Driving at night can be both relaxing and stressful at the same time. On one hand, you could be jamming out to your favorite tunes facing minimal traffic. On the other hand, you’ve been awake for 14 hours and the road is getting harder to focus on as you get more tired. Most people experience some sort of sleepiness while driving at night and can be a common occurrence for those whose livelihood depends on transportation.
- Front Dash Cam with 1080P resolution
- 8 Forward Facing Infrared Lights illuminating low light conditions
- 170 degree Wide Angle
Being on the road at night is what you are paid to do, whether that be a ride share driver or a truck driver going cross-country. In either case, you’ve decided you need an extra set of eyes to help you monitor the road and that’s where dash cams come into play.
Having a dash cam shouldn’t be a difficult process but when it comes to low light conditions, there is a lot of image quality variance among different camera manufactures. We’re here to break down what an infrared camera or IR cam really is and how we can use traditional dash camera setups along with a few nontraditional, creative solutions to get you where you need to be.
What is infrared?
Infrared is simply a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths longer than the visible light we are used to seeing. There are various different categorizations of light ranging from visible light, to ultraviolet or gamma rays and humans can see a portion of that range. Infrared lives on that spectrum that is invisible to the human eye.
But technology has allowed us to use devices that are able to translate infrared light into visible light we can see, so we are effectively viewing an infrared image.
Infrared has many real world applications like your very own remote control, but also can be applied to meteorology or thermal imaging. In this case, we’re going to utilize this technology to help us on the road with low light conditions.
What does infrared do for me on a dash camera ?
An infrared dash cam helps illuminate areas where visible light is insufficient for the human eye. Knowing this, an IR dash cam can help in several night scenarios where extra light could be the difference between life or death.
I want to make the distinction between infrared vision that is inwards facing, or in the cabin versus outward looking infrared, to illuminate the outside roads. I will be talking about both, their benefits and showcase some examples.
Dash Cameras with Infrared capabilities have done a great job on recording watchable night time cabin footage. With the implementation of cabin infrared cameras, the entire cabin of the car is viewable even in the darkest of situations. That’s because most infrared lights on dash cams are great at displaying a cabin, but struggle with longer distance. This is perfect for those who have passengers such as customers, clients or otherwise in your car. Rideshare drivers, who have many strangers enter their car every night, should have video evidence of anything that ever happens.
There’s been ride share cases of assault, false accusations and generally rude customers. But unless there is some recording of it, it is their word versus yours. If you depend on this type of work for any significant amount of income, you’ll want to invest in your safety and the safety of others.
The most obvious answer to having an exterior IR dash cam is that if you get into an accident, the footage can help decipher how the accident occurred. Many everyday dash cams won’t have low light capabilities and footage is grainy so it’s harder to confidently unfold the events. If you spend many hours driving at night or sense that night time driving is more dangerous for you specifically, you need to consider night vision.
Object detection is a vital benefit from infrared dash cams. If you’ve ever had an animal or even a human run out in front of your vehicle, you know you only have seconds to react. There are also times where you see might think there is an object ahead of you, but you cannot be sure. Debris from trucks, tires, rims, and a bunch of other random items can be lying in the middle of the street. Being able to see farther, clearer with low light conditions at real time is a game changer.
Though infrared can help you in low light conditions, infrared does perform better in other conditions as well. It reduces glare from headlights and streetlights, making your footage less affected. It also sees farther through heavy fog or pollution which can be beneficial in avoiding objects.
And finally, depending on how sensitive the IR sensor is, you can easily detect non-alive objects with alive ones by using their heat signature. Some systems can easily show you if anything is alive in the woods or the road ahead of you.
Aperture is another feature you should be on the lookout for when deciding on a dash cam setup. Aperture is one of the top features that contribute to night vision. A camera’s aperture determines how much light enters the camera and hits its lens and sensor. If you think of your own eyes, it acts in a similar fashion.
In a dark room, your pupil opens or widens trying to take in as much as light as it can to decipher objects around the room. If someone turns on a bright light, your eyes reel in pain and too much light is overwhelming and your pupils begin to narrow to balance with the new light.
In dash camera terms, you want to have the aperture to be as wide as possible, like your eye. This is represented by F-Stops and the lower the number, the more light it can take in. For example, F/1.4 takes in more light than F/1.8. Or in practical terms, F/1.4 is better for night time footage. Apertures that don’t open past F/2.0, for example, won’t take in as much light, therefore will have a poorer image quality.
