The Best Infrared Cameras of 2020

These cameras will let you see clearly at night in black and white.

By
&
Aliza VigdermanGabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Jul 8, 2020

Best for Outdoor Use

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Best with Both Infrared and Color Night Vision

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There are benefits to using a security camera with infrared night vision—you know, the kind that turns videos black-and-white as opposed to color night vision from a bright white light. For starters, infrared LED lights have a better illumination range than the white light used by cameras with color night vision. Plus, as security experts, we prefer our security cameras to be subtle and discreet, and the invisible infrared light helps with that. Over the years, we’ve tested a great number of security cameras, and these options performed the best in low-light conditions. Read on to find out which infrared security camera is most suitable for you.

The Best Infrared Cameras of 2020

Nest Cam Indoor Night Vision
Nest Cam Indoor Night Vision

Our Top Picks

Nest Cam IQ Indoor

The Nest Cam IQ Indoor impressed us with its assortment of interesting features, like person detection, a 4K image sensor, HDR, and even facial recognition and continuous recording once we sprung for the Nest Aware subscription. The Nest Cam IQ Indoor came equipped with well-positioned LED lights that illuminated the entirety of the camera’s 130-degree field of view. The LED lights were also 940nm, which meant that they didn’t emit that pesky red glow that was present in other cameras we tested. The Nest Cam IQ Indoor’s night vision was both discreet and powerful, which were the main reasons why it earned high marks from us.

Nest Cam IQ Indoor
Nest Cam IQ Indoor

Lorex 4K Nocturnal Smart IP Security Camera

Lorex makes great outdoor cameras with infrared night vision, but we chose the Lorex 4K Nocturnal Smart IP Security Camera as one of our top picks because of its exceptional range. It featured infrared LED lights that could illuminate objects up to 90 feet away in total darkness and up to 130 feet with the help of some ambient light. It was also pretty smart as it could distinguish people and vehicles once we connected it to a Lorex network video recorder (NVR) with smart detection technology. And because it’s connected to an NVR equipped with a hard drive, it recorded continuously without requiring us to pay cloud storage fees.

Lorex 4K Ultra HD Camera
Lorex 4K Ultra HD Camera

Here at Security.org, we test all products that we recommend, either individually or as a part of a larger security camera system. So whether you’re looking to buy an indoor camera to monitor your house day and night, an outdoor camera for your backyard, or one that you can use indoors and outdoors and adjust to different light conditions, we got you covered. Without much further ado, here’s our full list of 2020’s best infrared cameras!

Comparison of the Best Cameras with Infrared Night Vision

Nest Cam IQ IndoorLorex 4K Nocturnal Smart IP CameraArlo Pro 3Blink XT2Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro
Price$299.00$179.99 for add-on camera$199.99 for add-on camera$99.99 for add-on camera$299.99 plus $100 for professional installation
Indoor/OutdoorIndoorOutdoorBothBothOutdoor
Video Quality1080p HD4K HD2560p HD with 2K HDR1080p HD1080p with 4K HDR sensor
Field of View (in degrees)130111130110140
Night VisionTwo 940nm LED lights with about 20 feet of rangeInfrared LED lights with up to 130 feet of rangeTwo infrared LED lights for infrared night vision
One 6500K spotlight for colored night vision
Infrared LED lights with adjustable intensityInfrared LED lights with up to 55 feet of range
Two-Way Audio?
Local Video StorageXYes, with a compatible Lorex NVRYes, can connect USB to Arlo base station but cannot be used on its own w/o cloud recordingXIf you have a Vivint Smart Drive ($249), about 30 days of continuous recording
Cloud Video StoragePaid options of 30 or 60 days with 10-day continuous recordingXPaid options of 30 or 60 days2 hours free$5 per month per camera for 14 days of 30-second event clips history
Smart Platform IntegrationGoogle Assistant, Philips Hue lightbulbs, Amazon Alexa, etcGoogle Assistant and Alexa if used with an N841 or N861 NVRAlexa, Google Assistant, Apple WatchAlexaAmazon Alexa, Google Assistant
Artificial IntelligenceWithout Nest Aware: person detection
With Nest Aware: Familiar face alerts, activity zones, dog barking, and people talking alerts, etc.
Person detection and vehicle detection if used with a Lorex NVR with smart detection technologyPerson, packages, vehicles, animal detection with Arlo Smart HomeXPerson detection, activity zones, detects lurkers and wards them off with lights and sound while also sending you an alert with a snapshot
Extra FeaturesNight vision doesn’t turn off when someone (i.e. a burglar) shines a flashlight on the camera.Records continuously to an NVR, clear colored night vision with minimal ambient lightSpotlight, siren, activity zones, safety buttons, battery-powered with 3-6 months battery lifeTemperature monitoring, activity zonesLED warning light and siren
Read Our ReviewNest Cam IQ Indoor ReviewLorex Security Camera Systems ReviewArlo Pro 3 ReviewBlink XT2 ReviewVivint Outdoor Camera Pro Review

