Using PIRs + Cameras Guide

By: Brian Rhodes, Published on Sep 23, 2012

Combining PIR motion detectors and surveillance cameras is a common way of improving how well cameras can 'see' in low light and alert against potential intruders. In the note below, we address the best ways to incorporate motion detectors with surveillance cameras, contrast the options, and discuss where best to use each type.

Why PIRs?

Matching video cameras with PIR sensors shores up a performance weakness found in many cameras: low light visibility. When relying on video motion detection, the sensitivity is tied to how well the camera 'sees' in low light. If a camera produces poor image quality in darkness, then the camera's motion detection will perform poorly as well.

One method of overcoming the difficulty is to add or pair the camera with a PIR - passive infrared - motion detector. As we have covered in previous posts, PIRs are frequently used in intrusion alarm systems to detect movement even in total darkness. Because the sensor detects heat contrasts, it is not dependant on visible light for operation. When used with cameras, the PIR can be used to 'manually' trigger recording in the camera and be used to turn on onboard illuminators or additional lights, thereby overcoming a 'weakness' in most cameras.

3 Major Options

The image below shows the major forms where the integration is commonly found:

Motion sensors are paired with cameras in three basic ways. In the section below, we compare these methods and discuss where each option is used to it's greatest advantage.

  • Option 1: PIR sensor, with embedded Camera: This type of product can best be described as a normal alarm system type PIR Sensor with a camera hidden in the housing. As a result of the uncommon form factor, these units are often marketed as 'spy' or 'covert' units, because the untrained eye will assume the unit is just part of the alarm (non-video) system. However, these units are typically poor performing. The onboard cameras are commonly low resolution, black/white only, or 'still image' only units, and no popularly producted IP model exists. Many units in this category are designed to be stand alone camera with on-board storage only. When selecting these units as part of a general surveillance system, care should be taken to confirm video outputs exist and are compatible with DVR/NVR units.
  • Option 2: Camera, with embedded PIR sensor: Devices in this class are security cameras first, but have the addition of an onboard PIR sensor added. This option in generally found in cube cameras, and often includes matching a white-light LED as a method of extending 'low light' coverage to less expensive, non Day/Night cameras. However, while the camera may be full-featured, the onboard PIR is limited to short, fixed ranges and has limited utility.
  • Option 3: Cameras paired with External PIRs: This is most common option due to ability to select both camera and PIR according to the environment. This method relies on the PIR being wired to a camera's I/O port, but aside from that requirement any camera can be matched with any PIR. This flexibility allows long-range, weather proofed sensors to be matched with outdoor cameras - a combination not found in the other two options. More than one PIR can be wired together, greatly increasing coverage distance or blind spot avoidance of a single integrated sensor.

Cost Breakdown

The section below provides a few examples of each option that are commonly used with video surveillance.

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

PIR sensor, with embedded Camera

The units below are both equipped with BNC outputs for installation into analog surveillance systems. In both cases, the PIR is functional, but this is not always the case, especially with less expensive models.

  • Interlogix (Kalatel/GE) PI-450: B/W, 425 TVL analog camera, 1 zone PIR range of 20 - 30 feet. Indoor only: ~$150 online
  • Bosch CAM940C: Color, 420 TVL analog camera, 2 zone PIR range of 15 - 20 feet. Indoor only: ~$200 online

Camera, with embedded PIR sensor

The units below are atypical of most common PIR integrated cameras in that they are not the 'cube' form factor. Cube form factors are not ideal for many surveillance deployments, but the models listed below follow traditional units.

  • Vivotek FD7131: Dome camera, 640x480, varifocal 3.3-12mm lens, onboard IR LEDs, 1 zone PIR range of 20 - 30 feet. Indoor only: ~$350 online
  • Mobotix M12: Dual Color and B/W imagers, MP resolution, 22mm or 43mm options, 1 zone PIR range of 20 - 30 feet. Indoor/Outdoor rated: ~$1500 online

Cameras paired with External PIRs

The units listed below are typical of outdoor PIRs matched with surveillance cameras. Only the sensors are listed; no cameras or accessories like power supplies or mounting brackets are not listed. Given the variety of units available, the units listed below demonstrate only a small portion of potential ranges, coverage zones, and relay output.

