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What is Night Vision in Dash Cams?

Night Vision enables your dash cam to record detailed images at night

Say Hello to Night Vision

Dash cams are designed to record your drives, day or night, continuously. However, when driving during the evenings, or in areas where there’s no sufficient light, such as tunnels or underground parking lots, your dash cam footage may look dark and grainy, making details difficult to see.

And what if you encounter an unwanted incident in this ‘dark’ situation? The bad quality of your video can ruin your evidence, which defeats the purpose of having a dash cam in your car. But don’t worry, as there’s a premium dash cam feature that solves this problem. Say hello to Night Vision.

What is Night Vision in Dash Cams?

Here’s the solution that you’re looking for. Night Vision enables your dash cam to record detailed images at night or in low-light situations. This software automatically detects a lack of light and adjusts the exposure level to improve your footage’s overall video clarity, enabling you to see road signs and license plates clearly.

For dash cameras, the performance of night vision features also relies on the synergy between factors such as low-light-sensitive image sensors, infrared illumination, ISP tuning (Image Signal Processing), and High Dynamic Range/HDR. These components work in unison to capture, enhance, and process images in low-light or nighttime conditions. The image sensor's sensitivity, aided by infrared LEDs and filters, allows for clear vision in the dark. At the same time, ISP tuning and HDR optimizes image quality through noise reduction and exposure adjustments.

But take note, not all dash cams have Night Vision, and not all dash cams with Night Vision are the same. While a lot of dash cam manufacturers claim that their devices are equipped with this feature, the Night Vision technology itself still varies due to other factors, which we will discuss later on.

Still, in terms of dash cam technology, one of the top manufacturers we trust is South Korea’s Thinkware. The same company that designed the first Super Night Vision dash cam. As years passed, premium dash cam manufacturers like BlackVue and VIOFO have also begun incorporating Night Vision features into their dash cams. However, Thinkware has focused more on this feature, particularly with the evolution of Super Night Vision.

The Evolution of Super Night Vision Technology

Thinkware Super Night Vision 1.0

Thinkware developed its Super Night Vision features starting with Super Night Vision 1.0. You can find this in early models like the Thinkware F200, Thinkware F200 Pro, and Thinkware X7000. With the Super Night Vision 1.0, while in parking mode, the Thinkware dash cam uses its lens and computing power advancements to revolutionize nighttime recording.

The system also captures more detail at night using ISP (Image Signal Processing) technology, which is also present in BlackVue dash cams like the DR770X and the DR970X series. For Thinkware Super Night Vision 1.0, this further protects your vehicle while parked. So yes, it only works during parking mode.

Thinkware Super Night Vision 2.0

Upgrading from its predecessor, Thinkware then launched the Super Night Vision 2.0 and added it the best-selling Thinkware U1000, along with the Thinkware Q800 Pro and F800 models. Even if you use a premium, 4K UHD dash cam like the U1000, dash cam videos captured in low-light environments, such as dark alleys or parking lots, may be difficult to identify. While the Super Night Vision 1.0 only covers while in parking mode, the 2.0 version is active regardless if it’s parked or in driving mode. You can activate this while in Continuous Recording Mode and expect premium video quality even when driving on dimly lit roads.

Thinkware Super Night Vision 3.0

Advancing from Super Night Vision 2.0, Thinkware launched the Super Night Vision 3.0, added in Thinkware dash cams such as the X1000 and the Q1000 models. Thinkware's advancements in low-light recording technology outperform its predecessors' night-time performance, allowing you to record night drives with true colours and minimal noise.

What makes it better than Super Night Vision 1.0 and 2.0 is the multi-exposure HDR (High Dynamic Range) feature that captures the most detail in high-contrast scenes and corrects exposure levels when a subject is too dark or too bright - now active in both parking and driving modes.

