Even if the application of CCTV security measures have not changed very much over the past years, the equipment and tools related to it have changed significantly. The cameras available right now have become smaller and cheaper but performs much better. The most notable breakthrough in the world of CCTV security happened in recording equipment.
Thus, numerous customers who shop for a complete set of CCTV monitoring and recording systems are normally confused by such a variety of products available in the market today. That is why having a basic buyer’s guide to security camera systems is crucial when trying to purchase your very own security camera system, especially if it is your first time.
How to Select the Right Cameras
By using CMOS or CCD (charge couple device) chips, CCTV security cameras are able to produce images.
Small and very cheap CCTV cameras usually use CMOS technology, and so they only produce poor-quality images and have very poor light sensitivity.
On the other hand, average quality CCTV cameras use CCD technology. Normally, the size of a CCD chip is 1/4", 1/3" or 1/2". The larger the size, the higher the quality of the image produced as well as the higher its price. Nowadays, however, higher-density 1/4" and 1/3" CCD chips are able to produce images that are as good as the 1/3" or 1/2" ones.
The number of TV lines in a security camera image is a measurement of the picture resolution or sharpness. The larger the number of TV lines, then the better its resolution and overall picture quality. Standard resolution cameras may have 350-380 lines. More than 400 TV lines is usually considered to be of good resolution, whereas more than 500 TV lines is considered to be of high resolution. Black-and-white chip cameras create greater resolution and have better light sensitivity, so they are very suitable to use in dark areas where light conditions are typically poor most of the time. On the other hand, color cameras provide more natural and realistic pictures.
CCTV cameras are generally divided into different types based on the body of the camera used:
Bullet cameras, as the name implies, are security cameras that are contained inside a bullet-shaped housing. Lots of bullet cameras are guaranteed to be weatherproof and are sealed without any option to utilize different lenses. One of the most prominent benefits of having a bullet camera is its small size and integrated design. There are even some bullet cameras that possess an infrared LED feature built in it. Infrared technology, in simple terms, is LED light in infrared spectrum, which is invisible to the naked eye. This type of light has the power to illuminate any viewing area, even in complete darkness. Very easy to install and are aesthetically pleasing to the eye, bullet cameras are a great choice for both residential and do-it-yourself installations, where monitoring circumstances and objects are just within 25 feet from the location of the camera (with a standard 3.6mm lens) itself.
Professional-grade cameras typically have a box-type body with the ability to utilize different sizes and types of lenses. Exchangeable lenses help this type of camera to monitor objects from virtually any distance. Although generally meant for indoor usage, these can also be used outdoors when installed with a weatherproof housing. Professional-grade cameras are known to be the most flexible and widely used type by professionals for commercial installations.
Board cameras are typically cameras that have a fixed lens and mounted on a circuit board. They can be packaged in a tiny case (mini cameras) or dome (mini dome) or are just simply sold unpackaged, for mounting by the user. Lenses in these board cameras are either of a normal industry aperture or a “pinhole” type of lens with a very small aperture. Pinhole lens cameras are oftentimes known as “spy” cameras and they can be mounted in a hidden manner for the purpose of covert surveillance. The most popular types of covert board cameras are the motion detector cameras and the smoke detector cameras.
Even if there are still some people who use CCTV time-lapse VCR recorders, it is actually worth it to invest some extra money to buy a good-quality digital video recorder or DVR. A DVR transfers analog camera video feed into digital format and then stores it on the hard drive.
At present, there are two major kinds of DVRs available in the market:
PC-based systems are made of a special board and software installed on the computer that will allow camera inputs and store video footages on the hard drive. There are lots of individuals who are under the misconception that personal computers with additional hardware installed will be able to carry out the job perfectly. In reality, the main problem with this type of CCTV recorders lies in its main component. It is a computer designed to perform unlimited tasks, but not well enough. The truth is, any computer-based digital video recorder will always be susceptible to software crashes, system instability, hang-ups, virus-related issues, and many more.
Stand-alone systems are very much similar in appearance and control functions to standard VCR recorders. Almost all the video processing is carried out by the hardware, thus eliminating the occurrence of system crashes, and the video is also stored on the hard drive in digital format. Its basic operating system, typically Linux, is permanently stored on a special processor which is impossible to corrupt or overwrite. Manufactured and designed with only a single application in mind, stand-alone systems are by far much better in performance and reliability as compared to its PC-based rival.
There are some DVR systems that will actually even have remote monitoring capabilities which is very useful when monitoring is needed in lots of different locations through the network or Internet. The top most important features to look for when choosing for the right DVR recorder are frame speed and motion detection. The higher the frame speed, the more fluent is the video recording. As for motion detection, the recording video will activate from each camera only when there is motion detected, which is very much clever and convenient for the purpose of extending video recording time.
Video footage taken from a security recorder can be displayed on a regular TV monitor. It is actually just fine to do it this way, for the purpose of baby monitoring or home monitoring, when the quality of the pictures taken is not that important. However, for professional installation, security monitors are very much as important as the cameras. They offer extended life of the picture tube (which is necessary with any static picture that can cause picture burnout) and produce a much greater resolution.
Wiring and Cables
As with any other electronic equipment, security camera installation will require proper wiring. Good-quality cables will help prevent video degradation over long-distance runs. It is highly advised to utilize RG6 or RG59 coaxial cables because it is entirely shielded and will prevent video loss of up to 400 feet. Coaxial cables will typically require BNC connectors and the proper installation is possibly carried out by an experienced technician. When it comes to short runs, the plug-and-play non-coaxial cables with factory installed BNC connectors may be used, which is up to 150 feet in length. The plug-and-play cables are very easy enough to be installed by novice users. The cables for CCTV cameras normally comprise of two cables which are bundled into one jacket – one cable for video and another one for power delivery.
Each and every CCTV system is as reliable and good as its weakest component. Keeping this in mind, it does not really make sense at all, from economical and practical standpoint, if you invest on the highest quality and performance cameras, and then purchase a low-performance recorder.
For instance, why do you opt to use CCTV cameras with 500 TV lines of resolution with a monitor that offers only 380 or less? All the benefits of a high-resolution camera can offer is actually affectively sacrificed by the limited capability of the monitor you have. Therefore, it is very crucial to ask questions prior to purchasing a video security system, and your dealer or vendor will most probably be able to give you more details and recommend equipment that would be able to meet your specific requirements and needs.