Security Camera System Buyer Guide

by | Nov 4, 2019

CCTV security system is one of the widely accepted solution to securing your loved ones, pets, and private properties. CCTV has been around for decades, and the technology is evolving by the day with options to have a fully customized and functional system.

However, there are certain rules to follow in selecting the right security camera system that will give you the best performance.

Resolution

Resolution

A resolution is the detail an image holds. This is the first factor you should consider whenever you are planning to choose your CCTV camera system. You surely want a security camera that can deliver better image quality when capturing objects in the distance.

Selecting a resolution which is too small may hamper your quest to getting a detail image when things go wrong.

Resolution is denoted in megapixel (1 megapixel = one million pixels).

Megapixel makes it easier to differentiate between low and high resolution cameras through the value which is always expressed in number.

CCTV camera is composed of small segments known as pixels. Each pixel will record the light that passes between the lens and iris. The more pixels a camera has, the more detail is recorded and the more times you can zoom in without breaking the quality of the image.

Using Reolink cameras as an illustration, pixels is the horizontal and vertical value as expressed below:

MEGAPIXELS Effective Pixels (Horizontal and Vertical) Camera Types/Denomination
1.0 1280 (H) x 720 (V) 720P / HD
2.0 1920 (H) x 1080 (V) 1080P / Full HD
4.0 2560 (H) x 1440 (V) 2K / Super HD
5.0 3072 (H) x 1728 (V) 2K / Super HD
8.0 3840 (H) x 2160 (V) 4K / Ultra HD

If you are covering a small region of interest, you should consider 2MP as a least option.

Field of View (FoV)

field of view schema

Field of view plays a major role in a security camera. Field of view is interpreted as the total size of the horizontal distance that a camera can capture. It is measured in degrees.

FoV can also have a direct impact on the detail of the recorded video if the values are ignored. The higher the FoV in degrees, the more wide area of space you can cover.

Every homeowner or prospective CCTV user has a required field of view of where they want their camera to capture, they must therefore choose a matching security camera with corresponding FoV value.

In order to determine the FoV required for your application, you can use an online FoV calculator or simply use the focal length which is written on the camera or the documentation.

Focal Length

Focal length is similar to field of view, the lower value of focal length a camera has, the wider the area of space captured.

For instance, if a camera lens has a fixed focal length of 3.6mm, it is said to have a wide viewing angle.

Subsequently, a camera with focal length of 6mm is expected to have a narrow viewing angle.

If you are considering to secure your front porch from package thieves, you should consider installing a camera with focal length of 3.6mm or lower, and choose the best location where facial recognition won’t be a bottleneck. Hence, you won’t have any blind spot.

However, if your requirement involves identifying an object from a distance not more than 12meters in an outdoor application, installing a camera with focal length of 6mm will be ideal.

Night Vision

It is equally important to know the type of night vision that is built into the camera system you are buying.

Some security cameras come with infrared night vision whilst some are color night vision. But security cameras like FLIR, Hikvision and Axis come with thermal technology, which is more effective than the regular night vision because they are able to see beyond limitations.

– Infrared Night Vision: This technology uses infrared LEDs to illuminate the camera image sensor to record in low light conditions or total darkness. If you want to buy a security camera with this type of technology, try selecting the one that has a dark faceplate.

Dark faceplate will help to prevent the red glowing LEDs that would normally attract bugs, to cover the lens’ view during operation in the dark.

– Color Night Vision: Color night vision is a successor of infrared (black and white) night vision technology. Color night vision uses powerful image sensor that performs better in low-light, than the traditional night vision which only produces black and white images.

– Thermal Vision: Unlike infrared and color night vision, thermal security camera uses heat radiation from objects and convert to an image that is vision to the human eyes.

Thermal cameras are not affected by vehicle headlight, which can make regular security camera image sensors become over-saturated.

Enclosure

Enclosure is an important design of a security camera. Therefore, you need to closely look into it when you are buying your security camera system.

It is important to properly check if the CCTV camera enclosure will be suitable for your application. CCTV cameras that are designed to be used for indoor applications are not suitable for outdoor.

There is a rating for every CCTV camera on the market and it comes under IP (Ingress Protection). This rating denotes how well a security camera can withstand critical weather condition.

IP is followed by two digit which represents protection against solid (dust) and liquid (water).