  • Optex SIP-100 Redwall: 12/24 ADC/AC powered, up to 3 configurable zones and 300' detection. Multiple relay outputs for cameras and other PIRs. Outdoor rated: ~$750 online
  • Takex PA15WE: 24VDC/AC powered, single zone, 40' x 40' coverage area. Up to four relay outputs for cameras and other PIRs. Outdoor rated: ~$200 online

1 report cite this report:

Intrusion Motion Sensors Tutorial on Oct 04, 2016
Motion sensors are one of the most common, and most useful alarm sensors, but they also often cause problems. Many motion sensors types exist and...
Comments : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Resideo AlarmNet Has Major Outage on Mar 12, 2020
AlarmNet suffered a major outage yesterday, impacting Total Connect, Resideo, and Honeywell / Ademco alarm customers. Inside we examine what...
Video Surveillance Cameras 101 on Feb 25, 2020
Cameras come in many shapes, sizes and specifications. This 101 examines the basics of cameras and features used in 2020. In this report, we...
Glossary / Acronyms for Video Surveillance on Feb 10, 2020
This directory provides definitions and explanations for over 70 common video surveillance industry terms, including links to related IPVM...
Halo Smart Vape Detector Tested on Jan 16, 2020
The Halo Smart Sensor claims to detect vaping, including popular brand Juul and even THC vapes. But how well does it work in real world...
Budget Covert Cameras Tested on Nov 26, 2019
Covert cameras under $100 are widely available online but are they any good? To see how these models really work in the real world, we bought...
Hidden Camera Detectors Tested on Nov 18, 2019
Hidden cameras are a growing problem as cameras become smaller, cheaper and easier to access. However, some companies claim to be able to detect...
Lasers Impact on Surveillance Cameras Tested on Sep 25, 2019
Hong Kong protests have brought global attention to video surveillance and the ongoing attempts of protesters to disable or undermine those cameras... Suffers Outage on Jul 26, 2019 suffered a major outage this week, impacting its 5+ million customers. Inside, we examine what happened, what told IPVM and...
Startup Spectral Edge RGB+IR Claims "Unique Low Light Performance Tech" on Apr 03, 2019
This UK startup, born out of university research, is boldly proclaiming that they deliver "Unique low light performance tech for video surveillance...
Camera Disruptor Wyze Enters Sensor / Security Market on Mar 28, 2019
Wyze, the company that has disrupted consumer IP cameras, combining American marketing and Chinese manufacturer, has just announced its expansion...

Most Recent Industry Reports

LIVE NOW "Fever Camera" Show on Jun 02, 2020
IPVM is excited for the world's first "Fever Camera" show, to be held today Tuesday, June 2nd and Wednesday the 3rd from 11am to 4pm EDT, giving...
Smart Entry Systems Presents Cloud Multi-Tenant Access Control on Jun 02, 2020
Smart Entry Systems presented Cloud Multi-Tenant Access Control at the May 2020 IPVM Startups show. Inside this report: A 30-minute video...
Genetec Drops Support for Dahua and Hikvision on Jun 01, 2020
Genetec has dropped support for Dahua and Hikvision, citing US blacklisting and ONVIF conformance blockage, the company informed partners in an...
Dotty "Hot Or Not" Elevated Body Temperature App Tested on Jun 01, 2020
What if you could take an existing phone or tablet and transform it into "fever camera"? That is what DottyAR is doing with their strangely named...
Optris "Fever Screening Systems" Examined on Jun 01, 2020
German manufacturer Optris has been building temperature measuring instruments for industrial manufacturing for over 15 years, and thermal cameras...
Fever Camera Sales From Integrators Surveyed on Jun 01, 2020
Fever cameras are the hottest trend in video surveillance currently but how much are integrators selling them? 220 integrators answered the...
Proxy Presents Mobile Credentials For BLE Devices and Access on May 29, 2020
Proxy presented Mobile Credentials For BLE Devices and Access at the May 2020 IPVM Startups show. Inside this report: A 30-minute video...
ISC West 2020 Moves To The Basement on May 29, 2020
The twice cancelled/postponed show will now not only be held in a different month (October) but on a different floor, moving down to the...
Integrators Avoiding Coronavirus Air Travel on May 29, 2020
IPVM asked integrators if air travel is part of their 2020 plans to see how significantly Coronavirus will impact future...
Viakoo Presents Cyber Hygiene for Cameras on May 28, 2020
Viakoo presented its 'Cyber Hygiene' and 'Service Assurance' products at the April 2020 IPVM New Products show. Inside this report: A...