to see and interact with guests remotely via a smartphone app, regardless of your presence. The camera will send an alert to your phone app and start recording. Some doorbell cameras have lights for a higher resolution video.

Like exterior floodlights, doorbell cameras can deter potential burglars just by their presence. When criminals notice that their appearance is being captured, they’ll not break into your property in the first place.

Note: The best camera for your home or business is based on your desired level of protection. A comprehensive security system entails a combination of elements, and different types of surveillance cameras play a vital role in that package. You’ll have to determine what kind of protection you need.

Most security-conscious individuals prefer incorporating several indoor cameras concentrated in general areas or entryways. You can combine this with outdoor cameras that monitor areas where it’s easy to evade detection. 

What Cameras See Through Smoke? 

Cameras that see through smoke use sophisticated technologies to conquer the hurdles of smoke particles dispersing light. While no camera can genuinely see through smoke in the same way humans do, some camera models are well-equipped to function effectively in smoky conditions. Here’s an outline of these technologies:

  • Thermal Cameras

Thermal or infrared cameras are ranked the best at seeing through the smoke. They do not use visible light; instead, they detect objects’ heat and convert it into visible images.

Since smoke particles do not obstruct thermal radiation in the same way they do visible light, thermal cameras can capture images in highly smoky environments. 

For this reason, thermal cameras find wide applications in various settings. Researchers, scientists, automation specialists, security specialists, and building experts use thermal imaging cameras to detect hidden heat patterns and get insights into their specialized fields.

On the other hand, firefighters use these cameras to see through smoke, locate and rescue victims, discover hot spots, navigate safely, and remain better oriented in case of rescue missions. 

However, it must be noted that thermal imaging cameras are not very effective at seeing through dense smoke. They have downsides and are impacted by the temperature of the objects behind the smoke, the camera’s sensitivity, and the smoke density. 

  • LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) 

This technology employs laser pulses to gauge distances and form 3D representations of objects. Although light detection and ranging won’t exactly see through smoke, it may get into it, and form detailed point clouds of the area, which are later sewed up to identify objects, people, or obstacles in the smoky area. This technology is common in environmental monitoring, robotics, and self-driving vehicles.

  • Ultrasonic Cameras

These cameras emit high-frequency sound waves and gauge their reflections to generate images of the designated area. Ultrasonic technology has a working mechanism similar to LiDAR such that it can penetrate smoke and offer information on hidden obstacles. Ultrasonic cameras are less prevalent than thermal cameras in highly smoky environments but are a perfect alternative.

  • Through-Wall Imaging

This technology uses radar imaging to identify objects and movements behind walls, smoke, and other barriers. Though not a conventional camera in the traditional sense, through-wall imaging systems employ radar waves to get into materials and generate objects and people’s representation on the opposite side. Through-wall imaging is ideal for security and law enforcement applications. 

It’s worth noting that these technologies have their weaknesses. Heavy smoke, particularly from intense fire, may obstruct visibility and compromise the output of even the most sophisticated cameras. Also, these advanced cameras retail at a higher price than conventional cameras; therefore, their use is based on the application’s specific needs.

What Are the Benefits of Using Security Cameras to Detect Smoke? 

With rising crime rates and increased burglaries, it makes sense to take necessary measures to protect property, including installing security cameras. But how about fire hazards? Protecting your property, be it a home, warehouse, or other business, is not negotiable.

Most individuals believe that their property is safe by installing a fire alarm system, not knowing that a conventional system is not the only option.

Buildings and homes at high risk for fires can benefit from smoke detection cameras. So what are the benefits of deploying security cameras to detect smoke? Find out below:

  • Early Fire Detection

Security cameras outfitted with smoke detection capabilities usually offer early warning of possible fires. They can detect smoke particles in the surrounding air, allowing swift response before things get out of hand.

That’s a benefit you can count on because fire can engulf a building in mere seconds, so early detection may reduce property damage and the spread of fire and, most importantly, save lives. 

  • Round-the-Clock Monitoring 

Security cameras offer continuous feeds, day and night, meaning they can sense smoke and possible fire hazards even when you are not on-site. This 24/7 vigilance ensures that smoke-related issues are identified as soon as possible, any time of the day.

