How far can a surveillance camera see at night?

With many surveillance cameras, the range of the field of vision at night is determined by the strength of the built-in infrared LEDs. If you want to monitor a large area with your security camera even at night, this range is crucial.

In this article we look at the different night vision systems and how far the cameras can see with them.

Here are some data from the most popular security cameras:

What does the range of surveillance cameras depend on at night?

The range of a surveillance camera at night depends on its night vision technology, its resolution, its field of view and the focal length of the lens.

The most important factor is of course your position and the associated field of vision. If you mount the surveillance camera directly in front of a wall, you can only look up to this wall. The other factors actually only play a role if the camera is set up so that it can see a very large area. This could e.g. be your garden or the area on your doorstep.

It is also important how many obstacles there are between the camera and your router as long as it transmits its data via WiFi. If the signal is very poor, the quality will be very poor, which limits the range at night.

As soon as the camera is set up in the right place, the most important factor influencing the range at night is the focal length or the size of the camera lens.

The larger the lens, the more light it can capture. In principle, this works in the same way as with nocturnal animals. Animals that hunt at night usually have large eyes so that they can catch a lot of light. Eyes that can see at night also have one other thing in common with good night vision cameras – their “resolution”. In a biological eye, resolution would mean the density of light receptors. And the higher the resolution of a camera, the clearer the picture of the video.

What night vision systems for security cameras are there?

At the moment there are three different technologies to enable night vision for a surveillance camera. However, the basic principle is the same for all technologies: infrared light. We cannot see infrared light with our eyes.

The three methods of providing night vision are infrared lighting, low-light image enhancement and thermal imaging.

Infrared lighting

If we want to see something at night with a normal camera, we need to illuminate the area with a light source. In the case of surveillance cameras, however, this is usually not desired, and it is also impractical and expensive. It would not be very advisable to illuminate the entire area of ​​your house with light all year round. I don’t want to get my electricity bill after Christmas 12 times a year!

Funnily enough, this is exactly what we do with infrared lighting. A surveillance camera with this technology uses infrared LEDs that illuminate their field of vision with infrared rays. If our eyes could see infrared light, it would be much the same as a normal flashlight. However, it is much cheaper and less noticeable. Most of the time, motion detectors also work using infrared light.

So a combination of these two technologies is not only cost effective but also very effective for nightly surveillance. With this combination, the infrared lighting is usually only activated when the motion detector has been triggered.

Most modern smart home surveillance cameras work with infrared LEDs for motion detection and night vision. This system really delivers very good results without breaking your budget.

Low light image enhancement

With low-light image enhancement, the image is digitally brightened. However, this only works if it is not too dark. The darker it is outside, the worse the image quality will be.

This technology is generally worse than infrared lighting, but mostly a little cheaper.

In addition to the lighting conditions, the image quality also depends on the properties of the camera lens and the other quality of the camera. The camera lens should be as large as possible to capture even the smallest amounts of light. The goal is also dependent on the software used. The cheapest cameras usually brighten the image completely evenly, which means that lighter areas are often outshone and you can no longer see any details. If e.g. If someone walks through your garden with a flashlight, you will only see the flashlight and nothing else.

Thermal imaging

The infrared spectrum also contains thermal radiation. Cameras with thermal imaging technology have image sensors that can precisely detect this wavelength. This means that there is no need for a separate light source such as a lamp or infrared LEDs, as the heat signatures of living beings can be seen directly.

Fortunately, criminals have not yet sent their robots to do their job, because then a thermal imaging camera might be useless. People, animals and hot engines can still be distinguished very well from colder objects such as trees, lawns and dead objects such as a road.

The warmer an object is, the more thermal radiation it emits. On the thermal image, warmer objects are lighter than darker ones. The range of thermal imaging cameras is far greater than any other technology. The disadvantage, however, is that surveillance cameras with thermal imaging technology are usually quite expensive.

Night vision camera purchase advice – which features are important?

There are so many security cameras with acceptable night vision out there. It is sometimes difficult to choose the right one for your purpose and not spend too much money on features that you don’t need at all.

So that you are more confident in your selection, the most important features are listed here that you should pay attention to when buying a surveillance camera with good night vision.

Night vision by infrared

If you have to choose between two cameras, you should always choose the one that realizes its night vision via infrared LEDs.

Infrared LEDs light up the area in front of the camera practically like a flashlight only in the non-visible area. This will give you videos that are sharper than if it had been daytime.

Night vision through light amplification is sometimes very suitable to keep the price low, but the quality of the videos is much worse in the end than when working with infrared LEDs. If the light is amplified, a flashlight can make the entire video worthless, as everything is outshone.

