What is a PIR camera? How does it work? How are PIR sensor cameras different from cameras that compare image pixels to detect motions?

Whether you're looking for PIR cameras to avoid security system false alarms, to get real-time notifications and email motion snapshots when motion events occur, or to start up home security with a no-brainer security solution, you'll find all the answers here.

What follows is the lowdown on PIR IP cameras that you won't get from product pages, and how you can pick PIR surveillance cameras like a pro.


PIR Sensor Security Cameras

What Is a PIR Security Camera

To better understand the meaning of PIR cameras, we need to break the big subject into several simple questions.

To Understand PIR Detectors

What is a PIR detector? – PIR stands for passive infrared, and it's also called PID for passive infrared detector. It's an electronic sensor based on heat energy detection that is commonly used for PIR activated IP cameras, lights and alarms.

So a PIR sensor security camera is a camera packed with a PIR sensor, and based on it for motion detection. Sometimes, it's also known as infrared motion sensor camera, PIR video camera, infrared motion detector camera or PIR sensor CCTV security camera.

To Know How PIR Security Cameras Work

How does a PIR sensor CCTV security camera work? – Unlike motion activated security cameras based on image comparison, passive infrared security cameras work by detecting changes in levels of infrared radiation.

PIR cameras will be triggered by the change in the infrared radiation, when humans or other warm-blooded creatures pass by. For more info about how to choose the best outdoor motion activated cameras, read this.

In current security system market, PIR sensors are mostly applied to battery-operated IP cameras to preserve battery life and to avoid false alarms.

That is to say, it is often the case that we're talking about PIR cameras when we refer to battery-powered security cameras.

What's in it for you? – The PIR sensor surveillance camera working principle, to pick up motions that caused by people or animals, helps avoid false positives. Instead of moth flying videos, PIR video cameras will notify you of motion events that you should be alerted about.

PIR Security IP Cameras: Choices to Make Before Purchasing

When looking for security cameras with PIR sensor, you'll get a pretty long list to choose from, which can be overwhelming. Let's narrow things down by working out some problems.

Outdoor vs. indoor PIR IP camera systems, which one to go for? It highly depends on where the PIR motion sensor system will go. Get IP65 rated PIR CCTV camera systems, at least, if you're planning an outdoor placement, to make sure the PIR camera can withstand dust and weathers.

Get PIR security cameras with SD card (slot) or pay for cloud storage monthly? Before buying PIR sensor IP cameras, a reliable recording storage is a must to consider.

The merits of having a built-in SD card (slot) in PIR CCTV security camera lie in its convenience, reliability and safety against possible internet snooping. The option enables PIR video camera systems to save footages even without Internet connection or without a self-recording PIR camera DVR.

PIR Cameras: Must-Have Features to Check

When we talk about the needs for WiFi PIR security cameras, we point to the needs for security and convenience. The following features will get you there:

PIR security camera systems with Full HD resolution – As a starting point of PIR IP camera systems, higher resolution refers to an increase in image quality and displaying details.

An upgrade from 720p (1MP) to 1080p (2MP) can make a positive difference between capturing what matters, or losing the details for identifying people or vehicles.

Check the video captured by the 1080p Full HD PIR camera, Reolink Argus® 2:

PIR sensor IP cameras with two-way audio – Not only will you get sounds recorded in the footages, you can communicate with your loved ones or scare off potential intruders simply via a smartphone App for PIR surveillance camera systems, the free Reolink App, for instance.

Passive infrared motion sensor security cameras with decent night vision – Many PIR sensor surveillance cameras are marked night-vision compatible in ads. However, the quality varies. To ensure a PIR camera's ability to see in darkness, check for PIR sensor surveillance cameras that have 33ft or longer-range night vision.

PIR spy IP camera systems – For the purposes to check on nanny when away, to confirm suspicions or get solid proofs about certain things, you'll need to consider passive infrared spy security cameras.

Wondering if it's legal to spy on nannies with hidden PIR cameras? Read this post.

