When selecting the best security camera system possible for your home or business it is important to select the right cameras that fit the unique needs of your situation. There are countless options and products features available.
Many packaged systems come with general purpose security cameras. Most vendors will allow you to replace the general purpose cameras with more advanced specialized cameras if you need them. For example, you may have a situation where three entrances into your building need to be monitored with just average quality cameras and you want to cover the parking lot with a camera that can read a license plate from 50 yards away. You can get 3 of the cameras that come with the system then replace the fourth with a camera that has high powered zoom capabilities.
By walking through this security camera selection guide you will be able to identify the special features that your situation requires and determine which cameras best fit your needs. Ultimately this will allow you to most efficiently spend your money while getting the best surveillance coverage.
1) Will you need color or black and white cameras? Most packaged systems come with color cameras which are better than black and white cameras at identifying valuable details of a suspect such as clothing or hair color. Typically black and white cameras are less expensive and perform better at low light than color cameras. Color cameras actually switch over to black and white in low light environments.
2) What type of night vision capability is needed? A typical packaged color security camera will have a night vision range of between 15 and 50 feet. High powered night vision cameras can have a range of 150 feet. The main factor of determining the night vision range is the number of infrared LED's on the camera. Most general purpose security cameras come with 15 to 30 LED's. Remember even color cameras record in black and white in low light situations.
3) What is the lowest acceptable image quality from each location where cameras are installed? You may have different image quality requirements from each location. One camera may be installed at the front door only to buzz people in when they arrive for appointments. Another camera may be used to capture license plates of cars driving through a large parking lot. These cameras have much different image quality requirements. Generally speaking the number of TV Lines (TVL) per inch is an indicator of the image quality that is produced by the camera. General purpose packaged security cameras commonly have 400 – 420 TVLs. Cameras that have 480 – 520 TVLs will give a much better image quality. Also, CCD cameras generally produce a better image than CMOS cameras.
4) Wired vs. wireless? Understand the disadvantages of using wireless security cameras before deciding to purchase them. A lot of people fail to realize wireless security cameras still need power via a power cable. Wireless cameras use wireless technology to transmit a signal to a receiver which is connected to a DVR or monitor, but most of them use a power cable to plug into a near by outlet. There are battery operated wireless security cameras, but the batteries need to be replaced quite often.
The image quality of wireless security cameras is often due because of interference. The farther away a wireless camera is from the receiver and the more obstructions the signal must travel through the more the image quality is going to suffer. That being said, there are many, many applications where wireless security cameras are ideal. Many of the wired systems available have cabling that supplies both power and video (aka siamese cabling). This means all the power requirements can be managed from the same location as the DVR or monitor.
5) What elements are the security cameras going to be exposed to? Most general purpose security cameras that come in packaged systems can be used outdoors (as well as indoors) under normal conditions. If the cameras are going to be exposed to extreme conditions such as hail or very high winds or there is a high likelihood of vandalism you may want to upgrade to cameras with heavier and stronger housings and mounting brackets.