Difference Between Night vision and Infrared


Last Updated on January 27, 2023 by mdmtool

​Night vision devices and infrared cameras are two types of technology used to create images in low light or total darkness. Night vision devices amplify light particles to generate an image, while infrared cameras use invisible infrared light waves to capture an image.

The main difference between night vision and infrared is the type of light each one uses. A night vision device uses visible light, while an infrared camera uses invisible infrared waves. This means that night vision devices can create images in very low levels of ambient light, whereas infrared cameras require no ambient light at all.

Night vision devices are also typically more affordable than infrared cameras because they use existing light sources instead of creating their own.

Night Vision Vs Infrared

What Is  Night Vision?

Night vision technology is a type of imaging that amplifies existing light particles, such as those found in starlight or moonlight, to create an image. Night vision devices use optics, image intensification and digital resolutions to provide clear images even in total darkness.

What Is Infrared?

Infrared cameras detect infrared light waves that are not visible to the naked eye. These invisible light waves can penetrate dust, fog and smoke. Infrared cameras use sensors to detect infrared energy and then convert it into a digital signal which is used to create an image.


Night vision: Night vision technology has been around since the Second World War. It is used for a variety of purposes, including surveillance, hunting and navigation.

Infrared: Infrared technology was developed in the 19th century and has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its ability to capture images in total darkness. It is used in many commercial applications, such as home security systems and thermal imaging cameras.

How It Works?

Night vision:

  1. A photocathode converts light into electrons in the device’s image intensifier.
  2. An electron amplifier increases the number of electrons generated by the photocathode.
  3. An anode collects the amplified electrons and converts them into light.
  4. The image is then displayed on a viewing screen.
  5. An image intensifier increases the brightness of the image, making it visible even in conditions with little or no ambient light.


  1. Infrared cameras detect infrared energy from their environment.
  2. The energy is converted into a digital signal and then processed to create an image.
  3. The image is then displayed on the camera’s viewfinder or screen.
  4. Infrared cameras can capture images in total darkness, as they do not require any ambient light to be present in order to work properly.


night vision devices:

  • Night vision goggles
  • Night vision binoculars
  • Night vision cameras
  • Thermal imaging devices

Infrared devices:

  • Infrared illuminators
  • Infrared cameras
  • Infrared sensors
  • Thermal imaging systems.

Benefits And Limitations:

Night vision benefits:

  1. identify targets at night: Night vision allows objects to be seen beyond one’s natural range of vision.
  2. low cost: Night vision devices are more affordable than infrared cameras because they use existing light sources instead of creating their own.
  3. clarity and resolution: modern night vision technology is capable of producing clear images with high resolutions, even in total darkness.


  1. Dependence on ambient light: Night vision devices are dependent on existing levels of light to be effective, so they may not work in complete darkness.
  2. Image distortion: Vibrations or movements can cause images seen through night vision to become distorted or blurred.
  3. Blinding effect: The bright light generated by night vision devices can be temporarily blinding for those viewed through them.
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Infrared Benefits:

  1. Can capture images in total darkness: Infrared cameras allow users to capture images without the need for any ambient light source.
  2. Penetrates dust, fog, and smoke: Infrared technology can see through dust, fog and smoke to capture images in challenging environments.
  3. High resolution: Infrared cameras produce clear and detailed images with high resolutions.


  1. Expensive technology: Infrared cameras are typically more expensive than night vision devices due to their complex components and the need for specialized training to operate them.
  2. Power requirements: Infrared cameras require a large amount of power to operate and can be affected by power fluctuations.
  3. Lower light sensitivity: Infrared technology is not as sensitive to low levels of light as night vision devices, so it may not produce clear images in certain conditions.

Purpose Of Use:

Night vision:

  • Surveillance
  • Navigation
  • Military operations


  • Thermal imaging
  • Heat detection
  • Surveillance and security
  • Search and rescue operations
  • Astronomy
  • Industrial inspection.

Differences Between Night Vision And Infrared:

