IR Surveillance Guide

By: IPVM Team, Published on Jul 31, 2017

Infrared (IR) has become an increasing core component to video surveillance systems.

In particular, the expansion of integrated IR cameras that build IR illuminators within the camera has become common. On the positive side, this means that cameras can 'work' now even in the dark, even when cameras are cheap. On the negative side, many differences exist with integrated IR, including range achieved, width of coverage, overexposure, underexposure, response time to moving objects, to name a few.

In this guide, we examine these elements in detail, including:

  • Infrared Basics
  • 850nm Most Common
  • 940nm Rare, But Increasing
  • True Day / Night Cameras Required
  • Integrated IR Usage Statistics
  • IR LED Comparisons
  • Warning: No Illumination Standards
  • Range Specs Increasingly Accurate
  • But Overstated Range Still An Issue
  • Beware Low PPF At Max IR Range
  • IR Coverage Patterns Often Poor
  • Smart Vs. Adaptive IR
  • Manufacturer Terminology
  • IR Power vs. Gain/Exposure Adjustment
  • Delays Returning to Full Exposure
  • IR Impact On Bandwidth Spikes
  • Integrated IR Cameras vs. External Illuminators Pros & Cons
  • White Light Illuminators

******** (**) *** ****** an ********** **** ********* to ***** ************ *******.

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** **** *****, ** examine ***** ******** ** detail, *********:

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  • **** *** / ***** Cameras ********
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  • *** ********** ***** ***** An *****
  • ****** *** *** ** Max ** *****
  • ** ******** ******** ***** Poor
  • ***** **. ******** **
  • ************ ***********
  • ** ***** **. ****/******** Adjustment
  • ****** ********* ** **** Exposure
  • ** ****** ** ********* Spikes
  • ********** ** ******* **. External ************ **** & Cons
  • ***** ***** ************

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

Infrared ******

** ** ***** **** cameras *** '***' *** humans ******. ****** *** in *** *** ** 750nm ***** ********, ******** to ** '*******' *****. However, ************ ******* *** generally '***' ******* ***** as **** ** ***** that ***** **** ** illuminators ********* ** ***** or *****, *********** ** the ***** *****.

sample camera responsiveness chart

850nm **** ******

**** ******** ************ **** in ************ *** *** visible ***** **********. *** LEDs **** *** ***** illuminators *** ****** ******* to *** ***** ***, emitting * *******/******* ****, such ** ** ***** ********. **** **** ****** perceive **** ** **** red, ***** ******* **** as ******* ******* (*** cell ***** *******) *** it ****** ** ****/****** shown ****.

850nm ir illuminator

940nm **** *** ********** (**** ******** ** ****)

***** ************ *** **** less ******* ** ******, with **** * **** faint **** ******* **** close ** *** ******, making **** **** ****** when ****** ************ ** required. *******, ***** ** also ******, ********* **** about **** *** ******** of ***** ***** ***** the **** *****, *** more ********* ** ***********.

******* ** ***** *******, 940nm ** **** *** less **** *****. *******, some ************* **** ***** to *** ***** ************ on ******** ******. *** examples, ***:********* ** ****** ****** (Vivotek),**** ****** ***** ****** Examined,** * *********** ****** Test, ******* *** ** ******.

**** **** **** ****** wavelength ************ (****** *** above) *** *********, ***** are ********** ********* ** the ***** ***. *******, these *********** *** ***** the ******** **** ******* can '***', *** ***** are **** ****** **** 940nm, ****** **** **** rarely **** ** **********.

True *** ***** ********

**** ***/***** ************* **** **** ******** illumination, ** ***** **** models (****** **** ** 2018) ******* * ***** IR *** ******, ******** all ******** *****. *** majority ** ************ ******* use ** *** ******* which ***** * ****** in ***** ** *** camera's ****** ****** *** day, *** ******* ** at ***** (*** ****** / ***** ****** Tutorial).

ir filter

*** *** ****** ** activated ****** *** *** to ****** ** *****, as ** *** ********** *****/***** ******* ******, **** ** *** pinkish **** ***** *** desaturation **** ** *** image *****:

no ir cut filter during day color shift issues

** *****, *** ****** is ******* ** ***** IR ************ ** ******* IR ***** ** ***** the ******, ********* ******** images.

