Color Night Vision is not a new technology. It is simply a refinement of an old technology called “low light operation”. Some manufacturers refer to it as Starlight operation. Each camera has a minimum light level required to generate color video. You can tell when a camera has reached this point because the video becomes grainy. Cameras with a built-in night vision system monitor the light level and when it gets too low for color video, the infrared light system turns on, casting out IR light that only the camera can see. This changes the video generated from color to black and white or true night vision. Zero light is needed for operation.
What the term “color night vision” is referring to is the refinement of the camera's low light operation. As technology progresses, the minimum light needed to keep the camera in color video mode is reduced to lower and lower light levels. It has reached a point where most new surveillance cameras have extremely low light color operation built-in. This allows the camera to feed off of the ambient light in the area, such as street lights, yard lights or even the neighbor’s lights. As long as some ambient light is present, the camera can function in color mode.
When there is no ambient light, there is no “Color Night Vision”. The camera's video system is forced to switch to true IR black and white night vision. So “Color Night Vision” is not a new technology and it does not create color video in complete darkness, but it does provide color video at night in extremely low light environments.