Properties Night Vision Infrared
Definition: Night vision is a type of technology used to amplify existing light levels in order to make objects visible in the dark. Infrared is a type of technology that uses infrared energy to create images, even in total darkness.
Working Principle : Night vision works by collecting existing ambient light (like moonlight) and amplifying it, enabling the user to see objects in the dark. Infrared uses infrared energy from a source like the sun or an infrared illuminator to create images, even in total darkness.
Operation : Night vision works best in low or no light conditions. It is not effective in bright daylight or direct sunlight. Infrared is effective in complete darkness, and its images are unaffected by bright daylight or direct sunlight.
Function : Night vision can be used to detect people or objects in darkness, for surveillance and search and rescue operations. Infrared is mainly used in night vision and thermal imaging cameras, which can detect movement, see through smoke and haze, or measure temperature.
Heat Detection : Night vision technology does not detect heat, and therefore is limited in its use for thermal imaging. Infrared technology is used to detect heat sources, making it a popular tool for thermal imaging and heat detection applications.
Amount of light required : Night vision requires some available light, even if it is ambient light from the moon or stars. Infrared does not require any available light, making it ideal for completely dark environments.
Cost : Night vision technology tends to be more expensive than infrared technology, as the optics and electronics required are usually higher quality. Infrared technology is often less expensive than night vision technology, due to the lower cost of infrared illumination components.
Prevention  of detection: Night vision is difficult to detect, as it amplifies existing light and does not emit any visible light. Infrared is easier to detect, as it emits visible light that can be seen with the human eye. For this reason, infrared technology is not suitable for covert operations.
Clarity of Image: Night vision generates an image with a greenish tint and lower resolution, as it amplifies existing light. Infrared can generate a clear image with high resolution, as it does not rely on existing light.
Capability of Recording: Night vision is typically used for live video feed and does not usually have the capability to record. Infrared can be used for both live video feed and recording.  When used in combination with night vision, infrared can provide enhanced recording capability in low light conditions.
image resolution/image quality lower image resolution higher image resolution
range of detection: limited range of detection, greater range of detection
wavelengths: Night vision works by amplifying existing light, which is typically in the visible light spectrum. Infrared uses invisible infrared wavelengths to create an image, and does not rely on existing light for operation.
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What Better Infrared Or Night Vision?

  • if you need to detect objects in complete darkness, night vision may not be suitable and infrared would be preferable.
  • If you need to record video or images in low light conditions, a combination of infrared and night vision can provide enhanced recording capabilities.

it is important to consider the purpose of use and the environment when determining which technology is best suited for your application. Night vision and infrared both have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to weigh the pros and cons of each before deciding on the right solution.


Does Night Vision Have Infrared?

No, night vision does not use infrared light. Night vision amplifies existing light in the visible spectrum to create an image. Infrared uses invisible wavelengths that are beyond the visible spectrum to create an image.

Can I See Infrared With Night Vision Goggles?

No, you cannot see infrared with night vision goggles because they are designed to amplify visible light, not infrared. Infrared requires its own equipment such as an infrared illuminator or camera.

Can I Use Night Vision And Infrared Together?

Yes, you can use both night vision and infrared together in order to enhance recording capabilities in low light conditions. By using both technologies together, you can achieve a higher image resolution and greater range of detection. It is important to choose the right equipment for the task at hand.

Can Infrared Be Used In Daylight?

Yes, infrared can be used in daylight as it does not rely on existing light to create an image. It is important to ensure that you are using the correct equipment and settings when using infrared in daylight.

Is It Infrared Night Vision Color?

No, infrared night vision is typically black and white. Infrared illuminators may be used in combination with night vision devices to create a color image, however this requires specialized equipment.

Can Infrared See Through Walls?

No, infrared cannot see through walls. Infrared cameras can detect heat signatures given off by objects, and this is limited to the surface of objects that are emitting heat.

Can Night Vision Detect Movement?

Yes, night vision can detect movement as long as there is sufficient light available to amplify. Night vision typically has a lower resolution than infrared which can limit its ability to detect movement. However, thermal imaging devices that use infrared can detect the slightest movements in objects by detecting thermal signatures given off by an object’s kinetic energy.

Can I Use My Smartphone For Night Vision?

No, it is not possible to use a smartphone as a night vision device. Smartphones are not equipped with the necessary hardware to amplify visible light in order to create an image.

Can Night Vision See In Complete Darkness?

No, night vision cannot see in complete darkness as it relies on existing light to create an image.

Will Night Vision Pick Up Infrared Light?

No, night vision will not pick up infrared light as it is designed to amplify visible light. To see infrared light, you would need an infrared illuminator or camera.

What Would Infrared Vision Look Like At Night?

Infrared vision at night would look like a black and white image. Objects that emit heat will appear brighter, while cooler objects will be darker. The contrast between hot and cold objects can be used to identify movement and other patterns in the environment.

Can Infrared Be Used For Night Vision?

Yes, infrared can be used to supplement night vision. By using both technologies together, you can achieve a higher image resolution

What Is Difference Between Infrared And Thermal Night Vision?

  • Infrared: Infrared uses invisible wavelengths that are beyond the visible spectrum to create an image.
  • Thermal Night Vision: Thermal night vision devices use infrared light to detect heat signatures given off by objects in order to create an image.


Night vision devices and infrared cameras both have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to consider each technology carefully before making a decision. Night vision is more affordable and can produce clear images with high resolutions even in conditions with little or no ambient light. However, night vision devices are dependent on existing levels of light and may not work properly in complete darkness. On the other hand, infrared cameras are able to capture images in total darkness and can penetrate dust, fog and smoke, but they require a large amount of power and may be more expensive than night vision devices.

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