Security cameras are not designed to last forever. You will find that after four or five years of use, your cameras will start having all kinds of issues, and a blurry or fuzzy image might be one of them.
Why are your security cameras blurry? Security cameras can be blurry because the lens might be out of focus, the lens may be dirty, water droplets on the glass dome are causing the light to reflect into the lens, the cameras image sensor is defective, or the camera might be a low-resolution camera which will look blurry compared to other high definition cameras.
What are the most common causes of security camera blurry video?
- The camera’s lens may be out of focus
- The camera’s lens could be dirty
- Water droplets on the glass dome
- defective image sensor
- You might have a low-resolution camera that might seem to be blurry
- A faded dome cover will cause a blurry and discolored image
- A loose video connector will cause a double or rolling image
Why are security cameras blurry during the day and night?
Security cameras can have two types of lenses, a fixed-focus lens, and a varifocal lens.
- Fixed lenses are focused during manufacturing and remain fixed, they cannot be adjusted or become out of focus.
- They are usually set to what’s called a hyperfocal distance, meaning that the depth of field ( the area that is in focus) ranges from approximately half of the viewing distance to infinity.
- Fixed-focus lenses rely on a sufficient depth of field to produce a sharp image. With some inexpensive cameras, you can notice that the center of the image is sharp and focused and becomes less focused towards the outer edges of the image.
- Varifocal lenses, also known as zoom lenses are adjustable lenses where the image can be zoomed in or out.
- They have two adjustments, a focus adjustment, and a zoom adjustment.
- With varifocal lenses, there are two ways of making adjustments, manually, or the camera will autofocus.
1. The security camera’s lens could be out of focus
Cameras with varifocal lenses may be out of focus. Manually adjustable varifocal cameras have small screws that you can use to adjust the lens’s focus.
When focusing a camera, it helps to have someone stay by the video monitor as you adjust the camera to let you know which way to turn the adjustment screws.
Another way is to view the cameras on your smartphone, if available, while you make the adjustments.
Cameras with autofocus should do what they’re supposed to do: autofocus themselves.
However, if they become out of focus, they can be easily focused either through the app on your smartphone or through the DVR/NVR by going to the PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom)menu and pressing the focus plus and minus buttons until the image is in focus.
If you have cameras with fixed lenses, then there is no way to adjust the focus because these lenses are focused during manufacturing. A fixed lens camera that is out of focus must be replaced.
2. The camera’s lens could be dirty
One of the simplest and most common reasons for a blurry image is a dirty lens or water droplets on the lens. Cameras that are installed outside will get dirty and wet.
The first thing I do with a blurry image is clean the lens and check the video. Sometimes the lens is so dirty that you can barely see through it.
Cleaning and maintaining the camera lens
If you’re comfortable climbing a ladder, all you need to do is use Windex and a rag to wipe the lens. Be sure not to leave any streaks on the lens; otherwise, the image will still be blurry as before, if not worse.
If you are not comfortable climbing a tall ladder or don’t have a ladder tall enough to reach the camera, you can do what I do when I don’t feel like taking the ladder off the truck.
First, I tape a paintbrush to a broomstick or an extension pole and wipe the lens clean of any spider webs and dirt.
Then I roll up a small towel into a ball, tape it to the pole with duct tape, spray it with Windex, and wipe the lens clean. Sometimes you’ll need to wipe it more than one time, but that usually does the job.
Youll find that you’ll need to clean the lens of the camera several times a year, so it might be a good idea to tape the paintbrush on one end of the pole and the towel on the other end and leave it in the garage, so it’s ready to go for the next time.
3. A defective image sensor in a security camera will produce a blurry image
Sometimes a camera’s image sensor will become defective, failing to focus. I have come across several cameras that would not adjust no matter which way I turned the focus and zoom screws.
If the security camera fails to focus, it’s time to replace it.
4. Low-resolution cameras can seem blurry when compared to high definition cameras
I get many calls from homeowners who want to know why their cameras are blurry. They explain that their friend’s or neighbor’s cameras are so sharp and clear while their cameras look blurry and out of focus.
If you purchased your cameras before 2010, then the chances are that you have low-resolution cameras. Compared to the cameras available today, the video quality of these older cameras looks horrible.
The best way to know if you have low-resolution cameras is to find the camera’s model number or digital video recorder (DVR) and google it to find the resolution.
If the camera’s video resolution is measured in TV lines, it is a low-resolution camera.
The video image on new high-definition security cameras is measured in pixels. The highest video quality for security cameras currently available is 12 megapixels, which is more than the resolution in the current iPhones.
5. A faded dome cover will cause the camera’s image to be discolored or blurry
The plastic dome on the camera will often fade and turn yellow after being exposed to sunlight for many years.
The video image on these cameras will look blurry and out of focus. Unfortunately, there is no way to clean or refinish the plastic dome on these cameras, and you must replace the camera.
6. Loose video connectors can cause a blurry image
This problem applies to analog cameras. Often a loose video connector can cause a double image, giving it the appearance to be blurry or fuzzy.
Analog cameras use BNC connectors to connect the cable to the camera or the DVR (Digital Video Recorder).
BNC connectors can be crimped onto the cable, or they can be twisted onto the wire. I only use the crimp on connectors because the twist on connectors tends to become loose or pull off the cable very easily.
Most of the time, the connector that plugs into the DVR is loose because of the way the wires are bent behind the DVR sometimes pulls the wire out of the connector.
First, grab the connector and move it around while watching the video monitor. If you see the video image clear up as you’re touching the connector, you know the problem is with the connector and not the camera.
Unfortunately, sometimes the loose connection is on the camera, so you’ll need to open the camera and check the connector while someone else is watching the video monitor.
Why are security cameras Dark and blurry at night?
I always tell my customers to lower their expectations for what they expect to see at night on their security cameras.
During the day, security cameras are in color mode, but most security cameras switch to black and white mode at night. Some security cameras have color night vision, called starlight cameras.
Starlight cameras use a larger image sensor and a wider aperture to allow more light in, therefore providing a brighter video image.
Still, when used in complete darkness, starlight cameras will also switch to black and white mode, and with some older starlight cameras, the video will be completely black.
How does night vision work?
Even though security cameras have night vision, the quality of the video at night is nothing like what it is during the day.
Depending on the amount of outdoor lighting available, security cameras can have a reasonably good image to a very dark and blurry picture with no detail at all.
Security cameras have small lights around the lens that shine an infrared light in the camera’s field of view. This light is not visible to the human eye, but it is visible to the camera.
The infrared lights on the cameras are rated for varying distances, and some cameras can see up to 300 feet in the dark while others can only see up to 50 feet.
If you have a camera installed to view a large area and the image is very dark and blurry, the chances are that the camera’s night vision capabilities are undersized for the area being viewed.
In some cases, the camera will stay in color mode if enough outdoor lighting is available and the camera’s image will be clear.
The more outdoor lighting you have, the better the image will be. It’s best to leave some lights on the outside or install motion-activated lights for best results.
Security camera showing a double image
The cause for a double image could be as simple as a loose BNC connection at the DVR or the camera to a defective video monitor or security camera.
First, try moving the connector back and forth while watching the video on the monitor. If you see the image clear up, you know that it is the connector.
If that doesn’t work, the next thing I would do is power down and reboot the camera.
This might solve the problem, but even if it does, it might mean the camera is reaching towards the end of its life and will probably have the same problem again.