How to Measure IR Illumination

Author: John Honovich, Published on Feb 15, 2012

Using IR for night time surveillance is a popular choice. The added non visible light can improve image quality when ambient street or visible lighting is absent. However, adding the right amount of IR light can be challenging. Add too much and the scene is over exposed. Add too little and the scene is still too dark. Measuring IR illumination is a useful way to get it just right and to identify invisible problems. In this report, we explain how to do so.

The Typical Approach

Typically, when you want to choose IR illumination, you look at a manufacturer's specification for maximum distance and beamwidth. The maximum distance indicates how far you can 'see' from the illuminator while the maximum beamwidth signifies how wide you can view (e.g., 10 degrees, 30 degrees, etc.)

The challenge in those numbers, like camera manufacturer minimum illumination ratings, are hard to use and compare. They are not standardized or vetted. The specified levels may not match actual performance plus comparing different manufacturers based on specs is unlikely to be accurate.

Day Time Approach

During the day or with conventional camera setups, if you wanted to measure light levels, you would use a lux meter (and you should use a lux meter - see our tutorial on using lux meters). Knowing the exact (visible) light levels can really help knowing how well a camera will work in a given scene.

Unfortunately, 'regular' lux meters are not designed to measure IR illumination. If you have an IR illuminator on in the dark and hold up your 'regular' lux meter to it, it will likely register 0 - an unhelpful and misleading result.

Specialized Meters to Measure IR

Specialized meters do exist that measure IR light. The big downside is that these options are much more expensive (thousands of dollars) and scientific oriented.

We did find one that was relatively inexpensive (~$500) and field usable - the Coherent LaserCheck. We bought one and did a test. Here is a sample image of us demonstrating it.

Inside, we provide two video screencasts showing how to use this meter in action and how to best optimize your use of IR illumination.

***** ** *** ***** **** ************ ** * ******* ******. The ***** *** ******* ***** *** ******* ***** ******* **** ambient ****** ** ******* ******** ** ******. *******, ****** *** right ****** ** ** ***** *** ** ***********. *** *** much *** *** ***** ****** *******. *** *** ****** *** *** ***** ** ***** *** dark. ********* ** ************ ** * ****** *** ** *** it **** ***** *** ** ******** ********* ********. ** **** report, ** ******* *** ** ** **.

The ******* ********

*********, **** *** **** ** ****** ** ************, *** **** at * ************'* ************* *** ******* ******** *** *********. *** maximum ******** ********* *** *** *** *** '***' **** ******************* *** ******* ********* ********* *** **** *** *** **** (e.g., ** *******, ** *******, ***.)

*** ********* ** ***** *******, **** ****** ************ ******* ************ ratings, *** **** ** *** *** *******. **** *** *** standardized ** ******. *** ********* ****** *** *** ***** ****** performance **** ********* ********* ************* ***** ** ***** ** ******** to ** ********.

Day **** ********

****** *** *** ** **** ************ ****** ******, ** *** wanted ** ******* ***** ******, *** ***** *** * *** meter (*** *** ****** *** * *** ***** - *** our******** ** ***** *** ******). ******* *** ***** (*******) ***** ****** *** ****** **** knowing *** **** * ****** **** **** ** * ***** scene.

*************, '*******' *** ****** *** *** ******** ** ******* ** illumination. ** *** **** ** ** *********** ** ** *** dark *** **** ** **** '*******' *** ***** ** **, it **** ****** ******** * - ** ********* *** ********** result.

Specialized ****** ** ******* **

*********** ****** ** ***** **** ******* ** *****. *** *** downside ** **** ***** ******* *** **** **** ********* (********* of *******) *** ********** ********.

** *** **** *** **** *** ********** *********** (~$***) *** field ****** - *********** **********. ** ****** *** *** *** * ****. **** ** a ****** ***** ** ** ************* **.

******, ** ******* *** ***** *********** ******* *** ** *** this ***** ** ****** *** *** ** **** ******** **** use ** ** ************.