Integrated ** **** ****** **** ********

**** ***** **, *** fundamental ******* *** ********* - ******* **** ** LEDs ********** **** ***** housings *** ********** ** illuminators **** *** ******* near ** **** ** cameras. ** *** ****, very *** ** ******* offered ********** ** **** so **** **** ****** to *** ** ************ if **** ****** **. Now, **** ******* ***** integrated ***.

** ***** ** *****,**** ********** **** **** 3/4 ** ******* ***** include ********** **:

** ********,**** ********** **** **** few ******* *** ******** IR, **** **** **%. Because ** ****, **** guide ****** ******* ** integrated ** *******. ** review **** *** **** of ***** ******* ***** in **** *****.

IR *** ***********

**** ****** ************* **** the ****** ** ** LEDs ** ** ********* of ***** ***********, **** is '** ****** *** 24 **** *** ** competitor **** *** *, etc.', *** ** *******, looking ** **** *** quantity ** **** *** little ****** ** **** world ***********, ** ***** are **** ********* *****/****** of ** ***.

***** *** *** ***** categories ** ** **** in ************, ****** ***** and *****:

  • *******, ***** *****:**** ********** ** ******* and **** *** **** standalone ** ************ *** a ****** ******** ** smaller **** ** *** up ** ******* *****. These **** *** ******* (but *** ******) **** expensive, ***** ** *** they *** ********* ******** in *** **** ******.
  • ******, ****** *****:**** ***** ** ******* and **** ** ************ use * ******* ******** of ******, **** ******** LEDs.

ir led variances

**** **** ****** **** in *** **** **** typically ********** ****** *******, and ******** **** **** coverage *** ****** *****. However, *** ***** **** shown **** **** ** not ****** *** ****, with **** *** ********** IR ******* ***** ***** LEDs, *** **** ***** larger ****. ****** ***** testing ** *** **** reliable *** ** ********* IR ************ *******.

Illumination ******

*****, ** ****** *** issues ********* ********** ** camera ********* *** ***********, including:

  • **** ** *********
  • ***** ***** ********* ********
  • *** *** ** *** range
  • **** ** ******** ******** common
  • ************ ******
  • ***** *** ******** **
  • ************ ***********
  • **** ***** ********** *****

No ************ *********

***** ***** *** ** concrete ************** *** *** IR ** ******, ************* may ****** ***** *** range ** ********** ************ ******* *** camera, ******* **********. **** ***** **** the ****** ** ***** at *** ********* ******* range *** ** **** enough ** *** **** a ***** ******* ** a ******, ** ****. While *** *** **************** *** ****** ** IR ************, **** ************* ********* is *** ******* ******** amount ****** ******.

Range ***** ************ ********

* *** ***** ***, when ********** ** ****** were *** **** ******, manufacturers ********** ********** ***** camera's ** ***** ************, often ** ** **** as **-**%. *******, ** IR *** ****** ***********, with ****** ***** ************ offering ******** ****** ** low **** *** **** end *****, ***** **** gotten **** ********.

*** *******, ** *** test ** *** **** M2025, ** ***** **** its ****** ********* ** range *** **-***, ********* its *** ****.

axis m2025-le 15m ir range specified

**** ***** ****, ********** ranges *** ***** *** uncommon ** ****. *** example, *** ****** ***** has * ********* ** range ** ***/~***', *** an ****** ***** ****** to ~***', **** *** subject ***** **** ***** illuminated.