Of course, a thermal imaging camera might be even better than infrared night vision, but these cameras are usually priceless * for someone who just wants to monitor their home.

Video quality and resolution

As with your camera that you use on vacation, the resolution, i.e. the number of megapixels, is also important for a razor-sharp image with surveillance cameras.

With surveillance cameras in particular, the resolution can make a decisive contribution to whether you can recognize a face or a license plate or not. The higher the resolution, the closer you can zoom in on a detail without it becoming too blurry to see.

A lower resolution is certainly sufficient for smaller areas or rooms. But as soon as you want to monitor larger areas in your outdoor area, you will need a 1080p HD resolution. Fortunately, this is already a widely used standard.

When it comes to resolution, how you save your videos is also important. The higher the resolution, the larger the video will be. So if you want to record videos 24/7 but can only save them on a medium-sized SD card, you will quickly reach the limits of the storage medium. In the case of high resolutions and long video recordings, a cloud solution is particularly suitable. If you only record videos when a motion detector is activated, you can also use high resolutions if you use an SD card as a storage medium.

Field of view

Depending on how your room or area to be monitored is designed, you need a suitable field of vision. The larger the field of view of the camera, the fewer individual cameras you have to install to cover everything.

So before you make a purchase, you should perhaps think about what kind of angle you need to get by with as few cameras as possible. Usually a wider angle of view is better, although the cameras involved are slightly more expensive than cameras with a smaller field of view. The field of view should be at least 100 °. Of course, 180 ° would be ideal.

The 3 best indoor surveillance cameras with night vision

Arlo Q

The Arlo Q smart surveillance camera not only delivers very good images at night, it is also one of the best surveillance cameras on the market during the day. Especially when it comes to smart home functionalities, there is hardly a better one.

The most important features of this surveillance camera are listed here:

  • 1080p HD video resolution: This high video resolution is becoming more and more the standard, but the Arlo Q also delivers videos in this high HD resolution at night. This allows you to see small details such as faces or numbers on license plates even in night shots.
  • 2-way audio system: With the 2-way audio system, you can not only hear what is happening in the vicinity of the surveillance camera, but in an emergency you can even talk to the person on the other side via the app.
  • Intelligent notifications: You can have notifications sent to you at various events. If you monitor your home with this security camera when you are on vacation, you could e.g. Link the motion detector to a notification. Then you know immediately if someone has broken into your house.
  • Wide field of view: With the 130 ° viewing angle, you can cover a large area without having to set up multiple cameras.
    Free cloud storage: now unfortunately very rare, but the Arlo Q comes with a free cloud service with which you can save your continuously recorded videos for up to 7 days on the manufacturer’s cloud.
  • 8 x digital zoom: Thanks to the high resolution, it is possible to zoom very far into the video. With the recorded videos you have the possibility to enlarge certain details up to eight times.


  • Free cloud storage for 7 days
  • Continuous video and audio recording
  • 2-way audio system
  • User friendly app
  • Smart notifications
  • Very good night vision


  • Not pivotable

Amcrest Ultra HD

The Amcrest Ultra HD surveillance camera * is particularly suitable for night shots and has a few other very practical features:

  • PTZ (Pan-Tilt-Zoom): This camera has an unlimited viewing angle thanks to its mobility. It can rotate, pan and zoom.
  • Night vision: The night vision is particularly successful with this camera. It has a range of over 10 meters and thanks to the very high HD resolution you can still see just as many details at night as during the day.
  • Motion detector: Of course, this camera also has built-in motion detectors that can send you notifications and alarms via the app.
  • Amcrest View App: With the accompanying app you can not only control the camera but also receive notifications and control various settings.
  • One year warranty and lifetime support: This surveillance camera comes with excellent support if you have any problems – whether these problems are of a technical nature or not.
  • 2-way audio system: an intercom system can be useful in several situations. I e.g. I don’t want to do without my surveillance camera in front of the front door, which always sends me a notification when someone is at my front door. I have saved myself quite a few trips to the post office because I could tell the postman directly where to leave the package when I am not at home.


  • Night vision via infrared with a range of up to 11 meters
  • Can pan, rotate and zoom.
  • Can be operated from anywhere via app
  • Cloud backup is possible
  • 2-way audio system


  • Needs a strong WiFi signal because of the high resolution.

