soldier night vision and city thermal

Thermal Imaging Vs. Night Vision

Thermal Imaging Vs Night Vision


One of the most common questions we hear is “What’s the difference between Thermal Imaging and Night Vision?” While they seem quite similar is some ways, there are major differences that separate the two technology. These differences explain why thermal imaging is used in some industries for certain purposes while night vision is used for others.


Thermal Imaging

Thermal Imaging are sensors that cant detect heat (thermal energy/infrared). In other words, thermal imaging detects radiation which is shown on a screen and the different colors on the screen represents how high or how low the temperature is of the object(s) in sight. Human beings, animal and objects such as cars or air conditioners can generate heat. The temperatures of these objects can be detected by using thermal cameras.



Thermal Imaging Cameras are tools that have been used by fire-fighters prominently. One of the main features is that it can see through smoke and debris, helping fire-fighters find people who are trapped or have passed out due to the smoke. Night vision, on the other hand, cannot see through smoke. Although Thermal Imagers cannot see through walls or doors, fire fighters can use it to determine if there is a strong blaze on the other side of the door.



Law enforcement and police officers use thermal imaging to see things that regular flashlights or night vision don’t. It can help officers see the surrounding environment more clearly by identifying objects or human beings by detecting their temperature.



Thermal Imaging is very useful for surveillance because it can be used during both the day and the night. A normal CCTV camera can only be used when there is light, whereas night vision doesn't work during the day.


Home Insulation:

People in the home inspection business regards thermal cameras as their most important tool. It can be used to detect which area is leaking heat and look for cracks around the home. Finding these problems can help home owners save a lot of money over the years.

Thermal images of three houses showing heat inside the windows of the houses

Night Vision

Night vision and Thermal cameras differ in that night vision require a small amount of light for it to operate. As long as the sky isn’t too cloudy, the moon and stars would be enough light for night vision to work. However, images seen on night vision would be the same as the naked eye in places such as caves because night vision doesn’t work well when blocked by shadows.



Night Vision has been used by hunters for many years as it is as to provide a good quality image and is able to resist against recoil. One feature that night vision has is that it is able to see through glass, something thermal imaging cannot do. Depending on the circumstances, hunters usually prefer to use night vision for hunting unless they are hunting in an area covered with fog, in which case they would use thermal imaging.



Night vision was first developed and used during World War II. It allowed officers to see and identify people in the dark even if it is from a long distance away. However, one issue night vision is that if a target is camouflaging, it is not easily identifiable, whereas this would be a problem at all if thermal imaging is being used instead.  



A majority of crimes occur during the night time and having a night vision CCTV camera can help protect us even in very dark conditions as long as there is a small ray of light.

 Night Vision

Should I use Thermal Imaging Cameras or Night Vision?

Overall, while thermal imaging and night vision share some similarities, they both serve for different purposes. Below are some Pros and Cons of each to help you determine which one is more suitable for your purposes:


Thermal Imaging

Night Vision





Can be used under different lighting conditions

Image requires training to interpret

Image is more natural

Does not function as well during the day or places with light

Can see through smoke/debris


Stronger and more reliable

Cannot see through smoke/debris

Able to track residual heat (handprints, footprints)

More Expensive

Less Costly

Cannot identify camouflaging


Difficult to identify an intruder

Wider View



If you do end up deciding that Thermal Imaging is what you need right now, Perfect Prime has a wide selection of thermal imaging cameras with different resolutions that can be used for various purposes. Follow the link below to see more details about our selection of Thermal imaging cameras: 

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