Why Do Security Cameras Have a Red Light?

You’re out for a walk in your neighborhood on a nice evening when you notice your neighbor’s security camera. It’s pointing in your direction, and you can’t help but notice it has a bright red light. You feel a chill but keep walking.

It’s natural to feel a little uneasy when you see a security camera with a red light. After all, you’ve probably heard that they’re always watching. But what does that red light really mean? Is the camera recording you right now? And should you be concerned about it?

The CCTV camera red light could be a status LED light or the red light of IR illuminators in cameras with night vision functionality. It could also be an indication that the camera is recording or that the motion detection function is activated, or it could just be a fake red light to help deter crime.

Let’s take a closer look at the CCTV camera red light and what it means.

There are several reasons why security cameras have a red light.

1. It’s an LED Status Light

Many, if not most, security cameras on the market have an LED status light. It serves to indicate to the owner of the camera the different functional status the camera is in at any time making it easy to troubleshoot.

This is particularly useful when cameras are mounted at a high point like on the ceiling or the soffit above a garage door. The status light is usually visible from ground level, making it easier to see what mode the camera is in without having to climb up and take a look.

The LED status light will have different colors to indicate the different modes the camera is in, and these colors will have different meanings in different cameras. Additionally, the status light may be a continuous solid color or may be flashing to indicate different states of operation and connectivity.

You will need to refer to your camera’s user manual to know what the different colors mean for your camera, but let’s take a look at what the LED status light means on the three most highly rated security cameras on the market: the Google Nest Cameras, the Reolink Argus series cameras, and the Wyze Cam V3.

Google Nest Cameras

Solid red light = the LED is not working properly. You’re recommended to contact Nest support.

Solid blue light = the camera is starting up (when first plugged into power) or restarting (after a power outage or firmware update).

Solid green light = the camera is turned on, connected to Wi-Fi, and operating normally.

Flashing green light = someone is watching the camera’s live stream.

No light = the camera is either turned off (not streaming) or has lost power.

You can learn more about how Nest cameras and doorbells work here.

Reolink Argus series

Red light = Wi-Fi connection failure.

Blue light = successful connection to Wi-Fi.

In addition to the color indicator on the Reolink Argus camera series, the LED status light may be solid indicating the camera is in “working mode” meaning it’s recording or streaming. Alternatively, the status light may be flashing (every 20 seconds) indicating the camera is in “standby mode” meaning it’s not streaming or recording.

You can read more about the meaning of the LED status light of other Reolink products here.

Wyze Cam V3

Solid red light = the camera is powered on and starting up (during the setup process) or that someone is watching a live stream (after setup is complete and the camera is in normal operational mode).

Flashing red light = the camera is powered on and is ready to be connected to Wi-Fi

Flashing red and blue light = the camera is in the process of connecting to Wi-Fi.

Flashing blue light = the camera is successfully connected to Wi-Fi but still finishing its setup process.

Solid blue light = this is what you want to see after the set-up process is complete indicating that your camera is powered on, connected successfully to the network, and operating normally.

You can find out more about troubleshooting your Wyze Cam V3 here.

So if you’re wondering what the blinking red light on your security camera means or what a blue light on a security camera means, be sure to check your user’s manual to get familiar with your camera today!

You’ll also probably find instructions on how to disable or turn off the LED status light in the user’s manual. This can come in handy if you’re trying to use your camera covertly and you don’t want the light to give away the fact that you have a security camera.

For example, on the Wyze Cam V3, if you navigate to the camera settings, then advanced settings you will find an option to toggle the camera status light Off/On.

2. To Indicate the Camera Is Recording

It is important to be aware of whether your security camera is recording or not. The reason for this is if you’re using a security camera to monitor activity in your home or business, you want to be sure that it is either always recording if it’s on a continuous recording mode, or that it’s recording appropriately when activity is detected if your camera has a motion detection function.

There are a few different ways to tell if your security camera is recording. The first is to check the LED status light. As we discussed in the previous section, the LED status light will usually have a different color or be flashing to indicate that the camera is operating normally and recording.

A visible light indicator is the easiest and fastest way for the user to know that the camera is recording.

The second way to tell if your camera is recording is through the mobile app or desktop app that’s associated with your security camera.

