External IR Illuminator Usage Statistics 2016

By: Brian Karas, Published on Aug 10, 2016

External IR illuminators have historically been favored by many to improve video surveillance performance. But with integrated IR camera usage now dominate, external IR has become much more of a niche option.

In this report, we review new statistics gathered from our 2016 integrator survey on IR and low light video surveillance.

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Comments (33)

[Poster is the CEO of an external illuminator company.]

There are a lot of benefits to using a separate infrared. Sadly, the industry has dictated that poor quality video is "good enough".

Education is key to understanding the differences between a camera with integrated infrared and an external infrared.

Why is the security industry the only industry that accepts poor quality video as video that is "good enough"? Poor quality video/photos are not acceptable to professional photographers, the broadcast industry, and even photos and videos for our own personal use when taking family photos, selfies, etc.

Separate infrared also helps increase bandwidth, keeps bugs away and spiders from building webs on the lens of the camera. The external LED illuminator also has a longer life span, offers longer distances (more true to spec) and more flexible fields of view to match the field of view of the lens on the camera to eliminate hot spots.

If you need something short range, cameras with built in infrared is an acceptable choice. For your more professional, outdoor, and high end applications where your client is serious about security and actually want to identify perpetrators, do yourself, and your client, a favor and offer a separate LED illuminator for best performance.

Iluminar offers a free 30 minute WebEx on the how's and why's of CCTV lighting.

Why is the security industry the only industry that accepts poor quality video as video that is "good enough"?

People in all fields accept things that are 'good enough' for their needs and the cost incurred.

What people are saying is that the free IR illumination provided by camera manufacturers generally provides more value than the additional cost of adding in external IR which is, now, often more expensive than the camera itself.

We do our own testing and get feedback from integrators every month but poor integrated IR is just not a major pain point.

"Separate infrared also helps increase bandwidth"

Thats a selling point?

I understand what you are saying John, however, if the people are not educated on what good video quality should look like, they wouldn't know poor integrated IR to be a major pain point.

When I do my PowerPoint presentations and trainings worldwide on what quality video should look like the participants are truly amazed.

There's not been one person that I've encountered that was not impressed and shocked at how much better their video quality could be.

This is the same reason Iluminar has technology partnerships with the majority of the camera manufacturers.

There's not been one person that I've encountered that was not impressed and shocked at how much better their video quality could be.

Share your evidence.

We test many many cameras, with IR, without, we tested cheap external IR illuminators, we tested Raytec's Vario, etc.

I do not see how shockingly better external IR is. Indeed, because the IR is not integrated into the camera, and the camera can not immediately / dynamically control, it can often be worse than integrated IR cameras that have smart / dynamic IR.

It is easy to say that people don't buy one's product because they are educated, but we are a testing / research / training organization and we simply do not see it.

To be clear, I am not saying there is never a reason or use for external IR, but the benefits of external IR vs their cost and own drawbacks are generally not enough to justify selecting them.

The evidence is on our website:

http://iluminarinc.com/gallery.php

Also, in the free 30 minute WebEx I have a photo that was sent to me from a client that shows the difference in picture quality. The integrated IR has a hot spot in the middle with dark edges, whereas the separate infrared, when specified correctly, has the whole scene evenly lit up with no hot spots.

Just let me know when you are available John and I'll be happy to go over more photos and share more information with you.

Lighting is what I do for a living and have been selling it for over 16 years now.

Have a great day!

Edwina curious, do you think integrated IR is an especially useful feature on high-end PTZ?

Some of the newer models are providing 300m or greater of illumination now, which is certainly an improvement.

Mainly, the whole thing of moving the lens with the illuminator and focusing the IR as the lens is focused, seems to have a lot going for it.

How do you get better illumination externally, do you blanket every thing 360 in IR or do you have external illuminatiors on a synchronized PTZ mount, or ?

I always feel that having stagnant infrared to blanket an area is the best solution. The performance of the infrared is better long term.

Too many moving parts and pieces can break and there is no where for the heat of the LED's and camera components to dissapate, when you have an integrated infrared camera so the LED's will die faster. Check the warranty, specifically, of the moving parts of the infrared. From my experience the moving infrared parts only have a one year warranty

You will also have the issue of insects being attracted to the camera and spiders bundling webs onto the lens.

From my experience the moving infrared parts only have a one year warranty

That's generally not the case.

For example, here is Hikvision's RMA / warranty doc explicitly covering IR cameras for 3 years.

And camera warranty's do have exceptions (the most common being PTZs on tours) but, at best, excluding or limiting warranty for IR cameras is not the norm.

when you have an integrated infrared camera so the LED's will die faster.

