Home security cameras have advanced a lot in recent times. They are more affordable, are available in both wireless and wired versions, and connect to the internet, allowing you to monitor your home from anywhere.
Most security system users endeavor to understand how these surveillance devices operate and their benefits. Moreover, technological advancements allow the cameras to see farther and deeper with crisp clarity. Some of them can even record crystal-clear audio from impressive distances.
But still, homeowners always question security cameras’ capabilities and limitations, especially at night since it’s when burglars are at ‘work.’ So, let’s address the distance security cameras see at night.
Generally, security cameras can see ten to 30 meters at night. But this distance varies depending on several factors and the device’s model. For instance, professional security cameras using thermal imaging see farther than those with active infrared LEDs.
Conversely, most low-cost cameras do not have night vision since only a few brands add infrared LEDs. But their range is relatively low, making the surveillance quality at night still poor.
So, consider high-quality security cameras for reliable recording, thermal imaging, and better resolutions at night. Even better, these cameras see farthest at night, guaranteeing vivid footage.
This write-up gives a detailed assessment of home security cameras, how they function, and various guidelines to ensure maximum property protection. Moreover, we’ll discuss some frequently asked questions to clear any doubts.
What Is Security Camera
Security cameras are video recording devices capturing footage of your property and home. Further, they allow you to view these recordings on a tablet, smartphone, or computer remotely using an internet connection.
These security gadgets are motion activated, meaning they record after detecting movement and deliver an alert to your smart devices. Better still, some security cameras deliver continuous video recording (CVR) and record 24/7.
Generally, a security camera guarantees home security and peace of mind. As a homeowner, you’ll monitor your property, knowing about particular incidences or seeing who’s standing at the front door.
We have two dominant types of security cameras: Wired and Wireless.
1. Wired Security Cameras
These home surveillance units need physical wiring to an on-site video storage gadget, either a digital or network video recorder. Each camera uses a running cable from a local storage device for footage transmission and power supply.
Although wired home security cameras do not use WI-Fi, you can connect them to the internet using an Ethernet cable, which allows you to view the recording remotely.
In addition, since the cameras do not depend on Wi-Fi or an internet connection, they use a wired data connection to communicate with DVRs and NVRs.
A digital video recorder (DVR) receives data from the camera for processing, whereas a network video recorder (NVR) processes it directly on the camera. Further, NVRs are a newer system, and DVRs are gradually phasing out.
Wired security cameras are suitable for homeowners who want reliable systems. They eliminate connectivity problems and improve the signal’s speed. Also, a wired connection is three times faster than a wireless one.
The system always has a secure signal for transferring recordings to an NVR or DVR and then to the internet. Therefore, you’ll not experience signal deterioration or loss of Wi-Fi strength over long distances.
These cameras also remain online during power outages, thanks to backup batteries. In addition, they cannot be hacked like their wireless counterparts despite using an internet connection.
2. Wireless Security Cameras
These devices are often called ‘smart cameras’ as you can control them with a smartphone app and integrate them into smart home accessories and systems like Amazon Alexa, smart locks, lights, speakers, and Google Assistant.
Wireless security cameras transmit surveillance footage to cloud-based servers over the internet. Besides, they communicate via Wi-Fi with the home security’s base station or router. As a result, you can view the recording on any internet-connected gadget.
Interestingly, most wireless cameras are not ‘wireless’ as they need a power cable to connect to AC power. However, some use rechargeable batteries instead to eliminate inconveniences caused by inconsistent power supplies.
Some wireless security cameras examine the footage and give insights, such as whether you have a package at the front door or a person or animal is moving in your backyard.
The wireless system also uses a bridge or hub plugging into an internet modem to connect the cameras. In addition, some cameras use Bluetooth to communicate with your tablet or phone during the setup.
Wi-Fi provides the cameras with a direct internet connection to the cloud-based storage system. Hence, when the cameras are triggered, they record while sending the footage to the cloud.
