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Security Camera System: What Features To Look For

One of the biggest benefits of installing a security camera system is that it gives your family peace of mind. It creates an immediate visual deterrent against potential break-ins since camera footage can be very useful in criminal investigation and it also gives us the ability to monitor our properties in real time on our smartphones from anywhere around the world with an Internet connection without committing to a third-party monitoring service. Moreover, the security camera presents more than just a worthwhile investment in protecting your business, place of work and personal property. It provides round-the-clock surveillance for strategic areas, offers hard evidence for business disputes, and boosts employee productivity.

Video surveillance is ultra important to protect your properties and deter potential hazards. But choosing the right security cameras and equipment for video surveillance is a difficult decision faced by every household and business in all industries. With the advancement of technology, different types of cameras are developed. But as so many features and options pop up in the market, it also complicates the purchasing decision a little bit. Whether you’re looking to upgrade your business with a modern surveillance system or designing a security camera system for new construction, knowing what features to look for can save a lot of time when you are faced with a bewildering variety of options. Here, we’ve created a buying guide to help you choose the right security system for your home or business.

What Do You Need to Set Up a Security Camera System?

The key components of a security camera system are basically the security cameras and the video recorder. Security cameras are beneficial when monitoring your home or business premises remotely. It is a cost-effective way to prevent vandalism and create a safer living environment. On the other hand, the video recorder is an excellent tool to support real-time monitoring from a centralized point and manage multiple video streams. So in this article, we’ll focus on how to choose the right security cameras and video recorder for your system.

Security Cameras

Security cameras are beneficial when monitoring your home or business premises remotely. In general, security cameras can be roughly divided into three categories according to their shapes, i.e. bullet cameras, dome cameras and Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) cameras.

Bullet Camera

Long and cylindrical, the bullet camera is probably the most traditional monitoring device used in the surveillance system. It has a fixed or variable focal lens that is designed to target one specific location with a substantial viewing angle. Compared with other cameras, it has a larger lens, which makes it ideal for surveillance in large areas, i.e. parking lots, and airports, to provide higher levels of details. Additionally, its distinguishable appearance also serves as an effective visual deterrent to burglars and thieves. With a mounting bracket attached to the camera body, the bullet camera is easier to set up and repositioned.

Recommended Product: H.265 5MP PoE Bullet IR IP Camera with Vari-focal Lens

This bullet camera is equipped with a varifocal lens (4x Optical Zoom, 2.8~12mm) to deliver high-quality images at 5MP, 25 fps. It is compliant with the latest video compression standard H.265, which significantly reduces bandwidth and storage requirements and makes high-resolution video surveillance more affordable. When recording H.265 on the NVR, smaller files will be generated since no decoding is necessary until playback is required. Moreover, the long-range infrared night vision (30 meters) provides you with superior surveillance at any time of day or night. The infrared LEDs will automatically switch on to generate crisp black and white images as the night falls.

Dome Camera

The dome-shaped camera is very low-profile and encapsulated in an inverted dome casing. Due to its simple design, It can be attached to the ceiling or wall to offer a more discreet way of surveillance. Some dome cameras, albeit stationary, have a tinted encasing to prevent the intruders from knowing in which direction the cameras are pointing. Its construction allows for the camera to work even in low-light settings thanks to the built-in infrared LEDs.

Recommended Product: 5MP IR IP Camera with Remote Focus and Zoom

This dome-shaped IP camera carries a 2.8-12mm remote focus lens to generate 5MP video streams at 25 frames per second, giving your home 24/7 protection. It is equipped with invisible IR illuminators to deliver unparalleled performance (exceptional B&W images, 2592*1944 pixels@20fps) in low-light conditions at a range of 20 meters. It is encapsulated in an acrylic housing that is greatly improved with an anti-reflective/anti-scratch coating to reduce IR reflection to a great extent. It’s also equipped with advanced human detection technology to reduce false alarms raised by the moving shadows.

PTZ Camera

The PTZ camera is built with mechanical parts that allow it to pan left and right, tilt up and down and zoom in and out of a scene. Panning means the horizontal movement of the camera lens while tilting describes the vertical movement. Zooming is referred to the adjustment of the focal length of the lens to bring the subject close-up to the monitor. The PTZ camera is typically used to provide surveillance for wider areas that require a 180°-360° view and 24/7 continuous monitoring. Compared with the traditional IP cameras that have a stationary lens, the PTZ camera has a highly movable lens and can capture footage at multiple angles.

