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How Far Can a Night Vision Camera See?

The farthest a night vision camera can observe is about 150 meters (492 feet). The range the camera achieves depends on lens aperture, image sensor technology, and the size and number of infrared LED bulbs, among other things.

Read on to learn about the factors that are important for excellent low-light surveillance, and get to grips with the different types of night vision technology used in security cameras.

Types of Night Vision Technology in Security Cameras

The old-school night vision technology that’s been used since at least the 1930s is the kind that most people imagine when they hear the phrase ‘night vision’. It’s instantly recognizable for its green tint, which is caused by a phosphor screen. 

This kind of night vision works through what’s known as an ‘intensifier tube’, which can be described in layman’s terms as an extremely sensitive camera sensor. This isn’t used in security cameras.

Night vision in security cameras is based around infrared bulbs. Infrared is a form of light invisible to the human eye. By turning on infrared bulbs, an image can be produced in black and white even when there aren’t any significant sources of visible light.

Consumers might notice a few terms thrown around by security camera brands to describe night vision in security cameras, which are described below.

IR Night Vision

When visible light is diminished, infrared light bulbs will turn on to allow the device to create an image using infrared (non-visible) light. Users might notice dull red bulbs around the camera’s lens. These are IR lights, which essentially flood the lens’ field of view. 

Graphic illustrating the spectrum of infrared light

By 940nm, infrared is totally invisible to the human eye. Infrared upwards of this wavelength would be necessary for totally covert surveillance that doesn’t create a red glow.

The resultant image will be produced in a monochromatic shade (black and white) to make it visible.

Color Night Vision

Many brands advertise their security cameras as having ‘color night vision’. This is a catch-all term for a camera that can produce some degree of colored imagery in dark environments, either in addition to or instead of the monochrome image that is produced through infrared alone. The specifics can differ.

Other devices will create a color image by combining the information captured using infrared bulbs with visible light sources. The resultant image isn’t ‘true’ color, but color determined by software, which is why it can often look slightly dull or gray. These devices generally have more sensitive camera sensors to allow them to capture greater levels of ambient visible light.

Starlight Night Vision

A term occasionally used in advertising for security cameras, DSLRs, and trail cameras, ‘starlight night vision’ refers to a camera with particularly sensitive image sensors and a very wide aperture. This allows the device to capture information from extremely weak sources of visible light (like the night sky; hence the name).

The night sky

Much like ordinary IR night vision, these usually default to a black-and-white images because they cannot produce full-color images with such diminished light sources.

Again, these devices may or may not have infrared bulbs surrounding the lens to help produce the image.

When Should I Use Infrared Night Vision?

Security camera night vision facilitated through infrared bulbs won’t always be necessary, nor guarantee the longest range depending on how it is being used.

For example, having a security camera against a window is a very common placement option. However, infrared night vision rarely works when the camera is placed against glass because the red-colored infrared bulbs reflect back into the lens. Depending on the size and number of IR bulbs, this will obscure the image to differing degrees.

How to Increase the Range and Performance of a Night Vision Camera

There are several factors that determine the range and performance of a night vision security camera.

Number of IR LEDs

Infrared night vision is created using infrared bulbs. The exact number of LEDs used differs from camera to camera. The number of them has an impact on the range that can be achieved. 

Generally speaking, the more there are, the better the range, but the actual number of LEDs there are depends largely on camera size and purpose.

An extreme close-up of infrared LEDs

Ambient Light

Since most infrared night vision cameras advertise themselves as being capable of ‘color night vision’, this means that the degree of ambient visible light in the observed area will affect the achievable range. 

Lit candles are a dim source of ambient light in this image.

Some experimentation will be necessary in order to make the best of the night vision technology without causing significant light pollution, which can be irritating for neighbors at night.


A camera’s resolution plays a big part in how ‘clear’ the resultant image looks. It refers to the number of pixels in the image, commonly expressed as terms like ‘1080p’ or ‘4K’. The higher the number of pixels, the more clarity and detail the image has. 

As such, higher resolution images are helpful for improving how clear an image produced through infrared ultimately is. 

Resolution is the number of distinct pixels there are. This DSLR has branding on the exterior that advertises its 4K video capabilities.

Because IR night vision is monochromatic, detail can be thought of as even more important than it is in a full-color image captured in visible light, because it’s essential for discerning what’s actually occurring in the image. It makes it easier to make out the things that are farthest away from the lens. 

Lens Aperture

Aperture is the opening through which light enters the lens. Like an eye, the size of this opening shifts as more or less visible light enters it. The size of the aperture is therefore fundamental to obtaining a clear image in the dark with decent range. 

In the dark, the opening must be much wider in order to let in as much light as possible. This is called a large aperture. The larger the aperture, the farther the security camera will be able to see in the dark.

Aperture is the opening that allows light to enter the lens. It can be made wider or narrower.

Unfortunately, it’s safe to assume that there are zero IP security cameras on the market that actually allow users to manipulate aperture manually. High-end devices, like those provided by Arlo, have larger apertures than budget-friendly devices, allowing for a longer night vision range.

Image Sensor

Alongside aperture, how much a security camera can see in the dark is determined by the image sensor. The image sensor captures the light that hits the lens, as determined by the aperture, and then converts it into a signal.

Because of this, a security camera’s sensor needs to be capable of high imaging performance in near-infrared light and in well-lit environments. A strong image sensor can instantly and accurately respond to variations in light.

An image sensor.


Do night vision cameras work in complete darkness?

Yes, night vision cameras work in complete darkness using different mechanisms. An infrared or IR night vision camera has integrated LED lights that infrared light waves to create a monochromatic image. Generally, moderate degrees of visible ambient light helps improve range.

How to see clearer at night?

Security camera placement plays a big role in seeing clearer at night. Avoid the window, which will reflect infrared bulbs back into the lens. Prioritize spaces with no possibility of reflections obscuring the image.

Do night vision cameras emit light?

Night vision cameras emit near-infrared light using infrared LED bulbs, usually found in a ring around the camera’s lens. This floods the camera’s field of view to create an image in darkness Infrared is invisible to the human eye.

How far away can a wireless security camera work? 

A wireless security camera works from 10 to 250 feet, depending on the position, distance between the router and the camera, bandwidth, channel, and product technical specifications. 

How far can outdoor security cameras see?

An outdoor security camera can see between 40 and 500 feet, depending on the camera’s focal length, lens quality, location, zooming capability, aperture, and ISO, among other things

What is the best outdoor security camera with night vision? 

How far can a 360 camera see? 


The range of a security camera, regardless of whether it is being used in light or dark environments, relies on the same variables: available light sources, resolution, zoom capacity, aperture, image sensor, placement, and so on. 

Infrared bulbs provide the most reliable way for a security camera to create an image in the dark that has decent range, but indoor spaces with existing ambient light can benefit equally from software-based night vision.