You will also have the issue of insects being attracted to the camera and spiders bundling webs onto the lens.

But let's be realistic here. Integrated IR camera use has exploded. As our stats show, integrated IR has become the norm now. If insects was such a fatal issue, this would not be the case. And we are not hearing many failure reports of camera IR LEDs.

Not shocked to see Hikvision used as an example.

The warranty on the infrared on the Hikvision camera is 3 years, but what is the warranty on the moving parts that fluctuates the light with the field of view of the lens of the camera.

Yes, integrated IR cameras have exploded. Again, people are not educated on using an external IR so they take the simple route and purchase cameras with infrared built in. Customers know that the cameras need lighting, but are unaware as to how, or afraid, to use an external lighting source.

People are free to use whatever they want. I want to make people aware that they have a different option than just cameras with lighting built in for better performance, better quality video, more flexibility of lighting with their applications and the longevity of the LED's.

We also offer white light illuminators if you'd like to see your video at night in color, light up and area for safety or use white light as a deterrent.

The Hik warranty is "bumper to bumper" as they say.

I understand your bias towards external IR, since your job is to market such devices. Just don't be so hurt that others who don't share the same motivations aren't in agreement.

There are times and places for any given product. I would just say that 99% of the time, integrated IR is going to be good enough.

As a counter argument, one could argue that every single camera sold should be a PTZ. Then you wouldn't have to worry about zoom and focus at install. It would be true, just as your external IR story has merit, it just wouldn't be necessarily prudent all the time.

Yes, integrated IR cameras have exploded.

Evidence? You continue to make strong claims without any links to supporting evidence, save for your 30 minutes 'education' / sales pitch.

Considering there are tens of millions of integrated IR cameras sold yearly, lots of things are possible. But to imply that integrated IR cameras have any regular risk of exploding is silly, at best.

[Update: When Edwina said, 'Yes, integrated IR cameras have exploded.' I now believe that she meant their 'usage', not that the cameras have exploded.]

And I take objection to your sales tacit of "people are not educated on using an external IR", which is a way of saying that we are ignorant and you, the external IR salesperson, knows the truth.

Our team has been using and testing external and integrated IR for a long time, at IPVM and previously when we were integrators. It may feel better to dismiss those that disagree with you are not educated but it ignores the reality.

Again, there's certainly a role for external IR. We are not making the case for no external IR. But the reality is integrated IR has gotten (1) very inexpensive, (2) very widely available and (3) in some higher end cameras, quite good. All of this has pushed external IR in to a niche.

Hi John,

I guess I don't know what kind of evidence you are looking for. Iluminar has been around since 2007. Our products have been installed on 6 continents. I can't always say where they are installed due to the confidentiality of the application and the organization that is using our lights.

I'm not trying talk down to anyone by saying they are not educated on the how's and why's of external lighting. I apologize if I come off this way. What I'd like is for the surveillance installers and specifiers to take a look at our products, to help take the mystery and fear out of the external lighting sourcea and let thwm know they have choices.

My background in the industry was a sales systems integrator ,in the late 1990's, before I started working for a manufacturer selling lighting, OEM'ed by Rainbiw CCTV, but made by Extreme CCTV in 2000. We also sold cameras with infrared built in and external light fixtures.

Again, these integratrd types of cameras have their place for small applications and discerning budgets.

You have been condescending the whole time here. Just so you are aware.

Us installers are well aware of the existence of external IR. It's not some secret that only you are privy to. We know it's likely better than integrated IR in most circumstances. It's just that, in most cases, the delta between integrated IR and external IR can't be justified by the cost.

Installing external IR adds:

1) Cost of IR fixture

2a) Additional power source, if not PoE

2b) Additional switch port and budget, if PoE

3) Additional labor to install it

4) Another item to purchase and stock

5) Another item to warranty

Again, I wasn't trying to be condescending. Just sharing my experience of working as an integrator and working for a manufacturer that sold integrated cameras.

Again, as I myself learned, education is key. I'd like to offer you our PPT presentation so you can have more knowledge under your belt so when an opportunity presents itself you will ready.

Iluminar clientele is not for everyone. If the client has issues adding the materials you list above then that client may not be s suitable client for Iluminar.

Iluminar does offer a lower cost light in our product line (OPTO) line for clients that have tight budget but want external lighting. These products are made in the far East and have a one to two year warranty.

Iluminar has been around since 2007.

I am not questioning your knowledge of external IR illuminators.

I am claiming that you have a very poor understanding of how integrated IR cameras work today. I am not sure if it is bias because you sell a competing product or just lack of experience, but your comments here about integrated IR flaws are either way overstated or wrong (e.g., your warranty assertion).

