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What is an IR Dash Cam?

Do I need one if I am a rideshare driver?

Are you concerned about capturing clear video inside your vehicle, especially at night? Whether you're operating fleet vehicles, driving a cab, or working with rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, an infrared (IR) dash cam can be invaluable. But what sets an IR dash cam apart from standard models, and how can you choose the best one? In this article, we will explain IR dash cams and provide essential insights about them.

What is Infrared(IR)?

Infrared is a form of light. It’s light that we cannot see with our eyes. When we think of light, we think of a nice sunny summer day, or even the soft glow of a light bulb. But visible light, the light our eyes see, makes up just a tiny sliver of all the light around us, and infrared light is light that we cannot see with the naked eye. The term infrared means “below red” and everything around us emits some form of infrared light depending on its temperature.

Just like how a flashlight emits light in a dark room so you can see, the IR camera emits infrared light, which can be viewed by the IR sensors of the camera, which is then translated into the video, viewable by you. Infrared can travel through fog, dust and smoke no matter how thick, making it quite reliable in all sorts of poorly lit situations.

Many people might confuse IR cameras with thermal cameras. IR cameras, like the ones used in security and dash cameras, capture images in the dark by using an infrared light source. Thermal cameras, on the other hand, use thermal sensors to capture the contrast in heat in the objects around them to create a heat map.

What is Infrared in an IR Dash Camera?

Now let’s talk about the case for dash cams. IR dash cams are two-channel dash cam systems that include a front-facing video and a secondary camera that records the vehicle's interior. Only this interior-facing camera uses IR.

If you look closely at an IR dash cam, you will notice little lights around the outer edges of the camera lens. These tiny lights are known as infrared LEDs, and they are responsible for the dash cam's night vision, as these LEDs are what can view and translate these light signals invisible to the naked eye.

This makes it an efficient solution for rideshare users like Uber and Lyft, as well as commercial users like fleet managers, whether it is used to monitor drivers or to record the rear of the vehicle (often driven at night time). This is an excellent tool in analyzing driver behavior, capturing events including sleeping at the wheel, being on their phone, or exhibiting dangerous maneuvers.

IR dash cams have proven to save fleet managers thousands of dollars in the potential damage that their employees would have caused to their commercial duty vehicles due to negligence. Most importantly, dash cam footage can literally save not just drivers, but the entire commercial trucking company from going out of business as the authorities do suspend a business license if dangerous driving behaviours are exhibited continuously.

Can I use IR cameras to record outside of the vehicle?

You could, but we would not recommend doing so. If the IR dash cam is mounted up against the windshield (pointing through the glass to capture outside of the vehicle), the infrared light can instantly reflect off the windshield, resulting in a reflection or glare that will blind the camera. This will cause your videos to be overexposed or washed out, drastically limiting the effectiveness of the infrared outside.

Beyond that, since IR cameras detect light sources outside our normal spectrum, they can often lack standard colouration, providing black-and-white footage or sometimes a purple hue, depending on the model.

Super Night Vision vs. IR

Even if you’re using the most advanced dash cam like the Thinkware U3000, which has Super Night Vision 4.0, Super Night Vision is not true infrared night vision. If you park in a pitch-black area like a closed garage with no lighting, the dash cam will not be able to pick up anything. In other words, dash cams with Super Night Vision still require a minimal level of light in the environment, whether it’s light from oncoming headlights or dim streetlights. IR is true night-vision in pitch darkness, but Super Night Vision? Not so much.

We all know how dark it can get inside a car when driving at night. Since you usually won’t want your cabin lights on when driving, infrared LEDs can illuminate the car’s interior without bothering the driver—because infrared light can’t be seen with the naked eye. Super Night Vision is still the go-to for recording outside situations in dim lighting, and IR is the go-to for recording in pitch darkness over a very short distance.

Our Recommended IR Dash Cams

When selecting an IR dash cam, prioritize resolution and image quality. Our top recommendation for a versatile 3-channel IR system is the VIOFO A229 Pro, offering exceptional resolution and clarity. For fleet applications, we endorse BlackVue's DR970X-2CH Plus IR models, renowned for their advanced features and cloud connectivity, ensuring comprehensive security and oversight.

VIOFO A229 Pro 3-Channel Dash Cam

If you’re looking for a 3-channel IR dash cam system that will give you the best front-of-car footage, then the VIOFO A229 Pro 3-Channel would be our top pick. It is currently the highest resolution IR dash cam on the market, giving you 4K UHD from the front-facing 8MP camera with a Sony STARVIS 2.0 IMX678 image sensor, and 1080P Sony STARVIS 1 Full HD for the interior IR and rear cameras. In addition to having a larger image size with a type of 1/1.8", the 4K A229 Pro series now has much less noise and motion blur during day and night recording, making license capturing more seamless than before. It is also equipped with Super Night Vision 2.0, HDR, and WDR. It also comes with a free CPL filter for its front camera.

For fleet, cab, or Uber and Lyft drivers, the VIOFO A229 Pro’s interior camera now has an F1.6 aperture, 7 elements glass lens, and six infrared LED lights. The IR LEDs will automatically adjust and turn on/off as needed, whereas plenty of other models out there just leave them on all the time, negatively affecting the colouration of the video. IR LEDs naturally discolour the video, so having these turned off during standard daylight situations will result in more colourful videos than other IR models.

BlackVue DR970X-2CH Plus IR Dash Cam

Meanwhile, when it comes to fleet dash cams, our most recommended brand is BlackVue, especially with its BlackVue Cloud Features. The best IR dash cams you can get from BlackVue are the DR970X-2CH Plus IR Dash Cam, and the DR970X-2CH Plus Box Dash Cam.

The BlackVue DR970X 2-CH Plus IR dash cam is the brand’s latest front-and-interior dash cam. For its front camera, the BlackVue DR970X-2CH Plys IR boasts an 8MP Sony STARVIS 2 IMX678 image sensor, improved by an upgraded SigmaStar CPU and image processing software. It delivers superior daytime and nighttime video at a wide 146-degree angle field of view.

Meanwhile, the interior infrared (IR) camera of the BlackVue DR970X-2CH Plus IR truly sees in the dark – and even in pitch-black lighting conditions. It activates automatically based on the ambient light, making sure that every detail inside is captured for utmost security at a 180-degree angle, one of the widest in its class.

Through this dash cam, you can also enjoy a hassle-free experience with cutting-edge Cloud features like Remote Live View, Remote Playback and Backup, Push Notifications, Live Event Upload, and Driving Reports - recommended for ride-sharing, fleet, and everyday use. BlackVue can even upload critical footage—such as a break-in or hit and run—in real time to the Cloud. This can be accessed via mobile or PC/Mac.