Example of the IP ratings are as follows:

First Number – Solid Protection (Dust) Second Number – Liquid Protection (Water)
0 - No Protection 0 - No Protection
1 - Protected from objects over 50mm (2inches) 1 - Protected from vertically water dripping
2 - Protected against objects more than 12mm (0.5inch) 2 - Protected from dripping water tilted at 15°
3 - Protected from objects more than 2.5mm 3 - Protected against sprayed water tilted at 60°
4 - Protected from objects more than 1mm 4 - Protected against sprayed water from any direction
5 - Dust protected (no harmful deposits) 5 - Protected from low pressure jet water from all directions
6 - Completely protected from dust (Dust tight) 6 - Protected from high pressure jet water from all directions
7 - Protected from complete water immersion up to 1m depth
8 - Protected from complete water immersion from 1m and more depth
9 - Protected from high pressure and temperature water jet

What are the most commonly used IP ratings in security camera?

IP Ratings Location
Less than IP64 Suitable for indoor applications.
IP65 - Suitable for indoor applications. - Can be used outdoor but must be installed under shelter.
IP66 Suitable for indoor and outdoor. (IP66 is dust tight and protected from high pressure jet water from any direction).
IP67 Suitable for indoor and outdoor. (IP67 is dust tight and can withstand water immersion of up to 1m depth)
Suitable for outdoor and complete water submersion application. (Complete protection against dust and water immersion)

Bandwidth and Storage Consumption

Storage is a crucial factor you can’t preclude, as this is where every recorded footage from the security cameras are stored.

How long you want your DVR/NVR to hold the video files will be determined by the resolution of the cameras, and the size of the hard-drive.

If you are recording in continuous high resolution, there are chances that the hard-drive will soon run out of space.

To determine the storage bank needed for your security camera system, you need to know the following:

  • Number of days to record: Decide how many days you want to record

 

  • Camera resolution: The camera resolution is printed on the camera enclosure

 

  • Frame per Second or Frame Rate (FPS): FPS or refresh rate refers to number of video images that can be captured, displayed or recorded within a second.

Note: The higher the FPS, the fluent your video quality. You will be good by sticking to 20FPS for each video camera

However, you should check the total FPS the DVR/NVR supported. For instance, if you have a 4-channel NVR which is rated at total of 60FPS and each of the 4 cameras is rated at 30FPS, this means they will both record at 15FPS. But if you connect 2 cameras, each one will record at 30FPS.

  • Number of cameras: Decide how many security cameras you want to connect to the DVR/NVR

 

  • Type of video compression: Video compression can be referred to as video codec used in IP cameras, DVRs, and NVRs. Video codec is used to converts raw video from the CCTV cameras to a compressed digital format.

Note: The video compression on IP camera is done at the camera web server before transmitting the data to the NVR for archiving, this is why IP cameras are referred to as Digital cameras

There are four types of video codec in video surveillance equipment:

MJPEG, H.264, H.265, and H.265+. Only H.264, H.265, and H.265+ are majorly used. 

– MJPEG: This takes from 5 – 20 times the hard drive space as H.264, this is why it is limited to low resolution security cameras because the codec is inefficient.

MJPEG is no longer suitable for new home security cameras.

– 264: It is referred to as Advanced Video Coding (AVC), and it uses block oriented compression. This codec saves a considerable amount of hard drive space unlike MPJEG.

H.264 is suitable for 720P security cameras.

– 265: It is the successor to H.264 and it is referred to as High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC). This codec allows you to record 20 – 40% more video than H.264.

H.265 delivers almost double of the video compression of H.264 at same level of video quality. H.265 is the requirement for high resolution security cameras such as 2k and 4k.

– 265+: A newly improved video compression technology and a major breakthrough in CCTV industry. This codec is more efficient than H.265. The codec uses decreased bitrate and reduces the amount of bandwidth. 265+ saves 80% bitrate and bandwidth on 264 and 30% on 265.

H.265+ delivers better performance on high resolution CCTV cameras like 2k and 4k.

  • Video quality: You need to select your desirable video quality between low, medium, and high. Choosing high quality will increase the amount of bandwidth that will be used. We advise you select medium profile.

 

  • Hours of motion: In locations where there are no much traffic, you should consider enabling motion detection to save your hard drive space, instead of recording long hours of blank video footage.

When using online video storage calculator, you should calculate CCTV cameras with motion or scene activity separately.

 

  • Hours per day: It is important to specify the number of hours you need to record per day, as you may not want to record when you are at home.

With the above information on bandwidth and storage consumption, you can easily calculate the hard-drive size required by your security recorder without complication.

