Will direct sun harm a video camera?
February 14, 2009 4:36 PM   Subscribe

Will sunshine 'burn' the sensor on a security camera?

I'm partway through the process of building a video security system for my girlfriend's place. Yesterday afternoon I mounted the camera, in a location that points across towards the gate/entrance to her garden. The camera shows the view of the area, but there is also some open sky at the top of the scene.

At this time of year, there is no direct sun there, but come May/June, I think the sun will be setting exactly in that part of the sky. Will the sunshine directly in the field of view damage the camera? I'm using a Sony 'Super HAD Color Camera' like the one in this image, with the lens in the center, surrounded by an array of infrared LEDs.
posted by woodblock100 to Technology (7 answers total)
Googling "sun ccd damage" found me comments like this, this and this mostly addressing photographic cameras rather than video cameras. They all seem to agree the answer is 'Yes, cameras can be damaged by imaging the sun'.

That said, the sun is dimmer when it's setting so you may be fine; and plenty of photographs and videos exist of sunrises and sunsets, so obviously some cameras under some conditions can image the sun without damage.
posted by Mike1024 at 4:56 PM on February 14, 2009

My boyfriend sells CCTV and he said:

"Yes, you are going to cut the camera's lifespan by about a third. And during the times that it is getting direct sun, the camera will be effectively useless because the image will be washed out. Is there any way you can adjust the camera down?"
posted by radioamy at 9:19 AM on February 15, 2009

A UV filter in front of your CCD will help, but as radioamy says, you're not going to see anything with the sun pelting you with photons. I suspect a polarizer might be able to help a bit, but...
posted by effugas at 10:52 AM on February 15, 2009

I don't have any experience with security cameras in particular, but from general photography experience I can tell you that polarizer won't likely help. Direct sunlight isn't polarized, so while the filter will cut down the absolute amount of light coming in, it will darken everything else just as much, so you still won't be able to see anything.
posted by echo target at 1:08 PM on February 15, 2009

Thanks for the responses, people. It does seem like it might be a problem, so we'll watch carefully come mid-summer, and either move the camera, or rig some kind of barrier at the top of the fence in that spot, to block the direct light ...
posted by woodblock100 at 5:24 PM on February 15, 2009

I've had CCD cameras in areas where they get very direct sunlight at various times of the day. They've been there for a little under two years. Aside from the image being exposed very poorly with direct sunlight, there are no other noticable effects yet. The camera's lifespan may be decreased, but it'll still work fine, and they are pretty cheap to replace.
posted by sycophant at 8:49 PM on February 15, 2009

Note the difference between "direct sunlight" (which causes poorly exposed images) and the sun itself showing up in the picture (which is the case you describe). For the latter, think of a magnifying glass focusing the sun's rays on a piece of paper. The poor CCD is overwhelmed by the light coming directly from the sun, collected and focused by the lens, on its sensitive surface. In fact, there is so much light that the CCD can be irreversibly damaged. And a UV or polarizing filter isn't going to change that. So you're on the right track about taking action to block the sun, or tilt the camera down, when the sun shows up in the picture.
posted by exphysicist345 at 11:32 PM on February 15, 2009

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