In the past, an IP Security Camera System has represented a serious investment. The sheer amount of equipment and manpower that was required to operate a security camera system of just a decade or two ago proved to be price exclusive for many business owners. As such they were often used solely by those with either a desperate need for them, or with the spare finances to afford them.
But, like so many things in life, the digital age has changed all of that. Gone is the reliance on bulky analogue equipment, like recorders and tapes. These days a quality IP Security Camera System is more affordable than ever; well within the grasp of anyone who is looking to protect their property, regardless of financial situation.
So what do those who are looking to invest in a IP Security Camera System need to know? As a relatively unique and standalone technology, the process of shopping for a IP Security Camera System can generate far more questions than it does answers.
So, for those who are looking to enter the world of security camera systems with some knowledge under their belts, here’s all that you need to know about the world of CCTV.
Capturing a usable image is the modus operandi of any good CCTV system. As such, image quality should be one of your prime concerns.
We’ve all seen a TV crime drama where an investigator is reviewing CCTV camera footage, finds the perpetrator, zooms in on their face and magically ‘enhances’ the image. Like the show itself, this technology is total fiction, particularly when it comes to analogue cameras.
The best analogue surveillance cameras cannot compete with even the worst digital surveillance cameras when it comes to image quality. Unfortunately the grainy, blurry, and often colourless footage doesn’t make for terrific evidence when attempting to prosecute someone for a crime that occurred on your property.
So digital is better for image quality, but how much better? There are two ways to measure CCTV picture quality – resolution (the amount of pixels that make up the image – used for digital) and TVL (TV lines of resolution – used for analogue). A standard digital camera will be between 1.3MP and 2MP. A standard analogue camera will sit at around 400TVL, which is equivalent to less than half a megapixel. In fact, one 2MP digital camera can cover the area of 6 analogue cameras, which makes for stunning savings.
What’s more, there’s no real upper end to digital quality. There are some digital surveillance cameras on the market that reach as high as 30MP – image quality that a professional photographer’s DSLR camera would struggle to compete with.
Understandably, colour cameras are the preferred option for most security systems. But somewhat surprisingly black and white cameras still have their uses. On top of being slightly cheaper, they actually produce a sharper image in low-light conditions. Infrared (IR) cameras are a popular choice, as they automatically switch to black and white mode when light falls to a certain level.
A camera’s sensitivity to light is an incredibly important aspect of its performance. Brightness is measured in ‘Lux’. 0 Lux is total darkness, whereas direct sunlight can be 100,000+ Lux. Ensuring that your camera will be able to handle the light conditions that it will be exposed to is vital. To aid in understanding the concept, here are some Lux measurements for different conditions:
Many CCTV cameras will have a Lux range in which they operate at their peak. The ideal camera will change if you’re looking to cover an indoor office, a cellar, or a carpark.
Just as a professional photographer will consider their lenses as an entirely separate piece of equipment to their camera, so too do your CCTV lens options represent an important, and often separate, decision.
A lens’s physical size is inversely proportional to its field of view. The larger the lens, the narrower the viewing angle (and the more zoomed in that view will be).
Lens sizes range from 2.8mm (which offers a wide, if less detailed, 94⁰ viewing angle) right up to 50mm (which heavily zooms in on an area, forming a narrow 5.3⁰ of vision). The most common lens sizes are 3.6mm (70⁰ viewing angle) and 6mm (45⁰ viewing angle). In the case of a 6mm lens, if the camera is sitting 3m away from its target area, this will equate to a 1.8m x 2.4m area covered by the image.
By knowing the distance from the camera to its target area, you’ll soon be able to figure out exactly which lens will suit best.
The lens sizes above are all based on ‘fixed’ lenses – those that are set in a position, and remain unchanged. But for those that are looking to cover a variable area, particularly in the case of a camera that can pan and tilt, it may be worth looking at varifocal lenses. These lenses allow the operator to zoom in on points of interest, and offer far greater control.
Just like your own eye, your camera lens has an iris – an aperture that lets the light in. A basic lens will come with a fixed iris, perfect for areas with consistent light, such as in offices and malls. But for anywhere with inconsistent light (e.g. outdoors) an auto iris lens is recommended. This will ensure that the image isn’t blacked or whited out when light conditions change.
The sheer variety of surveillance cameras available in this day and age is mind-boggling, and would be impossible to cover entirely here. But below are some of the more common variations, and what they can offer your business.
Security cameras come encased in a variety of bodies, each suited to a specific purpose. The most common include:
PTZ stands for Pan/Tilt/Zoom. These cameras combine physical movement with the ability to zoom in on an area, enabling one PTZ camera to cover an incredible amount of space. These cameras can either be controlled by an operator, be set to an automatic panning pattern, or even auto track any perceived movement.
While wireless IP Security Camera System technology is getting better, it still lacks the reliability of a wired system. While it may be the only option in certain situations, signal disruption can put your system at risk of error. It’s also important to remember that each camera will still require its own power supply in order to operate.
Many CCTV camera designs are weatherproof. These housings are usually sealed by the manufacturer, so the lens and other parts are unable to be customised. But if your camera is outside, even if it’s undercover, it’s wise to invest in a weatherproof unit.
Standard optical surveillance cameras may struggle in certain situations. If your property is prone to low light, fog, mists or smoke, an infrared or thermal camera may be able to help.
Infrared cameras emit light that isn’t visible to the human eye – but that can be picked up by the camera – to illuminate an area. These serve as an excellent option for particularly dark spaces, and are far more subtle and effective than automatic floodlights.
Thermal imaging surveillance cameras form images out of heat signatures. This allows them to cut through darkness, fog, smoke, dust and haze, clearly identifying anything hotter than the surrounding environment. Thermal imaging cameras are ideal for factories that may be generating sight-impeding emissions.
Capturing the image is one thing, ensuring that it is properly recorded and stored is entirely another. The cameras are worthless if the evidence isn’t recoverable. But just as important as simply having a recording device is choosing the right one for your situation.
You’ve got two main options when it comes to your recording device; a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) or a Network Video Recorder (NVR). Both systems convert the images from your security cameras into digital data that is recorded on a hard drive.
DVRs come as either a piece of software for a computer, or as a standalone electronic device. They take the video feeds from your CCTV cameras, whether they be analogue or digital, and convert the video into data which they store on a hard drive.
NVRs work slightly differently, in that they work in conjunction with IP-based cameras. These cameras process and encode their own video, then send that data to the NVR, which stores it. NVRs have the ability to work remotely from the cameras, as they don’t need to be directly connected to them.
Any good DVR and NVR system will come with handy functionality, allowing users to quickly search archived footage, alter the frame rate of the cameras, and set up automatic functions for certain times of the day and week. But on top of the basics, there are a few cutting-edge analytic features that may be well worth investing in.
Many IP Security Camera Systems now have full smartphone integration, allowing you to monitor your premises from wherever you may be. More advanced options will even allow you to control cameras and bring up archived footage. With their unbeatable accessibility, smartphone systems offer business owners the ultimate peace of mind.
Installing a IP Security Camera System is one of the best possible ways to protect your business. It not only serves as a documenter of evidence, it can also be an effective preventative against intruders. There are a range of options to suit any budget, and with the technology becoming ever-more affordable, there’s no reason not to invest in a system.
While a IP Security Camera System is by no means a total solution, and should be supplemented with other security measures such as locks and alarms, it is undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to protect the business that you’ve worked so hard to build.