Boost Your Security Cameras With LIFX Nightvision Bulbs
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If you have security cameras around your house you may have run into issues with seeing details at night. Security cameras use infrared light to see in the dark, which is usually produced by a small number of infrared LEDs on the camera itself.
Depending on the camera, and the location, the amount of IR that you get may not produce enough to adequately light the area for good video capture. More is always better though, so it’s possible to add stand alone infrared floodlights to brighten up the image, especially further out from the camera position.
This has been the fix in the past, but requires extra wiring and specific transformers to power the flood light. Beyond that you’re only option would be to leave the lights on throughout the night, which may be intrusive and undesirable.
Smart lighting maker LIFX has come up with a better solution for situations with conventional light sockets in the area that needs to be covered. The LIFX Nightvision bulbs, in both A19 and BR30 sizes. These are full color smart lights that can also output infrared when they are ‘switched off’. To humans it looks like the lights are out, but for the camera things are as bright as if they were on, albeit in black and white.
Installation and Setup
Getting the LIFX Nightvision set up is pretty straight forward and follows the same process as any LIFX product. Once you have the LIFX app installed on your smart phone you simply tap the + button on the lower menu bar. Select New Device, then New Light and the app will search for any unconfigured LIFX devices nearby. Once the new bulb appears, simply tap and run through the quick steps to connect to your WiFi, give it a name, and assign it to a room in your home.
Now, the infrared behavior is disabled by default, so tap on the new light on your LIFX dashboard, then tap the options menu (three dots), then Light Settings. You’ll see a list of settings panels for the light, look for the one that says Night Vision Brightness. Here is where you can set the brightness of the IR light, or disable the feature. Once you set a brightness, the IR light will activate any time the visible brightness setting of the bulb is below 5%.
How Does It Stack UP?
With the headline feature out of the way, let’s look at what else the LIFX Nighvision bulb can do, and how it performs as a smart light bulb in general.
First up is the color and brightness performance, and these are aspects that have always been strong points for LIFX. The LIFX Nighvision is not only handy for it’s infrared function, but supports full gamut color, with very good saturation and color accuracy. On that last point I’ve had my gripes with some other LIFX products, notably the LIFX Beam, that have struggled with softer color shades.
In these cases you swing between rich colors and whites, with poor accuracy in the mid tones. The LIFX Nightvision does not suffer from this issue at all. I’ve tested dozens of color settings across the spectrum at varying saturation levels. The color output from the bulb has been a near perfect match to the selection in the LIFX app. I’ve also checked this against the color wheel in the Apple Home app as this can sometimes show different results. Thankfully, the performance was just as good here as well.
On top of the color accuracy, the LIFX bulbs tend to offer some of the highest brightness smart bulbs on the market. The LIFX Nighvision is rated to 1100 lumens and, unlike some other smart bulbs, this does not noticeably dip between white and high saturation color settings. As an LED light bulb, then, the LIFX Nightvision stands up extremely well. What about as a smart light?
A key selling point for LIFX has always been their ‘no hub’ mantra. The only use WiFi for communication with your smart home, and this is generally OK, but with some caveats. Obviously it does keep things simpler, and if you’re particularly averse to smart hubs then this is a great selling point.
The downside here is that performance is based heavily on your WiFi network in terms of your router performance, signal coverage, and how many devices you have on your network. If you’re going to have a lot of smart lights in your home, then your Wifi network is going to get pretty cluttered and difficult to manage. Realistically most people aren’t going to hit a limit, but most consumer routers are fixed to a single IP address range with, at most, 254 possible connections, sometimes less.
Coverage is likely to be the bigger issue, but again will only affect people with poor routers, or large homes. A mesh router setup can resolve coverage issues, and there are good options available now if you need to go down that route.
Other LIFX Nightvision Features
LIFX has steadily increased their smart home integration options and now has a very competitive range that surpasses most other brands. You have the big three; Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit. I’ve found the integration to work well for all of these, with the occasional drop out requiring me to power off the bulb to reset it. We used to see this more often with LIFX products, but it’s been significantly improved with newer firmware. I’ve had to do this exactly once in about a year of daily use.
Response times are quick, although perhaps not quite as fast as a dedicated lighting network like Philips Hue, the difference won’t be significant in any real world scenario. Indeed, when I was performing the color accuracy tests it was effectively responding to constant color changes in real time. Likewise triggering the light changes through HomeKit scenes and automations is very responsive.
Outside of third party automation, the LIFX app actually has a bit to offer as well. All LIFX products have some degree of ‘animation’ capability, and the LIFX Nightvision is no exception. Tapping the wizard button at the top of the LIFX dashboard takes you to the Effects page.
Many of these effects can be applied to individual bulbs, although some such as the Move animation are only applicable to multi segment products like the Beam and Light Strip. Choosing something like Flicker, for example, can be assigned to the LIFX Nighvision and creates a simulated candle light effect in your chosen color.
You can also create fairly flexible schedules on a per light, per group, or per home basis. These schedules allow you to set the power state, color, brightness, and even night vision setting, with the option to fade out over a defined period of time. These schedules can be applied to weekdays, weekends, or any specific days of the week you choose, and you can have as many as you like.
Additionally, you can specify a ‘Day & Dusk’ schedule. These are a special kind of dynamic schedule that varies the brightness and color temperature over the day. This means you can set the lights to a bright, cool white to help you wake up, and then gradually tone down the brightness while moving the light to a warmer white into the evening, before turning it off at a set time. As with normal schedules, you can define different Day & Dusk schedules for each day of the week if you prefer.
The LIFX Nightvision bulb has a lot to offer as a smart bulb on it’s own, with class leading brightness and color reproduction, no hub WiFi connectivity, and a good selection of popular, and even some more obscure, smart home integrations. It is an expensive option though, partly because of the added infrared hardware and weather proofing.
You do tend to get what you pay for, though. In my experience LIFX products are high quality and have some of the best support in the industry. As you’d expect to be using your LIFX bulb for many years, these things are a worthy consideration, and justify the premium.
Of course if you’re looking to boost your security camera performance this is a great option simply because you can leverage your existing light sockets, inside or out, and there is no other competition in this specific niche.