While perusing the outdoor forums we began to see the term “whiteout” pop up on the forums as being a big negative regarding camera function.
The complaints are that IR cameras were taking nearly white to completely white photos. IR red flash is currently the emerging standard flash type, with IR black flash and IR low glow running a close second. In our testing we too noticed this whiteout issue to varying degrees on many models from many manufacturers in all price ranges.
This condition seems to be more pronounced during the dawn and dusk time periods each day. During these periods ambient light conditions are transitioning from night to day and day to night. The camera uses a day/night sensor that is normally on the front face of the camera. Sometimes it is by itself, recessed in a hole, while other times it is embedded within the flash array. The sensor measures light and produces a voltage that the camera samples prior to taking a photo to help it determine if the flash module is needed.
Camera placement and ambient lighting conditions can vary greatly from property to property and region. A forest with full canopy will create darker conditions all the time than a forest edge or a field or any open setting. In winter when the leaves fall this same forest now produces a different lighting condition. The same cameras will decide to flash at different times of the day based on these ambient lighting conditions. The IR Flash intensity also declines over time as the batteries drain.
Now, when a camera decides it needs to flash and there is already a good bit of ambient light this can lead to a white out issue where too much light creates over exposure.
Camera firmware designers were told to “fix” this issue and in many cases firmware updates were made available for certain camera models which to some degree provided a fix for the issue.
Over a period of a couple of years the whiteout issue for the most part dwindled as firmware programming perfected techniques to deal with varying light conditions and to perform light metering.
Light metering is where the camera firmware begins an exposure and constantly monitors the white balance of the photo until it meets a standard whether the flash is on or off. This tends to produce much better photos overall but does not completely eliminate all issues in this area.
We continue to see the overly dark or overly light photos on nearly all cameras but the whiteout issue seems to be a relic of the past.