Integrated IR cameras have gotten a lot better in the past few years (we test them monthly) and you would be wise to factor that in.

I always feel that having stagnant infrared to blanket an area is the best solution.

For a 360 PTZ with 36x zoom, that's a pretty big blanket, no?

Even then, why wouldn't objects in the near field, (when coming into frame), be overexposed by the powerful but non-adaptive IR?

Good question. When the lighting is specified correctly, and you use a wide angle lens with a wide angle illuminator, this eliminates the hot spots because you want to match the field (angle) of the mm of the camera with the correct angle illuminator. Iluminar has a chart that has translated (mm to angle) that for you. We also have a product selector tab that lets you put in parameters of your scene and it'll tell you which illuminator fits your application.

I think this discussion has been great. These are the usual rebuttals, questions and concerns we get.

Thank you and have a great Sunday!

Match the field (angle) of the mm of the camera with the correct angle illuminator. Iluminar has a chart that has translated (mm to angle) that for you.

This chart is great but it's a little awkward to use while zooming.

Because you would have already specified and installed the light correctly so you don't have to adjust the light as the camera is moving. The light would just be there no matter where the camera is looking.

The light would just be there no matter where the camera is looking.

Are you going to have illuminatiors placed every 100 feet in an ever widening circle?

If not, why don't you think the illumination that is necessary for a bright image at 500' won't be over-exposed at 50'?

We'll just agree to disagree, John.

If folks that are selling/installing video surveillance want to offer the best video quality possible, and not something that is just ok or "good enough", please contact Iluminar Inc (www.iluminarinc.com) and we can help you give your clients the best video quality with video/photos they can use to help identify the perpetrator in case of an incident.

Isn't that the main reason your clients are installing video surveillance?

These kinds of conversations are good to have!

Thanks John!

If I followed your logic, I would also insist on every single camera being an Avigilon Pro 30MP.

Take a guess at how long I would remain in business?

Not sure what you mean Jon.

Iluminar lights work very well with Avigilon cameras!

People that are using HIK aren't necessarily Iluminar clientele because they are focused on low pricing and video that is good enough. Iluminar has given free demo units, in the past, to HIK RSM's for them to take out in the field with them to use as demos with the HIK camera.

Below is a link of an interview I did with Chuck Harold, the Security Radio Guy.

Take a look when you get a chance. This will shed some light for you.

https://youtu.be/RTw5A6quM3g

If HIK is your camera of choice, then no external lighting products will fit your application due to budget.

And to answer your question earlier, saving bandwidth is a huge selling tool. Again, it depends on the cameras you are using. These are for mainly high end applications.

For high end applications using an external light for video clarity and saving bandwidth are major factors when choosing their surveillance system for the best performance of the video and saving on storage.

Is this guy seriously trolling us? I have my guard down on professional oriented sites like this.

In case you are being sincere, and at the risk of feeding trolls, let me walk you down this path one more time.

It is your opinion that every camera needs external IR. You say it's necessary for the best quality, regardless of how decent integrated IR is.

Under that logic, the 4MP cameras we currently sell are not as good as a 30MP Avigilon Pro. So we shouldn't sell a single 4MP camera when its obvious that 30MP is better.

"Is this guy seriously trolling us?"

I'm assuming you are going with definition #2 when you say 'guy' :)

Lol my B. I generally read comments in email form. In that form, the font is very small for the persons name. I never even looked at HER name close enough to know better. I guess this just reinforces the stigma of lack of women working in the industry. Maybe we just notice them.

If I followed your logic, I would also insist on every single camera being an Avigilon Pro 30MP.

Take a guess at how long I would remain in business?

Not long, unless you're from Bronxville. :)

Not sure about your experience with Avigilon, however, Iluminar has been in business since 2009 and I've been selling lighting worldwide since 2000. Education is key and learning how to specify lighting correctly helps.

No sure where the disconnect is.

I did admit that integrated infrared cameras are good for certain applications. People that are looking for simple low cost solutions, this type of product is good for them.

For higher end applications, where clarity is key, this is where an separate illuminator where the field of the lens on the camera matches the field of view of illuminator gives best performance.

I'm aware of the new and improved integrated cameras that are out on the market today, however, external lighting still gets the best performance and a longer warranty.

Again, to each is own. You are free to use what you like and what you are comfortable with.

Have a great Sunday!

Thanks for pointing out that I'm a woman and not a troll. Lol!

I love external IR. Longer range, no chance of dome flare, better aiming options, no bugs. What's not to love? That said, I've 2 jobs in 2016 where we've used them, one with Raytec Vario IP and one with $100 LTS versions. I've tried many, many other times, but it just isn't usually in the budget.

Thanks for your input with your personal experience Joseph Parker.

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