Ainhyzic Dash Cam 1080P
The Ainhyzic Dash Cam is another inexpensive option that is only a front facing camera. That being said, this packs a lot of features into one unit. In terms of night vision, this is equipped with 8 infrared lights, packing the front of this camera with LEDs to ensure sufficient coverage. The night vision image quality is clear, but you should set your expectations early. The infrared LED lights don’t reach exceptionally far, but do illuminate the perimeter areas around your vehicle nicely.
As far as features, I’m pleasantly surprised. It films in 1080P which seems standard for most dash cams on the market. It has a massive wide angle lens at 170 degrees for full coverage and it comes with a 2.7 LCD touch screen. If you decide to hard wire this dash cam, it has Motion Detection and Parking Mode features for 24/7 monitoring.
We really like this camera’s form factor as it is really thin and fit’s nicely behind your rear view mirror. For the price, combined with the features that are included, we recommend this dash cam for those looking for an inexpensive night vision solution.
Vantrue N4 3-CH Dash Cam
Next up is the Vantrue N4 Triple Channel Dash Cam. This has an infrared cabin camera, something the other dash cams didn’t have. We found that it worked as expected as the image was really clear when driving in pitch darkness. This would be a perfect solution for a rideshare driver where cabin coverage may be more important than external coverage.
Unlike the other dash cams, the Vantrue N4 only has infrared cameras facing inward. The front and rear cameras do not have infrared lights, but they still hold up in dark situations. The front camera is equipped with a F/1.4 aperture, which brings in lots of light and can increase exposure to accommodate low light situations.
Besides the night vision qualities, it is important to note that all 3 dash cams record simultaneously in 1440P+1080P+1080P resolutions. Parking Mode is available and motion detection or a collision will trigger it to start recording. We’ve tested it out and it is fairly sensitive to any motion outside the car which is good. Closing doors will actually trigger a parking mode event which shows you how sensitive G-Sensor is.
Zohulu 4K Infrared Camcorder
Leaving the dash cam realm, we are now entering the Ghost Hunting arena. That’s right, this camera was designed to help see the paranormal. Typically used as a handheld device, you can re-purpose this device as a dash cam because it has many similar characteristics. And where it lags in one feature, it makes up for in another.
For one, this solution has the farthest night vision range than any dash cam. The camcorder comes with an Infrared Flashlight, which will help the infrared sensor with image clarity at a distance of 80 feet. One click of the button on the camcorder and it switches to night vision mode.
On top of this, this is filming at 4K @ 24 FPS and can film at 1080P at 60 FPS. It doesn’t have standard features like loop recording, or parking mode, but it comes with 2 batteries. With the included 32GB SD card, you can film up to 220 minutes which may be sufficient for a night time driving session.
While not the perfect solution, it may be worth sacrificing some dash cam features like loop recording for optimal infrared vision.
Let’s move away from using ghost hunting solutions and let’s talk about actual hunting solutions. The Bestguarder NV-900 is like a binocular, and is used primarily in night time hunting or wildlife situations. But we’re using it in a dash cam setting!
The Bestguarder comes with a 4 inch LCD screen for easy viewing and is filming at 720P. While this isn’t great, the trade off is you get superb night vision quality up to 1300 feet in the dark. Battery wise, it does operate on AA batteries or you can supply a cheap power bank for long continuous recording.
Night Owl by Speedir
Our last solution would only be for those who have very specific driving conditions. The Night Owl is an thermal imaging infrared solution that can detect heat up to 3000 feet. If you drive on empty roads and ever want to double check there isn’t anything that is alive out there, then this is your solution. This device can see through fog, smoke, dust and of course, darkness.
Be the first one to know that something is on the road ahead of you whether that be a cyclist, pedestrian or wild life, the sooner you know, the better. If you are moving heavy machinery or are off road, you’ll want to know what’s ahead before anyone else. We don’t think this solution would be for most people, but for a certain person or a particular career, this could be useful.
While this is the ultimate gold standard for infrared cameras, it doesn’t have functions like recording because it is designed to show you real time images.
CHORTAU Dual Dash Cam
The CHORTAU Dual Dash Cam is a traditional dash cam setup that has infrared lights set up on both the front and rear cameras. It films in 1080P and is a highly rated dash cam. The great part about this setup is that it is so inexpensive!
On the plus side, this camera has great night and day image quality. Both front and rear cameras have infrared lights that are invisible to the human eye but help illuminate objects at night. The counter to this is that the infrared lights don’t have a far operating range. You can expect it to help light up footage within 10-20 feet, but not more than that. While you cannot depend on this dash cam for real time information, it can be a cheap solution that you can depend on looking back at footage. And I do want to highlight again, this is a very inexpensive solution while still getting IR LED lights.