PTZ cameras are commonly used in:

• Commercial settings like grocery stores, pharmacies, markets, etc. to deter shoplifting

• Public areas such as schools, hospitals, local parks and parking lots

• Conferences, concerts, etc. to record a presentation and provide complete event coverage

• Business-related settings like offices, factories and labs to boost morale

• Intelligent transportation systems (ITS), railway stations and intersection traffic monitoring

Recommended Product: 5MP IR PoE+ Speed Dome IP Camera

For high-performance and high-density video surveillance systems, you will need a security camera that supports a higher resolution. This PTZ camera features 5MP UHD at 25fps and 20x optical zooming to verify detected security events. The camera can move between pre-set positions and zoom in automatically in response to detected events. If any suspicious events arise, the security guard can also manually zoom in on a certain spot via the software to get a closer look. The 5MP IR PoE+ speed dome IP camera is equipped with two sets of adaptive illuminators as well as a removable IR cut filter to adjust the lighting day and night. In the nighttime mode, the infrared illuminators will automatically switch on, light up the monitored area to 300 meters away, and generate B&W images at 2592*1944 pixels.

Which is Better: Wired or Wireless Cameras?

The wired security camera normally transfers the video footage through wired connections to the recording devices. The most obvious advantage of a wired security camera system mainly lies in its reliability and stability, for it’s nearly impervious to signal degradation, bandwidth fluctuation or any type of interference except the direct damages to the cables or cameras. It has steady power and Internet connections to deliver higher-quality videos. And considering that the wired camera doesn’t rely on any over-the-air connections like WiFi, it has fewer issues like signal drops or other recording issues caused by an unsteady Internet connection. The downside to the wired security camera is all about the cables. You don’t necessarily hire a professional for the installation but threading the cord all the way through the camera to the NVR can be not only labor-intensive but also time-consuming. And the placement of the camera is highly restricted since all the units are physically connected.

The wireless security camera is a versatile but high-maintenance device that connects to the Internet via WiFi. It collects and streams the data over the wireless network and stores the footage on a Cloud server (Cloud storage usually requires a monthly fee) or PC software to allow its users to watch live or recorded videos on their smartphones or tablets. The wireless security camera tends to be more user-friendly and can be controlled and configured via the mobile app. But even with a wireless system, your camera still needs to be plugged into a power source. It’s less invasive to your home (fewer cables are involved), and the installation will be faster and easier. But since the wireless camera depends entirely on networks for data transmission, it’s more susceptible to signal degradation and other network-related problems. As the wireless signal can be easily impeded by physical obstructions like walls and doors, if your signal goes down, the image quality/resolution will also be compromised. Moreover, having your footage uploaded to the Internet also makes you more subject to hacking.

What Features to Look For When Buying a Security Camera?

1. High Resolution and Wide Viewing Angle

A robust, high-quality camera is required for proper video surveillance. High-resolution cameras are highly recommended when covering larger areas with great levels of detail. In most cases, a resolution of 1280×720 pixels is sufficient, but a video resolution of 1080p or higher will provide enough detail with only a minimal increase in the price tag. The average viewing angle of most stationary cameras ranges from 45° to 115°, but a field of view around 130° allows the camera to see a larger area while keeping the subjects stay within the frame. Fewer cameras need to be installed to provide complete coverage for your property.

2. Motion Detection

Most security cameras are programmed to automatically activate once the motion sensor is triggered. Motion-activated cameras are suitable for continuous monitoring in low-traffic areas. The primary advantage of motion detection is that it cuts down the amount of wasted footage and only relevant contents will be recorded and archived. Instant notifications will be sent to the users to help them take precautionary actions when suspicious activity is detected.

3. Night Vision

Night vision is one of the most demanding features of a video surveillance system to provide a substantially clear image in conditions of near-darkness or in low-light environments. Most night-vision cameras are equipped with built-in infrared LEDs, which are imperceptible to naked eyes, to keep the premises under discreet surveillance and discourage any malicious attempts. But when choosing a night-vision camera, try to avoid dome-shaped cameras with a highly reflective protective casing (glass), for they are more susceptible to IR reflection, in which the light is bounced back to the lens causing blurry or foggy images.

4. Remote Control

A higher percentage of burglaries and break-ins take place when you’re away from home, so it is not possible to overstate the importance of remote access in the security system. Most surveillance cameras can be operated through mobile applications, web browsers and PC software, giving you varying degrees of remote control. As such, you’ll have access to remote monitoring directly on your phones and customize the system by parameter settings. In some cameras, you can also control the cameras to pan, tilt, and zoom after a simple configuration.

5. Weatherproof and Vandal-proof

Considering most security cameras are installed outdoors, you should choose a camera that can withstand severe weather conditions with a longer lifespan. The cameras should be able to operate over a wider temperature range (-35°C to 55°C) with a strong resistance to water, dust or other corrosive elements in the ambient atmosphere (a weatherproof rating of at least IP66). Necessary precautions should be taken to prevent vandalism when physical access to the cameras is possible. The cameras should have a vandal-proof casing that is unable to open with regular tools and they should be made from materials highly resistant to impact, covered with a thick protective layer in a dome shape.

