New Imaging Technology for Low Light Surveillance

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, low light video capability is the number one requested feature from customers of all walks of life, especially from those charged with security, public safety and investigations. Over the past decade, video imagers have vastly improved agencies ability to conduct low light surveillance from cameras that work well under the cast of a street light to, more recently, cameras that harness the faint reflections of street light.

Beyond delivering improved low light capability, these imagers also hold the latest technology to enhance daytime surveillance where excessive light can often be a challenge. These new low light cameras will definitely increase the ease of gathering worthwhile evidence.

People tasked with sourcing and purchasing gear for low light surveillance have been naturally drawn and instructed to use black and white cameras because they typically require less light than their color counterparts and do not require infrared filters.

Black and white cameras do not have infrared filters like those built into color cameras. This allows them to be more sensitive to and make use of a wider range of the available light frequencies.

Additionally, black and white cameras tend to have crisper images because they have higher resolutions than most color cameras and lower signal-to-noise ratios.

Even though black and white cameras are used in countless investigations and enable users to make positive physical identification, today’s prosecutors are requesting more and more detail from video to increase the accuracy of positive identification from the footage.

Naturally, color cameras are the choice to provide skin tone, color of attire, color descriptions of evidence, etc. However it is difficult to provide the amount of light necessary for a color camera to pick up these details in most covert scenarios.

Cameras such as the PC165DNR , meet the demands for improved low light capability and color details. The PC165DNR utilizes the latest Sony™ EFFIO™ chipset to produce a low light rating of 0.00001 lux.

With a 0.00001 lux, this camera can handle surveillance activities in neighborhoods and other locations with little ambient light without needing additional illumination. With this improved low light ability and minimal need for additional illumination, indirect benefits occur such as increased concealment from a reduced equipment profile, lower current consumption and of course a total lower system cost.

Cameras such as the PC165DNR have an advance Wide Dynamic capability that can manage a wider array of light frequencies and light levels than most other low video security cameras. WDR cameras are perfect for night-time license plate capture applications.

Normal cameras are overpowered by the glare of the headlights. WDR cameras, like the PC165DNR, digitally reduce and even eliminate the glare from the headlights leaving the license plate characters easy to discern.

The same components that make the PC165DNR an excellent choice for general, low light surveillance, are also available in other form factors such as micro cameras and board cameras. The PC601UXP and the PC600UXP are better suited for close-in, covert operations including body-worn, hotel stings and vehicle-borne surveillance such as auto theft and narcotics enforcement.

As one would imagine, this improved low light technology will be making its appearance in hundreds of camera form factors. So whatever style of camera you prefer, dome, bullet, PTZ, etc, soon it will likely have an EFFIO™ chipset built in.

Jake Lahmann is an expert in video security technology. He is widely known for his industry-leading views on the use of covert camera technology and has written articles for publications as diverse as Security Product News and Law Enforcement Quarterly. Jake spent 6 years in federal law enforcement, including 2 years drug enforcement in San Diego.