Thinkware Super Night Vision 4.0

As of 2023, Thinkware released the most advanced technology with Super Night Vision 4.0. This takes advantage of the world’s latest image sensor, the Sony STARVIS 2, present in the Thinkware U3000 4K UHD dash cam that advances in high sensitivity and low noise technology to help capture clearer footage in low-light conditions. If you’re wondering what makes this different from the first three versions of Super Night Vision, the Super Night Vision 4.0 is the only one that can be activated during Continuous Mode, Parking Mode, and while maximizing the features of the Sony STARVIS 2. 

The increased sensitivity of Thinkware’s Super Night Vision features meant vivid and clearer footage to provide you with all the details possible, which is especially important for nighttime hit-and-runs and vandalism. However, do note that Super Night Vision is not a true infrared night vision, so if you park in a pitch-black area like a closed garage with no lighting, it will not be able to pick anything up.

Still, whether your car is parked or being driven, having Super Night Vision is highly recommended for better video visibility and maximum security. You’ll get to enjoy this more if you have an advanced image sensor, particularly Sony STARVIS 2.

If video quality is a top priority, one thing to consider most is the image sensors. As we mentioned, the most advanced is the Sony STARVIS 2. Compared to the first generation Sony STARVIS, the Sony STARVIS 2 image sensor boasts a larger pixel size, allowing it to capture more light and produce clearer, more detailed footage in night and low-light conditions.

To give you an idea of how much of a difference this makes, imagine driving at night with only streetlights to light the road. Footage from a dash cam with older Sony STARVIS technology may appear dark and grainy. But with a dash cam using Sony STARVIS 2 technology, the footage will appear brighter and clearer, allowing you to see more detail. Read more about Sony STARVIS 2.0 here.

Sony STARVIS 2’s high dynamic range allows the sensors to capture a wider range of luminance values, enhancing image quality in various lighting circumstances. It improves contrast and detail, making it excellent for capturing clear footage in difficult conditions such as glaring headlights or constantly shifting lighting. Furthermore, it improves night vision by allowing the sensor to catch both dark road conditions and bright light sources, leading in crisper and more dependable nighttime film, eventually improving dash cam functionality.

As of this writing, the most recommended dash cams with Sony STARVIS 2 are the Thinkware U3000, VIOFO A139 Pro, and VIOFO A229 Pro – if you’re looking for 4K UHD video resolution, which is the highest you can get. However, if you think recording 2K QHD is enough for you, then the dash cams to go to are the new VIOFO A229 Plus and the VIOFO A119 Mini 2, which also boasts of High Dynamic Range feature, also useful for nighttime footage.

How does High Dynamic Range improve Night Vision?

When driving at night, you may encounter other cars approaching, and the headlights flash brightly, which affects not only your vision but also your recorded footage. Properly illuminating a highly contrasted image is possible with a dash camera that uses High Dynamic Range, or HDR.

Especially useful for complex lighting situations, HDR increases a camera's dynamic range by recording multiple images - one with a short exposure and one with a long exposure - and blending them in real time into one image with the best lighting balance possible. It also captures details in all scene sections, including mid-tones, so HDR produces images that appear more natural, with a greater range of colours and details.

If you would ask us about our recommended dash cam brand in terms of HDR, it would be VIOFO. Thanks to its most recent release of the A229 Pro and Plus Series, VIOFO is the first brand to have a dual Sony STARVIS 2 sensor for both front and rear cameras. Beyond upgraded secondary dash cams, both cameras are also equipped with HDR - so you can expect the same clarity for videos recorded in front and behind, day and night.

ISP Tuning and Night Visions

Sure, HDR and an advanced image sensor like Sony STARVIS 2 can take care of the lights, but you should never find yourself needing to manually adjust the camera to the specific lighting of your situation. That’s where ISP tuning comes in, automatically making these changes. Look for a dash cam with Image Signal Processing(ISP Tuning).

Dash cams with well-designed ISPs have built-in algorithms that continuously monitor the ambient lighting conditions. When the camera detects low-light or nighttime conditions, it automatically engages the ISP tuning process. This tuning process automatically works in the background, reactive to the situation, controlling the White Balance, Noise Reduction, Sensor Sensitivity and more.

