How Do CCTV Cameras Work at Night? [In Depth Answer]

Any of us who own a security system or CCTV system try to gain an understanding of how the system truly operates and the benefits it can provide us. CCTV systems and cameras are evolving regularly, and technology seems to get better and better. The cameras are gaining the ability to see further and deeper with crisp quality.

CCTV cameras are even beginning to pick-up crystal-clear audio using microphones from impressive distances. I was always curious of one thing when I purchased my first CCTV camera system. How do CCTV cameras work at night? After using my own system and some research, here is what I have learned.

So, how do CCTV cameras work at night? CCTV cameras require lighting or a source of light at night. To do this, CCTV cameras use infrared lights to make objects and viewing areas visible in the darkness. To the human eye, you won’t be able to notice these infrared lights on a CCTV camera.

I’m assuming you want to know more about how CCTV cameras leverage technology to provide high-quality video and images in the dark of the night. If you stick around and read a bit further, we will break down more about CCTV cameras and what all is involved in providing night recording and imaging abilities.

A Deeper Look at The CCTV Camera’s at Night

We touched on how CCTV cameras need a source of light to be able to process and capture high-quality recordings and images. There are however a few variations on how the lighting can be supplied to a CCTV camera system. Let’s take a look at the different methods used in the latest CCTV technology.

Infrared Lighting with CCTV Cameras

With infrared lighting, your camera is more of a secret spy for you. Any normal individual looking at the camera from the outside will have no clue that the camera can capture high-resolution images and quality video recordings during the nighttime hours. No lights will be visible that indicates the camera is up and running.

To the naked eye, it’s just a camera mounted on the wall.

This method is often used when you are trying to conceal the security and keep it low key, so to speak. On the other hand, you have also had the option for your CCTV camera to use other external lighting sources.

External Lighting Options with CCTV Cameras

This is the more noticeable and more natural for the ordinary person to see that the camera can capture video and images. To the outsiders looking in, external lighting sources will be visibly noticeable.

Light sources will usually be placed inside and outside of facilitates to provide adequate lighting for the cameras to capture high-quality images and recordings. Other times the camera itself may have LED lights that help illuminate the viewing area to provide better quality images.

Another Consideration with CCTV Night Lighting, Lighting Levels

Another feature of CCTV camera is known as the lux number which refers to the lighting level needed for the camera to produce the best overall quality images and recordings.

With nighttime CCTV cameras, you need to pay special attention to this lux number to make sure lighting will be adequate for your camera to perform the necessary functions needed.

If, however, you are using external sources for lighting, you can use lower lux numbers since they are designed to provide higher quality imaging with lower lighting conditions. The external lighting in these circumstances will be enough for the camera to capture high-quality video and images.

Black and White Color Considerations with Your CCTV Camera

Another consideration to keep in mind about your CCTV camera recording at night is that you will be capturing the video and images in black and white with specific products. Other products that contain infrared technology will still be capable of offering color imaging at night with low or poor lighting conditions.

When choosing your system and deciding what application it will be used for, it’s essential to determine which features you need to complete the task at hand efficiently. Here are the differences between the two.

Low Lighting Night Vision and CCTV’s

With low lighting night vision, your camera is using image intensification to give color images and videos. This is still 100% possible even taking low lighting in conditions into consideration. The biggest misconception with these camera systems is that the camera can produce light in total darkness which is not true.

The low lighting night vision CCTV’s still need some lighting or a light source available to capture the images and video. Low lighting night vision is also known to outperform IR CCTV technology.

Currently, they are the only CCTV camera capable of capturing color images and video with meager lighting conditions.

Lastly, low lighting night vision CCTV’s are a budget-friendly option and can be cheaper than other options.

How Far Can A Night Vision Camera See?

How far a CCTV camera can see in the dark will depend on several factors. Again, lighting conditions will come into play and impact how you can still grab quality images from these cameras from further distances. In addition, it depends on if you are using infrared technology.

In most circumstances, your camera will be able to see and capture quality images for up to 20 feet in the dark, but the imaging and video will be in black and white. If the there is strong lighting or any external lighting sources, you may be able to grab quality images and video for up to 50 feet away.

Pretty impressive if you ask me.

What If Someone Shines a Light to Blind My CCTV? Will It Still Work?

If this happens, your CCTV is up for the challenge in most circumstances. Newer technology allows and is programmed to battle back against this outdated technique. A mid-range CCTV equipped with night vision will be able to detect if this is occurring and will remain on and recording and not be fooled.

These CCTV’s are also capable of auto-adjusting to sudden lighting changes such as dusk and dawn when it’s tough for the camera to realize exactly what the best lighting conditions may be.

In these situations, your camera will adjust and switch between normal and night modes as the lighting outdoors slowly change with the corresponding time of the day.

A simpler way to word it, your CCTV is smarter than you think and is programmed to handle lighting conditions and will do everything it can to continue recording, streaming and capturing quality images and video regardless of the situation or circumstances.

How Far Can You Zoom Night Vision CCTV’s?

This is also going to depend on the model and the quality of the CCTV. Some cameras regardless of night vision capabilities will be capable of performing an 8x digital zoom, and some will be capable of delivering a 12x digital zoom.

In these situations, the better the camera, the better the features and digital zoom will most likely be.

Do All Night Vision Cameras Have Red Lights?

No. Not all-night vision CCTV cameras will be detectable by noticing the lights on the camera, but many will. If the camera is using infrared light to illuminate the viewing space, the person that can see the physical camera will have no way of knowing if the camera is active or capable of recording in the dark.

If however, your camera is using LED’s, this will be noticeable.

What Are the Red Lights Around My CCTV?

If you can visually see red lights around your camera or near the lenses, these are just primary LED lights. As opposed to the invisible infrared lights, the LEDs are acting as a lighting source to help display the adequate light needed for your camera to pick up quality enough images and video.

Having these red LED lights displaying will trigger your visitor or trespasser to understand that the camera is visibly powered on and recording. This could be a good or a bad thing. It may deter the criminal, or it may trigger the criminal to devise a new plan of attack.

Not only that, but the most thief’s in these situations will be aware that this indicates that the camera is still capable of picking up quality images or recordings even in some of the darkest conditions.

What About Total Black Outs or Pitch-Black Visibility? Is this Possible?

This depends as well. Some very high-end cameras can use what’s known as image intensifiers. Even if the camera is using moonlight only to capture video or images, these cameras are still capable of taking quality images and video in the darkest conditions.

Other lower end cameras may struggle if you are looking at an application where there will be no light availability such as indoors with blacked out windows or other rare instances.

Your CCTV Camera Will Have Your Back. Rain or Shine. Night or Day.

Clearly, technology has come a long way in the last decade. CCTV cameras are capable of recording stunning, crisp images and quality even in the worst of conditions. Deciding which brand or actual CCTV to purchase may be challenging. In these situations, it’s advised to speak to an expert.

Inform them of the reasons and concerns you have for needing CCTV cameras and what functions you desire them to perform. Night vision capabilities are only scratching the surfaces with these devices and one small consideration to factor in the grand scheme of things.

For the most part, any newer CCTV will be able to provide you with the night quality needed to protect your home and family.

Do you have recommendations for finding the best CCTV cameras for night vision capabilities? What do you recommend? Be sure to drop a comment below.

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