5 Low Cost IR Illuminators Tested

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Sep 03, 2015

IR illumination has increased in popularity, with built in IR becoming a common feature in low-cost models. But when low light needs exceed the relatively short ranges of these cameras (usually 100' or less), users have historically been left with few options aside from high-priced external illuminators. And for those cameras without IR, even for short range, the cost of those illuminators can now be more than the camera itself.

However, a new crop of low-cost illuminators has hit the market, claiming wide illumination angles and long ranges (400'+) at rock bottom prices, under $100 as well as short-range models for under $20.

We bought 5 of these IR illuminators from Amazon for a total cost of under $200, shown below:

We put them to the test and see how the performed in these categories:

  • Range: Did illumination reach specified ranges or fall short?
  • Angle: Did illuminators suffer from bright center hotspots or evenly cover the field of view?
  • Features: How do these illuminators compare to pro models in featureset?
  • Camera Performance: How did these illuminators work with different Arecont, Axis, Hikvision and Sony cameras?

** ************ *** ********* ** **********, **** ***** ** ** becoming * ****** ******* ** ***-**** ******. *** **** *** light ***** ****** *** ********** ***** ****** ** ***** ******* (usually ***' ** ****), ***** **** ************ **** **** **** *** options ***** **** ****-****** ******** ************. *** *** ***** ******* without **, **** *** ***** *****, *** **** ** ***** illuminators *** *** ** **** **** *** ****** ******.

*******, * *** **** ** ***-**** ************ *** *** *** market, ******** **** ************ ****** *** **** ****** (***'+) ** rock ****** ******, ***** $*** ** **** ** *****-***** ****** for ***** $**.

** ****** * ** ***** ** ************ **** ****** *** a ***** **** ** ***** $***, ***** *****:

** *** **** ** *** **** *** *** *** *** performed ** ***** **********:

  • *****:*** ************ ***** ********* ****** ** **** *****?
  • *****:*** ************ ****** **** ****** ****** ******** ** ****** ***** the ***** ** ****?
  • ********:*** ** ***** ************ ******* ** *** ****** ** **********?
  • ****** ***********: *** *** ***** ************ **** **** ********* *******, Axis, ********* *** **** *******?

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

Key ********

**** ***** ********** *** *** ******** **** **** ****:

************ *****

*** ************ *** ** ******** ***** ********* ******, **** *** longest ******** ~$***'. **** **** ***** ****** ********* **** ******** ranges (***-***', ***-***', ***.) ******* *** *** *** ** ********* range.

******** **** **** ******* ***-**** *********** *****, ** ***** **** ****** ******* ************* ***** *****.

***** ** ************

** ***********'* ********* ***** ** ************ ****** ********* **** *** actual ***********. **** *** ********* ** * ****** ***********, ****** varied ************* **** ****, **** *** ******** **** *******, *** two *****.

** ******

***** ***-**** ************ *** ******* *** ***** *** **** **/*** based ** ** ******** *********. **** ** *** ******* *** ******** ******** found ** **** ****** **** ************, **** ** ****** *** ********* camera ***/***** ****,******** ******** *******, ********* ************.

*******

** ********* *** **** ** ***** ************ **** ******.***, **** prices ******* **** $**-**:

***** ****** *** * ******** ** **** ************ ************ ****. For *******, * ****** ****** ** (****-**) **** * ** degree ***** ** ************ ***** *** ~$*** ******. ******* **** with **** ******** ***** ** ************, *** ***** ** ******* to ***** **', **** * ***** ** *** ******** ** the ****** **** ***** ** **** **** (***, $**).

****** ***** ****** *** **** ******* ******* ******* ****, ***** with ******** ************ ********.

***************

*** ************ ****** **** ******* * ****** ***** ** *** illumination ** *** ***** ****** ** ****** **** ***** **** professional ***** ************, *** ** ****** ****** ***** ** **** integrated ** ******.

*******, ** ******** ******* ***** **** ***** ************ ** ***** with ***** ****** ******, ** ***** *** ***** ** ************ vary *********** **** ****, *** *** *** ** ********** *** the ***********.

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

*** ***** ***** ***** *** ************ **** ** ****. *** counts *** ********** ****** **** *** ***** **** ** * large, **** ******* ***** *** ***** ** ************.