[***************]

Key *******

** *** ***** *******, *** ******* ***** ** ** ***** or ********* ***** ****** ******* ************ ***** ** ***** *-*. When ********* **, *** ****** **** ** **********/********** ******* ** uW/cm2. ** ****, **** ** *-* **/***.

** *** **** ************* **** **** * **/***, *** ****** will ****** ** ** *********** *****. ***** ** *** *********** like * ***'* ********. *** ** *********** ** ********* * narrowly ******* **** **** ** ** ******* **** ****. **** the **** ** *** ******** *** *** ******, *** ****** is *********** *****.

*** ***** ****** ** ***** **** ** ******* *** * camera ******* ** * ****** ** *******:

  • *** ****** ** ******* ***** (*.*., ** ** *.* *** or *.* *** ******* ***** - **** ******* *****, **** IR ******)
  • *** ******* ***** *********** ** * ****** (*.*., **** *** camera '****' ** '***' ** *** ***** ** *******)
  • *** ******'* ************** ** ** (***** ***** **** ******** ***** D/N *******)

*** ********, ******* **** ********* *** **** ** ****** ***** ************* **** **** ** ***** (****** ** *) ***** ***** that *** ****** ***** **** **** (****** ** *).

Practical **** ** ********* **

** *** ******* *** *****, ** ***** * ****** ** practical ******** ** ********* ** ************:

  • ************ ****** ***********:
  • ************ ** *********** ***********: ******* ******* *** **** ** ************ ** ********* ** a ******** ******** ** **** ****** **** **** * ************ specified *****. *** ********, ** *** **** ** *********** *** power ****** ** *** **** ** **** *.***/*** **** ***** much **** **** * *** **** ***** *************.
  • **********: ******* ** ***** ** *********, ** ** **** ** know **** ** ** ********* *******. *** *** **** ***** on * ******* *** ** ***** ** *** **** ******** to **** ** ******** ** ** ******** *** *********** (**** vertical *** ************).
  • ***********: **** ****, ***** ******* *** *******. ***** * ***** can **** ********* ** *** ** *********** ****** *** ******* out ** ********* ** ** ** ** * ****** ** a ******** ** ***** ****** **** *** *********** ** *** LEDs/illuminator ****.

Basic *****

** *** ***** *****, ** *********** *** *** ****** ** how ** ******* ** ************:


********

** **** *****, ** **** ** *** ** ***** *** meter ********* ********** *** ******* ************ ***** ** *******:

Image ******* **** ************

**** * **** ** *** ***** ***** *** * ****** IR ***********. *** ******* ** * **/*** ** ** **** from *** ****** *** ** ***********. *** ******* ** ******* overexposed ** ***** ** *** **** ** ************ *** **** camera's ***** *********** *** *** *****'* ***** *****. ****: **** not *** ******* **** ** *********** ** * **/***. *** instance, *** ****** **** **** ** *** ***** ***** ***** is ****** ** *** ***** **** ******* **. ** ********, an ******* *** ***** **** * **/*** ** **** ******* IR ************.

***, ** **** *** **** ****** **** *** ******* *** measurement ** *** ****. **** *** ** ************ ** **** to ****** * **/***. ****** *** ***** ** ****, *** subject ** ****** ****** ***********. *** ********* ******* ** **** the *** ** *** **** ** ******* **** *******. ** course, **** ***** ** ******** ** ********* *** ******'* ***.

Example ** ******* ** *****

**** ****** ************* **** ******** ******* ********* ******* **** ***** in ** **** ************* ****** ***** ****** *****. **** ********* the ************ ******* ** ****** ** *** **** *******. ** this ******* **** *****, ** ***** *** *** ****** *********** adjusts *** ** ***** ****** ** ******** *** ***** ***** for *** *******'* ******** ** *** *****.

** ** *** **** *** **** **** ***** *** *** showing **** ********* ** ********* *** ********* ** ********** *** output ***** ** ****** ****** ******** ** ******** **** ***** IR.

