Your security camera could appear blurry at night mainly due to a variety of reasons, the most common being the IR-bleeding or glare effect. In addition, a smudged lens, the camera’s exposure settings, damaged IR LEDs, or a defective IR-cut filter switching mechanism can also affect this.
Regardless of the issue, it’s very easy to troubleshoot and resolve the problem by yourself.
- The primary cause of blurry nighttime footage is because of IR-reflections or glare caused by insufficient or unequal lighting.
- Condensation, or a smudged lens can also cause blurry images.
- You can easily diagnose the IR-cut filter switching mechanism by covering the light sensor and waiting for the “clicking” noise.
- The foam ring around the camera sensor is the most effective component that minimizes IR reflection. Ensure it’s not lost or damaged.
- Post-processing features like digital noise reduction and True WDR can help fine-tune low-light footage even further.
- Adding IR illuminators can help improve footage in wide open spaces; however, it’s important to install them properly and avoid pointing them directly at the camera.
7 Reasons Why Security Camera Footage Gets Blurry At Night
There can be dozens of factors why your nighttime security camera footage looks blurry and distorted.
However, it all boils down to these 7, so make sure you address these to fix blurry footage and prevent it from happening again:
- Infrared light is bleeding into the camera lens
- The camera lens is dirty or out of focus
- The lens is fogged up or affected by rain and condensation
- The camera doesn’t switch to night/low-light mode
- Infrared lights are damaged or burnt out
- The location has low infrared lighting
- Issues with the Wi-Fi, PoE, and Coaxial transmission mediums
1. Infrared Light is Bleeding Into The Camera Lens
A major issue on most security cameras is IR bleeding. This happens when the Infrared lights, used for night vision, bounce off a nearby object back into the camera lens, creating a washed-out or white-out image.
This could be the glass cover in the camera itself, trees, bushes, shade structures, or reflective surfaces that are too close to the camera.
A Few Ways to Prevent IR-Bleed
- Make sure the rubber (or foam) ring, installed around the camera sensor, is not loose or damaged. This helps absorb IR radiation and minimize reflections.
- Enable WDR on your cameras.
- Avoid installing the camera in tight spaces where walls, awnings, or eaves can be too close to the camera (one of the most common issues for IR-bleed).
- Similarly, set up the camera so it’s not too close to trees, shrubbery, walls, reflective surfaces, and other obstructions.
- Avoid installing spotlights or regular home lights too close to the camera.
2. The Camera Lens is Dirty or Out of Focus
Issues with the camera lens, such as being out of focus or in poor condition, can lead to blurry images.
The entire security camera might have been poorly designed or the lens might accumulate dust or develop scratches over time, impacting it’s ability to record clear footage.
The camera sensor is a sensitive component; hence, I recommend you try cleaning the glass cover first and making it a habit to clean the housing of your security cameras regularly.
3. Lenses are Fogged Up or Blocked Because of Rain and Condensation
Dew or rain on the camera lens can scatter the IR light, causing a foggy picture with important background details to get overshadowed.
Also, if moisture seeps inside the camera, it could fog up the lens from the inside, making the footage look hazy.
- Check camera specs for anti-fogging measures such as built-in heaters, wipers, and weatherproof enclosures (IP64 or IP67 recommended).
- Readjust the camera to make sure it’s not in direct sunlight, rain, or directly facing large reflective surfaces.
- You can try re-installing it in the shade or setting up an awning or a proper outdoor camera cover. However, make sure you space things out to avoid the IR-bleed effect.
- You can also add silica gel crystals or a similar desiccant inside the camera to absorb excess moisture. However, be careful when carrying this out.
4. Camera Doesn’t Switch to Night Mode
Most security cameras use a light sensor to check the light levels and move a filter in front of the camera lens to switch over to infrared (called an IR-cut filter).
If this mechanism malfunctions, your camera might be stuck in day mode, resulting in poor nighttime images.
