Starlight Cameras: What It Is, How it Works, Videos, Best Picks & More

Do you want a security camera that can take SHARP photos and videos at night? If so, you may want to consider using a starlight camera.

Starlight cameras are a common type of night vision security camera. Starlight cameras are designed to take video and images in low light conditions, making them ideal for use in dark environments. Although starlight night vision cameras are typically used for surveillance applications, they can also be used for astrophotography and wildlife observation.

So, what is a starlight camera, how does it work, and what are some of the best picks? Keep reading to find out!

What Are Starlight Cameras?

Starlight cameras are security cameras that use image sensor technology to produce good quality color images in low light conditions. The camera features an IR cut filter (ICR) that switches the device to night mode when insufficient light is available to reproduce good quality color images. While in night mode, the IR cut filter disengages allowing infrared and visible light to reach the image sensor. This feature is beneficial for security purposes as it allows for improved night vision in low light conditions, even when there is only weak illumination of starlights.

The starlight camera was first developed by the US military for use in battlefield conditions and has since been adapted for use in a variety of civilian applications. Starlight cameras are often used for security and surveillance, as they are able to provide clear images in low light conditions without the need for artificial lighting. Starlight cameras are available in a variety of sizes and styles, and can be used for a variety of applications.

You know, human eyes could hardly identify anything when the illumination goes below 20 Lux. Well, the starlight cameras, with exceptional starlight sensitivity, could give you sharper and clearer images than your eyes could see even in almost 0 Lux conditions.

Illuminance (lux) Surfaces illuminated by
0.0001 Moonless, overcast night sky (starlight)
0.05–0.3 Full moon on a clear night
3.4 Dark limit of civil twilight under a clear sky
20–50 Public areas with dark surroundings
100 Very dark overcast day
400 Sunrise or sunset on a clear day
1000 Overcast day;typical TV studio lighting
10,000–25,000 Full daylight (not direct sun)
32,000–100,000 Direct sunlight

How Do Starlight Cameras Work

Starlight cameras are a type of night vision camera that uses starlight to provide imaging in low light conditions. Starlight cameras work by collecting and amplifying the light from stars, moon, and other objects in the night sky to provide imaging in conditions where traditional night vision cameras would not be able to function.

In fact, it is the crucial starlight sensor technology and the sophisticated noise suppression that result in exceptional sensitivity and clear night vision.

Like the retina of the human eyes, the starlight sensor is sensitive to light. The amount of light the sensor gets will determine the image quality.

Better than human eyes, the starlight cameras use larger size sensors, wider aperture and reduces the shutter speed to collect enough light for the human face and plate number identification. And that’s the way how they provide high-quality and clear images when human eyes couldn’t see anything.

There are 3 main types of night vision security cameras on the market, they are infrared security cameras, colour night vision cameras and starlight cameras, we have a detailed article on it, click here for the ultimate guide to the different types of night vision security cameras.

Starlight Camera’s sensor and lens

A starlight camera with a larger lens will be able to collect more light and provide better image quality, while a smaller camera may be better suited for applications where size and weight are major considerations.

The sensor in a starlight camera is usually a 1/1.8″ sensor or even larger. It may be smaller than the sensor in a traditional camera, but it is still much larger than the sensor in most cell phones. The size of the sensor affects the amount of light the camera can capture. A larger sensor can capture more light, resulting in better images, even in low-light conditions.

The sensor type in some starlight cameras is actually a charge-coupled device (CCD). But what’s the difference between a CCD and a CMOS sensor?

CMOS sensors are usually found in less expensive cameras because they are less complicated to manufacture. However, CCD sensors are often considered to have higher quality. They produce less image noise and have a wider dynamic range than CMOS sensors.

For astrophotography, this makes CCD sensors a better choice. The sensors in starlight cameras are also cooled to further reduce noise. This allows for longer exposure times, which is critical for capturing starlight.

The CMOS sensor is the most commonly used type of sensor in home surveillance night vision cameras. This allows them to capture clear images even in low-light conditions. Night vision cameras are equipped with special infrared LEDs that emit invisible light. Thanks to CMOS sensors, night vision CCTV cameras are now more affordable and accessible.

IR Night Vision V.S. Starlight Night Vision

IR night vision is basically black and white. To see things at night in low light, IR security cameras will produce high levels of infrared light that will be reflected by the object. The infrared-light image it captures will be converted into a visible-light image, which is the black and white picture we finally see.

Starlight night vision is better night vision than typical IR night vision in terms of image clarity and quality. Starlight cameras can provide color night vision even in the low light conditions where other cameras have to turn their IR lights on.

And that’s because the starlight cameras could make the most out of natural light to produce superior images ever with advanced sensors. So you may just take the starlight night vision as the clearer and more advanced version of IR night vision.

Starlight Vision V.S. Full-Color Night Vision

Many people equal starlight night vision to full color night vision, which is a total misunderstanding.

Starlight cameras provide high quality night vision, but not necessarily color night vision.

In order to see details clearly, like human faces and plate numbers, in extremely poor light conditions, most quality starlight security cameras will automatically turn to black and white mode for the best clarity.

But the way how other cameras provide full color night vision is totally different. Usually, these security cameras are equipped with one or more spotlights. Even in the absence of any light, they can also emit light to illuminate everything in the field of view, and thus providing you with full color images.

Some camera’s spotlights will keep on during the night and can work as a street light. Some of them are motion-triggered, which could deter the would-be criminals when anyone passes by the camera.

Starlight Vision V.S. Aurora Lux Night Vision

In order to provide users with full clarity at night, more advanced color night vision technologies have emerged. Aurora Lux is Zosi’s latest color night vision technology designed for the newly launched product line of the same name.