6. Audio Recording

Integrating audio recording into the camera is an important action to upgrade the whole video surveillance system, but most cameras don’t support audio because of the regulations around audio surveillance. It’s legally documented that two and all-party consent is needed before recording a private conversation. Although there are restrictions around audio recording, it is totally legal where there is a consensus or in public areas with warning signs. The adoption of audio surveillance not only indicates a more comprehensive security system but also means an increased responsibility to carry out audio surveillance while not violating others’ privacy.

Video Recorder

The video recorder is a device where the footage is stored. There are basically two types of video recorder: digital video recorder (DVR) and network video recorder (NVR). The DVR is normally used in the wired security camera system (analog cameras in particular), while the NVR is applicable to both wired and wireless systems.

Which to Choose: DVR or NVR?

The DVR system processes the data at the recorder by converting the analog signals to digital signals. The cameras used in the DVR system must be analog cameras, and every camera should be connected directly to the recorder via a coaxial cable. Given that the coaxial cables are only designed to carry data, additional wiring is required for power supplies. As such, you’ll have to install the recorder near a power outlet. Since coaxial cables do not support audio so an extra RCA connection is needed for audio recording. Furthermore, the image quality will start to deteriorate after 90m/300ft, which highly limits its application in long-range deployments. But the DVR system is easier to set up than its counterpart, and it shows high interoperability when mixing different-branded cameras.

In the NVR system, the footage is processed at the camera where there is a built-in chipset to deal with the processing and transmits that stream to the recorder, while the recorder is only used for later viewing, so it will only suffer less signal distortion and image degradation during data transmission. The NVR features high-resolution image quality with improved functionalities like remote control and dual-monitor display (HDMI & VGA). Compared with its counterpart, the NVR only works with digital signals, so it can only work with IP cameras. Moreover, the NVR provides lots of flexibility and mobility in the installation because the cameras don’t necessarily have to be connected to the recorder. Instead, they only need to work on the same network. However, it’s relatively more expensive than the DVR system.

What Features to Look For When Buying an NVR?

Since most cameras today are network-capable, the NVR is obviously the better choice if you want to upgrade your legacy security camera system.

1. Channels and Resolution

Similar to a digital video recorder (DVR), NVR can be classified by the number of channels (16/32/64) it supports. You’ll have to determine how many IP devices you plan to install and make sure the NVR has more than the required number of channels. For example, if you plan to connect 4 IP cameras to the recording device, it’s suggested to choose an 8-channel NVR for future expansion. Moreover, recording resolution is an important factor. Higher resolution means greater amounts of detail to be expressed in the image, but normally larger file sizes will be generated to take up more storage space.

2. Interoperability

Unlike the DVR system which boasts of high interoperability when it comes to mixing and matching cameras from different manufacturers, some NVRs only supports IP cameras from the same brand. So it is essential that the NVR is onvif-compliant or supports PSIA protocol, another standard universally adopted by IP surveillance products to allow the NVR to work with different-branded cameras. Most IP cameras are now onvif-compatible, but if you want to keep using your existing cameras, choose an NVR with high interoperability to reduce network incompatibility to the minimum.

3. Storage Capacity and Video Compression

Since IP cameras often generate larger files to produce higher-quality images, the recorder must have a large capacity. Apart from local storage with built-in HDDs, the NVR should support cloud storage for video archiving and other external storage options (USB/eSATA interfaces). To attain high-quality compressed files, you should choose an NVR that supports the latest video compression standard of H.265 (HEVC) to deliver the highest-quality images at lower bit rates (50% reduced).

4. Other Advanced Functions

Apart from the basic storage and playback functions, the NVR should have audio and alarm interfaces to help you incorporate the video surveillance system with other security devices like detection sensors or security alarms. Some recorders are greatly improved with multiple smart features like remote control, real-time message alerts and dual-monitor display (HDMI & VGA). Furthermore, 64-Ch Network Video Recorder from Fastcabling also supports local management with extra USB interfaces to operate with a USB mouse and keyboard.

Ready-to-Go Kit or Single Product?

Many companies have launched a ready-to-to kit that includes nearly everything you need (4-8 security cameras, a video recorder and cables) to set up the security camera system, which is extremely convenient for customers so that they can only make one stop. Additionally, the total price is lower when the products are sold in bundles. Since the security cameras and the video recorder are made by the same manufacturer, no compatibility issues will occur. And the seller can also give you the best possible product support and after-service. But normally, there’ll only be one type of camera in the camera kit, and they typically don’t pair with third-party cameras. If you purchase the products separately, the price will definitely go up, but you can customize your security camera system according to your specific needs, which allows for more flexibility and versatility in deployment. You can mix different types of cameras together on the same network by using a PoE switch. Moreover, it’ll be easier for network expansion and upgrade as you only need to replace the unit that needs to be upgraded.

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