As such, you’ll still access the footage even if a burglar snags the camera. Besides, cloud storage allows you to watch live or recorded footage remotely on any internet-connected device.
Unfortunately, although a Wi-Fi security camera is easy to use, it needs a strong and stable Wi-Fi network. Thus, it may not be the best for a home with multiple cameras. But you can invest in high-quality routers and high-speed connections for optimal results.
The camera is also susceptible to hacking and image distortion with interference from other devices. So, having strong passwords and ensuring consistent device connection is advisable.
How Do Security Cameras Work at Night?
Home security cameras use infrared emitters or thermal imaging technology to see in the dark. Further, infrared waves from IR devices have a shorter wavelength than thermal imagers, which operate passively. Subsequently, the latter see farther and are not compromised by reflected lights.
Let’s look at both alternatives keenly.
- Infrared Lights
Some security cameras use infrared (IR) technology to work at night. Further, looking at devices with night vision capability, you’ll notice multiple small light-emitting diodes (LEDs) surrounding the unit. These LEDs emit infrared light at night, allowing the camera to see in darkness.
Infrared light is invisible to human eyes, so trespassers cannot notice the camera’s activation. The light has a lower frequency and longer wavelength than visible light, meaning that even though the camera emits light to take clear pictures, the monitored area remains dark.
These security cameras are also referred to as vision cameras. They see in the dark and give images at night. However, these images are in black and white, as it is impossible to capture true-color pictures. In addition, color varies depending on the light’s wavelength the person or object is exposed to.
Usually, the camera’s lux figure tells you how well it can see in the dark. This setting indicates how much light the device needs to give a good-quality image. Thus, the lower the lux figure, the lower the amount of light the camera needs.
Night vision infrared security cameras see in total darkness, meaning you’ll often see a 0.0 lux figure.
Alternatively, check how many LEDs are built into the camera. The more the LEDs, the further the device will see. But remember, you may not necessarily want long-range surveillance, especially when monitoring an area close to your home, such as a garage or porch.
- Thermal Imaging
Security cameras also use thermal imaging to work at night. Unlike active infrared emitters, this technology is passive and does not actively transmit infrared radiation. Hence, the cameras do not need more lighting to give vivid images in the dark.
Cameras using thermal imaging technology are more effective for long-range night surveillance. Further, heat detection ranges from a few to hundreds of feet. Therefore, this system is perfect if clarity and range are a priority in a security unit.
What Factors Affect How Far Security Cameras See At Night?
Averagely, home security cameras see approximately ten to 50 meters at night. However, this night vision distance depends on a few variables, including the infrared sensor’s strength, the number of Light emitting diodes (LED) on the camera, and the camera’s quality.
Let’s look at each factor in detail for more insight.
1. Light-Emitting Diodes (LED)
These features are essential to night vision cameras as they use infrared light to record in the dark. Besides, they illuminate the field of view, allowing the device to capture the target.
Also, the benefit of LEDs is that this illumination is invisible to human eyes though we have a few types emitting a small red light that one can see. But generally, the camera goes undetected. Thus, the trespasser won’t know they are being recorded.
2. Infrared Sensor Strength
Most home security cameras use a passive infrared sensor to measure infrared light from objects in the monitored area. Further, this technology is considered passive as it does not radiate or generate energy for detection.
Infrared light has a 700-nanometer and one-millimeter wavelength range, which impacts the sensor. Hence, the closer the device is to the visible light, the shorter the distance your camera sees at night.
3. Camera Type
The infrared sensor type in your camera significantly affects its night vision. Currently, we have two dominant types of IR sensors: Passive and active. Also, each category provides different features and services, determining their efficacy.
All objects emit infrared radiation, known as a heat signature. So, the infrared camera detects and measures the object’s energy. Then, it converts this data into an electronic image showing the object’s surface temperature.
Furthermore, passive infrared sensors detect electromagnetic radiation depending on the medium propagating it. Therefore, energy exceeding a specific limit triggers the camera to start recording.
