How to buy your first security camera system
Updated: Jul 5
Before any purchase, you need to get familiar with the product. Things like the product variants, previous customers’ experiences with each variant, and so on.
Before talking about anything, it’s worth mentioning that we only have two types of security systems on the market - analog cameras with DVR recorders and IP cameras with NVR recorders.
Before we go in-depth with the differences, similarities, benefits, and drawbacks of the two systems, here’s what we’re going to discuss in this article:
The main difference between them
What features are they packed with
Where to place them; where not to place them; what to consider for the placement
After reading this article, you should be able to go out there and confidently make a purchase decision.
What is the difference between Network and analog security camera systems?
As a simple home or business owner, you don’t need to know about the security cameras' technical parts. A basic understanding of how they work is enough for you to make a purchase decision. This section of the article focuses first on the misconceptions about the two types of camera systems, IP and analog CCTV, the similarities, and what makes each one unique.
The misconceptions about analog and IP camera system
One of the main reasons people buy cameras is remote viewing via phone or computer a good image quality (one has better quality than the other). Suppose all you care about is to be able to check what’s happening around your place. In that case, you can’t go wrong by choosing either because you can live stream from both of them with high-resolution image quality.
Bandwidth usage: The amount of data a network can transmit in a second.
It’s commonly believed that IP cameras’ footage takes up a massive amount of bandwidth when transmitted for a live view or storage because of the size of their footage. But, with recent technologies like H.265 codec, large-size videos can compress up to 50% of their original size without sacrificing quality. With such technology, the footage's size is no longer a weakness.
IP cameras can produce higher-resolution footage than analog cameras. But analog cameras can also record up to 8MP (4K) video. In most cases, 4k resolution is more than what you need in CCTV.
With all the misconceptions out of the way, let’s have a good overview of the two systems.
IP CCTV systems specifications:
Internet Protocol cameras receive and transmit digital footage by network protocol and don’t require to be wired to NVRs locally. They can use Wi-Fi to transfer data to cloud-based storage or your phone for a live stream session. Users who want to store data locally on Network Video Recorders (NVRs) can use ethernet cables for data transmission.
Most people purchase IP cameras because they are more intelligent than the traditional CCTV system. They process all the footage at the camera level and store it on an SD card or hard drive or use an NVR to store their footage.
Analog CCTV system specifications:
In an analog CCTV system, the camera acts like an eye that simply captures footage and sends it to the DVR via a coaxial cable (RG59). It doesn’t have the ability to do anything except record the scene. Each camera is connected to a port on the DVR, meaning the number of ports on a DVR equals the number of cameras it can handle. All the footage from the cameras is processed in the DVR, as it acts like the system's brain. That ability makes it an essential component of the analog CCTV system. You need to have it locally because the cameras can transmit data through wire only - they have no wireless capability.
IP and analog CCTV cameras features
HD Video Capture
Blurry videos are over now, thanks to technology enhancements. It is only fair to wish the video you receive from the camera were clear, had a high resolution, and allow you to see every detail in your place. Well, low-resolution videos are now a thing of the past. IP and analog CCTVs both let you record 4k. IP cameras can push up to 30MP of video resolution. You can’t go wrong with an IP camera if you need a very high-resolution video.
Watch the video below to see what a 4K video from a CCTV looks like.
This video is a fair resolution. Not the best video quality, but also not bad at all. If the quality looks good to you and among all the features, that’s all you care about; you can pick an analog camera. But it’s better to check the rest of the features before making a purchase decision since they all work tight together. On the other hand, If you need a high resolution than this video, you need to go with the IP cameras.
Two-way audio is functionality that lets you record and output audio. You’ve seen homeowners giving instructions to delivery guys using a mobile device. Two-way audio lets you communicate with the person on the other end. But this feature is supported on IP cameras only. The choice is evident here. IP cameras are what you need if two-way audio is a necessity.
Night Vision and Low-light Recording
This feature is the ability of the camera to produce good image quality at night in an environment with low light. A modern security camera system needs to adjust the light for when the sun is the brightest and also manage to collect colorful details to produce high-quality images at night in a low-light environment. Fortunately, IP and Analog can both record great videos under low light.
You have two choices here - local storage or cloud-based storage. DVRs and NVRs can both be used to store, respectively, analog and IP camera footage locally. And that’s it for an analog CCTV system. When it comes to storing your data on a cloud-based infrastructure, analog systems are left out; you have to go with IP cameras.
Modern cameras can detect motion and accomplish a task based on it. We’ll talk about recording motion detection later in the article. For now, we’ll just emphasize that they both support motion detection. You can decide to record 24/7 and store all the data. Or only store data when they detect motion or some specific objects (license plate, for example).
Wide Dynamic Range and Night Vision
The camera's dynamic range refers to its ability to record quality images in low light conditions and when the light is the brightest. In comparison, night vision is its ability to record in complete darkness.
WDR technology uses two processors. A light image processor and an image processor capture dark areas, and combining the two produces a high-quality and clear image.
These functions an important when purchasing a camera for your family or workers’ safety and monitoring.
The good news about dynamic range and night vision is that it comes with both systems.
Security cameras have more features than what we mentioned. We focused on the essential feature and the ones you absolutely need to know. You can now confidently buy a security camera with the information you just learned.
Now that features are out of the task list; let’s see where you should and shouldn’t place them.
Placement of the security cameras
Now that you know what to look for in a camera, you need to identify where they will be mounted and if they should or should not be there. Not only will that help you know how many to buy, but it will also prevent violating people’s privacy.
Secure all points of entry: It’s important to put cameras on any place that burglars could access your house, which typically translates to all of the doors and windows on the ground level of your home. Yes, even the ones on the side of your house behind the bush!
Monitor the inside and outside: Some people get so wrapped up in putting indoor cameras around their home that they completely forget to monitor the outside as well. But outdoor cameras are essential in preventing crime before it happens; think of them as the defensive players on a soccer team. You know what they say: the best offense is a good defense!
Place cameras high: It’s important to place cameras eight to 10 feet off the ground for a couple of reasons. One, this will give you the most visibility for your entire room, and two, placing cameras high up makes them harder to steal. Especially if your camera has local storage only, make sure to put your cameras high enough so that they’re out of reach for most burglars.
Use outdoor lighting: Although infrared cameras can provide great nighttime coverage, you can add visibility by utilizing outdoor lighting; this will be even more helpful if you have a camera with a spotlight, as the night vision will be in color. For some affordable outdoor lighting, check out the options from Ring, available on Amazon and their website.
Utilize corners indoors: Corners are another easy way to maximize your camera’s field of view. Putting cameras high up and in the corner is the double whammy you need to get the most out of your camera.
Look for indirect sunlight: Avoid pointing cameras towards the sun; rather, capture the indirect light that won’t cause glare.
Test cameras before mounting: We’ve made this mistake before. Before you mount your camera, test it out to make sure it’s connecting properly with your mobile application. We recommend doing a few motion tests to see that it’s working well with little to no lag.
Avoid blind spots: Just as you have blind spots when you’re driving, many homes have blind spots that may be a bit harder to capture on camera. So don’t discount that weirdly shaped nook in your living room!
Clean outdoor cameras: From dirt to pollen, there’s a lot that can get on an outdoor camera’s lens and make it difficult to see. Clean it periodically with a disinfectant wipe or spray so your footage can remain as crystal clear as its video resolution.