Having the ability to film at night is important to many amateur and professional video makers. So, which camcorders offer night vision? This is both a simple and complex question to answer depending on what exactly you consider night vision to be.
The most common form of “night vision” included on camcorders in the consumer and prosumer market uses a special light that fills the area in front of the lens with infrared that is invisible to the naked eye but can be picked up through the camera’s infrared censor. This method is called active illumination.
While this isn’t “true” night vision, it is a much less expensive alternative that is used even in professional settings. Shows such as Ghost Hunters, which follows a crew through a darkened house searching for paranormal activity, are filmed using an infrared light to achieve a clear image without actually creating any visual light in the room.
Here are some camcorders that offer Active IR style night vision:
- Bell and Howell DNV900HD ($169)
- Sony HDR-CX100 AVCHD ($470)
- Vivitar Mini DV Camcorder (DVR-510) ($40)
- Sony DCR-SR42 30GB ($500)
- Canon VIXIA HF M40 ($700)
When searching for cameras with infrared technology, the most common term listed in the product’s description is simply “IR”. Most professional-grade camcorders include this technology as well.
What is typically considered “true” night vision is what’s called, “image intensification.” It works by collecting small bits of light and a lower portion of the infrared spectrum and amplifying them to create an image. Some high-end camcorders offer this form of low-light vision. This can also be achieved with special night vision attachments that are built to work with standard camcorders. One example of this is the NVFlex by Lomo.
Another method of achieving night vision is thermal imaging which unlike either of the previously mentioned methods, it detects heat signatures and displays them as colorful outlines with color varying depending on how much heat the subject radiates. One camera that utilizes this technology is the Flir T200 which retails at about $8,450.