What is an IR illuminator?
IR or Infrared Illuminators are devices which emit light in infrared spectrum. They can be active devices which emit their own infrared light like various objects or passive devices which reflect the infra red light which falls on them. One of the major application is in night vision cameras. The infrared illuminator incorporated in the night vision camera is actually an IR LED which emits light in infrared band. This infrared light is reflected by objects and is collected by the camera lens. Infrared imaging is not only useful of surveillance but also for applications like checking heat insulation of buildings, checking thermal pollution of water bodies etc. The IR Illuminator can also be used in CCTV cameras.
How an Infrared illuminator works
The infrared illuminator’s output power is measured by its wavelength and valued in nanometers. Nanometers are used to specify the wavelength of the IR that is the visible part of the light spectrum. It is always important to understand the light source’s nm strength—the greater the number, the higher the wavelength. IR illuminators may have the option of variable power or brightness level where the output source may be managed. In these modes, the lens area features a focus diopter to adjust the output’s beam for longer ranges.
Digital night vision devices may include a built-in IR illuminator or a removable one. Often, lower-powered magnification optics feature a weaker illuminator while higher-powered magnification optics boast a stronger IR. It is advised not to view targets at close ranges with a high magnification night vision device with a built-in high-powered infrared illuminator because it will perform poorly—a high-powered IR can blur your image. Buying a separate IR illuminator allows you to make brightness adjustment to avoid this problem.
Use of an external illuminator can increase the overall detection distance of a night vision device. Before buying one, it is important to check that output power of the external IR exceeds the output power of the external IR (built in.) Otherwise, the external IR would not increase the detection range.
Advantages and disadvantages of IR illuminator
Infrared light is invisible to the human eye, but using an IR illuminator does make the user visible to others with night vision. For this reason, IR illuminators are not preferred for covert or military operations, though may be necessary for navigating and sighting targets in extreme darkness. Other cons of IR illuminators include added weight and additional battery requirements.
The clear advantages of IR illuminators are that they allow night vision to function with no visible light on the scene and are a relatively inexpensive way to drastically improve the sensitivity of a device. For many use-cases, IR illuminators are an integral tool to include when heading out for the night.
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