What’s the difference between Low Glow LEDs and No-Glow LEDs?

Every camera trap on The NatureSpy Shop uses infrared LEDs to illuminate pictures and videos. Infrared LEDs emit a light that is invisible to humans.

There are two types of LEDs and differences in the light they emit – but what’s the difference, and which one will suit you better?

Ltl Acorn LEDs

Two of NatureSpy’s Ltl Acorn 5210a with no-glow LEDs (left) and low-glow LEDs (right)

Low-Glow LEDs

(aka Standard LEDs, White LEDs, 850nm)

By ‘low-glow LEDs’ we mean LEDs that use the 850 nano-meter (nm) spectrum of light. This is invisible to humans and most wildlife.

A distinct advantage of these types of LEDs, and a reason that many manufacturers use them, is that they are about 30% brighter than no-glow LEDs. The light’s wavelengths at this spectrum are longer, meaning the flash range is greater.

So low-glow LEDs = furthest possible flash range. What’s the issue then?

At the the 850nm wavelength, and because they don’t have any covering, it means that the LEDs give off a slight red glow when they are in use.

A Bushnell with white LEDs gives off a red glow when triggered (left side)

One of NatureSpy’s Bushnell camera traps with low-glow LEDs gives off a red glow when triggered (left side)

This red glow can occasionally spook sensitive wildlife (particularly deer and sometimes foxes), and particularly alert humans to a camera’s presence.

This red glow isn’t huge, and it doesn’t light up the whole area in red light. It is similar to the embers on a dying fire, or lots of  standby lights from a television.

However, if using in a garden, or private space, generally we would recommend using a low-glow camera as the night footage/photo is going to be brighter and better defined. Low-glow cameras are also, in general, cheaper – as less LEDs are often required. Shutter speed can also be faster on photo mode, meaning you capture the animal better.

There are also differences in how Low-Glow LEDs are used. Some Bushnell’s for example have a filter over Low-Glow LEDs to remove some of the red glow. Some do not have a filter at all. Some SpyPoint’s use ‘Super Low Glow’ LEDs – using a coating on the LED and a filter in combination. Browning also use a coating on the LEDs.

No-Glow LEDs

(aka 940nm, black LEDs)

No-glow LEDs can be called a number of different things by camera trap manufacturers… Covert IR, Black Flash, 940nm are just a few.

Essentially, it all means the same; the red glow that low-glow LEDs give off is removed. They use LEDs that emit light in the 940 nano-meter spectrum, which means that no glow is visible when it triggers. Some cameras also have a black filter over the LEDs to ensure no red glow is given off.

One of our Bushnell 119676 camera traps, with a black screen over the LEDs

One of our Bushnell camera traps, with a black screen over the LEDs

This comes at a small cost however; no-glow LEDs typically have 30% reduced flash range compared to low-glow LEDs, as mentioned above.

This means that a camera trap with no-glow LEDs gives no sign whatsoever that it is active or taking pictures; also making it useful for security applications, and when recording particularly sensitive wildlife.

No-glow cameras are set-up to try and compensate for this 30% reduction in light. They artificially boost the exposure on videos, leading to a slight loss of definition, and have slower shutter speeds for night photos – meaning that moving animals are more likely to be slightly blurred.

It is also worth mentioning that some people can still see the red-glow from a no-glow camera if they are very close (less than 4ft generally) when the camera is triggered. That is very unusual however – only one of our staff members can see it, and only very faint!

Which one should I get?

There is no perfect solution, and which one you should choose really depends on what you plan on using your camera trap for. If it is solely for use in your back garden or on your own land, then you don’t need to worry about alerting humans to the cameras presence and might benefit from the extended flash range (and therefore quality) that low-glow LEDs give.

If you are planning on using your camera trap in a public place (with appropriate permissions) or are trying to get images of a particularly sensitive animal, then no-glow LEDs might be more appropriate, providing you can site the camera to make sure the animal comes within the flash range. However, recent research shows that many animals can actually see the infrared spectrum of the low-glow and no-glow LEDs – so don’t be surprised if the fox has a glance at your camera!

For security applications, no-glow LEDs are a must, unless mounting the camera quite high and above eye-level. It can however be a trade off of wanting LEDs with a strong range or wanting to be completely covert.

We hope that provides some useful information on LEDs and helps you make a decision on which one to go for – but as ever, if you want any advice, feel free to get in touch.

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