Most outdoor security cameras come equipped with night vision. Without it, surveillance cameras would be useless a good 50% of the time. But the technology that enables cameras to capture images in what appears to the human eye as complete darkness varies in function and picture quality. We started out with nine security cameras that get buzz for excellent night vision. Then we consulted industry standards and engineering experts to find the four best night vision security cameras.
The 4 Best Night Vision Cameras
|Professional monitoring available|
|Night vision range|
- Intelligent imaging Indoor/ outdoor options
Why we chose it
The Google Nest Cam IQ captures incredibly detailed, useful images. When the camera picks up movement — from up to 50 feet — the focus automatically zooms in and follows the action. And while many surveillance cameras can claim or surpass that 50-foot seeing radius, the Google Nest Cam IQ makes that distant vision actually meaningful. Zoom in up to 1200% of the original image’s size — enhance tools restore the image quality to render sharp detail.
The Google Nest camera lineup includes indoor and outdoor options for both generations. The night vision across the board comes from strong LED infrared bulbs able to capture high definition images without washing out pale objects or leaving dark objects in the black. One example: If the camera is capturing a room half filled with sunshine and half cast into shade, the bright portion and the dark portion will both retain their pixel richness.
Points to consider
The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is Google Nest’s newest flagship security camera, and it has a big price to go along with its big capabilities. Can’t shell out the $400 to make it yours? Consider taking one step down to the classic Google Nest Cam IQ Outdoor. Definition drops to standard (versus HD) and you’ll miss out on flashy new abilities like “familiar face alerts.” But a security camera’s most important qualities are still there in spades: IP65 weatherproof rating, detailed 1080p resolution, infrared night vision. And it’s half the price of the Google Nest Cam IQ.
- Great value 12 hours free video storage
- Low-definition motion alert photos
Why we chose it
The Zmodo 1080p Indoor/Outdoor Wifi camera checks nearly all the same boxes as security cameras from industry leaders like Nest and Ring. And it’s half the price or less. In fact, the Zmodo costs 10% of what our top pick for Best Night Vision Security Cameras does, the Google Nest IQ. This cheap security camera offers motion detection alerts and remote viewing, and the ability to control a host of other smart devices plus set up automated schedules on the Zmodo app. You can also integrate Zmodo into an existing smart home system: it’s compatible with Works with Amazon Alexa and Works with Google Assistant.
12 hours of free video storage
It’s standard practice among new-wave home security companies like Ring to offer some duration of free video storage. Ring and many others keep that free storage limit low — two hours, three, five. Zmodo provides a generous 12 hours of free storage, giving you a half a day to sort through missed alerts or double back on a suspicious image.
Points to consider
Low-definition motion alert photos
The Zmodo security camera is popular for its good price and good performance, but there are some technological elements where its bargain rate shows through. Consumers have noted that while the camera is capable of recording in HD, it only captures motion alert photos in low definition. If you’re hoping to distinguish a neighbor from a trespasser, the pixelated alert photos could prove aggravating. This is a far cry from the sharp facial imaging (not to mention facial recognition) of our upgrade pick from Google Nest. There’s also no two-way audio.
Reolink Argus 2
Why we chose it
Starlight night vision
The Reolink Argus 2 is the only night vision security camera in our winner’s circle that deploys something other than LED infrared bulbs to see in the dark. The Reolink boasts “starlight night vision” — so called because it can see when the only light available is emanating from the stars. While IR cameras add light to help them see, starlight CMOS image sensors are incredibly sensitive to what little light is there. Every pixel is then multiplied to recreate vibrant night vision images that can be rendered in either black and white or full color.
The Reolink Argus 2 offers two attractive powering options: battery or solar. The rechargeable battery option includes low-battery alerts, so you won’t have to wonder how low it’s running or worry that it might shut off right when you need it. If you want to poach your power from the sun, you’ll need to make a secondary purchase and install a Reolink solar panel. Either way, the Reolink Argus 2 is totally wireless and portable. Put it where you need it, move it when you want.
Points to consider
Reolink plays well with Google Assistant, so if that’s your smart home system of choice, you should have no problem bringing the Argus 2 camera into the fold. But if you’re hoping to add third-party devices to the Reolink app, or control Reolink via a different assistant, you could hit a wall. Reolink doesn’t offer broad third-party compatibility or system flexibility.
Swann Bullet NVR Security Camera
- Multiple night vision technologies Two days free video storage
- Long range, but narrow angle
Why we chose it
Multiple night vision technologies
Infrared night vision is the night vision tech you can expect from most security cameras. IR images get the job done, but they aren’t able to render detailed-enough images to translate into color. Black and white, the two shades that the human eye is best able to distinguish, is IR’s only option. The Swann 1080p Bullet combines IR night vision with low-light night vision, enabling you to capture color images to better see both guests and intruders. Swann also adds thermal imaging to the mix. Your Swann camera will send push notifications when it senses the heat of people, animals, and cars.
Two days free video storage
Swann offers generous limits for free storage: seven days of local memory and two days of cloud storage. If you want more time to cycle back through past recordings, upgrade to a monthly storage plan for $5 per month (or less if you snag a discount.) Paid subscriptions also gets you access to their Premium Support network of customer service lines, including email, phone, and – our favorite – online chat. Both the support and the elongated storage periods are great during vacation. And since you can cancel membership at any time, getting it just for vacation is an option.