A Closer Look At Our Top Picks

  • 1. Nest Cam IQ Indoor - Best Infrared Camera for Indoor Use

    Editor's Rating
    9.2
    /10

    Pros and Cons

    What We Liked:
    • Enhanced video quality with HDR
    • No visible red glow when night vision is on
    • Person detection
    • Artificial Intelligence features with Nest Aware
    What We Didn’t Like:
    • A bit pricey for an indoor camera
    • No local storage
    • Advanced features require a subscription
    • Snapshot alerts only without Nest Aware
    Nest Cam IQ Indoor
    Nest Cam IQ Indoor

    1080p HD with 4K Image Sensor and HDR

    The Nest Cam IQ Indoor is famous for many reasons, but mainly for its exceptional video quality. For starters, it captured videos in 1080p HD, which it further enhanced using its 4K image sensor and HDR. The HDR added life and color to the image by reducing the glare and highlighting shadowy areas. It also had a decent 130 degrees field of view that covered our entire living room, plus it could zoom in digitally up to 12 times. In other words, there was no escaping our sight once we set up the Nest Cam IQ Indoor.

    Night Vision with 940nm LED Lights

    The Nest Cam IQ Indoor used 940nm infrared LED lights to illuminate our living room, whereas most infrared cameras use 850nm. The 940nm infrared wavelength is completely invisible to the human eye, so there was no red glow on the camera’s face that could give away its position.1 There was a tradeoff, though. Cameras that use 940nm infrared lights often have a shorter night vision range than 850nm cameras. The Nest Cam IQ Indoor only illuminated objects up to about 20 feet away. However, it’s an indoor camera, so the range wasn’t a huge issue, especially for us in our relatively small New York apartment. What mattered to us was that the two LED lights were positioned strategically to illuminate the camera’s entire field of view and not just the center of the frame.

    Pro Tip: While the Nest Cam IQ Indoor’s infrared LED lights were invisible, it’s not possible to turn off the status light on the camera’s face anymore, so we dimmed it from the Nest App’s settings. If that’s not enough, another workaround is to tape over the status light.

    Smart Features

    The icing on the cake was the Nest Cam IQ Indoor’s AI features. The camera came with person detection built-in, so we only received notifications of events that truly mattered, when people walked by. And when we finally decided to get a Nest Aware subscription, the camera got even smarter. It started recognizing familiar faces, which we later named in the app, it alerted us of the sound of people talking and dogs barking, and it allowed us to set activity zones. With the activity zones, we were able to tell the camera which areas mattered most to us, which significantly reduced the number of false alarms we received.

  • 2. Lorex 4K Nocturnal Smart IP Camera— Best Infrared Camera for Outdoor Use

    Editor's Rating
    8.2
    /10

    Pros and Cons

    What We Liked:
    • Long-range night vision
    • IP67 weatherproof
    • 4K HD resolution with HDR
    • No monthly fees
    What We Didn’t Like:
    • Needs a Lorex NVR
    • Limited smart platform integration
    • No cloud storage
    • Limited field of view
    Lorex 4K Nocturnal Smart IP Camera
    Lorex 4K Nocturnal Smart IP Camera – White

    Exceptional Night Vision Range

    The Lorex 4K Nocturnal Smart IP Camera had the longest night vision range out of all the infrared cameras on this list. In total darkness, it can see objects up to 90 feet away. When aided by ambient light, it can see as far away as 130 feet. On top of that, the infrared night vision didn’t kick in as long as there was still sufficient ambient light for the camera to be able to see clearly. That meant our night time videos were in color until we turned off our outdoor lights.