How to Test the IR-Cut Filter Switching Mechanism
You can check if the IR-cut filter switching mechanism is working using a simple test. Here’s how:
- First, make sure the camera is powered on and recording footage.
- Then, head over to the camera and find the light sensor on the front glass cover. (It’s usually a small circular component laid out next to the camera and IR LEDs)
- Put your finger over the light sensor to block it out
- Check if you can hear a single “click”
- Then, take out your finger from the light sensor
- Make sure you hear the “click” again.
The clicking noise indicates the switching mechanism. So if you can hear the click in both instances, the problem is not your IR-cut filter switching mechanism.
That said, your IR-cut filter itself may be damaged or degraded, so make sure you get help from a professional or check out other reasons down in the list.
5. Infrared Lights are Damaged or Burnt Out
Infrared lights are crucial for night vision as they illuminate the camera’s field of view in pitch-black darkness. So when individual IR LEDs or whole sections die out, it can cause blurry vision in your nighttime footage.
There are several reasons infrared lights can get damaged:
- Excessive use over time
- High temperatures
- Voltage spikes
- Poor quality components
If you suspect this to be the problem, you’ll have to get it checked by your installer or manufacturer. They might be able to replace the IR LEDs or set you up with a new one if your warranty hasn’t expired.
That said, you can also replace the IR LEDs yourself, but make sure you follow the necessary safety precautions.
However, if the glass is scratched or the problem is internal, you can try to get it repaired by a professional.
6. The Installation Location has Low Infrared Lighting
Noise and image degradation naturally occur at low light conditions, as cameras rely heavily on light to provide fine detail. So during nighttime, the ability of a camera to capture detailed images is reduced significantly.
This degradation in capturing details is perceived as blur or haze, contributing to the issue of foggy images at night.
Although it’s not usually a problem since security cameras have IR blasters/illuminators built-in, quality issues and monitoring a long and wide open space will make nighttime footage hard to read.
- Add extra infrared light sources (IR illuminators) or ambient light sources (such as spotlights or regular home lighting) to minimize noise.
- Enable 2D or 3D DNR settings on your cameras or video recorder.
7. Problems With the Transmission Medium
In addition to the above factors, issues with the transmission medium of your security cameras can also create nighttime footage that is hazy or unreadable.
Some common video transmission issues are:
- Poor Wi-Fi signal
- Damaged PoE or coax cables
- Radio Frequency (RF) and Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)
- Signal degradation over long distances
To resolve these, you can:
- Set up a mesh network or dedicated Wi-Fi extenders
- Free up more bandwidth for your security cameras
- Use cables that are reliable and high-quality
- Set up cable shielding and grounding (to minimize the risk of EMI and RFI interference)
- Run signal amplifiers or boosters to prevent signal degradation in long cable runs
Also, check out this article on 6 Ways to Transmit & View Security Camera Footage to understand the differences between wired and wireless transmission mediums.
Extra Tips to Fix Blurry Nighttime Security Camera Footage
- Use the IR range specification and the DORI standard to decide on the distance and level of “nighttime” readability you want from your security before purchasing.
- Adjust the lens focus to improve overall image clarity. Your camera’s instructions or VMS software will guide you on how to make these changes.
- Keep your camera’s firmware and corresponding software up-to-date. This will prevent software-associated issues and provide new features to improve the footage.
- Check if your power supply matches the recommended settings of your camera. Low DC voltage or voltage spikes will affect the camera’s ability to record clear footage.
- Feel free to contact technical support if the issue persists. The support teams of most manufacturers can guide you through advanced troubleshooting steps.
At a glance, security cameras tend to produce blurry images at night because of hardware defects, environmental issues, lack of post-processing features, and improper installation.
By diagnosing each of these issues, you can get to the root of the problem and take steps to fix blurriness and unreadability in your nighttime footage.
However, regular maintenance also goes a long way, so make sure to remind yourself and use the correct tools and practices.