50m 164 specified

Beware *** *** ** *** *****

**** ** * ****** reaches *** ******* ********* range, ***** ****** ****** of *** ****** ** this ********. ** *** tests, ***** ****** ***** deliver **-** *** ** less ** *** *****. With *** **** ***, detection ** ********* *** to *** ******** **** of ********, ********* ******* noise, ********* ********, ***.

**** ***** ** ********** as ** ****** **** continued ** ********, ** have ***** ** **** specs, ********** ** ***** cost ***** **** ****** which *** ********** **** with should ****** ** **** issue *** ******** ***** (narrower) **** ******* ***** possible.

** ** *******, *** 1080p ****** ***** *** a ******* ********* ** range ** ***, ** about ***', *** ** angle ** **** ** 102°. ** **** ********, PPF ** **** ~*, making *** ******* ********* to ****.

low ppf at max ir range 8 ppf

*** *** ** ****** improve **** ***** *** levels, *** ******* ******* worse ** *** *****, making ****** ******. *** example, **** ** ***** delivers ~** *** ** max *****, *** ********* is **** **** ********* as *** ***** ** dimmer *** *******.

low ppf at max ir range 16 ppf

IR ******** ******** ***** ****

******** ***** ***** **** improved, ** ******** ******** have *** ** **** cases, **** **** ******* not ******** ***** **** field ** ****, ************ subjects ** *** ******, or ****. ******** ******* is *** ****** *** issue **** ** ********** IR ****** ***** ******** ******* **** ** integrated ** ****** *****.

*** *******, *** ****** below ***** * ****** hotspot ** *** ******, obscuring ******* *******. ** contrast, *** **** ** the *** ** **** dim, **** ********* ******* noise, ****** ** ********** to ******* ******* ****** features.

center ir hotspot

Smart **. ******** **

**** ********** ** ****** models **** ********** "********" or "*****" ******** ******** to ****** *** *** scene ***/** ****** ************. For *** ******** ** clarity ** **** ***** and *** *********, ** define ***** ******** ** follows:

  • ***** **:************* ******* ** ***** depending ** ******* ** the *****, ******* ** prevent ************ ** **** objects *** ********* ** full ***** *** ***** further ****. *** ***** below ***** *** ******* of **** ** *****, with *** ***** ******* to ********** *** *** subject ** *** **** field.

  • ******** **:*** ****** ******* ** LED ***** ***/** **** multiple **** ** **** in ***** ** ****** illumination ***** ** *** its ***** ** **** and **** ****** ***** the **** *****. **** is ****** ** **** fixed ******* *** ****, shown *****:

Manufacturer ***********

**** ***** ** *****, there ** ** ******** as ** **** ***** terms **** *** ***** may ** ******** ** varying ************ ***********. *** example, ******** **** ** their "******** **":

**** ****** ******** ** technology, **** ****** ******** both **** *** ****** illumination, ******** ********** ************ in ******** ******** ** enhance ***** ******* ********** of ***** **********.

***** **** ***** *** IR ************ ******** ** their **** *** ****** "***********":

**** *** ***** ** view ** ******** ** the ************ ** ** Axis ****** **** ****** zoom *** **********, *** angle ** ************ ************* adapts ** *** **** level. *** ************ ***** follows *** ******’* **** movements ** ****** ******* the ******* ****** ** light ** *** *****.

******* ********** ********* ** Axis’ *********** ********** ** visible **** *** ******* is *** **** **** the ****** *** *** whole **** ** ***********. When *** ******* ** approaching *** ******, *** exposure ** ********. **** the ******* ** ** the ******, ** ** illuminated *** *** ***********.

*******, **** *************, **** as *****, *********, *** Panasonic ****** **** ***** integrated ** ******** "*****." Unfortunately, ***** ** ** way ** **** **** each ************ ***** ** these ***** ******* ** least ******** **** ****** and/or *******.

"Smart **" *** *** ****** ** ***** ** ***

********** *********, **** *************' "smart" ** ******** ** not ******** ****** ** power. *******, *** ****** adjusts **** ***/** ******** to ********** *** *******(*) in *** *****. **** is ***** ** ********'* H4 ***** *****. *** camera's **** ** *** dim, *** *** *** interface ***** **** ****** as *** ******* ****** the *****.

