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Does Your iPhone Have Secret Night Vision Capabilities?

Does Your iPhone Have Secret Night Vision Capabilities?

Night vision is a funny thing. The word alone somehow triggers a mental image of 'advanced military technology' or NAVY seals doing drills out in the ocean. But in reality, night vision technology is not nearly as exclusive as you might think.

Virtually any camera (be it in the form of your smartphone, webcam, or even door cam) is entirely capable of being a fully-fledged night vision device. 

You see, night vision is not just a single technology. Without getting too technical, night vision can be achieved using one of three methods: radiant heat, near-infrared light, and image intensification. Near-infrared devices like the IRIS are one of the most common forms of night vision that you will see. 

But here is the secret. The IRIS is actually not that special. Yes, it's a camera that is optimized for the near-infrared range. But as mentioned earlier, almost any camera can see in the near-infrared range — even your iPhone.

But, there is a catch. Manufacturers like Apple intentionally add infrared filters to the optical stack.

Now, you might be wondering: why would they do this?

The answer is simple. Infrared light does not mix well with the visible parts of the light spectrum. At the end of the day, the iPhone is a consumer product and most people are not going to be photographing things in complete darkness. It's likely the case that most people would prefer to take clear and high resolution pictures in the daytime. So, Apple adds a filter to block out infrared light which would otherwise cause interference.

So if you wanted to use your iPhone as a night vision device, you would actually have to modify the camera and remove the filter. Without extensive technical expertise, this is of course a massively daunting task. For most people, it's probably easier to just buy a dedicated night vision camera which is not even 1/10th the price of a new iPhone.

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