4. Security Camera Quality
Cameras with the best quality have excellent, modern, and updated features to deliver better footage. Consequently, you are sure of smooth, effective surveillance or monitoring in the dark.
In addition, all security cameras are not equal, requiring you to be curious and meticulous when getting one. Thus, get the device from reputable and top brands, and ensure it meets your home security needs and preferences.
5. Camera’s Resolution
It is crucial for your surveillance cameras to see at night, but it does not end there. The device should see clearly and capture quality footage. Otherwise, it will be useless to have footage, but you can’t interpret it due to poor quality.
Therefore, consider high-resolution features, not just the camera’s cost and brand. In addition, today, HD cameras are more affordable, and you can get 4MP, 5MP, and 4K systems for vivid surveillance.
6. Focal Length
This feature refers to the camera lens’s size and determines how far the device will see. We measure the focal length in millimeters and classify it into fixed and variable focal lengths.
Fixed focal length is found in the security camera’s fixed lenses, whereas the variable focal length is in varifocal IP cameras. Further, the larger the focal length, the narrower the field of view, and the smaller the range, the more extensive the view is.
This factor significantly determines your security camera’s field of view at night. Your device won’t serve the purpose if it has the perfect resolution and focal length but a limited view.
A wall or tree obstructing the device’s view affects its field of view, compromising its judgment, especially at night. Therefore, ensure the unit’s location is free of obstructions.
Moreover, the direct light glare affects the camera’s field of view at night. So, choose the most suitable position to guarantee a wider field of view and keep it away from other home lights.
What Sets Off Security Cameras?
Most security cameras are set off by passive infrared radiation or night vision. The sensor detects movement from warm objects or a significant temperature differential between the background seen and the object. Then, it signals the camera to start recording and alerts the user.
Alternatively, the camera’s software may analyze sequential live video frames for variances and register motion events after detecting significant changes. Further, more advanced features can be added to the system to classify the moving object.
Unfortunately, the security camera may respond to false triggers, leading to unnecessary activations and nuisance alarms.
Below are some practical measures to mitigate the issue.
- Integrate the security camera with alarms and set motion detection sensitivity and monitored zone to match them with your situation.
- Always keep the camera’s batteries fully charged since low voltage can lead to erratic operation. Also, replace them periodically.
- Correctly position security cameras. For instance, keep Wi-Fi and PoE security cameras with alarms away from cooling and heating vents or entry points, such as windows and doors.
- Install dual-technology security cameras with motion alarms. They combine various sensing technology, such as microwave and passive infrared sensors, into one detector, reducing false triggers.
- Teach all home users how security cameras with alarms work to avoid false set-offs due to human errors.
How Do You Tell If a Security Camera Is Watching You?
Sometimes you are unsure whether your security camera records occurrences as expected. Or you’re in a facility and want to know whether the device is on. Here are various simple ways to check whether a security camera is watching you.
1. Check the LEDs’ Status in IP Security Cameras
If it is an infrared IP device, you’ll see small red lights around the camera’s lens in the dark. This makes it easy to tell whether the gadget has night vision.
Also, you can use a cover or book to block light falling on the security camera. If the lights turn red, the gadget is on.
2. Use Electronic Bug Detectors
Most security cameras produce a balanced signal if they are on or operational. The signal refers to a video frequency converted for transmission with a medium other than a coaxial cable.
Further, IP security cameras transmit higher energy radiation in their prescribed range. So, you can use an electronic bug detector to check its status.
3. Observe Whether the Security Camera is Moving
Installing a pan tilt type camera rotates the camera continuously when it is on. Moreover, you’ll hear a distinct buzz and see the device moving if you set up the tour or patrol function on the pan-tilt IP camera.
4. Log In to the Security Camera Software
Log into the device’s software to confirm you can view the live streaming. This way, you can tell whether the camera is on and working.
For instance, turn on the monitor to check whether the IP camera records videotape. If the footage shows up correctly, the device is on. If not, the camera or cable has an issue.
