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

Selling and Valuing Security Integrators on May 12, 2017
This ia a tutorial in how to (1) determine your security integrator's value and (2) to sell your security integrator. If you own an integrator,...
Blink XT Outdoor Totally Wireless Camera Tested on May 11, 2017
Running wires for cameras outdoors is one of the biggest challenges, especially for consumer or DIY installs. Now, Blink has released an outdoor...
48MP 180 Camera (Digital Watchdog) Test on May 10, 2017
Camera resolution continues to advance, with Digital Watchdog offering the MegaPIX PANO 48MP 180° camera, the highest resolution mainstream camera...
Alarm Circuits Guide on May 09, 2017
Alarm circuits are a fundamental element of wired burglar systems. Designing the alarm circuit greatly affects its performance. In particular,...
Hanwha 9MP Fisheye Camera Tested (PNF-9010R) on May 09, 2017
12MP sensor fisheye panoramic cameras are becoming increasingly common. We have tested Hikvision's DS-2CD63C2F as well as Panasonic's SFV481 4K...
Smartphone Controlled Kevo Lock Tested on May 04, 2017
Smartlocks are a growing market, with millions sold. Kwikset's Kevo is one of the most common choices, using the Unikey smart phone access control...
Duress Codes For Alarms Systems on May 02, 2017
An alarm system can call for help in the event of an attempted break in, but only if it is armed. If an adversary forces an authorized user to...
Hack Your Access Control With This $30 HID 125kHz Card Copier on May 01, 2017
You might have heard the stories or seen the YouTube videos of random people hacking electronic access control systems. The tools that claim to do...
Xandem Next Gen Intrusion Tested on Apr 26, 2017
Xandem's "full coverage motion tracking technology" is unlike any intrusion technology we have seen. We bought their new system and tested it...
Axis Lowest Cost Outdoor IR Camera M2025-LE Tested on Apr 24, 2017
Axis has lagged offering low cost IR cameras while their Asian competitors have made IR standard even in their most entry level cameras. Recently,...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Pelco Shutting Down Clovis Line, Laying Off 200 on May 22, 2017
Pelco's Clovis facility once turned out some of the industry's most popular products. Now, the facility is mostly building "obsolete" equipment,...
IP Camera - 15 Year Shootout on May 22, 2017
How far have IP cameras come? We bought and tested 4 cameras across the past 15 years to understand how much and where performance has...
Remote Video Monitoring Providers Directory on May 21, 2017
Remote video monitoring can help integrators generate RMR plus end users lower their security costs and/or improve response to critical...
Axis Criticizes OEMs: "When You Buy An Axis Camera, An Axis Camera Is What You Get!" on May 19, 2017
When you buy a Honeywell camera, you likely get a Hikvision, Dahua or some other company's product. The same goes for easily 100 different...
Hackable 125kHz Access Control Migration Guide on May 19, 2017
Despite being one of the most popular credentials, 125 kHz credentials are easily copied and insecure as we showed in our test results, video...
Forget The Backdoor, "ALL HIKVISION PRODUCTS" On Sale on May 18, 2017
Less than 2 weeks after the Hikvision Backdoor was confirmed, Hikvision has launched a sale "ON ALL HIKVISION PRODUCTS". In this note, we examine...
Amazon Techs Installing IP Cameras Tested on May 18, 2017
In 2015, Amazon started offering video surveillance installation. Now, Amazon has made it a lot easier, with automatic add-on options and...
Hanwha Recorder Vulnerability Analyzed on May 18, 2017
ICS-CERT has released a vulnerability notice for Hanwha SRN-4000 recorders.  Hanwha provided additional information to IPVM about this issue,...
DMP Video Doorbell / Access Reader Examined on May 17, 2017
Consumers increasingly demand video doorbells, with "doorbells selling like hotcakes, everyone wants a doorbell", according to ADT's CEO. At ISC...
ShotSpotter To IPO, Facing Low Revenue and Losses on May 17, 2017
A rare event for North American security manufacturers is upcoming. ShotSpotter is planning to IPO on the NASDAQ, aiming to raise $34.5...

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