5 Low Cost IR Illuminators Tested

By: 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?

** ************ *** ********* in **********, **** ***** in ** ******** * common ******* ** ***-**** models. *** **** *** light ***** ****** *** relatively ***** ****** ** these ******* (******* ***' or ****), ***** **** historically **** **** **** few ******* ***** **** high-priced ******** ************. *** for ***** ******* ******* IR, **** *** ***** range, *** **** ** those ************ *** *** be **** **** *** camera ******.

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** ****** * ** these ** ************ **** Amazon *** * ***** cost ** ***** $***, shown *****:

** *** **** ** the **** *** *** how *** ********* ** these **********:

  • *****:*** ************ ***** ********* ranges ** **** *****?
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  • ********:*** ** ***** ************ compare ** *** ****** in **********?
  • ****** ***********: *** *** these ************ **** **** different *******, ****, ********* and **** *******?

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

Key ********

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

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** ******

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*******

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

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

*** ***** ***** ***** the ************ **** ** side. *** ****** *** quantities ****** **** *** small **** ** * large, **** ******* ***** and ***** ** ************.

Illuminator ********

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**** ***** ******* *** construction ** **** ** the ************:

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

**** ***** *** ****** to *** *** ** 24VAC ***** *** ***** illuminators ******* ** ** VDC, ** ** ******* from ************** ********** **** ****** ********.

  • ***** ******* ** "*** enable" *** ** ***** illuminators *** ** ** with **** **** *** ********. **** ****** *** illuminator ** **** ***** from * **** *** switch ****, ** ** to ****, ******* ** using *** *-********* *** power.
  • ** *** * ***** supply *** ******* ** 12VDC ** *** ***********, a ***** ********** ****** such ** *********** ******* ** ****.

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

*** ************ ****** ******* or ******** ***** ********* illumination ********. ***** ********** a ***** ******* ** a ****** ******, *** IR130 *** *****, ******* the *** *** ** their ********* *****, *** much *******.

*** *** *** ***** had *** ******* ***** spec ("***-***'") *** ****** range ** ***, ***'+, seen ** *** ***** below. **** **** *** cones (**********, ******* ** the ***** ** *** subject) **** ***' **********, with *** ***** **** ~300' **** *** ******/***********.


*** ***** ******* ************ all *********** *** ** about ***'. *******, *** coverage ******* ****** **** 45-60 *******, **** **** hotter ** *** ****** than ******.

**** ***** **** *** subject ******* **** **** 200' ** *** ****** location ***** *** ** 3 (* ***) ***********. Illumination ******* ********** ****** between *** ***** *** second *****, ~***'.

Coverage *******

*** ************ ****** ********* angles ** ************ ******* from **-** *******. *******, we ***** **** *** of ***** ***** ** be ******** (*** ** degree ****).

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*******, *** ******* ****** using * ** * LEDs (***/****) ************* ***** angle ** ************. *** IR3 ********* * ** degree *****, *** *** the ********* ******* ** all ************ ******, ~** degrees. *** **** ********* 90 *******, *** ******* only ***** **.

Overexposure ****

********** ** ***** *********** was ****, *** ****** produced **** **** ** overexposing ******** ** **** approach *** *******. ******* which *** ********* ****** at ******** ******* *****, such ** ******* *************** ***-****, *** **** ** compensate *** *** ***** IR ***** ** *** scene, ***** ******, **** as ***************************** *****, *** ****** to ******.

***** *** ***** ******* U03R, ************ *** *** as ******, ****** ***** an ***** ** ***** range:

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.

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