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The Ultimate Guide to Night Vision Cameras

What Is a Night Vision Camera?

Night vision can help better protect your property by capturing video evidence of suspicious activities even in low-light conditions.

How Does Night Vision Work? The Magic Behind It

There are various types of night vision technologies. The most common type used in surveillance cameras is infrared (IR) night vision, which relies on IR light bulbs built into the lens. These can 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.

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

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 the lens inside the lens are 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 infrared 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.


  • 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


  • 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

Why Do You Need a Night Vision Camera?

Not all uses for security cameras necessarily need night vision to function adequately. We’ve identified three key uses for surveillance where you’ll find that night vision is not only useful, but more-or-less required for optimum surveillance.

Night vision camera for outdoor

Night vision camera for car

Night vision camera for baby room

How to Use a Night Vision Camera App to Transform 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.

Since Alfred isn’t able to add infrared to your phone’s camera, the Low-Light Filter won’t capture much if it is viewing pitch-black darkness devoid of any light source.

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

Making the Most of AlfredCamera’s Low-Light Filter


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.

Credit: The Hook Up
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.


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.