The Nintendo Switch Camera: Where Is It and How Does It Work?

Some games need a camera to function properly

While you won’t notice a camera lens on the front or back of your Nintendo Switch console, there are two lurking on the Joycon controllers. Each motion-sensing controller includes an infrared (IR) camera at the bottom. It doesn’t look like a camera since there's no traditional lens, but if you look you can see the black spots located at the bottom. 

These cameras were infrequently used when the Switch first released, but with Nintendo’s cardboard Labo kits, the camera and its capabilities have become more clear.

What Can the Motion IR Camera Do Exactly?

The way an infrared sensor or camera works is by shooting out invisible dots that are then mapped on what it hits. It’s not far off from the way sonar works. This allows the Joycon controllers to “see” objects and motion and use it as an input method.

The image detection is probably a lot better than you expect. The IR sensor can also detect a heat map. But, it’s not high quality or a very good camera. You also can’t currently access the camera portion of the IR camera without a Labo kit, and even then it doesn’t function as a traditional camera. You can’t point your Joycon at something and snap a picture.

Gamespot YouTube video

Nintendo has detailed some more specific details around the motion IR camera on its website, though this interview is aimed at developers.

How to Take Screenshots on the Nintendo Switch

While it might not have a traditional camera, the Switch can take screenshots of anything happening on the screen, both during a game or within the menu system.

To take a screenshot, tap the Camera button on the left Joycon. This instantly saves what’s shown on screen.

Viewing Your Own Photos on the Nintendo Switch

To see the screenshots you’ve taken:

  1. Go to the Home screen and locate the circle icons on the bottom.

  2. Select the Album icon.

  3. From here, you can view, delete, or filter your screenshots. You can also post them to Twitter or Facebook if your accounts are linked to your Switch.

Viewing Outside Photos on a Nintendo Switch

You can also view your own photos on the Switch if you’re adventurous. On the back of the console under the kickstand is a MicroSD card slot. MicroSD cards can be used on the Switch for storing downloaded games or offloading screenshots you’ve taken on the console. It’s not exactly clear why this functionality is so limited, but it's nailed down. By default, the Switch won't show any pictures or videos that aren’t screenshots from the Switch itself.

Even if you were to rename a .JPG image to Nintendo’s custom format for screenshots, it won’t fool the system.

But, there's a software tool enthusiasts have come up with that tweaks your images so they can be read by the Switch.