Using PIRs + Cameras Guide

Author: 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 Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

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 : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

French Government Threatens School with $1.7M Fine For “Excessive Video Surveillance” on Nov 14, 2018
The French government has notified a high-profile Paris coding academy that it risks a fine of up to 1.5 million euros (about $1.7m) if it...
Genetec Privacy Protector Tested on Nov 12, 2018
Genetec has built Kiwi Security's Privacy Protector into Security Center, an analytic which anonymizes individuals in cameras' fields of view...
Dahua Dual Imager Dome Camera Tested (HDBW4231FN-E2-M) on Nov 07, 2018
Dahua has introduced a dual-imager dome model, the HDBW4231FN-E2-M, with two independently positionable sensors including integrated IR, not found...
Winter 2019 IP Networking Course on Nov 05, 2018
This is the only networking course designed specifically for video surveillance professionals.  Lots of network training exists but none of it...
HID: Stop Selling Cracked 125 kHz Credentials on Nov 05, 2018
HID should stop selling cracked 125 kHz access control credentials, that have been long cracked and can easily be copied by cheap cloners sold on...
Video Surveillance Hard Drive Failure Statistics 2018 on Nov 02, 2018
Hard drive failures can be significant service problems but how common of an issue are they in video surveillance? How long do drives last when...
Contactless Access Credentials Guide on Oct 29, 2018
Contactless credentials are the most common component used in an access control system and while many look alike externally, important differences...
Axxon Face Search Tested on Oct 26, 2018
AxxonSoft has brought facial recognition to their Axxon Next VMS for free with the simply named Face Search, claiming to allow users to find...
Security Fence Guide on Oct 24, 2018
Fences, while a low tech barricade, are a cornerstone of good security. Few physical security elements are as effective at keeping threats away as...
Hanwha Dual Imager Dome Camera Tested (PNM-7000VD) on Oct 18, 2018
Hanwha has introduced their first dual-imager model, the PNM-7000VD, a twin 1080p model featuring independently positionable sensors and a snap-in...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Milestone Disrupts Milestone With Arcules on Nov 19, 2018
Milestone is now competing against... Milestone's own spinout Arcules New IPVM testing shows that Arcules has incorporated a substantial amount of...
Pressure Mounts Against Dahua and Hikvision Xinjiang Business on Nov 19, 2018
Pressure is mounting against Hikvision, Dahua, and other companies operating in Xinjiang as an international outcry brews against the Chinese...
Arcules Cloud VMS Tested on Nov 19, 2018
Arcules is a big bet, or as they describe themselves a 'bold company', spun out and backed by Milestone and Canon.  But how good is Arcules cloud...
'Sticker' Surveillance Camera Developed (CSEM Witness) on Nov 16, 2018
The Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) has announced what it calls the: world’s first fully autonomous camera that can be...
ISC East 2018 Mini-Show Final Report on Nov 16, 2018
This is our second (updated) and final show report from ISC East. ISC East, by its own admission, is not a national or international show, billed...
Facial Detection Tested on Nov 16, 2018
Facial detection and recognition are increasingly offered by video surveillance manufacturers. Facial detection detects faces in an image/video...
Throughtek P2P/Cloud Solution Profile on Nov 15, 2018
Many IoT manufacturers either do not have the capabilities or the interest to develop their own cloud management software for their devices....
ASIS Offering Custom Research For Manufacturers on Nov 15, 2018
Manufacturers often want to know what industry people think about trends and, in particular, the segments and product they offer.  ASIS and its...
Hikvision Silent on "Bad Architectural Practices" Cybersecurity Report on Nov 14, 2018
A 'significant vulnerability was found in Hikvision cameras' by VDOO, a startup cybersecurity specialist. Hikvision has fixed the specific...
French Government Threatens School with $1.7M Fine For “Excessive Video Surveillance” on Nov 14, 2018
The French government has notified a high-profile Paris coding academy that it risks a fine of up to 1.5 million euros (about $1.7m) if it...

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