How Far Can Security Cameras See at Night?

Security cameras can truly help residence and property owners fend off against crime in the dark. Modern cameras feature night vision to keep criminals at bay and ensure surveillance at all times. But one might wonder; how far can security cameras see at night? 

Let’s jump in and discuss coverage of security cameras at night. 

How Far Can Security Cameras See At Night?

On average, security cameras can see anywhere from 10m to 30m at night. Actual coverage of the security camera depends on several factors and the model itself. Professional cameras with thermal imaging can see farther than low-quality cameras with active infrared LEDs.

Inexpensive cameras generally don’t feature night vision at all. A few models do include infrared LEDs which enable them to see at night. However, the range of these cameras is fairly low, meaning the quality of surveillance at night would be terrible.

Mid-range or high-quality cameras feature better resolutions, thermal imaging, and reliable recording. These cameras can see the farthest at night and produce vivid recordings. Though there’s a small hike in pricing, the results are immediately noticeable.

Next, let’s discuss how security cameras see at night to help you pick the right camera for nighttime surveillance. 

How Do Security Cameras See At Night?

Security cameras use active infrared emitters or thermal imaging systems to see at night. Infrared waves emitted by IR systems have a shorter wave-length than thermal imagers which run passively. Thermal imagers can see farther at night and are not impacted by reflected lights.

Let’s evaluate both options:

Infrared Lights

Most security cameras feature night vision which is achieved using infrared lights. You might recognize them by the red glowy lights which illuminate around the lens of the camera. These emitters release infrared lights which are blind to the eye yet help the camera capture brighter images at night.

Infrared waves have a short wavelength i.e. they can’t travel very far. It’s why cameras with low-quality IR emitters or lights won’t see farther at night. Additionally, if the security camera has a few emitters only, the image won’t be good in low-light environments even if the range is good.

Typically, these IR systems are aided with IR lamps for illumination. It aids the lens in producing brighter images at night. However, it isn’t necessary to use IR lamps if the camera itself produces good images at night.

Thermal Imaging

Unlike infrared emitters which are active in nature, a thermal imaging system is passive. It doesn’t actively send out infrared radiation but detects heat signals emitted by objects to see at night. These cameras don’t require additional lighting to produce images at night. 

Security cameras with thermal imaging are more effective for long-range surveillance at night. Heat detection can range anywhere from a few feet to hundreds of feet. If clarity and range are important factors for you to pick a surveillance product, these imaging systems should do great.

What Factors Impact How Far Security Cameras See At Night?

A security camera’s field of view is dependent on factors like the focal length of the lens, its resolution, and overall build of the camera. Cameras designed for low-range surveillance at broad daylight won’t do as good for long-range surveillance at night.

Let’s explore these factors in a little more detail:

Focal Length

A security camera’s quality primarily depends on the lens powering it. The focal length of the lens indicates how far the security camera is going to see. Larger focal length accounts for a narrower field of view, whereas a smaller focal length means a wider field of view.

The focal length is a number measured in millimeters. It is usually divided into two types; fixed focal length and variable focal length. Variable focal length cameras can shift the view to a narrow or wider coverage by rotating a screw on the camera.

A quick indicator of a variable focal length security camera would be a ranged focal length in the specification of the security camera you’re reviewing.


Resolution is typically used to determine how crisp and detailed the final picture is going to be. It is usually defined in terms of ‘pixels per distance’. For example, security camera manufacturers use phrases such as 720P, 1080P, and 4K to define resolution.

High-definition quality starts from 720P and scales up to 4K HD resolution which fits up to 8x the number of pixels in 720P. For security cameras to see clearly at night, illumination is paired with a high resolution lens. The higher the resolution, the better the image. 

Placement of the Camera

Mounting height, angle, and placement of the camera also impacts the field of view of a camera. If a source of visible light shines straight into the camera’s lens, the final image will be whitewashed. A height of 4 meters is optimal for installation provided no other factor impacts the footage.

Make sure to review the footage at night before finalizing the installation of the security camera.

Camera Quality and Design

Camera quality plays an important role in deciding the field of view of the security camera. Chip types, noise suppression, compression ratios, and backlight compensation (BLC/WDR) are a few technical indicators which make a key difference in the quality of the final image.

If you’re particularly interested in surveillance at night, the security camera should have features which aid the lens in producing detailed and well-lit images.

FAQs on How Far Security Cameras See at Night

For our next section, we’ve compiled a few questions from the home security community on ‘how far can security cameras see at night’. Let’s jump straight into answering them:

Can security cameras see in the dark?

Security cameras see in the dark using infrared technology. Using IR emitters, the camera shines infrared light over the surroundings of the lens which illuminates the area and produces a bright image. Thermal imaging systems can also be used which pick heat signals to see in the dark.
Cameras are capable of monitoring in total darkness if the emitters are able to illuminate the area effectively. Since infrared lights are invisible to the eye, proper functionality can only be judged through the camera recording.

How many feet can a security camera see?

Security cameras can see anywhere from 30 to 100 feet. The ability of a security camera to cover more area depends on its lens, resolution, sensor, focal length, distance, and overall build quality. Professional cameras can cover more feet than a low-quality camera with cheap sensors.
Before finalizing a security camera, make sure to jot down how you wish to use that camera and which technical specifications you desire. Cameras with a higher resolution, good sensor, and thermal imaging for night vision would definitely cost higher than a daylight camera with no night vision.

Can security cameras see inside cars at night?

Security cameras with infrared technology can see clearly at night. Although IR rays have difficulty penetrating glasses, they’re usually capable of bypassing a car’s glasses. If successful, security cameras can see clearly inside cars at night, even if the parking lot has no light.
Cars with a thick-coated glass won’t let the IR rays penetrate through it. However, most car models feature a single-coat glass which isn’t helpful against blocking IR rays. Public areas are typically powered by high-quality cameras with powerful IR emitters.

In conclusion, security cameras can see far at night if they’re built as such. A security camera with a high-quality sensor, lens, resolution, and perfect installation might do the job effectively. However, you’d usually be compromising on either of these specifications while monitoring the farthest points of view- which is fine as long as the footage is considered usable.