Illuminator ********

***** ************ **** **** ** *** ***** *** ******** ***** in **** ********* ********** ******. **** *** ******* ** ***** only, *** ********** **** *** ** ******** *********. **** ******* no ************* ** ***** ****** ** ***** **** **** **/***, nor ***** *********** ***** ** **** ****** ****** ******. 

************, ***** *** ** ******* ************* ***** ** ************,*** *****, ***** *************, ***** ** **** **** *** ******.

**** ***** ******* *** ************ ** **** ** *** ************:

Powering *** ***********

**** ***** *** ****** ** *** *** ** ***** ***** *** these ************ ******* ** ** ***, ** ** ******* **** ******* ******* **** ****** **** ****** ********.

  • ***** ******* ** "*** ******" *** ** ***** ************ *** do ** **** * *** **** *** ********. **** ****** *** *********** ** **** ***** **** * free *** ****** ****, ** ** ** ****, ******* ** using *** *-********* *** *****.
  • ** *** * ***** ****** *** ******* ** ***** ** the ***********, * ***** ********** ****** **** ** *********** ******* ** ****.

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

*** ************ ****** ******* ** ******** ***** ********* ************ ********. Those ********** * ***** ******* ** * ****** ******, *** IR130 *** *****, ******* *** *** *** ** ***** ********* range, *** **** *******.

*** *** *** ***** *** *** ******* ***** **** ("***-***'") *** actual ***** ** ***, ***'+, **** ** *** ***** *****. Note **** *** ***** (**********, ******* ** *** ***** ** the *******) **** ***' **********, **** *** ***** **** ~***' from *** ******/***********.


*** ***** ******* ************ *** *********** *** ** ***** ***'. However, *** ******** ******* ****** **** **-** *******, **** **** hotter ** *** ****** **** ******.

**** ***** **** *** ******* ******* **** **** ***' ** the ****** ******** ***** *** ** * (* ***) ***********. ************ becomes ********** ****** ******* *** ***** *** ****** *****, ~***'.

Coverage *******

*** ************ ****** ********* ****** ** ************ ******* **** **-** degrees. *******, ** ***** **** *** ** ***** ***** ** be ******** (*** ** ****** ****).

*** ****** ************ **** **** ******* ** ***** **** (*****/*****) were **** ***** **** *********. **** ******* ** ************* ** ****** angle, **. ** *** ** ******* *****, ************. **** ** shown ***** *** *****, *****.

*******, *** ******* ****** ***** * ** * **** (***/****) overspecified ***** ***** ** ************. *** *** ********* * ** degree *****, *** *** *** ********* ******* ** *** ************ tested, ~** *******. *** **** ********* ** *******, *** ******* only ***** **.

Overexposure ****

********** ** ***** *********** *** ****, *** ****** ******** **** risk ** ************ ******** ** **** ******** *** *******. ******* which *** ********* ****** ** ******** ******* *****, **** ** the**** *************** ***-****, *** **** ** ********** *** *** ***** ** ***** in *** *****, ***** ******, **** ** ***************************** *****, *** ****** ** ******.

***** *** ***** ******* ****, ************ *** *** ** ******, though ***** ** ***** ** ***** *****:

Comments (10)

Contrast this with our 2010 low-cost illuminator tests, in which most models greatly overspecified their range.

Though you're using newer cameras for this test, right? Presumably the latest gen cameras have better low-light performance which would make an illuminator appear to work (slightly?) better.

Maybe you should create a set of "reference" cameras if you're going to test illuminators regularly.

Either way, interesting tests and results.

While I am sure there is some benefit to IR illuminators of 2015 IP cameras having greater light sensitivity than 2015, the IR models we tested in 2010 were bad all around, including extreme hotspotting. Here's a video from the 2010 test;

How does this compare to "Lightfinder" or "Darkfighter" cameras without illumination?

A really good camera without light still struggles to match up against cameras that have their own source of light (e.g., IR illuminators) in very dark conditions

In the Darkfighter test, we show the difference between that and IR.

Also, more generally see our Super Low Light vs Integrated IR Shootout

Who manufactures these illuminators?

Technically, it is "Univivi" and "CMVision". The later looks like an American relabeler, the former appear to be a Chinese company.

Either way, I would not expect any support on them. These are really more relatively high-quality disposable items at extremely low prices.

We have been using the IR130 as a company for about 8 months now. No real issues found other than what has been stated in the article. Its inexpensive and works great.

Thanks for the tip, interesting to hear that they're actually getting some field use!

