20/20 Vision: The right lighting can make or break your camera specs

By Deborah L. O’Mara | May 15, 2023
Proper lighting is key to effective video surveillance and whether you capture the images and scenes necessary to meet detection needs, especially outdoors or in dimly lit areas. 

Video is one of the hottest product categories for systems integrators as end-users shore up security and leverage surveillance for compliance, distribution, operations and other tasks.

Researchers from Market Research Future, New York, cite “robust growth” into 2030. Advances in artificial intelligence (A.I.)-­powered systems that maintain security and safety, combined with the increased use of object detection and audio are propelling new installations, the report stated.

The right light

Proper lighting is a primary consideration in deploying effective video surveillance, especially outdoors or in dimly lit areas. The right camera/object lighting will ultimately determine whether you capture the images and scenes necessary to meet the detection needs of the customer and their premises.

As with any technology—and for best results—video surveillance needs to be applied according to the manufacturer’s specifications, technical documentation and application notes. These documents will state limits and proper placement for product optimization.

I asked two experts from leading surveillance manufacturers to shed light on this growing discipline for systems integrators. There’s much to tell, so this information will be presented in two parts focusing on overall considerations and best practices and tips in the subsequent reading.

The state of cameras

Rui Barbosa, product manager for i-PRO Americas Inc., Rolling Meadows, Ill., said that, although many IP-based video surveillance cameras can operate in total darkness thanks to inbuilt infrared illumination, it’s far from ideal to rely on this since it forces most cameras into a black-and-white mode, which causes loss of important details.

“If possible, it’s preferable to deploy high-quality cameras with excellent low-light performance that can retain accurate color information. By retaining accurate color information, security teams have better information in which to positively identify people and vehicles of interest. Color is also an important attribute that can help A.I. algorithms rapidly search for people or vehicles. Additional aspects to consider are to ensure adequate and consistent illumination across a camera’s entire field of view, while also avoiding glare from light fixtures as well as the sun as it changes positions throughout the year,” Barbosa said.

Karl Radke, director of the Midwest business area for Axis Communications Inc., Chelmsford, Mass., added that modern surveillance cameras are designed to handle many challenging lighting situations, including strong backlight, flickering lights and low-light scenarios. That said, improving the lighting in a scene will always help provide better positive identification.

“Best practices include providing consistent and constant lighting via an evenly distributed array of flicker-free LED lights, if possible,” he said. “Avoid pointing strong lights directly toward the camera, as this creates backlight scenarios. It’s also a good idea to select lights with a natural color temperature of 6,500 Kelvin for the best color reproduction and to avoid using fluorescent lights, high-pressure sodium or LED lights with oscillating frequencies that differ from the main power frequency in the region (60 Hz for the United States).”

Radke said lighting is particularly important at choke points and other critical areas. 

“It isn’t always possible to establish ideal lighting conditions, but prioritizing clear images in sensitive and high-traffic areas can dramatically improve positive identification chances,” he said.

More pixels can assist

Having more pixels does help maximize image resolution, particularly when zooming in on an image for a closer look, Barbosa said, adding that 4K is effectively four times the pixel density of HD, meaning you can zoom into a 4K image much further before the image becomes blurry and unusable.

“Another way to think of it is that a 4K camera properly deployed can provide the coverage of multiple lesser resolution cameras because of the ability to zoom in without loss of clarity,” Barbosa said. 

“Likewise, multisensor cameras are preferable to fisheye lenses when covering wide areas because they have individual high-resolution sensors for each direction compared to a shared single sensor being warped into a panorama by a lens. The difference in clarity between the two types of wide coverage is substantial. Low-light performance is understandably much better with dedicated sensors facing in multiple directions than a single lens trying to resolve a wide field of view with a fraction of the pixels to capture available light,” he said.

i-pro americas inc.

About The Author

O’MARA writes about security, life safety and systems integration and is managing director of DLO Communications. She can be reached at [email protected] or 773.414.3573.





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