If you're setting up trail cameras to film wildlife, a covert PIR security camera with SD card recorder would be ideal, for it can work without internet and blend in the surroundings easily.

PIR Spy IP Cameras

Adjustable sensitivity for PIR sensor – Have you ever been there? Get tons of push notifications and email alerts for every traffic, and footages of cars passing by. That's where this function comes in.

Adjustable sensitivity for PIR detector enables you to make changes for PIR camera monitoring distance, according to actual needs or different hours in a day.

PIR motion sensor security camera with remote access – Working, traveling and jogging, regardless of where you're, you can keep tabs on your home simply by remote accessing and viewing. To achieve this, be sure there's a nice smartphone App to hook up your PIR CCTV systems with.

Top-Rated PIR Cameras Recommendations

Here, we've picked up some PIR security cameras that fulfill all features mentioned above and more to expect.

When you look into PIR sensor security cameras throughout the market, Reolink Argus® 2 definitely tops the list.

With two flexible powering options to choose from, solar powered or rechargeable battery powered, this 100% wire free PIR camera makes it easy to save money and still get the job well done.

This PIR security camera system also stands out for starlight night vision. With a larger and more sensitive sensor, it can see through darkness and deliver sharper images even in the pitch dark.

Reolink Argus® 2

100% Wire-Free Starlight Camera

Rechargeable Battery & Solar Powered; Outdoor/Indoor Protection; 1080 Full HD; Starlight Night Vision; 2-Way Audio; Live View Anytime Anywhere.

Reolink Go stands out as an ideal solution to work without WiFi or Internet, which allows you to view live feed from anywhere with one simple PIR camera.

Equipped with sensitive two-way audio, this cordless security camera with PIR motion detector allows you to keep an eye on your off-gird cabins, barns, farms, sheds, construction sites, etc. without being there.

Reolink Go

100% Wire-Free 3G/4G LTE Mobile Camera

No WiFi & Power Needed; Rechargeable Battery or Solar Powered; 1080p Full HD; Starlight Night Vision; 2-Way Audio; Live View Anytime Anywhere.

Bottom Line

Well! That's it for the lowdown on PIR security cameras. By the time you get these knowledge base and tear down the confusions towards PIR cameras, you should be ready to pick the best PIR security camera in different price ranges.

Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions concerning PIR cameras.

  • Mario

    Are the cameras ONVIF compatible?

    • Lindsay

      Hello Mario, thanks for reaching out. Sorry that these battery-powered cameras are not designed to support ONVIF. You can use free Reolink App on your phone to get live view anytime anywhere.

  • Mario

    My home security cameras indoor and outdoor are Hikvision cameras. The Reolink battery power wifi camera looks like a nice addition. Are these cameras supported by Blue Iris surveillance software?

    • Lindsay

      Hi Mario, thanks for reaching out. Sorry that these battery-powered cameras are not compatible with Blue Iris for now. Please stay tuned for updates!

  • Bernard Zee

    I can't get the intercom feature to work right with my Argus unit using Reolink app in iphone. Whatever I speak into the phone gets echoed back a few seconds later. If i un-select push to talk, there's no more audio monitoring (toggling the speaker icon doesn't do anything). Have to restart the reolink app. Intercom feature is basically unusable. How is anyone else getting this feature to work?

    • Lindsay

      Hi Bernard, I'm sorry for any inconvenience. To get the two-way audio function to work, the audio must be enabled. For a detailed guide on how to use two-way audio function on Reolink App, please read this FAQ: /faq/use-2-way-audio-reolink-app/. As to the issue concerning echoes, please contact our support team at support@reolink.com for troubleshooting and solutions. My apologies, once more, for the inconvenience.

  • Neal Preece

    Hi Lindsay. Any plans for the Argus to have an Alexa skill so I can connect via the Echo Spot?

    • Lindsay

      Hi Neal, thank you so much for your suggestions. Sorry there's no official announcement yet. I'll collect your suggestions and give feedback to the R&D team. Please stay tuned with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for updates. Thanks!