However, you can use an online video storage calculator to determine the accurate storage size needed.

Mounting Bracket

Mounting bracket is very essential to an outdoor camera. Sometimes, many outdoor cameras with short mounting bracket makes adjustment of the camera arduous.

There are instances where users reported they had to install the outdoor cameras upside down, to get their preferred field of view. They subsequently invert the image in the camera setup.

Try to avoid an outdoor camera with shorter mounting bracket, adjusting the camera may seem impossible.

Wide Dynamic Range (WDR)

At some point, a security camera may be affected by strong background lighting. As a result of this, the image will wash out because there is a challenging lighting.

WDR simply helps the camera to balance the backlight that could affect the image.

If you have a challenging lighting situation, you can easily turn on the WDR feature in your camera setup.

WDR can be found under the technical specification.

Passive Infrared (PIR)

PIR works by detecting infrared radiation emitted from objects such as humans or other warm-blooded animals.

PIR helps in reducing false alarm which would normally occur as a result of falling leaves, moving plants caused by wind, or any other irrelevant moving objects.

Security cameras optimized with PIR will only notify you when objects of interest move in the field of view, unlike the traditional motion detection which triggers every time.

ONVIF Compatibility

ONVIF is an acronym of Open Network Video Interface Forum. Its mission is to make IP-based physical security products interoperable.

There is a mystery to ONVIF interpretation that needs to be explained.

When it comes to selecting IP cameras based on ONVIF compatibility, you also need to check the profile type.

It is certain that all ONVIF compliant security cameras support Profile S which is ability to stream video, but other features may not work.

If you have an IP camera lying probably in the corner of your garage, and you are thinking of adding it to your new camera system, you might need to ask the new provider if your old camera is supported.

Type of ONVIF Profiles:

ONVIF Profiles Details
Profile S

Basic Video Streaming

  • Video Streaming
  • Audio Streaming
  • PTZ Controls
  • Relay Activation
Profile C

Access Control System

  • Site Information and Configuration
  • Event and Alarm management
  • Door Access Control
Profile G

Video Storage and Retriever

  • Video Storage
  • Audio Storage
  • Configure, Request and Control Recording
  • Receive Audio and Metadata Stream
Profile Q

Quick Discovery and Installation

  • Easy setup
  • Discovery, Configuration
  • Control of Conformant Devices
Profile A

Physical Access Control Configuration

  • Granting or Revoking Credentials
  • Creating Schedules
  • Assigning Access Rules
Profile T

Advanced Video Streaming

  • 264 / H.265 Video Encoding Formats
  • Imaging Settings
  • Motion Alarm and Tampering Detection
  • Metadata Streaming
  • Bi-directional Audio

Audio Compatibility

If your requirement involves recording audio, you need to ensure your security camera supports audio. The camera may not have a built-in audio microphone, but it needs to have an audio in-line port to connect external audio pickup device.

Note: You must follow all the necessary laws against recording of audio in your state.

Remote Access

Remote access is a good feature that should be readily available on every video surveillance products. This feature allows you to have a remote access to your cameras as if you are physically present.

If your security camera system does not have this feature, it is simply not worth the buy.

However, surveillance devices connected to the internet through P2P application are not 100% secured. Secure your camera system with a strong password combination, and a VPN service connected to your home router if possible.

Similarly, if you plan to use the cloud service, ensure you create strong password combination for your account.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

FTP allows you to safely backup your video files to your preferred 3rd party video storage server, thereby giving you an option to wave the big cost of cloud storage from your vendor.

IP camera, DVR or NVR can be setup to upload video files to an external storage such as Network Attached Storage (NAS), or FTP servers like Google Drive, and Dropbox.

Ask your vendor if FTP is supported on your security camera system, otherwise you won’t be able to get it to work.

Bonus: Video Analytic

This is an intelligent feature built to enhance the video surveillance systems. It is a piece of software that is used to check the behavior of the objects in the video frames and provides customized information to users. It is mostly used for intrusion and forensic analyses.

Video analytic monitors specific behaviors based on the environment being monitored. For instance, video analytic can be used for license plate recognition for traffic offenders, urban surveillance, facial recognition, facility, finance, manufacturing, healthcare, and more.

Final Advice

As far as we are concerned at SCR, best CCTV camera system is not attributed to only popular brands on the market, what matters is finding the system that works best for your application. A new entrant brand may be suitable for your project if it has all the features you need.