Home » Security Camera Guides » The Ultimate Guide to Night Vision Cameras

The Ultimate Guide to Night Vision Cameras

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

There was a time when night vision seemed like something straight out of a spy film, and that’s because it largely was. Actual night vision was an expensive, inaccessible technology. Nowadays, that isn’t the case, and even our phones are able to record in relatively low-light.

A big shortcoming of a lot of home security cameras in the past was their inability to do this. Now, with home security camera apps like AlfredCamera, even your phone can record footage in settings with significantly diminished light sources.

Read on to discover how night vision works in the surveillance industry, and also pick up some useful tips on setting up AlfredCamera in low-light mode.

What Is a Night Vision Camera?

A night vision camera is a surveillance device that has the ability to ‘see’ in low-light conditions. Surveillance cameras are generally placed in an environment where the light sources keep changing, like outside our homes, where there are numerous external light sources (the most unreliable being the sun).

Hence, night vision can help better protect your property by capturing video evidence of suspicious activities even with low-light conditions. 

A road captured by a CCTV camera using night vision.
A road captured by a CCTV camera using night vision.

How Does Night Vision Work? The Magic Behind It

There are various types of night vision techniques. The most common type used in surveillance cameras is infrared (IR) night vision, which relies on built-in IR light bulbs. These can work to create a visual in virtually no light at all.

On the other hand, most smartphone cameras are now able to function in very low light settings. Since AlfredCamera provides software-based surveillance, it uses software-based low-light enhancements that require no specific hardware.

As one might imagine, this is a super affordable way to mimic the effects of night vision, although there is still some external light source needed for it to function.

Let’s explore how these two technologies work.

Infrared (Hardware-based)

Have you ever had a chance to look into your camera’s hardware? You might have noticed that it is covered in a series of small LED bulbs. That is the IR LED/sensor, and when the environment becomes darker, these bulbs turn on and capture the invisible light reflected by objects. This forms a clear image in the dark.

An infrared camera’s ‘range’ is related to how many infrared LED bulbs it has–the more bulbs, the better the range.

Benefits

  • Not overly expensive, depending on the effectiveness of the hardware
  • Infrared night vision cameras can record without any additional light
A man having a photo taken in infrared.
A man having a photo taken in infrared.

AlfredCamera’s Low Light Filter (Software-based)

Although hardware solutions can create images from infrared, that isn’t to say there aren’t any software solutions that provide a similar same function with no extra equipment.

In fact, AlfredCamera does exactly this. 

The Low Light Filter is one of the most popular features of the app. Using software image intensifiers, AlfredCamera is able to transform original RGB data (i.e. red, green and blue – what the camera and the human eye picks up) into YUV. YUV represents color slightly differently, based on luminance, (Y), and chrominance (U and V). 

After applying luma components on the original image, AlfredCamera enhances the luminance to show a clearer image under low-light conditions. But the enhancement requires more of a light source than would be needed for IR-based solutions.

AlfredCamera’s Low-Light Filter feature in action

Benefits

  • Extra hardware is not needed
  • Captures more detail in the image with little light
  • Free, thanks to AlfredCamera
A UV-color plane, represented in RGB. By Tonyle - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
A UV-color plane, represented in RGB. By Tonyle – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

How to Make a Night Vision Camera at Home Using Your Phone

AlfredCamera’s low-light filter allows you to capture the shapes and outlines of objects in low light conditions without additional hardware.

To do so, Alfred increases the contrast, reduces the color, and emphasizes the outline of objects using its algorithms, making a de facto night vision camera out of your smartphone.

With that said, since Alfred isn’t able to add infrared to your Camera devices, the Low-Light Filter won’t capture much if it is viewing pitch-black darkness devoid of any light source.

Download AlfredCamera (App Store and Google Play) and find out how you can make the most out of your DIY night vision camera below. 

Turning on Low-Light Filter

  1. Select a Camera device
  2. Tap on the “More” arrow in the bottom right corner of the screen
  3. Turn on Low-Light Filter by tapping on the “moon” icon

Auto Low-Light Filter

Auto Low-Light Filter works by automatically turning on the Low-Light Filter when Alfred detects that there isn’t enough light. If you’re more interested in capturing movements rather than colors (for instance, you have a camera positioned to view your porch) here’s how to turn on Auto Low-Light Filter:

  1. Tap on the setting wheel in the Camera’s thumbnail
  2. Switch the Auto Low-Light Filter toggle on under Others

Visit our support center for a complete setup guide.

Tips On Improving Low-Light Filter’s Performance

Adjust the Low-Light Filter exposure (Android 5.15.0 or later only)

  1. Tap on the Camera settings wheel
  2. Tap Switch to Camera 2.0
  3. Tap Low-Light Filter
  4. Combine with low level light sources, like motion detecting night lights, to maximize how much Alfred can capture.

Making the Most of the Low-Light Filter

Among the most popular uses of the low-light filter reported by AlfredCamera users is for monitoring babies. Since babies tend to be comforted by a low-level light source anyway, like a night light, AlfredCamera is a brilliant way to keep an eye (and an ear) on your little loved one. 

Alfred will notify you if it detects any movement, and you’ll even be able to talk to your baby through the phone to comfort them should they become distressed. The low-light filter will create a clear image, even when the room is shrouded in darkness.

While Alfred’s intention is to let you use an old smartphone or tablet as a home security camera, if you really want to use the Low-Light Filter as “night vision,” whether in a baby room or on the porch, it is worth investing in a night-light or porch light to increase its capabilities. 

Aside from that, it’s generally recommended to have exterior lighting in vulnerable spots, like at the door, to help deter burglaries and home invasions.

FAQ

Do night vision cameras exist?

Believe it or not, they do!

There is no singular ‘night vision’ capability, however, but a range of different ways to create images out of darkness. The most common and ‘traditional’ method is through infrared, since these images won’t require visible light to create shapes.

Do night vision cameras work in complete darkness?

Yes, a traditional infrared night vision camera will create an image in an environment with no light source at all. Other forms of night vision, like thermal detection, can also create shapes by analyzing heat sources in a space where there is no light. 

AlfredCamera’s low-light filter can replicate the capabilities of a night vision camera by adjusting certain parameters of the image, but it does require some form of light in order to work effectively. As the name of the feature would suggest, this can be a pretty low level of light. The benefit is that AlfredCamera is free, and requires no additional hardware to use.

Can you turn your phone camera into night vision?

While it is certainly possible to buy peripherals, like heat detecting lenses, to add to your phone, this comes at a price. These peripherals can cost hundreds of dollars.

AlfredCamera is able to observe low-light environments with relatively strong detail without the need for buying any extra peripherals, so long as there is some form of light—even if that light is quite weak.

Conclusion

Night vision cameras aren’t some made-up fantasy device, but they certainly are pricey. For many of us, dropping thousands of dollars on infrared cameras is something of a fantasy. There are a number of different options for ‘night vision’, and it isn’t a singular technology as it’s often presented in the movies.

For those of us on a budget, AlfredCamera’s Low-Light Filter feature provides a great means of replicating the abilities of night vision in an environment with low level light sources. That’s what makes it so great as a baby monitor, as well for keeping an eye on your porch.