** *** *****, ** have *** **** ***** advantages ** ***** ******* which ****** ** ***** over ***** ***** ** not, **** ****/******** ********** often ** ********* ** IR ***** **********. ** an *******, *** ***** below **** *** ******, with ***** ** ****** on ** *** **** and *** ** *** right. ******* ******** ** very ******* ** ****, with **** ******* ********** when ********* ** *****.

(**** **** **** ***** IR **, *** ******'* image ***** ****** ** readjust ** **** **********, which ** ******* **** below)

*********** ******* ***** ******(*) a ***** ****** **** is *********, *** ********* requires ********* ** *****, as **** ************* ** not ******** *** ***** smart ** *****.

**** **** **** ***** features ********* **** ** be ***** **** *** camera *** *** *** compatible **** ******** ** illuminators, ** *** ********** required ** ****** ** object *** ****** ** necessary ** ********* **********.

Beware ******** ******

****** *** ******, **** cameras **** ****** **** others *** *** ***** to ****** ** **** brightness ***** ********* ** power ***/** ****/********. **** may ****** ** ******** being ****** ** **** should **** ****** * larger ****** ****** ******* the **********.

*** *******, *** ****** below ***** **-** ******* for *** ***** ** return ** **** **********. During **** ******, *** image ** **** ****, with **** *** **** foreground ******* *** *** background ****** ******* ********.

***** *** ** ****** connection ******* **** ***** and ** ***** ********** or **** *******. ** has ******** ** ******** models ** *** *****, both **** ***** ** and *******.

IR ******* ********* ******

** *******, ********** ** cameras ****** ** ***** nighttime *********/******* ********* ****** compared ** ******* ***-** models, ***** *** ***** IR ******* *** ***** created ** ********* **** (see ********* *** (******* ***** Reduction) *****). *******, *** ************ of ***** ****** *** made ** ********* ** cite ***** ******** *** these **********, ** **** smart ***** ***-** ******* may ****** ******** *** light ****** **** ***-***** integrated ** ******.

******* ***** ****** ****** compression *** *-***** ******** based ** **** ** in *** *****, **** areas *** ** ****** compressed, ******** *********, *** I-frame ******** ********* **** no ****** ** ********* in *** *****. ************, in **** *****, ********** IR ****** **** **** produced************* ** *** ***** than **** *****, ** details **** ** ******* are **** ******* *** easier ** ********.

**** **** **** *** key ******* ****** **'* impact ** *********:

  • *** ** ************ ***** to ***** *** ***** scene. ** ******* ***** are ***** ****, *** camera ** ****** ** turn ** *** **** control ** ******** ***** areas, ***** ********* **** bandwidth ***********.
  • ** ****** ****** ********* consumption ** *** *****, use* ***/*** *** ** VBR ****. *** ***** *** rates **** **** ******* impact ** ****** ******* as *** ***** ** bandwidth ** ****** ***** adds ** ********** *******.

Pros *** ****

***** *** ******* ********** to ********** ** ****** compared ** ******** **, which **** ****** ***** adoption:

  • ***** ****:****/**** ** *** ****** priced ******* ******* ********** IR, ****** **** * much **** ********* ****** than * ***-** ****** with ***** ***********.
  • ******* ************:******* *** ** ** built **, ***** ** no ********** ********* ** install.
  • ******* ********:********** ** ******* *** typically ******* ** ******** 802.3af ***** **** ********, or ** **** ********* 802.3at. ******** ************ ********* require ******** *** *******, PoE, ** **** ***** power.
  • ******** ********:****** *** ******* ***** smart / ******** ** and ********* ********* **********, typically *** ******** **** add-on ** ************.