Arlo Pro

The Arlo Pro surveillance camera * offers you almost every feature you could want in a smart home surveillance camera. They are listed here:

  • Built-in siren: You can set the camera to sound at certain events, e.g. emits an alarm signal of more than 100 decibels when motion or noise is detected. This feature is quite unique among smart home surveillance cameras and sets the Arlo Pro apart from its competitors.
  • Smart Home Compatibility: The Arlo Pro is compatible with IFTTT, smart things and Co. This allows you to pair different Smart Home devices with each other. You could e.g. Switch on your intelligent lighting system as soon as the camera has detected movement.
  • 2-way audio system: an intercom is now almost a standard among modern surveillance cameras. The Arlo Pro has this ability too.
  • Wide angle of view: The Arlo Pro has a field of view of 130 ° with a wide angle lens.
  • Intelligent night vision: The already high-quality night vision function of the Arlo Pro is further improved by a sophisticated software system.
  • USB storage & free cloud storage: You can save your videos via USB. In addition, free cloud storage for 7 days is included in the purchase price.


  • Wide viewing angle of 130 °
  • Completely wireless
  • Good weather resistance
  • Very good night vision
  • 2-way audio system
  • Built-in siren


  • The batteries must be changed after 1 to 2 years

The 3 best outdoor surveillance cameras with night vision

Arlo Pro 2

The Arlo Pro 2 is definitely our recommendation for a robust outdoor surveillance camera with good night vision. The individual features are listed here:

  • 1080p HD video quality: A high video quality allows you to zoom in on recorded videos to see details. In some cases, this can determine whether or not you can recognize a face or license plate from a car.
  • 100% wireless: This camera is powered by batteries which must be replaced every one to two years. The disadvantage is of course that you have to replace the batteries, the advantage is that the location of the assembly is not determined by the possibility of a power supply via cable.
  • Weather resistant: The camera is weather resistant for all weather conditions that exist in moderate latitudes.
  • 24/7 continuous video recording: With continuous video recording, you can be sure that you will never miss anything.
  • 2-way audio system: With a 2-way audio system, you could talk to the person in front of the camera in case of doubt. This is helpful for postmen or other guests in front of a door.
  • Built-in 100+ decibel siren: A built-in siren can immediately alert or even chase away uninvited guests and intruders.
  • Night vision: The night vision of the Arlo Pro 2 delivers videos in 1080p HD resolution just like during the day.
  • Intelligent motion detectors: Thanks to the advanced motion detector technology, you can adapt the motion detector so that it only goes off at interesting events.


  • Improved motion detector
  • 1080p HD video quality day and night
  • 100% wireless
  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa
  • Easy to install
  • Weather resistant


  • Batteries must be replaced every one to two years.

Smonet 4CH

The Smonet 4CH * is a professional device and is ideal for monitoring larger properties at night. All features are listed here:

  • Excellent night vision: This surveillance camera offers you a night vision of up to 20 m in the best quality. The large lens catches a lot of light with which you can still see details in night shots.
  • Complete weather resistance: This surveillance camera is suitable for year-round outdoor use. It can withstand even the coldest winter storms and the hottest summer days.
  • Motion detector: With the built-in motion detector, you can have a message sent to you as soon as the camera detects something.
  • Various recording and playback functions: The camera supports live video, playback of recorded videos and continuously recorded videos.


  • Completely weatherproof
  • Very good night vision up to 20 m
  • 24/7 video recording
  • Good motion detector
  • Compatible with Android and iOS
  • Easy installation


  • No audio recording or playback
  • Must be powered by cable
  • 720p video resolution only

FOSCAM Outdoor Camera

The surveillance cameras from FOSCAM are known to have very good night vision and to take pictures in high quality. Here you can take a quick look at all the features of this great camera:

  • Built-in web server: With this video you can watch live videos in HD quality. As long as you have an internet-connected device like a smartphone or PC, you can access the live feed.
  • Easy installation: A built-in web server sounds complicated, but the installation is more like plug-and-play. Fortunately, the times are over when you had to have professional staff come to your home to have such surveillance systems installed.
  • Very good night vision: As you can already see on the picture, 30 powerful infrared LEDs are attached around the lens, which enable night vision with a range of over 22 m.
  • Built-in motion detectors: Thanks to the outstanding infrared detection, you can also switch on a powerful motion detector and then be notified if something happens.
  • Various storage media: You can save your recorded videos on a micro SD card or hard drive or have them temporarily stored on the FOSCAM cloud.


  • Professional night vision camera at a reasonable price
  • Weather resistant
  • Can save to SD card, hard drive or cloud
  • Built-in web server
  • Powerful night vision up to 22 m thanks to 30 powerful infrared LEDs
  • Reliable motion detector


  • Not as inconspicuous as smaller models

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