Points to consider
Long range, but narrow angle
Swann’s night vision security camera stands out for its exceptional night vision range. At 115 feet, it doubles the range of its nearest competitor — the Zmodo cam at 65 feet. That distance allows you to see over a big front lawn, an expansive empty lot, or down a long driveway. But despite Swann’s win in distance, it doesn’t offer much by way of angle. Plenty of surveillance cameras offer 130 degrees of wide angle vision; Swann clocks in at 75 degrees. Still, if the camera is mounted on a wall, it’s only missing about seven degrees of action at the far left and the far right.
How We Chose the Best Night Vision Security Cameras
A night vision security camera needs to stand up to the elements. Whether you install on your front stoop, above the garage, or on your tool shed, outdoor cameras will likely meet with some extreme weather conditions over the course of a year. You should be able to depend on its functionality through it all. We looked at the weatherproof certification of all nine cameras, then drew a line at IP65. IP code classifies the protection of mechanical casings and electronic enclosures. At IP65, water can be directly jetted at the enclosure from any angle without negative effect.
We looked for video resolution quality of 1080p or better — that’s the current standard for high definition. Lesser resolutions don’t offer the rich detail that could make the difference between getting a clear mugshot or a good look at a license plate. The next step down, 720p, is still considered high definition, but the cameras we considered that still utilize 720p aren’t cheap enough to rationalize the downgrade.
Night vision range
Night vision isn’t just one type of technology. Some night vision cameras operate via image intensification, which makes the most out of the available light. In the absence of all light, there’s thermal night vision. Thermal imaging sees infrared light, a spectrum of light invisible to human eyes. Infrared bulbs flood the camera’s field of vision with this undetectable light, enabling it to distinguish objects and detail just like it can during the day.
Night vision range is yoked to both the technology and the quality of a given device — the market is saturated with cheap IR surveillance cams with puny night vision ranges. We drew a line in the sand at 30 feet. Any less, and you may not be able to pick out important visual information in the distance, like a license plate number.
Guide to Night Vision Security Cameras
How to find the right outdoor security camera for you
Assess your safety needs
Every city, every neighborhood, every street has its own levels of safety and crime. Explore the typical crimes of your area using online tools and reports. You’ll get a better idea of what your security devices should guard against — and how robust of a system you need. Most homes are well-served by security cameras at the entrances, bright security lights around the house, and good, strong locks and both doors and windows.
Decide on a home security budget
According to a survey Reviews.com conducted earlier this year, 46% of U.S. adults find home security installation and maintenance too costly. Expenses can mount upfront, as you purchase devices and experiment with installation (potentially finding that you need further gadgets, either to flesh out your system or to get variously branded tech to cooperate). Costs can also add up over time, in the form of monthly fees for cloud storage or professional monitoring. If you can allocate several hundred dollars now and around $40 per month to home security, go ahead and make an outdoor security camera just one part of a complete home security system. If you are looking for a single-purchase commitment, go with the camera in our lineup that fits into your budget.
Select the devices that meet your expectations
While improved safety is the broad goal behind all home security upgrades, take a moment to consider the smaller expectations you have for a security camera. Do you want something that integrates into your smart home system? Do you relish the ease of two-way audio via your front door camera, just as much as you do the potential of apprehending a trespasser thanks to your footage? Are you more concerned with keeping recurrent costs down? Your answers to these and other preference questions will help you decide between a camera that offers exceptional automation perks, one that offers generous free video storage limits, and one that simply comes at the right asking price.
Night Vision Security Camera FAQ
What is the best night vision security camera?
Our top pick for the best night vision cameras is the Google Nest Cam IQ. Available in indoor and outdoor models, with impressive integration and automation capabilities, Google Nest’s flagship camera is a stand-out option for powerful night vision surveillance. That said, it’s also far and away the most expensive of the night vision cameras we evaluated. You can get a great security camera for a fraction of the cost — as little as $40.
If you’re budget-minded, your best night vision camera is the Zmodo Indoor/Outdoor WiFi Camera.
Willing to spend $100? Go with the Reolink Argus 2 for crisp image quality and Alexa and Google compatibility. Go with the Swann Bullet NVR for exceptional night vision range.
How far can a night vision security camera see at night?
The general range: 30 to 100 feet. It all depends on the underlying technology. The way a given night vision camera makes use of the light available in darkness — whether by intensifying small amounts of light or illuminating its field of vision with infrared bulbs — dictates how far (and how clearly) it can see.
Do all home security cameras have night vision?
The majority of security cameras come equipped with night vision. But not all night vision is created equal. The most common form of night vision technology is infrared (IR). Infrared light is invisible to the naked eye, but not to the camera. Flooding its field of vision with infrared light allows the camera to see objects just like it would in daylight. Most infrared night vision cameras depict footage in black and white — the two colors the human eye can distinguish best.
How do night vision security cameras work?
The most typical night vision technology is known as image intensification or image enhancement. This form of night vision picks up small amounts of light, then makes the most of the photons by running them through a series of plates and screens.
Image intensification only works if some light is available. No light at all? Enter infrared (IR) light. Infrared light is to the left of the visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum — closer to microwaves. When infrared technology picks up the heat in its surroundings (think of the rainbow colored image of a deer through a hunter’s scope), that’s called thermal imaging.
The IR technology in the bulk of surveillance cameras is called active illumination. IR night vision cameras flip on IR LED lights when the sun goes down. The light reflects off objects in the camera’s range of vision, is captured by the camera, and translated into black-and-white images.