How to retrofit a Night Vision System in your BMW

Car Tips | December 31st, 2008 by 28
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Technology is making it easier to see in the dark and the so called “night vision” systems from BMW and other manufacturers have created some …

Technology is making it easier to see in the dark and the so called “night vision” systems from BMW and other manufacturers have created some positive buzz in the past few years. The camera found in the BMW Night Vision System is developed by FLIR,  a company that specializes in thermal imaging. (Disclaimer: FLIR is a proud sponsor of BMWBlog). Innovative infrared technology was made available in a BMW for the first time in 2005, when the BMW 7 Series was the first model to receive this latest gadget. 

As of January 2006, the BMW 5 and 6 Series were listing the Night Vision System as an option in their catalogue. The BMW Night Vision System was initially sold for $2,200, but it wasn’t available on all the 7 Series models for example. 

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Many buyers were not and might still not be aware that the Night Vision System can be retrofited in their BMWs. FLIR, used to make commercial nightvision systems for law enforcement, marine, and airborne vehicle, but with their PathfindIR  camera they stepped into the automotive world. This is their first infrared nightvision adaptable for any car, although they have demoed the system on BMW vehicles at the CES this year.  The PathFindIR allows you to see clearly in total darkness, further than with headlamps alone, through light fog, smoke, and dust. Pathfinder uses the same technology currently used by the U.S. Government for night vision.

Many companies in the U.S are working together with FLIR on providing aftermarket BMW retrofitting. Some of the most respectable and known for their quality work are Nav TV Corporation, based out of Boca Raton FL, and Bimmernav from Austin TX. If you’re one of those people that are not tech savvy or good with tools, these companies will install, test and train you on how to use the system. The average price for the BMW Night Vision Thermal Camera Kit is $3,499.

So, if there is no authorized dealer trained by FLIR in your area or  if you have experience with car audio/video installation, FLIR provides some great instructions and videos on how to setup, test and troubleshoot the PathfindIR camera. 

The FLIR camera offered as an option on some of the BMW models, can be retrofitted in earlier BMWs and Range Rovers simply by plugging this camera into the BMW TV Video module. Installation is simple and straight forward an can be controlled via the BMW Navigation computer monitor or via a “on demand” switch.

The camera above gets mounted in a grill, and the AV output hooks into any LCD or the BMW Navigation computer monitor. The threaded slots for easy mounting, standard video output and 12V power all make the PathFindIR an easy to install aftermarket product.

The downloadable files below will give you more detailed instructions and information on the Night Vision System developed by FLIR. 

FLIR Camera User Guide

Application Story BMW

Recently, I have seen many older BMW models with an aftermarket install of the FLIR camera, including an E39 M5 and X5, so it’s doable and I certainly find the Night Vision System being more useful that many other expensive BMW options or packages.

P.S If any of you has a Night Vision System retrofit on your bimmer, please leave a comment telling us your opinion.


28 responses to “How to retrofit a Night Vision System in your BMW”

  1. Gragop says:

    Cool system and I’d love to have it but most places I drive are well-lit and man, $3,500 is expensive.

  2. Horatiu B. says:

    @Gragop: True, but there are many other places there are not. I do see the Night Vision System being useful for the people that own a BMW limousine fleet. With that much driving, I think it’s useful

  3. Gragop says:

    @Horatiu B.:

    I agree it’s useful but I can’t justify it for that much, that’s all. This is one of those technologies that will likely begin to filter down for a cheaper price – hopefully – to non-7er models.

  4. Gil says:

    Hrmm… a few times I drove thru the boonies of Maine which is completely pitch black (I drive up to Canada to see family every now and then). This would’ve been really nice to have.

  5. CarVideoMan says:

    [Disclaimer:Vendor] Couple of things I wanted to point out. First the camera itself is around $2,495.00. Like most Car Audio / Video accessories depending upon cables, how you want to display the image, installation, and how crazy you want to go you could spend $300-thousands more. Heck, I personally have spent $1,800.00 on a head unit and another $1,200.00 on IPod interface, Bluetooth, BU camera, and installation.

    The advantages of true night vision (thermal as opposed to active IR) is seen even in urban environments. Ask yourself, how many times have you driven in the city, after a rain, and get nothing but glare off the street from the lights or oncoming traffic? Thermal imagers don’t “see” the light, rather heat. Thus, pedestrians walking through an uncontrolled crosswalk wearing dark clothing are seen early and clearly.

    The technology is solid, and where navigation systems were 8 years ago. I would encourage anyone to drive a vehicle with this technology. Like Naviation you will wonder how you ever lived without it.

