Security lighting, a useful comparison between internal VS external lighting solutions

Posted December 12th, 2018 by Alessandra Atria

The ability to monitor ’round-the-clock’ is a common requirement for CCTV applications. This can be easily achieved with the implementation of a day/night IP camera and some form of infrared (IR) illumination; which together, enable the continuous delivery of video surveillance – even in complete darkness.

IP audio in the officeWhen it comes to infrared illumination, you generally have two choices: internal or external IR. ‘Internal’ being a day/night IP camera that features integrated infrared LEDs, or ‘External’ meaning the use of a separate IR illumination unit alongside your network camera.

Each solution adapts to different business requirements, so which one is the best suited for your business?

To help you decide we have done a quick run through of the pro’s and con’s that are associated with each solution.

Internal IR

✔Cost-effective

By purchasing a day/night IP camera with integrated infrared LEDs, your illumination solution is already built into the network camera – meaning there is no need to purchase any additional hardware.

This is also a handy time-saver when it comes to set up, as you will only need to install and configure a single unit.

✔IR Enhancement technologies

Overexposure can be an issue when using infrared illumination and results in poor quality, low-light video. Manufacturers have introduced advanced IR solutions to avoid this issue and deliver detail-packed footage in the dark (one of these being Axis’ OptimizedIR).
This high-performance technology allows the camera to intelligently adapt the level of IR illumination to best suit the scene – preventing overexposure and enabling a clearer image.


✔Straightforward set up and configuration

The design of the camera allows it to receive power and network connectivity via Power-over-Ethernet, so that the camera itself can provide power to the
built in LEDs, instead of requiring an additional power source.

It is clear how this feature simplifies the installation, as only one power supply is required. In addition, the inclusion of integrated IR LEDs means
that you can centrally manage both the IR illumination and viewing features of your IP camera in one place, via its web browser interface; a feature that mmakes set up and configuration of the camera a much more straightforward process.

✔ No black spots

IP cameras with infrared capability are designed so that their built-in LEDs will deliver an IR spread that ‘should’ match its horizontal/vertical angle of view – straight out-of-the-box. This helps to ensure that there are no black spots, meaning that the entire scene will be sufficiently illuminated when IR is switched on.

❌ Costly replacement

When compared to an external IR solution, internal IR looks to be the more cost-effective choice between the two.
However, in the event of a faulty LED, the entire IP camera would need to be replaced – meaning costs can start to add up if there are ever any hardware issues.

❌ Insects

IP cameras that emit infrared light also produce something else: heat, and insects love heat!
In-fact, insects such as spiders, will then happily obstruct the camera’s view with their webs.
In addition to a poor-quality image, the obstruction of the lens and the consequent reflection of the obstructing object back onto the lens, will cause overexposure.

Internal IR provides a straightforward and affordable illumination method that is an ideal choice for most small to medium-sized applications.
However, if your business require higher levels of flexibility and reliability, you should consider opting for an external IR solution.

External IR

✔Flexible choice

By choosing an ‘external’ solution that consists of an IR illuminator unit and a separate day/night IP camera, you have full flexibility when it comes to the placement of hardware – enabling you to completely tailor a solution to meet your specific requirements.

✔See the full picture

By placing your IR illuminator and network camera in different locations, any insects that are attracted to the illuminator’s infrared light will reside on the illuminator itself and not on the camera’s lens.

It is clear how this reduces the chance of your camera view being obstructed and also helps to reduce the number of false motion detection alarms – an increasingly costly issue within security surveillance today.

✔Versatile illumination

Most IR illuminators on the market today will be supplied with a range of diverging lenses. These lenses are used to spread the infrared light and deliver alternative beam angles and illumination distances.

This wide choice gives you the ability to select the best lens to suit your exact lighting requirements – making external IR a very versatile solution

(bearing in mind always that the lens with the widest IR spread will have the shortest coverage distance).

✔PoE support

The IP industry’s high demand for networked IP devices has resulted in the release of versatile IR illuminators that offer handy features such as support for Power-over-Ethernet.This allows the units to be plugged directly into the network infrastructure and receive power via a standard Ethernet cable.

On top of this, manufacturers such as Raytec are introducing smarter network solutions – such as their Vario2 IP PoE models. These smart units can be fully integrated into an existing IP system, then managed via the handy web interface.

❌ Cost implications

It will often be the case that purchasing a day/night IP camera and infrared illuminator separately will result in a higher total cost than that of a single network camera featuring IR capability. Not to forget that, with the purchase of multiple units, you will also require additional power supplies/switches, cabling and mounting accessories.

❌ Labour

With multiple units, comes longer time required for installation and configuration – always something to keep in mind when designing your surveillance system.

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