  • Remote Monitoring

Today’s security cameras are remotely-accessible through smartphones, computers, and other smart devices. This enables authorized persons such as camera room operators to monitor live feeds from any location with internet connectivity. Thanks to remote monitoring, smoke is not restricted by physical location.

  • Integration with Alarm Systems

Smoke detection security cameras can integrate with alarm systems. When they detect smoke, the camera activates alarms or alerts emergency response teams for immediate intervention. Such coordination ensures prompt response and evacuation if needed. Also, it facilitates a cohesive approach to overall safety, streamlining response protocols.

  • Enhanced Situational Awareness

One of the notable benefits of smoke detection cameras is that they offer visual information that helps emergency response teams to assess the extent and location of a fire. With this information, emergency responders can make informed decisions about the best approach and designate resources effectively.

  • Minimal False Alarms

Advanced smoke detection cameras can differentiate between real smoke and other factors that may activate false alarms, like steam or dust. This minimizes unnecessary disruptions and lets emergency response teams deal with real threats.

  • Customizable Alerts

Security cameras with smoke detection ability can be calibrated to share alerts to particular groups depending on the predefined criteria. For example, alerts may be sent to security personnel, fire departments, and the rest. By doing so, appropriate parties get notified quickly to intervene before things escalate. 

  • Cost-Effective Solution

Although smoke-detecting cameras have a high upfront cost, they can save money by reducing property damage and the spread of fires. The financial consequences of a fire outbreak, including legal liabilities and property loss or damage, may significantly outweigh the investment in preventive technology. 

  • Compliance and Regulations

Some regions have regulations and safety codes demanding the installation of smoke detection systems. Therefore, having security cameras with smoke detection capabilities may help you adhere to these requirements and maintain a safe space for occupants.

  • Prevention of Secondary Damage

Timely smoke and fire detection may aid in deterring secondary damage associated with fire-fighting efforts, like water damage from sprinkler systems. Early fire detection allows emergency response teams to take targeted actions to extinguish the flames, keeping collateral damage at bay.

  • Data and Insights

With a smoke detection camera, you can get valuable data and insights for post-incident assessment. Such information might help organizations to analyze response effectiveness, identify patterns, and improve emergency protocols or system configurations.

  • Deterring Vandalism

Beyond detecting smoke in a defined area, smoke detection cameras can deter vandalism. Their presence is enough to prevent criminals from performing malicious acts, promoting overall security.

Generally, the advantages of employing security cameras to detect smoke go beyond quick detection of fire. These cameras offer valuable data for analysis and promote a more secure environment for occupants.

Can Security Cameras See Smoke At Night? 

Some security cameras can see smoke at night, but in most cases, it depends on the camera’s capabilities and the challenges presented by low-light conditions. The following factors affect a security camera’s ability to see smoke in the dark:

  • Type of Camera

Each security camera has unique capabilities for detecting smoking at night. For example, thermal and infrared cameras excel in low-light conditions because they don’t depend on visible light to produce images. Instead, they identify infrared radiation. Such cameras can detect temperature differences triggered by smoke particles, making them a favorite option for detecting smoke at night.

  • Infrared Illumination

Some security cameras have built-in infrared illumination. Infrared light is invisible to the eye, but the camera’s sensor can detect it. When infrared illumination is used, it improves the camera’s ability to see smoke in total darkness, which can be handy for outdoor surveillance at night.

  • Night Vision Technology

Advanced security cameras come with night vision capabilities, which light up the scene with infrared light. This enables the security camera to capture images in low-light conditions. The success rate of night vision technology in sensing smoke is based on the camera’s sensitivity to temperature variances triggered by smoke particles. 

  • Camera Sensitivity

The sensitivity of a security camera’s sensor to low-light levels influences its potential to capture smoke. If the camera has a high sensitivity, it may detect subtle temperature changes initiated by smoke particles, even at night.

  • Smoke Density

High smoke concentration is likely to block light, making it challenging for cameras to notice it on time, even with advanced technology. Less dense smoke can enable cameras to detect some degree of smoke.

  • Camera Placement

Your security camera should be installed in the appropriate location to facilitate effective smoke detection in the dark. The camera must be strategically positioned to see the area of interest, reducing obstacles that could interfere with smoke detection.