  6. Horatiu B. says:

    @CarVideoMan: Have you performed an installation yourself? I was wondering if you have any tips, photos or maybe even videos.

  7. CarVideoMan says:

    [Disclaimer: Vendor] Yes,, done many installations on vehicles ranging from a Toyota Prius (into the factory head unit using a NAV TV interface device) to a Baja 1000 vehicle. The camera itself is small (about 3″ cubed) and has a simple power in / video output. A typical installation should only take about 1-2 hours max. Keeping in mind that while the camera is 3″ cubed, you only need to expose the optic which is about 1″ in diameter so “hidding” it behind a grill is easy. Often you don’t have to even cut a hole in the grill since it has a 36 degree Field of View.

    FLIR has a website with a movie called “Installation”
    shows nearly everything you would do to connect the system.

    • dave says:

      I have a BMW camera and wanted to install it on another vehicle. The PathfindIR camera cable does NOT work for this camera. Does anybody know how to make the bmw camera work outside of a BMW? Thanks.

      • Fionn says:

        Dave, i’ve run into the same problem, did you ever get a solution?
        Did you try using a BMW control unit? Does this help?

      • htp says:

        Hi, Dave
        Did you cover the problem and make the camera work?

        Did you try to install a used BMW camera to another BMW or another brain car? Thanks.

      • Zhang Xiaohu says:

        hi,I come from China.I have this camera,too.And I don’t know how to use it outside of BMW. I got the 12 pins define,the diferent between Path FindIR and this cam is the pin 8 LIN+. I want to got a controler from BMW.Would you give me some suggestions .My


  8. ٍSaber says:

    thanks all
    i have 745li 2005 with no night visition system also no blutooth connection,
    so if any budy advise ,hoe can i add this feachers in my car, in cas i bought the camera, does it compatable with the navigation screen.


  9. htp says:

    Hi, Fionn
    From which model of BMW that you got the night vision camera? And you try to install it to the same model or another model?

    And are you sure if added the night vision control unit with the camera, they will work?


  10. Fionn says:

    Hi, I bought the camera from Ebay so I don’t know which model BMW that it came out of , I have no reason to believe that they would use a different model between different items.
    I was told that both the camera and the controller would need to be programmed to the same code before it would work. I have no idea if it will work outside of a BMW or not but I’m hoping that it will. If I had more information on the controller and it’s connections then I would have a better idea. I am hoping that it just has power and video out connections. If it talks to the main ECU in the car or whatever then I think I’m wasting my time and will have to sell the camera again.

  11. Fionn says:

    How I got what? As I mentioned earlier I bought the camera from Ebay, I hope to buy the controller from RealOEM once I confirm that the controller will work with my model of camera.
    I have already posted everything I know about the subject so I can’t contribute much more I’m afraid.

  12. NAV-TV says:

    [Disclaimer: Vendor] NAV-TV offers interfaces that will allow any video source including FLIR cameras to display on your factory BMW navigation screen. We also offer the FLIR Pathfinder cameras and an upgraded controller that allows the image to display in color and has a 2X digital zoom. We do not offer any retrofit kits that will allow an OEM BMW FLIR camera to be moved into another vehicle.

  13. htp says:

    If got one set of OEM BMW flir camera and controller from E60, is it possible to install them on another E60 or even to E39 and they workable?

    Of course, if work on E39, some function on E60 may can’t work on E39, but basic night vision work, is it possible?

  14. this makes you want to buy a BMW just for this, what a gadget. They are also putting night vision on motorbikes.

  15. Alex says:

    Does anybody have an idea how to connect bmw flir camera to another car or monitor?

  16. Hh says:

    I would love to get my hands on one of those. I drive across the country and this device would aid in traveling in heavy fog and rural communities. $3500 is although expensive at least the piece of mind is the when you really need it.

  17. Automotive Night Vision is a great feature in avoiding people, animals and objects where visibility is tough. With the Flir Night Vision camera it allows your vehicle to see in pitch black darkness – Make sure to visit the cool stories at – The picture below was taken using a NAV-TV Night Vision setup issued for Wildlife Studies of Animals in Yellowstone National Park. 

  18. Dimitris Koumentos says:

    I have an oem bmw night vision camera from a bmw E60. Is it possible to use the PathfindIR system cable from flir or any other cables needed and the bracket to connect the camera to my BMW E60 multimedia interface (A/V input) and then to my 8.8″ oem screen? If so, is it also feasible to enable the camera (on/off) apart from the I-drive through some switch or even better the bmw oem switch?

  19. gordon93551 says:

    Can the night vision system be installed as it would come from the factory with the button to engage and the menu through the screen?

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