Most people do not realize that IR assisted imaging requires a HDR camera. Those 200-300 foot illuminators cause near field blowout at short distances.

Most people do not realize that IR assisted imaging requires a HDR camera. Those 200-300 foot illuminators cause near field blowout at short distances.

Did you read the report or just immediately post that? We covered the overexposure aspect in the report.

I disagree with HDR cameras. In our testing, HDR is not enough to handle blowout. What you generally need is smart IR that detects objects in the near field and turns down the IR power.

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

Dahua 12MP Fisheye Camera Tested (NK8BR4) on May 16, 2018
Continuing our coverage of 12MP sensor fisheye cameras, we bought and tested the Dahua NK8BR4, examining: Default vs. Optimized...
Axis 12MP Stereographic Camera Tested (M3058-LVE) on May 10, 2018
Axis has released the M3058-PLVE, a 12MP sensor, stereographic panoramic camera and Axis' first with integrated IR claiming images "sharp to the...
Vivotek 12MP Fisheye Camera Tested (FE9391-EV) on May 08, 2018
Next in our 12MP fisheye camera evaluation, we bought and tested Vivotek's latest generation FE9391-EV, a new model claiming improved smart IR...
Toughest Manufacturer Competitors 2018 on May 07, 2018
150+ integrators answered: Which manufacturer, when offered by rival integrators, is toughest to compete against? Why? The...
Last Chance - May 2018 Camera Course on May 03, 2018
This is the last chance to register as the course starts next week. This is the only independent surveillance camera course, based on in-depth...
Avigilon 12MP Fisheye Camera Tested on May 03, 2018
12MP fisheye cameras have become mainstream, with nearly every major manufacturer offering their take on this segment. To see how these new higher...
IP Network Hardware for Surveillance Guide on May 02, 2018
Video surveillance systems depend on IP networking equipment. In this guide, we explain the key pieces of equipment and features, explaining where...
FLIR Launches Saros on May 01, 2018
Has FLIR solved the video intrusion / remote monitoring problem or have they created an overkill, overly expensive device? FLIR has launched...
Hikvision DarkfighterX Vs Darkfighter PTZ Tested on Apr 26, 2018
Hikvision has focused on improving low-light performance for PTZs, an area that has traditionally been a problem, even more so than fixed cameras,...
Best and Worst ISC West 2018 on Apr 16, 2018
ISC West 2018 had strong attendance, modest overall new products, and a surge in Artificial Intelligence marketing. First, here are 20+...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Dahua Intrusion Analytics And VMD Tested on May 21, 2018
Dahua ships basic analytics on practically all their cameras, ranging from low cost to high end. To see how these analytics work in real world...
Exacq Improving Technical Support, Responding To Integrator Complaints on May 21, 2018
Exacq had been a long-term favorite of integrators, but since their 2014 Tyco acquisition, Exacq has fallen in IPVM integrator studies (though...
Best Manufacturer Technical Support 2018 on May 21, 2018
While 5 manufacturers made the worst technical support 2018 list, only 3 stood out as providing the best technical support to 190+ integrators in...
Stealth / UCIT - Remote Video Monitoring Provider Profile on May 18, 2018
Can 2 remote video monitoring companies, Stealth Monitoring from the US and UCIT from Canada combine to impact the market and compete in a changing...
Cybersecurity for IP Video Surveillance Guide on May 18, 2018
Keeping surveillance networks secure can be a daunting task, but there are several methods that can greatly reduce risk, especially when used in...
Forced Entry / Duress Access Tutorial on May 17, 2018
Even though access control normally keeps people safe, tragedies have revealed a significant issue. If users are forced to unlock doors for...
ADT Stock Drops 50% Since IPO on May 17, 2018
It has been a brutal 4 months for ADT. They first expected to IPO at ~$18. They IPOed at $14, dropping immediately to $12.39 And now, not even...
Dahua 12MP Fisheye Camera Tested (NK8BR4) on May 16, 2018
Continuing our coverage of 12MP sensor fisheye cameras, we bought and tested the Dahua NK8BR4, examining: Default vs. Optimized...
Worst Manufacturer Technical Support 2018 on May 16, 2018
5 manufacturers stood out as providing the worst technical support to 190+ integrators in new IPVM results. These integrators answered: In the...
Installing Cameras in Plenums Tutorial on May 15, 2018
There is often confusion about plenum ceilings, with misinformation about what is required when running cables through them and mounting 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