    4K HD Resolution with HDR

    This camera also had the highest resolution on our list. It captured videos in 4K HD at 30 frames per second. For outdoor cameras, details are everything, so we loved that we could zoom in the image and still get a clear picture. We knew that in case of a break-in, we could use the camera’s footage as evidence to gather information about the perp.

    Works with Lorex NVRs

    As an IP camera, the Lorex 4K Nocturnal camera needs an NVR in order to work, but that’s not an entirely bad thing. The NVR served as the camera’s local storage, allowing it to record rolling videos without expensive monthly cloud storage fees. Better still, with a Lorex NVR with smart detection technology, the camera was able to tell apart people and vehicles from other moving objects.

  • 3. Arlo Pro 3– Best Camera with Both Infrared and color Night Vision

    Editor's Rating
    9.0
    /10

    Pros and Cons

    What We Liked:
    • 2560p resolution
    • Color night vision option
    • Completely wire-free
    • Works indoors and outdoors
    What We Didn’t Like:
    • No free person detection
    • Needs Arlo Hub
    • No free cloud storage
    • Needs to be recharged
    Arlo Pro 3
    Arlo Pro 3

    Infrared and Color Night Vision

    The Arlo Pro 3 offered both infrared and color night vision. We used the infrared option when we wanted the camera to be less conspicuous and also when we wanted it to have a better night vision range. As for the color option, the Arlo Pro 3 utilized its built-in 6,500 K spotlight to see things in clearer detail, colors and all. This night vision mode proved useful when we wanted to identify the color of the van suspiciously parked out front in the middle of the night, just in case it was a burglar surveying our place.

    Video Quality

    Contrary to what many believe, most burglaries actually occur during the day.2 Fortunately, the Arlo Pro 3 not only captured clear nighttime videos but also high-definition daytime videos. With a 2560p HD resolution that is significantly higher than the standard 1080p HD, 160-degree field of view, and up to 12x digital zoom, the Arlo Pro 3 protected our apartment day and night.

    IP65 Weatherproof

    Thanks to its IP65 rating, which meant it’s sealed shut and protected against dust and water jets, we were able to install the Arlo Pro 3 almost anywhere. And because it’s powered by batteries, we didn’t need to run a wire to keep it plugged in; although we did have to charge its batteries every three to six months. For those reasons, the Arlo Pro 3 also made our list of the best wireless cameras.

  • 5. Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro— Best Infrared Camera with Professional Monitoring

    Editor's Rating
    9.4
    /10

    Pros and Cons

    What We Liked:
    • Professionally monitored
    • Artificial intelligence
    • Alert lights and tones
    • Far-field microphones with echo cancellation
    What We Didn’t Like:
    • No SD card slot
    • Monthly fee for cloud storage
    • Requires a Vivint security system
    • Requires professional installation
    Vivint Outdoor Cam Pro
    Vivint Outdoor Cam Pro

    Smart Sentry

    Made by the alarm company Vivint, the Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro is the only one on this list that offers proactive protection. Whenever someone approached our front door or lurked too long within the surveillance zone that we defined, the camera issued warning lights and tones to let them know they’ve been spotted. The red warning light was particularly intimidating at night, as it glowed like an eye watching from the shadows.

    Artificial Intelligence

    The Outdoor Camera Pro was also pretty smart. It didn’t bother us with alerts involving pets or vehicles passing by. It only alerted us when it saw people, which was incredibly useful considering that it’s professionally monitored. We wouldn’t want to receive a call from our alarm company every time a dog walks by, especially here in Brooklyn.

    Works with Vivint

    As a part of the Vivint security system, the Outdoor Camera Pro integrated well with our alarm system. There’s a setting that let us use the camera as a siren for our Vivint system. In case we weren’t home, the camera could tip off passers-by and our neighbors that there was something going on. In fact, we asked our friendly neighbors to call the cops if they ever hear the outdoor camera’s siren go off.

    Tip for Video Storage: Vivint charges $5 per month for cloud storage of each camera. If you’d rather not pay the cloud storage fee, you can purchase a $249 Vivint Smart Drive with one TB of storage space, which is enough to store about 30 days of continuous video history for up to four Vivint cameras.