Login to read this IPVM report.
Why do I need to log in?
IPVM conducts unique testing and research funded by member's payments enabling us to offer the most independent, accurate and in-depth information.

Related Reports

Xiongmai New Critical Vulnerability - Same Manufacturer Whose Products Drove Mirai Botnet Attacks on Dec 12, 2017
The Chinese manufacturer whose products were primarily responsible for the 2016 Mirai botnet attack has a new critical vulnerability, confirmed by...
Access Controller Software Guide on Dec 11, 2017
Properly configuring access controllers software is key to a professional access system. These devices have fundamental settings that must be...
2018 Video Surveillance Cameras Overview on Dec 11, 2017
This report concisely explains the developments for surveillance cameras offered in 2017 and the state of offerings going into 2018, including...
Calculator - NEW Advanced Searching, Camera Favorites, Model Adding on Dec 05, 2017
The IPVM Calculator has significantly improved your ability to work with 5,500+ camera models: Advanced searching - now pick cameras based on...
D-Link ONVIF Switch Tested on Dec 04, 2017
D-Link's surveillance switches claim to "enhance ease of use and streamline management" for network administrators, with simplified UIs and...
ZKAccess Control Tested on Dec 04, 2017
China manufacturer ZKTeco / ZKAcces has been expanding in the West, offering a low-cost access control platform. But how good is it? And how does...
Hikvision Door Station Tested on Nov 30, 2017
Hikvision has entered the video intercom market, aiming to bring the race to the bottom to a whole new audience. To see how it stacks up, we...
Dahua Multi-Imager Tested (PDBW8800-A180) on Nov 28, 2017
Dahua has released their latest generation of multi imager models, including the PDBW800-A180, a 4x1080p dome model claiming 30m/~100' IR and Smart...
Hazardous & Explosion Proof Access Control Tutorial on Nov 27, 2017
Controlling access to hazardous environments require equipment meeting specific ratings that certify they will not start fires. Understanding those...
PoE UPS Tested (Energy Reconnect) on Nov 15, 2017
In security, backup power is important, but most often requires UPS systems or extra cabling to devices for low voltage power. Now, some have...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Hiring Camera Calculator Product Manager on Dec 12, 2017
We are working on making the Camera Calculator even better and hoping you can help us find the right person to join our team. IPVM is hiring a...
Testing $20 WyzeCam, The Money Losing Amazon Vet Startup on Dec 12, 2017
This startup is perfecting the old adage: We lose money on every sale, but make it up on volume But it is no joke. The company, Wyze Labs, is...
Xiongmai New Critical Vulnerability - Same Manufacturer Whose Products Drove Mirai Botnet Attacks on Dec 12, 2017
The Chinese manufacturer whose products were primarily responsible for the 2016 Mirai botnet attack has a new critical vulnerability, confirmed by...
Robot Vandalism on Dec 11, 2017
Vandalism of security systems is a common concern. It is so common that camera vandalism statistics show that designers routinely sacrifice camera...
Access Controller Software Guide on Dec 11, 2017
Properly configuring access controllers software is key to a professional access system. These devices have fundamental settings that must be...
2018 Video Surveillance Cameras Overview on Dec 11, 2017
This report concisely explains the developments for surveillance cameras offered in 2017 and the state of offerings going into 2018, including...
Imperial Capital Security Investor Conference Review on Dec 08, 2017
Investment bank Imperial Capital holds an annual Security Investor Conference where 60+ companies present, including this year: IPVM bought a...
Integrator GPS Vehicle Tracking Statistics and Success Examined on Dec 08, 2017
GPS vehicle tracking is a growing but somewhat controversial topic. On the plus side, tracking may increases productivity by providing greater...
Hikvision NA Biggest Sale of 2017 on Dec 07, 2017
Hikvision North America has been relatively disciplined the past 5 months, reducing the number of sales and the breadth of what is on sale. No...
Security Integrator IT Expertise Statistics on Dec 07, 2017
20 years ago, putting physical security systems on IP networks was just emerging. Today, almost every system is networked in some way, IP cameras...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact