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How To Achieve Maximum Infrared Illumination With A Night Vision Camera Or Camcorder

Updated: Apr 5, 2022

As anyone who has ever used a day/night camera can attest, there is insufficient infrared light to adequately illuminate what is being filmed or viewed in the dark. Even the most advanced and sophisticated night vision cameras will not provide enough light in total darkness or even in very dark conditions. An external infrared illuminator is necessary in order to achieve satisfactory illumination when there is no or little light.

An infrared illuminator (IR) is needed because day/night cameras incorporate integrated IR arrays for shooting in darkness that are too narrowly focused towards one spot (called hot spots) or the illumination is not powerful enough to view the entire scene. An external infrared or full spectrum illuminator solves this problem. That is why they are used in industrial, scientific, and medical applications as well as in consumer devices. Night-vision devices using infrared illumination allow people or animals to be observed without the observer being detected.

Infrared and full spectrum illuminators are used to augment the available ambient light for conversion by night vision devices, increasing visibility in dark environments without actually using a visible light source. Night vision devices operate through a process involving the conversion of ambient light photons into electrons that are then amplified by a chemical and electrical process and then converted back into visible light. By the way, the use of infrared light and night vision devices should not be confused with infrared thermal imaging, which creates images based on differences in surface temperature by detecting infrared radiation (heat) that emanates from objects and their surroundings.

Most infrared and full spectrum illuminators use LED’s (light emitting diodes) as their lighting source due to their low heat output, low energy consumption, extremely long life and their reliability. The power output of LED’s is measured in wavelengths called nanometers (nm). The standard for most LED applications is the 850 nm wavelength. This is because most true day/night cameras have the best sensitivity at 850 nm, so external illuminators generally operate at this wavelength, although there may be some variation among certain manufacturers of infrared lights.

When selecting an IR or full spectrum illuminator, be sure that the illumination angle matches the camera’s field of view. If your illuminator has a different illumination angle than your camera’s, it will have a different

effective range, even with the same output power. Keep in mind that the smaller the illumination angle, the greater the range. And a wider illumination angle will result in a shorter range. With some IR lights this is not an issue. They adapt to whatever the angle of the camera. One of the best, and in my opinion the best, of these lights is manufactured and sold by Lucent Illuminators Co. They have two infrared and one full spectrum model that perform exceptionally well and I highly recommend them. They are a favorite among ghost hunters. Find out more at

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