In early 2023, BlackVue announced that the new DR770X and DR970X series now have a SigmaStar CPU with advanced ISP tuning software. ISP tuning can commonly be found in high quality and premium brands, to different degrees. Another example of ISP Tuning can be found in the IR camera of the A139 Pro, which can be set to turn on and off the IR of the interior camera when it’s not needed, offering better colouration during the daytime.

IR Dash Cams, or Infrared Dash Cams

Beyond ISP tuning on its new models, dash cams have also been popular for their IR dash cams, which are also best for recording footage during low light conditions. IR dash cams – some refer to it as an in-cabin dash cam, while others refer to it as an Infrared camera. In any case, the IR dash cam is a two-channel dash cam system that includes a front-facing video and a secondary camera that records the vehicle's interior.

For those who are familiar with infrared security cameras, the concept of the IR dash cam is very similar to that of the IR security cameras. If you look closely at the IR dash cam, you will notice little LEDs around the outer borders of the camera lens. IR dash cams utilize infrared LEDs to illuminate dark vehicle interiors at night invisibly. An infrared camera can offer crystal clear images even in pitch-black environments, making it the best dash cam solution for rideshare and taxi drivers, or anyone who needs in-cabin recording.

IR dash cams are not constructed to cover great distances, after all, the distance from your windshield to windshield in your vehicle is typically around 7 to 8 feet, at most perhaps. Plus, due to the IR LEDS turning the footage largely black and white, they are frequently not ideal for recording outside of the vehicle.

Traditional dash cams would not perform well in extremely low-light environments. Still, thanks to infrared technology, an infrared camera can provide crystal clear images even in complete darkness, making it the best dash cam solution for rideshare and taxi drivers, as well as anyone who requires in-cabin recording, like fleets. Here, we recommend the BlackVue DR770X Box, or the BlackVue DR970X 2-CH IR dash cam for maximum nighttime recording protection.

Defeat Darkness with Night Vision in Dash Cams

Driving in the dark could feel unsafe, but thanks to dash cams with night vision, you can still have the peace of mind and confidence that whatever the time is, you’ll get a decent quality of recording for evidence. For best Night Vision results, choose a dash cam that does best when it comes to image sensors, HDR, ISP tuning or IR cameras.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly dash cam with excellent Night Vision, we recommend you to get the VIOFO A119 Mini 2. This 2K dash cam is equipped with the 5MP Sony STARVIS 2 IMX675 sensor that boasts crisp and more vibrant colours compared to other 2K dash cameras, and even other 4K dash cams. We also love that the A119 Mini 2 has HDR, so you can expect well balanced lighting whatever the lighting conditions are.

On the other hand, if you want to go to the premium side with super advanced features, the Thinkware U3000 is the best night vision camera for you. Among all the Thinkware dash cams, the U3000 is the first and only to get the Super Night Vision 4.0, though to make it clear, the U3000 doesn’t have HDR. Still, compared to the older U1000 model which has been well-loved for its superior performance, we think that the U3000 does an excellent job in recording clear, crisp 4K images in all types of lighting conditions. Not to mention that it has the industry’s most advanced features like built-in Bluetooth, built-in RADAR sensor, and Thinkware CONNECTED Cloud connection.

If you think you still need help in deciding, our lines are open, and we’ll be happy to help you figure out which from Thinkware, BlackVue, or VIOFO can help you find the best dash cam that can protect you all day, and all night.

VIOFO A119 Mini 2 1-CH Dash Cam

  • Resolution: Front 2K QHD @ 60 FPS
  • Video sensor: Front - 5MP Sony STARVIS 2 sensor
  • GPS: Built-in
  • G-sensor: Built-in
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi
  • Maximum MicroSD card capacity: 512 GB
  • Microphone: Built-in
  • Speaker: Built-in
  • Parking Mode: Yes, with buffering and motion & impact detection and low bitrate