*******, ***** *** *** key *********:

  • ******* ***** (****** ********): ****** ********** ** cameras **** ****** ****** have ****** **** ******, with **** ******** ***' or ****, *** ***** long ***** ************ (****'+), standalone ************ *** ***** still ********.
  • ***/****** ******:********** ** ******* *** attract ******* ** *******, which ****/***** ***** ** or **** *** **** of *** ******, ********* the ***** ** ****. If **** ** * problem, * ********** *********** must ** ****.

******* ** *** ********** IR *******'* ***** ****** and ******** ********, ** is ************ **** ********* to ******* ***-** ** illuminators. *** ******** ****** for ********** ************ *** super **** ******** *** invisible **, ******** ***** are ******** ** ********** IR *******, ****** ** expect **** **** ******** to *******.

What ***** *****/******* ***** ************?

***** ****** ******* ***** to *** ***** **** improve *** ***** ******, generally ** *** **** favored, *** ******** *******:

  • **** **********:***** ***** ***** ******* a ********** ****** ****** the **** ** ******, IR ** ****** *********** (850nm) ** *** *********** at *** (*****) ** the ***** ***. **** means **** ****** ********* are **** **** ******* at *****, ****** **** more ********* *** ********* to ****** *** ******.
  • **** ***** *********:************, ******** **** *** contribute ** ***** ********* caused ** ***** *****. Many ************** ******** [**** no ****** *********] *** powerful ******** ****** *** be, *** **** **** be *****/********, ***.
  • ****** **********:*******, ********** *** ******** designers *** ****** **** IR ** ****, ** they *** ****** **** to ******* *** ******** design ** * ********.

******* ** ***** *******, white ***** ** ****** used ****** ** ********* applications.

IR ** *** **** ****** **********

******* ****** *************** ******'* ** ***** on *** ** * map **** * *** line, ** *** *** see *** *** *** IR ** ********* ** cover, ************ *****:

**********, ** *** ****** is **** ****** **** the ******'* ******* ** range, ** ****** ****** of ************ ***** ** carefully ***** ********/***** ** features.*** **** ******** ** the ********** ****.

[****: **** ******** *** originally ******* ** **** but ************* ******* ** 2017 *** **** ** reflect *** ******* ************ in ********** **.]

Comments (7)

Great write up, but I have 2 comments.  First off, when you move to 940nm, etc., another issue besides how far the IR will travel is the sensitivity of the imager.  Some imagers will have a MUCH lower spectral response to 940.  For example, in the image below, at 850nm, you get a 30% of the response, but at 940nm it may have decreased 15%.  This is also why you need to make sure that when using external IR that it is matched to what the sensor is optimized for.

When you discussed "large" and "small" or traditional IR LEDs, I believe you are referring to the type of LED.  The older small type is called "through hole" and have a curved surface that is much more directional and can cause reflections off of curved domes.  The newer type or IR LEDs, which a camera typically has many few of them is called Surface Mount or SMD (Surface Mount Device).  The SMD has better power utilization, better dimming, and a flat surface to minimize reflections.  They also have a wider and more even light output with less of a hotspot in the center.

 vs. 

A related topic is how does IR illuminators degrade over time. We created a light box to test our IR illuminators and to know when they needed to be replaced.

The light box has 12 test points. To get repeatable results you need to create fixtures for holding the Coherent lazer check precisely in both depth and angle. I did 3 series (3 x 12=36) of tests on each unit.

The results were:

1. Testing on same unit at same test location gave measurements that were +/- 3%

2. Testing on new units of same type showed variation in results that were +/- 14%

3. Comparing new units with 3+ years old showed degrading of output by 40% 

Thanks, Robert, that's interesting and we'd like to look into it more. If there are variances like that in the field and that sort of degradation, it could be a major issue.

Also for other readers, here is our report on How to Measure IR Illumination using the LaserCheck IR meter Robert mentions. The main overview video is here for reference:

Great refresh of the IR guide here guys!

Really appreciate the detail and  presentation.

Good write-up on SMART IR.

Can be difficult to pick the right camera for its night qualities.

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