5. Check the Camera’s Validity and Power Indicator
Lastly, identify whether the device is real or fake, as fake devices will never be on. Also, check its power indicator to know if the camera is operational or connected to Wi-Fi properly.
Can a Laser Pointer Disable a Security Camera?
A laser pointer can disable your home security camera. But only if it is powerful enough. In addition, the device’s power is limited to one milliwatt, so disabling a camera is difficult.
Still, a powerful laser pointer aimed at the camera’s lens can cause damage and disable it. Remember, although damaging a security camera with a laser pointer is difficult, it is not impossible. Worse still, a high-powered laser can fog the camera lens or even break it.
Laser pointers’ classification is based on output, with most security cameras withstanding class one and two lasers without damage. However, always get a pointer with a lower classification, such as class 3R, when concerned about your camera’s safety.
Generally, Class 3R lasers are more harmful than Class 3B ones but are still safe to use with most security cameras. But they’ll cause significant damage to the sensor, lens, or CCD/CMOS image array when directed at the camera for an extended duration.
Usually, laser points are used in presentations to highlight specific points. You may not know that they are also used to disable security cameras. Furthermore, infrared lasers are the most common types effective in the task.
The devices emit a light wavelength that is invisible to human eyes but visible to the camera’s lens. Then, this light hits the lens and disperses, creating a glare that prevents the camera from capturing the intruder.
To prevent this occurrence, many security systems have infrared lenses. The features prevent burglars from directly targeting the camera’s lens and blinding it, making it hard to disable the security system.
Alternatively, you can place your camera in a high position or use more cameras in difficult-to-reach areas. Or install infrared filters or Pan-Tilt-Zoom security cameras, which move constantly.
Below is a summary of how to protect your cameras from being disabled by laser pointers.
- Maintain a high camera position to make it difficult to aim or reach.
- Install Pan-Tilt-Zoom security cameras to make tracking more challenging.
- Use more cameras in a zone to apprehend individuals disabling the system.
- Install infrared filters on your security unit.
- Use a program that alerts you and dispatches security when the camera is disabled.
Can Security Cameras Hear Conversations?
Security cameras can hear conversations. They have built-in microphones that are sensitive enough to pick up movement and sound within the monitoring zones. Besides, IP cameras record both audio and video.
Fully integrated security cameras have external microphones to capture audio. Further, you can use hybrid coaxial cables to transfer audio to a digital video recorder or an Ethernet cable to take it to a network video recorder.
Although IP cameras can record audio, you can turn the feature on and off. In addition, we have a few methods to help determine whether your camera can record audio. They include
1. Overt Speaker
This check is the most useful if you have IP security cameras, i.e., consumer-grade devices functioning via Wi-Fi. Besides, these cameras share similar design attributes, and most with audio have an overt speaker at the back.
Although the placement varies, it could be the camera’s underside or on top. So, look around carefully. However, you’ll find it at the back of the device for the most part.
2. Serial Number
Conventional cameras with audio, like those in public areas, prove more challenging to determine whether they can record. Worse still, they do not have apparent parts like speakers on them.
These security cameras may not have native audio functions. Hence, turning to google is the easiest way to tell whether you are being recorded. Moreover, you will find the device’s serial number on a sticker on its underside.
This sticker is easy to spot for mounted cameras. So, check it out and quickly search whether the device has an audio recording.
3. Single Small Hole
Some camera speakers are more subtle than others, or the unit may be impossible to see. Check for a single hole, usually smaller than a pinhead, for your assessment.
In addition, if you do not see a ‘reset’ print on the hole, most likely, it is the camera’s microphone. Also, remember microphones are not always in the same place as speakers. And you’ll mostly find them near the lens.
4. DVR/NVR Connections
The security camera’s connection types determine whether it has audio recording capabilities. After all, the microphone should be well-concealed if hidden surveillance is the user’s goal.
On the other hand, wires are not easy to conceal, especially thick coaxial cables. Hence, you’ll notice them being fed where the camera is recording.
