There are many different types of security cameras. Some are used for very specific purposes, like license-plate-recognition cameras, while others are used for more general applications, such as standard dome cameras. What we are here to look at today are the different types and when you might need which.
We will review several different primary attributes, most of which can be mixed and matched to identify the best camera for your application.
Today, IP (network) based CCTV cameras are becoming more common because prices are coming down and the quality and connectivity is so much better than analog technology. If you want high resolution video (we carry several cameras with 5 megapixel resolution), easier storage options, and advanced control via mobile devices, etc, IP is the way to go. However, be aware that the cost will still be higher than a traditional “high-end” analog system.
That being said, analog security cameras and systems still have their place. As IP solutions get cheaper, so do analog options, and they still represent great value when you don’t need high resolution, already have some old analog equipment and are adding to a current system, or simply don’t want to spend the money on IP.
Hybrid analog and IP video recorders are also available, which accept analog and IP cameras. These systems allow you to upgrade some cameras to IP while still keeping older analog cameras in use.
Surveillance cameras come in all shapes and sizes. Lets take a look at them and what each brings to the table.
Perhaps the most popular form factor you will see, dome cameras are used a lot, specifically in commercial security implementations, because they are mounted from the base and you can point the camera in any direction. They often have blacked out casings so that it is hard to see where the lens is actually pointing.
Dome cameras can be either analog or IP, use infrared or not (though infrared dome cameras usually don’t have blacked out domes), be vandal resistant and outdoor rated, and/or be motorized (pan-tilt-zoom), which we’ll talk about later.
Use the dome form factor if you want to be a little stealthy about where you are pointing the camera and don’t want it to take up much room.
Bullet cameras are mounted from a mounting base and point in a specific direction, so anyone can tell which way they are pointing. Typically, this type of camera will be a better night-vision camera than an IR dome camera because the manufacturer can put more, higher powered infrared LEDs in the camera housing. They tend to take up more room than a dome or fisheye camera because they stick out from the wall/ceiling more.
Bullet cams come in outdoor versions, IP or analog, and infrared or not, just like domes.
These are your traditional security cameras that (usually) have detachable lenses and (usually) don’t have infrared capabilities built in. They are often mounted inside of tamper-resistant housings, especially when used outdoors.
The great thing with box cameras is that you can buy whatever quality camera you want, then choose the lens that perfectly suits your application. You’ll typically have to buy a mount or enclosure, depending on where you want to put it, though.
Though most box cameras do not have infrared LEDs built in for night vision, most do operate well in very low light situations. You can also buy external infrared illuminators that can provide very good night time IR illumination.
Box cameras come in both analog and IP.
These thin but high-coverage cameras are becoming more popular since the IP revolution has brought much higher resolution and capability. They provide 360º coverage of an area, mount to the ceiling or wall from the base, and the software used to control them can drastically reduce the fisheye effect and get you a huge coverage area from a single camera.
As hinted above, you may want to stay away from analog fisheye cameras because it can be hard to accept the quality of lower resolution video with a fisheye effect. That being said, the IP versions can replace multiple old analog cameras nicely and provide you a great view of an entire office, sales floor, etc.
Pan-tilt-zoom surveillance cameras typically come in dome form and allow you to use software and servo motors to pan, tilt, and zoom the lens, focusing in on a target anywhere within the camera’s line of sight.
The idea is that one PTZ camera can be used to cover a larger area by automatically scanning left to right or up to down, rather than just being stationary. Security staff can also use the PTZ functionality to scrutinize an area in real-time. Furthermore, some software solutions allow for tracking, where the camera will home in on a target and follow it until it goes out of the line of site.
PTZ security cameras are very cool, but they can be quite costly, so consider their features and application carefully before committing to purchasing them for your system.
If you need to record video at night, you need an infrared camera, plain and simple. If you simply need to record in low light conditions, you might consider a WDR (wide-dynamic-range) or extremely low light (low LUX) capable camera, though.
One thing to be careful of here is that quality does count. If you buy the cheapest infrared camera, expect to get what you pay for as far as video quality and visibility distance at night. Take the camera’s infrared illumination range with a grain of salt and consider buying one tier higher in the quality/price range to get the results you are actually looking for.
These two types of cameras aren’t always the same, but for the most part if you have a vandal resistant camera it is outdoor rated. It is probably going to be a dome camera, although there are plenty of vandal resistant outdoor bullet cameras on the market as well.
If you are placing a camera on the outside of your business or home, or in a high-traffic, potentially dangerous indoor setting, you always want it to be vandal resistant and outdoor rated so it can stand up to abuses that come with weather and potential vandalism.
They make IP and analog vandal resistant outdoor cameras, and many models are infrared, too. If you need seriously robust cameras, there are even high-end “explosion proof” PTZ cameras that are primarily used by the government.
The majority of surveillance systems are, and will remain, wired because of reliability and quality. Wireless is becoming more cost effective and reliable, but high quality, large wireless security systems require much more engineering, coupled with higher equipment costs, to be successful.
That being said, smaller, in-home wireless systems are becoming popular because the the signals don’t have to travel very far or deal with a lot of interference, so it can save a lot of installation time. The cameras each still require power, though.
LPR cameras stand alone primarily because the quality and software required for them to operate is on a higher level when compared to most cameras. Your typical LPR camera is box-type, vandal resistant, has a high quality lens, and must be coupled with license-plate-recognition software that is configured to perform the desired activities.
Typical LPR use includes license plate recognition, archiving, and searching capabilities. More complex solutions might involve opening gates if the plate is recognized, or performing some other action when a match is not found. LPR cameras are most likely to be seen in industrial surveillance systems and are increasingly being used in vehicle repossession.
Have a security camera system project in the works? What are your requirements? We can help you determine what types and models of cameras will be the best fit. Let us know!