Like some starlight cameras, Aurora Lux cameras feature F1.0 super aperture and a highly sensitive 1/1.8” image sensor to illuminate areas of interest in the dark. But even in low lit environment, Aurora Lux cameras can capture complete, accurate color images. High quality starlight cameras, on the other hand, will turn automatically to black and white mode in extreme darkness.

Futhermore, compared to traditional spotlight cameras, Aurora Lux cameras do not require any extra lights to work at night, thus reducing potential light pollution and disturbance to your neighbors. Even in super dim environments, these cameras can capture all details of the areas you want to monitor and display full-color details of the scene.

The brand new Zosi Aurora Lux series have come out. If you are interested in true full-color night vision technology, check our comprehensive guide on Aurora Lux technology.

Pros & Cons of Starlight Cameras

In video surveillance, the clarity of images matters a lot because they determine whether you can figure out the face of a trespasser, the license plate number of a car, the color of clothing, and many more details at night.

Even though starlight cameras outperform traditional security cameras in providing better night vision, they have certain drawbacks. Let’s find out the pros & cons of starlight cameras below.

Pro: Better Clarity

Just as I mentioned, starlight cameras carry super sensitive sensors and specific lenses to guarantee exceptional night vision with HD resolution, like the most popular 1080p ones on the market.

That means you will be able to see the plate number and people’s faces in distance clearly day at night when other cameras will fail to identify any details.

Mind that the starlight cameras will automatically change to black and white mode in extremely poor lighting conditions. Whether it’s black or color, the great image quality of starlight security cameras makes them popular among consumers.

Pro: Further View

Starlight cameras can see further compared with the IR cameras which rely on the IR light reflection to produce images. They make use of the natural lights that come from other objects even in low light conditions.

And therefore it could see further, like the people across the street and the signboard of far away buildings, than mere the illuminated area with IR or street light.

Con: More Costly

You may notice that those high-tech starlight cameras with superior STARVIS sensors are more expensive than the normal night vision cameras.

Camera Type Price
1080p starlight cameras $110 ~ $430
1080p IR cameras $30 ~ $122
4MP starlight cameras $130 ~ $400
4MP IR cameras $50 ~ $194

But that is reasonable as you can enjoy high quality color night vision and get more details that IR cameras are hard to offer. Judging from this angle, starlight night vision cameras are cost-effective for their good starlight sensors.

Besides, starlight night vision cameras can save your money possibly used for an external light. So if you need clear night vision for your home security, starlight cameras deserve it.

Con: Motion Blur

As we mentioned above, starlight cameras slow down the shutter speed to collect enough light for quality night vision. This means it will take less number of pictures every second, which will result in blurry images when objects move very fast.

Don’t worry though. Not all starlight cameras have the same issue. If you choose a reputable brand with top-quality products, you can avoid this problem easily.

Best Starlight Night Vision Camera Alternatives

When choosing a security camera to protect your home, color night vision is the way to go.

Although starlight security cameras have made great progress in offering high-quality night vision, many top-rated brands haven’t launched such products. Most brands prefer adopting spotlights to provide full-color night vision.

But Zosi Aurora Lux technology offers you more choices, which allows you to see what is happening in your home clearly, even in extreme darkness. Here are some different types of Zosi color night vision cameras as well as favorable prices.

Best True Full-Color Night Vision Camera: Zosi C186

With the cutting-edge Aurora Lux technology, Zosi has launched their first advanced true full-color night vision security camera, Zosi C186. Featuring F1.0 super aperture and a highly sensitive 1/1.8” image sensor, C186 can provide true full-color footage of 2K 4MP resolution at night.

As a PoE device, the C186 is easy to install and start using. This smart IP camera supports 24/7 continuous recording, scheduled recording, and motion-triggered recording. Embedded with AI technology, C186 can also detect and distinguish between people, vehicles, or pets.

The price of the brand new Aurora Lux security camera, the Zosi C186, is currently $94.99. Compared to some other starlight cameras, the price is reasonably competitive.

Best Wireless Color Night Vision Camera: Zosi C518

Coming with a quality 1/3″ CMOS sensor, 6 IR LEDs, and 2 spotlights, this security camera can provide clear images and videos in full color day and night. Darkness will no longer be a trouble because the camera’s bright spotlights can illuminate things in sight.

With the integrated 230 lumens spotlight you can see images in colour at night, and there is 16x digital zoom to get close-ups of the critters that prowl around at night.
— By ZDNet

Best PoE Color Night Vision Camera: Zosi C296

The PoE option means that the camera can transfer data and power through a signal network cable. This will provide a stable 24/7 full color recording, day and night.

You can try the Zosi C296 PoE security camera. This camera has a 1/2.8″ CMOS sensor and 5 spotlights. The resolution is 4K 8MP, and the images are combined with 5X optical zoom. This will give you key details from a person’s face to a vehicle’s license plate number.

With this color night vision camera, you don’t need to worry about burglars breaking into your homes, thieves stealing your bikes on the remote shed, or people keying your car during the night. The power over Ethernet camera will capture every detail of the crime where other cameras fail to.


There is no doubt that starlight night vision is a great achievement that brings nighttime monitoring to a higher level. The benefits of starlight cameras are obvious when you want to observe more details at night and enhance your home security.

Despite all the advantages of starlight cameras, many reputable manufacturers have offered two options for consumers to find alternatives for them: equipping their security cameras with spotlights for better night vision and launching true-full color night vison cameras, which have similar features of starlight cameras. If you want color night vision, these types of security cameras are good choices.