Most security cameras nowadays come with a mobile or desktop app that you can use to view the live feed from your camera, as well as access stored footage and change the settings on your camera.

Within the mobile app, there will usually be an indication somewhere on the screen that your camera is recording. This may be a small red “dot”, or a message that says “recording” or “rec”.

3. The Camera Has Night Vision

One of the most important features of a security camera is its ability to record footage in low-light or no-light conditions. This is commonly referred to as night vision. This is important because many crimes, such as burglaries, happen at night.

The most common way by which modern security cameras achieve night vision is through the use of infrared (IR) LED light technology. Security cameras with a night vision function have special LED illuminators around the lens that emit IR light.

IR light is invisible to the human eye, but will be reflected off objects and/or subjects in the camera’s field of vision that is covered by the IR light, and will then be picked up by the camera sensors to produce a clear image even in low or no ambient lighting conditions.

Although IR is invisible to the human eye, the IR light commonly used in most modern surveillance cameras is usually at the 850nm wavelength. This IR light at 850nm wavelength produces a red glare. These are the red light spots around the lens that you will often see on a camera when night vision is activated.

Tip: If you’re interested in finding out more about how security cameras see in the dark and in different lighting conditions, read our article “Can security cameras see inside cars?”

So, if you’re wondering why cameras have red lights at night, it’s because these cameras probably have night function, and their IR light illuminators are activated and you’re seeing them as multiple red lights around the lens.

Are there Night Vision Cameras Without Infrared?

While most consumer night vision surveillance cameras on the market today use IR light, there are security cameras that can record footage at night without IR light. These cameras are called Day and Night CCTV cameras.

Day and night CCTV cameras have a highly sensitive image sensor and advanced processing power that allows them to see in low-light conditions without the need for IR light.

One of the main advantages of using a day and night CCTV camera is that it will not give off any visible light, including no red light from IR LEDs, making it ideal for surveillance applications where covert monitoring is required.

The main disadvantage of day and night CCTV cameras is that they are usually more expensive than IR security cameras, and that’s probably why these cameras are not commonly used in residential or small business applications.

If you want security cameras with night vision for your home or business but don’t want the red light, and you don’t want to spend too much money, then there’s another solution. You can disable the IR light on your security camera and purchase an external IR illuminator with a wavelength of 940nm/950nm. But before you do that you will need to make sure that your security camera sensors are compatible with 940nm/950nm.

IR in the 940nm or 950nm range is sometimes called invisible IR because it does not emit visible red light. If your camera sensors are compatible with this wavelength, your camera will be able to record images in low light conditions, but be aware that the footage quality will not be as good as when using the 850nm wavelength IR light.

4. To Deter Crime

Security cameras are becoming an increasingly common sight in public places and private businesses and homes. The reason for this is that security cameras have been shown to be an effective tool in deterring crime.

In a study conducted in the United States, about 60% of burglars indicated that they considered whether or not there was a security camera present at their target location before attempting a break-in, and about 40% of them said that they would move on to another target if they noticed a security camera.

Just under a third of the burglars in the study said that they researched a potential target before attempting a crime, implying that most burglars are at least somewhat impulsive.

However, the presence of a visible security camera is often enough to deter criminals from attempting a break-in or theft, as they don’t want to be caught on camera and risk being identified and arrested.

In addition to the presence of a security camera, the bright, noticeable CCTV camera red light can also act as a visual deterrent to potential criminals. When criminals see the red light that indicates that the camera is powered on and possibly recording, they are even less likely to attempt a crime.

For this reason, it’s not surprising that many people may even choose to install cheap dummy security cameras with red LED light at their homes and businesses. Even though these cameras don’t actually record footage, their mere presence can sometimes be enough to deter potential criminals.

Final Thoughts

So, the next time you’re out on your evening walk, if you see a red light on a neighbor’s security camera, there’s no need to be alarmed. While it may mean that the camera is recording or that its night vision function is activated and the camera can see in the dark, it could also mean a lot of other different things depending on the camera.

Besides, security cameras play an effective role in deterring crime and keeping homes, businesses, and communities safe. So even if you don’t have one yourself, it’s still good to know that your neighborhood is being watched out for. After all, we all want to live in a safe and secure community.

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