      • Paul Veilleux

        I am also interested in future Echo Dot support which provides a screen to view the video feed.

  • Eric Sardano

    I bought 2 Argus, I loved them, but it's seem to have an issue with the cold temperature! The battery don't last,
    but when I touch them, the power come back!

    • Lindsay

      Hi Eric, thanks for reaching out. A general working temperature recommendation for Reolink Argus is in the range of -10 ℃ ~+55 ℃ (14°F~131°F). However, if the camera is already up and running, it should keep working even in cold weather. The issue you're experiencing with the camera is quite rare. Please make sure that you've got the latest Reolink App on your phone and the latest firmware installed. Should you need any further assistance and troubleshooting, please don't hesitate to contact our support team at support@reolink.com. Thank you!

  • Darryl

    So will there be any type of fix to recharge the power for the Argus? It is troubling to have to change the batteries every 3-4 weeks. I brought 4 and 3 our located outside around my home. The batteries are expensive. What can you tell me?

    • Lindsay

      Hi Darryl, thanks for reaching out. In this case we'd recommend trying out some rechargeable batteries. Here's an FAQ about how to choose rechargeable batteries for Reolink Argus: /faq/choose-batteries-for-battery-powered-camera/
      The post below may provide you with some helpful information on how to extend battery life: /faq/extend-battery-life/. For any further assistance, please feel free to contact our support team at support@reolink.com. We'll be happy to troubleshoot further and offer help. Thanks!

  • Douglas May

    Hi Lindsay...great info, but I think you need a new editor to clean up some grammar issues.

  • Lindsay

    Hi there. On the market today, the PIR technology is more likely to be applied to battery powered security cameras. Currently we don't have plans to bring PIR to the PoE camera range, but we'll make sure to update you through our Social Media channels if there are any updates!

  • Lindsay

    Hi there. On the market today, the PIR technology is more likely to be applied to battery powered security cameras. Currently we don't have plans to bring PIR to the PoE camera range, but we'll make sure to keep you posted with any updates through our Social Media channels!

    • LanceSmith

      I've heard this ”PIR technology is more likely to be applied to battery powered security cameras” statement elsewhere, but it doesn't really answer the question. Just because one has POE does not imply that one doesn't find false alarms infuriating. The idea that this basic functionality – which is available in even the cheapest ”motion sensing” lights, etc – isn't available in POE is ridiculous. What is the logic for not having this functionality in POE cameras? And don't say having it saves battery life. That explains why non-POE cameras have it. Not why POE cameras don't have it. What is the drawback of PIR which keeps POE camera makers so behind the times? Thanks!

      • Lindsay

        Hi Lance. Most of the PoE cameras in the market compare image pixels to detect motions. With this motion detection approach, users can mask certain area from the on-screen display content in order to protect privacy, or select what areas of the monitored area will trigger motion. And that's how you can avoid false alarms with PoE cameras. Here's how to set up motion detection area for Reolink PoE cameras: https://support.reolink.com/hc/en-us/articles/360011437793

        • LanceSmith

          No, I won't be buying any more non-POE/non-PIR cameras. We've had cameras with pixel motion detection for years, and I know all about ”trigger areas” and they just don't work for outdoor cameras (e.g. moths and snowflakes don't stick to non-trigger areas). If I were to guess, I think that security companies are stuck in an ”indoor mindset” where trigger areas work. But the outdoor world just has too much activity and too many changes in light.

          As far as I'm aware, PIR is the only reasonable option since the technology is literally built to measure the change in IR when a human-sized body steps into frame (and the aforementioned moths and snowflakes don't throw off any/enough IR).

          Incidentally, I did find a company which makes PIR/PoE cameras and systems. I'm in discussions with them to move all of our systems over.

