Camera Buyers Guide:
Often people use resolution of camera as the primary criterion in choosing a cameras, but there are a number of important considerations to choose on.
First you must choose the video camera technology that best suits your application needs and budget;
Analog, Analog Hybrid, and IP technologies:
- Pure analog is cheapest technology across the board for hardware from cameras, to DVR recorders, but has limitations on video quality, and video access and review of archived data.
- Analog Hybrid brings quality, Internet Network video access, and cost that varies from low to high end. Several technologies have emerged, and some are backward compatible with older analog cameras, and some that are not. Some are proprietary to single brand manufacturer, and others that are supported by a wide range of manufactures. Most of these technologies also have much longer cabling distances than either pure analog or IP Network cabling, without significantly degrading signal, nor extra extending equipment costs.
- IP or Network Video technology typically has the highest entry cost of the three general video security categories, but also the highest quality video, and a huge range of options for smart analytics from facial recognition, virtual smart motion detection, video smoke and fire detection, and a wide range of high tech features and programmability that uses the Internet backbone for streaming, recording, and playback.
What is your Security system budget? How high of quality resolution do you need?
Budget and video quality needs will greatly influence end system cost, and be sure it meets the video clarity expectation or need that you have.
Considering DropCam/NestCam & Similar Low Cost IP Cameras?
Cloud Storage Subscription IP Cameras:
DropCam, NestCam, Allie Home, and other brand IP cameras that can stream live images to your phone, tablet, or any computer, but storage is via cloud based subscription services. This latest generation of vertically based subscription/ cloud cameras allow you to buy the camera upfront which is your only investment if you do not need archiving or storage, but to get these services you have to subscribe to their service, and only their same brand or model cameras are compatible.
This limits your options on the specific camera features that are offered, and their storage solutions, and that there is no local storage, which leaves you at the discretion of the Cloud service & Internet connection, to get review video data, or save a limited amount of data to local storage. This is often economical for 1 or a few cameras, but can get really pricey for subscription data & bandwidth with high resolution video for an array of cameras for your home or business.
What environment are you deploying your cameras into?
Indoor and standard outdoor environments are pretty strait forward; but marine, wet, extreme operating temperature, or rugged environments require specialized camera or enclosure considerations that will affect system cost.
Do you have camera size or form factor preferences?
Fixed cameras are lowest cost on all technologies, and quality PTZ cameras are the highest cost of the various types of cameras.
Are there discrete or hidden camera requirements?
Location of camera decides a lot on what lens is required:
Fixed lens has fixed FOV, Varifocal adds flexibility of wide angle to zoomed in:
Each camera location should be assessed for camera placement, which will greatly affect what camera form factor and features are needed. For fixed lens camera, FOV is greatly affected by camera lens type or placement of camera. Of course, a varifocal lens camera solves this, by allowing installer to change field of view from wide angle, to zoomed in; to optimize camera view for a wide range of camera locations and site needs. The tradeoff is that varifocal are more expensive than fixed lens type cameras; adding as much as 30% higher price over fixed lens camera.
A fixed 1.8mm lens provides a wide angle view and more of a fish eye distortion on sides of image. While a middle range 3.6mm lens can provide a more focused 70 degree FOV, and higher zoom lens like a 9mm or higher greatly reduces the width of FOV and more focused image area.
On box cameras, it is easy to change out lens size or types as they have nearly universal CS thread mount standard, but bullet and some outdoor rated turret or mini-dome cameras often do not have the option to exchange lens types.
Indoor or Outdoor camera?
Outdoor rated cameras typically have IR cut filters built in to enhance camera performance and lifespan in bright outdoor lighting conditions, and require outdoor water proof rating or an outdoor housing to install them into. These features can add to cost and size to a camera, but are vital to a reliable outdoor installation.
Wire & Cable considerations for Camera: Wired, Wireless, or PoE cameras
On a typical installation, you have two cables that go to camera; One to power the camera, the other to send the video data.
Analog and Hybrid cameras often use Siamese cable that splices the power and coax into one cable to make it easier to install, and cleaner looking wiring and install.
For network IP video camera, you can use PoE (Power over Ethernet) by inserting power into Ethernet Cat 5 computer cable. This is similar to the Siamese cable in analog systems, but these IP cameras either need to be PoE compatible, or using an Ethernet injector splitter pair (sold separately) needs to be used to do this.
Another option is buying wireless camera, which save the data wiring, but still require power wiring run to camera. One drawback, is that wireless can be subject to distance limitations, and wireless signal may be less reliable than hard wired for continuous signal transmission.
All these considerations should be evaluated before purchasing your cameras and hardware.
Recording Equipment: DVR’s, NVR’s, Cloud Storage, and SD cards
Many of the current network cameras offer on-camera SD card storage solutions to provide limited video storage that eliminates needs for a dedicated NVR to record video. This allows for simple low cost storage solution for some basic recording needs. Another option for Network cameras, is cloud storage so no recording storage hardware is needed; just an internet connection with a cloud subscription account.
Alternately, an NVR recorder is needed for IP / Network video storage, or a DVR recorder for Analog or hybrid systems.
For NVR’s and DVR’s, the more hard drive memory you have, the longer the back up time you have before video overwrites itself; Depending on the back up memory, it can hold it for days, weeks, or even months of video back up. The larger the hard drive capacity, the higher the cost of that storage.