You can rest assured that cameras with ordinary cables have no audio recording. However, Ethernet cables used alongside network video recorders can transfer audio. Besides, they are thinner and easy to hide when you want to capture verbal communication.
5. External Microphones
Look for external microphones if you cannot find the camera’s serial number. Often, conventional security cameras interfacing with network and digital video recorders do not have native audio support.
Furthermore, although you can use hybrid connections to facilitate audio capabilities, you’ll have to record audio separately if the camera lacks built-in microphones.
The microphone is usually smaller, box-shaped, or spherical. It looks like a small stick at the wire’s end, which can be taped to the camera’s body. Thus, if you see something like a miniature smoke alarm with popping wires, the unit has an external microphone.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How Many Feet Can My Security Camera See?
Your security camera should see anywhere from 30 to 100 feet. But remember, the gadget’s ability depends on its resolution, sensor, lens, distance, focal length, and build quality. In addition, professional surveillance cameras see father than low-quality ones with cheap sensors.
Determine how you want to use the camera and your desired technical specifications before settling on one. Further, cameras with quality sensors, a higher resolution, and thermal imaging are perfect for night vision but cost more.
- Will My Security Camera Work If Someone Shines a Blinding Light?
Security cameras are up for the challenge in most scenarios. Besides, advanced technology allows and is programmed to resist this outdated strategy. Therefore, a night vision-equipped camera detects this occurrence and remains on and recording.
Most cameras can also auto-adjust to sudden lighting changes, such as dawn and dusk. Moreover, these settings work best when it’s difficult for the system to determine the best lighting conditions.
As a result, your device will adjust and switch between normal and night modes with the corresponding time of the day and changing outdoor lighting.
- Will My Security Cameras See in the Dark?
Security cameras see in the dark depending on the system’s design. For instance, infrared technology devices use an IR emitter to shine infrared light over the area surrounding the lens. This way, they illuminate the area and produce bright images.
Also, if your surveillance cameras use thermal imaging to pick up heat signals, they’ll see at night.
Remember, cameras can monitor in total darkness if their emitters illuminate the monitored space effectively. In addition, infrared lights are invisible to the human eye. Hence, you can only judge proper functioning through the camera’s footage.
- How Do I Improve Security Camera Night Vision?
The best way to enhance your camera’s night vision is by improving the lighting near it. Also, adding a light near the device provides enough light to emulate daytime lighting. Therefore, you expect higher-quality recordings and images.
The security camera can be a low-cost LED bulb or a commercial flood light. But remember, adding light to the system increases your monthly energy bills, making it more pricey.
Alternatively, you can purchase a camera with an attached lighting system. Besides, we have several security cameras with pre-installed light that triggers when they detect movement.
- What is the Smallest Thing a Security Camera Can See at Night?
A night vision security camera can see any object with a heat signature, including rats, mice, and other rodents. However, it can only capture clear images if there is enough difference in the device’s field of view.
The operation may also depend on the distance between the object and the camera, the device type, and the environment. Therefore, consider spy cameras for indoor applications and tail ones for outdoor use to spot rodents and small animals.
Believe it or not, home security cameras can work 24/7, day and night. Better still, they can see far and clearly in the dark with a high-quality lens, resolution, sensors, and perfect installation.
As a result, surveillance cameras, especially those using infrared and thermal imaging technology, guarantee maximum home security and peace of mind. You do not have to worry about unwanted guests at night.
However, most times, you’ll need to compromise on some camera specifications to monitor the farthest viewpoints: which is okay as long as the recording is usable. But learning more about security cameras and how they function at night is prudent. So, read the above discourse for more insight and better decision-making.
Distance Security Cameras See at Night
In most scenarios, security cameras see and capture clear images up to 30 meters at night. However, the recording may be black and white for most infrared cameras. Moreover, the camera’s efficacy depends on its resolution, sensor, lens, and lighting conditions.
Therefore, you are only sure that the surveillance devices can see at night using thermal imaging technology. In addition, adequate lighting may grab quality footage up to 50 feet.