  • Environmental Factors

Dynamic stresses such as fog or rain may impair the camera’s ability to see smoke at night. These elements can interact with visible and infrared light, affecting the camera’s output.

How Far Can Security Cameras See At Night? 

Security cameras can see nearly 30m at night, but the actual coverage depends on the camera model. Advanced cameras with thermal imaging can see greater distances than traditional cameras with infrared LEDs.

Low-cost cameras lack night vision. Some models have infrared LEDs that allow them to see in the dark, but the range of such cameras is relatively low, meaning the quality of nighttime surveillance would be low.

High-quality cameras have higher resolutions, thermal imaging, and reliable recording. Such cameras have the best night vision and produce the most detailed recordings. Despite a slight price increase, the outcomes are immediately noticeable.

Now, let’s unfold how cameras see at night.

Security cameras deploy thermal imaging systems or infrared emitters to operate at night. Let’s discuss the two options:

  • Infrared Lights

Some security cameras have night vision, which is facilitated by infrared lights. You can notice them by the red lights surrounding the camera’s lens. These emitters generate infrared lights, which are invisible to the human eye but assist the camera in capturing clear images in the dark.

Generally, infrared waves have a limited wavelength, which is why cameras with low-quality infrared emitters cannot see far at night. Also, if the security camera only comes with a few emitters, the image will be poor in low-light conditions, even if it has a good range.

  • Thermal Imaging

Unlike active infrared emitters, thermal imaging systems are passive. They don’t actively emit IR radiation, but they detect heat signals that object release to see at night. Thermal imaging cameras do not need additional lighting to generate images in the dark.

Thermal imaging security cameras are suitable for long-range surveillance at night. So if clarity and range are essential considerations for purchasing a surveillance system, thermal imaging systems perform admirably. 

What Factors Affect How Far Security Cameras See At Night? 

The field of view of security cameras depends on the lens’s focal length, its resolution, and other factors, which we will unfold in the guide below:

  • Focal Length

The quality of a security camera is determined by the lens powering it. The lens’s focal length determines the range the security camera can see. A longer focal length translates to a narrower field of view, while a shorter one accounts for a wider field of view.

The focal length is expressed in millimeters and is divided into two: variable and fixed focal length. Variable focal length cameras can adjust the view to a broader or narrow coverage by turning a screw on the camera.

  • Resolutions

Resolution is primarily used to establish how crisp and detailed the final image will be. It is defined in terms of ‘pixels per distance.’ For instance, security camera manufacturers define resolution using terms like 720P, 1080P, and 4K.

High-definition quality begins from 720P and goes up to 4K HD resolution, which supports up to 8x the number of pixels in 720P. For security cameras to have better night vision, illumination is combined with a high-resolution lens. This means that a higher resolution creates better image quality.

  • Camera Placement

A camera’s field of view can be affected by mounting height, angle, and placement. The final picture will be whitewashed if visible light shines directly on the camera lens. It would be better to install the security camera a bit high or as the manufacturer recommends, as long as no other factor affects the footage.

  • Camera Quality and Design

A security camera’s quality is essential for determining the field of view. Noise suppression, chip types, compression ratios, and backlight compensation all determine the quality of the final image. If you appreciate nighttime surveillance, choose a security camera with features that assist the lens in creating detailed and clear images. 

Note: Security cameras can see greater distances at night, assuming they are built as such. Those models with a high-quality sensor, lens, and resolution can take on the job with relative ease. 


As mentioned earlier, security cameras can help homeowners and business owners fend off crime. Their presence alone discourages would-be burglars from entering your property and getting away with valuable belongings. But… 

Can Security Cameras See Smoke? 

Some security cameras can see smoke, but their ability is based on the type of camera, lighting conditions, smoke density, and so on. Traditional security cameras face limitations in detecting smoke effectively. Fortunately, advanced security cameras can overcome these limitations by relying on infrared radiation and heat signatures.

Additionally, technological advancements keep pushing the limits of what security cameras can accomplish. Innovations like infrared illumination and night vision capabilities improve security camera’s ability to capture images in smoky environments and other challenging conditions. With such innovations, you can be confident of the safety and security of your property.

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