How We Ranked the Best Infrared Cameras of 2020

When comparing infrared cameras— or any type of security cameras for that matter— we use a methodology that measures the overall value of each camera. We take into account the cameras’ price, video quality, audio, integrations with smart platforms like Alexa and Google Assistant, artificial intelligence, and video storage options. We also test out each camera to get a good grasp of the installation process and ease of use.

Vivint Outdoor Cam Pro Night Vision
Vivint Outdoor Cam Pro Night Vision

We also make sure that the cameras are up to our standards. When it comes to the video quality, we like our cameras with at least 1080p HD resolution, a 120-degree viewing angle, and of course, infrared night vision. For the audio, we prefer cameras with two-way talk so we can hear the camera’s surroundings and talk through the camera’s speakers whenever we want. Security features like motion detection and person detection are also necessary, and it’s always a huge plus if the camera offers facial recognition and/or activity zones. Finally, every camera needs video storage. The ideal setup for us is one that has local storage like a micro-SD card and with cloud backup, but we’re also not one to turn down cameras with free or affordable cloud storage plans. And if the camera supports continuous recording, that’s even better.

Our Expert Advice: We recommend security cameras with cloud backup in addition to local storage. It’s always better to have backup video storage in case a burglar steals or destroys your camera. NVRs and DVRs, which are devices with a hard drive that can store videos, might work as well provided that they are kept hidden away.

For this review, in particular, we paid close attention to the cameras’ night vision ranges, especially for the ones that can work outdoors. If you have a wide front lawn or backyard, you’re going to want to have a camera with a night vision range of at least 40 feet. For indoor cameras, it’s a slightly different story. There tend to be more reflective surfaces indoors, which could create glares when viewed from an infrared camera. That’s why we chose indoor cameras that either had a shorter night vision range or an adjustable infrared intensity.

We also looked for features that can further improve the night vision experience. An example of this is the Nest Cam IQ Indoor’s ability to tell apart natural light and bursts of artificial light coming from, let’s say, a burglar’s flashlight. As a result, it can’t be fooled by burglars trying to “blind” the night vision.

And last but not least, we included infrared security camera options that offer professional monitoring. Many law enforcement agencies confirm that video verification through monitored security cameras can help speed up police response.3 So with a professionally monitored infrared camera, you’re sure to get the help you need in case of a break-in whether you’re home or not, day or night.

If you want to explore other options, be sure to also check out our list of the best home security cameras of 2020.

FAQs about Infrared Cameras

  • What are the best infrared cameras on the market?

    Based on our tests, the Nest Cam IQ Indoor is the best infrared camera for indoor use, while the Lorex 4K Nocturnal Smart IP Camera is the best outdoor infrared camera. The Arlo Pro 3, Blink XT2, and Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro also made our list of the best infrared cameras on the market.

  • What is the night vision range of infrared cameras?

    The night vision ranges of infrared cameras vary. For outdoor use, we recommend cameras with a night vision range of at least 40 feet, whereas indoor cameras need a night vision range of at least 20 feet.

  • Are infrared cameras better than cameras with color night vision?

    In most cases, infrared cameras are better than color night vision. That’s because infrared cameras don’t rely on visible white light, so they are more covert. However, if you want your cameras to see in color day and night, color night vision might work better for you.

  • How do infrared cameras work?

    Infrared cameras are equipped with two necessary components: LED lights that emit infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye, and an image sensor that can see infrared light. The LED lights illuminate the camera’s surroundings for the image sensor, which then creates black-and-white, night vision images.

  • How much do infrared cameras cost?

    The cost of infrared cameras differs from brand to brand. The prices of the infrared cameras on our list range between $100 and $300.

Citations
  1. MidAtlantic. (2020). Infared Illumination Specification Guide.
    midlantic.net/forms/infrared%20specification%20guide_020408.pdf

  2. JSU. (2013). Home Burglary Awareness and Prevention. jsu.edu/police/docs/Schoolsafety.pdf

  3. Louisville Police. (2020). False Alarm Prevention. louisville-police.org/DocumentCenter/View/683/Audio-and-Video-Verification-PDF