        • Adrian

          There really is no way to avoid false alarms due to sunlight flooding (or not) the area monitored, when using a PoE camera. I have the Reolink C2 Pro camera and it is a real disappointment in this regard. Masking a portion of the area visible in the camera has simply nothing to do with the issue. The trigger for the alarm, when comparing frames, is the difference between 2 frames. The sunlight change impacts always the whole area monitored, at least in my monitored main floor of the house, which is expected since the house has windows. When the sun comes out of clouds ALL monitored area is changed, whether that is the full image seen in the camera or a section of it, due to masking. This means the sunlight triggered alarms will always cause a higher degree of difference between 2 frames captured, as opposed to what an intruder may cause. Any software analysis algorithm that works like this is flawed when it comes to monitoring. What is needed is a mechanism that detects not that the SAME WALL is now lighter in color (more white tone due to sunlight flooding) but rather that the nature of the change really does NOT blend in the background (intruder entering the monitored area). Lindsay, can you point out to any sample video that shows no false alarm triggered by sunlight while triggered by an intruder entering the monitored area ?

          • Lindsay

            Hi Adrian. Thanks for the comment. The pixel based motion activated cameras detect motion by comparing pixel changes between successive frames. 5 Megapixel security cameras like Reolink C2 Pro delivers images of around 5,308,416 Pixels. And to answer your questions, based on the pixel comparison, I'm sorry it's inevitable that pixel based cameras would be triggered by sunrise, cuz it'd would have massive pixels in the image changed. But throughout the day, motion detection zone would help users to mark out areas that they don't want to be alerted of, say a high traffic road in the image, nevertheless users will still get to receive alerts of motions happened in the porch, for the instance. As to your questions concerning an intruder wearing full mask outfit that is matching the color of the wall, cameras don't detect motions by comparing colors, but pixels. That is to say, it'll detects so much more than colors, the brightness of the pixels, for instance, will be taken into the comparison as well. Wearing the outfit that is matching the color of the wall doesn't necessarily mean that he can trick the camera. And to decide how much pixels would trigger an alarm, you could achieve that by adjusting the motion detection sensitives. Here's how: https://support.reolink.com/hc/en-us/articles/360006992493-How-to-Configure-Motion-Detection-Sensitivity-for-Reolink-Cameras. With regard to detecting motion by detecting certain objects instead of pixels, I'm afraid that would bring us to the subject about artificial intelligence (AI) security cameras, not pixel based cameras. Hope this clarifies. And for more info about avoiding false alarms, please check: https://support.reolink.com/hc/en-us/articles/360013486414-How-to-Avoid-False-Alerts-on-Reolink-Cameras. If you need one-on-on tech support, please feel free to contact us at suppport@reolink.com. Thanks!

          • marcopolo

            I purchased the camera for the motion activated alarm feature, it is now clear to me it is not usable, I have no desire to sort every day through hundreds of alarms just to see which one is ambient light triggered and which one is due to an actual intruder entering the monitored area. I won't be buying cameras without an incorporated PIR in the future. Don't understand why you keep offering links to those resources online that talk about adjusting sensitivity, I suspect it is because you don't understand the actual issue that I am talking about, ambient light that triggers hundreds of alarms in a day, regardless of the settings you are talking about. If this is official support, is quite disappointing. No, I won't need one-on-one tech support, clearly they can't fix this issue.

          • Adrian

            Lindsay – your statement ”And that's how you can avoid false alarms with PoE cameras.” if false, when you answer the question on how to avoid false alarms due to sunlight change. Your explanation given to Lance is also more of a ”go away, here is some made up answer” rather than an honest answer. Disappointing.

        • marcopolo

          Totally false statement Lindsay. Please post a video proving how ambient light can be taken out as a factor in the false alarms. By video, I refer to a video recording the before-after test, not just some configuration change showing mobile app screens with configuration settings.

  • Lindsay

    Hi David. Thanks for sharing your experience here! Truly appreciate it! Just so you know, we're running a video submission program on our site. You could share your #ReolinkCaptures story here and get a chance to win a FREE Reolink Argus 2: /submit-videos/

  • Lindsay

    Hi Hermann. You can view and control Reolink PIR cameras via Reolink client for Windows/Mac. Here's how to set up Reolink PIR cameras via Reolink Client: https://support.reolink.com/hc/en-us/articles/360015718554



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