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"Color Night Vision"™ is a Trademark not a Technology

Nearly every professional IP camera has a setting to force color mode at night and disable infrared night vision, but that doesn't mean you should use it.


Is this "Feature" Unique?

color night vision trademarked
color night vision not trademarked but still present 1 color night vision not trademarked but still present 2 color night vision not trademarked but still present 3 color night vision not trademarked but still present 4 color night vision not trademarked but still present 5

As you can see, the option to turn off infrared night vision is pretty ubiquitous across the industry. One of these is even made in the same factory and uses a highly similar codebase and components as the trademark holder.

Almost any camera can be forced into color mode at night

Here's an example of some footage from about 9PM at night.

But this isn't the whole story. This video only looks great because nothing is happening.

If tons of manufacturers have this, why don't they mention it? Is this "Feature" Any Good?

Let's talk about how a camera works.

adjustable shutter speed

Every camera (including security, movie, and regular cameras) operates the same way: a shutter opens which allows light to be absorbed by the image sensor. Then the shutter closes allowing it take the next picture. When recording video, these pictures are taken so quickly that your brain perceives them as fluid, but a movie camera, camcorder, or security camera are all just taking rapid pictures.

The shutter in a camera controls how long the camera takes to take a picture, but faster doesn't mean better. The faster that a camera shutter opens and closes, the more likely that you will get a clear, blur-free image. The longer that the shutter is open, the more light you let in and the better your image will be in low light. Shutters that are open for an extremely long time allow you to take color pictures at night/twilight without having to switch to infrared mode, but will cause motion blur for moving objects.

Here's an example of a camera with a 0.02 lux rating that is being forced into color mode at night

Magic terminology hurts the industry

The surveillance camera industry is harmed by these sort of overpromises. In our technical analysis, we believe there is no way that this product can live up to the misleading expectations created by its name. We predict that this is going to result in is a bunch of unhappy consumers looking to return products and shoppers who have unrealistic expectations about what the product does.

They call it "Color Night Vision"™ but claim it only works up to 1 lux (after Twilight, but before Night)

Lux is the measurement of light in an atmosphere. Twilight is about 3.4 lux. A full moon is somewhere between 0.05 and 0.36 lux. A moonless night is somewhere around 0.001 to 0.002 depending on cloud cover.

With "Night" in the name, one would think that it would be rated to work from between 0.001 to 0.36 lux - the lux ratings of nighttime. It really isn't surprising, then, that it is rather easy to find complaints online about how the color night views are "worthless." They claim that "If the lighting conditions ever drop below 1 lux (which they call "total darkness" but is really about late sunset), the full color video will typically switch to black and white infrared night vision to ensure optimal low-light image quality."

They call it "Color Night Vision"™ but claim it only works if you install exterior lights

If you have to install custom lighting to make it work, you have to ask what this technology does at all. Considering that almost every other professional level camera can turn off night vision and install lighting, what, exactly, has been invented here?

Here's a video of an IP camera with a porch light mounted behind it

This video is taken without forcing color mode at night at all. The camera just recognizes that it has sufficient lighting to record in color. The average porch light projects around 300-800 lumens of light. (1 lux equals 1 Lumen divided by the distance from the light source in meters and then squared: lux=lumens/meters^2) So, at 10 feet from the light you are talking about 3-8 lux and at about 15 feet, 1.5-3.5 lux. As the subject moves further away from the light, the lux rating decreases all the way to 1 lux (there's a sight light on the road adding some lighting in this scene).

Cameras with a 1 lux rating are actually substandard

Lux is a pretty bad stat to use to judge cameras, to be totally honest. Because there's no industry standard way to measure what constitutes a "good enough" image, manufacturers tend to overestimate how low their lux ratings are. We cover this problem in-depth in this article: Don't choose a camera just on the lux rating, but the bottom line is that lux ratings just tells you the subjective opinion of what the manufacturer thinks is an acceptable image.

Even without taking into account that manufacturers tend to overestimate how low their lux ratings are, a 1 lux camera is trash tier quality. Most lux ratings for professional camera manufacturers are in the 0.1 to 0.001 range. SCW's cheapest camera has a lux rating of 0.02. Even acknowledging that there's some inconsistency in comparing these numbers across different manufacturers, especially on the more extreme low light claims, this is expressing tremendously low confidence in the quality of their image sensor.

But, what if I want color video at night?

You have three solutions.

1. You can force color night vision with nearly any brand camera, but you will probably be disappointed in the results

Although comparing lux ratings from brand to brand can be pretty useless as there is no consistent method of measuring success, most manufacturers do tend to be consistent within their own brands. You can generally trust that a manufacturer's product A with a lower lux rating performs better in low light than their model B with a worse rating.

Let's look at that camera with the 0.02 lux rating that is being forced into color mode at night, again



2. Install a porch light behind the camera

For best results, you should make sure that the camera is just in front of the porch light (never face the light toward the camera). For more tips and tricks on recording video at night, please see our Buying Guide and Best Practices: Surveillance Footage at Night article.

3. Buy a camera with an integrated white, natural light

Our Knight and Spotlight cameras, for example, have integrated PIR motion detector that will turn on a white, natural, full spectrum spotlight when the camera detects motion, intrusion or line crossing. This will guarantee that you get a full color photo with optimal lighting, but won't require you to install separate outdoor lighting that is on all the time.

Below are our cameras with full spectrum motion lights

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  1. The Knight 2.0 - 26BV2-W



    The Knight 2.0 - 26BV2-W - 2MP Multi-Purpose Lens Bullet Camera with Motorized Zoom and Focus and Motion Light

    In stock.
    Usually ships the same business day if ordered before 2PM EST.

    $599.00


    Resolution

    1080p HD

    1080P @ 30 FPS; 1920 × 1080

    Detect: up to 125 ft
    Recognize: up to 75 ft
    Identify: up to 50 ft


    Processing Power and Compression: Not All 1080P Cameras are Created Equal


    Weather

    weatherproof

    IP67
    Full protection from dust, rain, snow, dew, frost, and sprinklers.

    You can even submerge it for a few minutes.


    Temp

    temperature rating

    Extreme Cold Temperature rated from -40°F to 140 °F

    Humidity rated between 10 and 95%.


    Lens

    varifocal lens

    Motorized Varifocal: 2.8 - 12mm
    91° - 27° of coverage

    Digital Zoom and Optical Zoom

    Learn about the 4 types of Zoom


    Day/Night

    night footage

    Infrared night vision up to 165 FT

    Integrated Full Spectrum Motion Light

    Larger image sensor for low light

    Color video possible until 0.001 lux

    How to get the best footage at night


    Special

    special features

    DC-Iris

    Alarm Input and Output

    Audio Input and Output

    Micro-SD Card Slot

    True WDR (up to 120 dB)

    Seeing in shadows: Understanding WDR


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