If you search on the internet, you can find many disputes about Analog CCTV vs Digital IP Cameras. The main question is this: Are IP Cameras the sole players in the future of CCTV, or are there still some good reasons for implementing analog cameras?
Today, I see many CCTV designs proposed for buildings that are based on analog CCTV solutions. Unlike some designers who still propose analog cameras, I can undoubtedly confirm that the future of CCTV surveillance solutions is with IP-based systems. Nevertheless there are still rare cases where one might decide to propose an analog camera – I’ll give a hint on those as well at the end of this article.
In this article, I want to quickly go over this topic and provide an easy-to-understand explanation.
The key difference between analog CCTV and IP Cameras
Without going into too much of technical explanations, the two systems can be quickly defined as below:
- Analog cameras transfer the video signals in analog form (electrical signals), usually use coaxial cables for the cabling, and have the videos recorded by a DVR (Digital Video Recorder), where each single camera is directly connected to the DVR.
- IP cameras encode the video signal into IP packets, use the data network (LAN) for the cabling, and have the videos recorded by an NVR (Network Video Recorder) that can be connected anywhere on the network.
Both type of cameras use the same mechanism for capturing the video by their CCD sensor, and the main difference is the method by which the video signal is transmitted.
Benefits of IP Cameras over Analog CCTV
- Higher image quality: Unlike a few years ago, where cameras have poor video resolution, now we have mega-pixel IP cameras that totally outmatch any analog camera solution. The higher pixel resolution of the IP cameras means you can zoom into much more details of a scene even after it is recorded, without losing clarity.
- Unified cabling infrastructure: by utilizing the same LAN network infrastructure, IP cameras can be deployed usually with no need for major re-cabling. It also enables utilizing different network mediums such as wireless and fiber links seamlessly.
- No major interference / distortion hassle: in analog systems, especially when the cameras are over a few hundred meters/feet away from the DVR, interference and distortion due to electrical noises, poor quality connections, and ground loop effects can cause tricky situations requiring extensive effort to overcome. With IP cameras, one won’t need to bother about interferences / image quality issues.
- Power arrangements: IP cameras can be mostly powered over the same network cable through POE (Power Over Ethernet) by simply connecting them to a POE-capable network switch, eliminating the need for separate source of power. This is not the case in analog cameras, where each camera would need separate power source.
- Easy management: IP cameras can be easily managed and controlled remotely. This considerably simplifies and speeds up troubleshooting of the system. One can easily check the connectivity of each individual camera over the network using a laptop with proper authentication, while in analog cameras physical attendance to each camera and using of separate monitoring tools is a must.
- Lots of extra features: New IP cameras come with a constantly-expanding list of new features and enhancements – these include video analytic and enhancement features, web interface for direct view and remote monitoring and control, automatic alert notifications via email and SMS and even internal NVR for recording of videos.
When can I still consider Analog Cameras?
With all technology enhancements, many of the arguments justifying analog cameras are not valid anymore and belong to the past. Arguments such as analog cameras have better image quality or costs less were valid a couple of years ago, but not anymore.
But there are two design conditions when one might still justify an analog camera solution:
- Very small systems for small shops: If you want a very simple and cost effective setup to include up to 4 cameras connected with a very short cables to a DVR to setup a basic surveillance for a small shop, analog cameras are probably still considerable for 1-2 more years.
- Distributed, distant cameras with no existing network infrastructure: There might be some rare cases where a simple surveillance solution is needed where there are a few cameras distributed in different directions and with several hundred meters/feet distance from the control room. In such cases, if there is no network infrastructure available, one might still consider an analog camera solution for the sake of lower costs of implementation.
Conclusion: After reading this article, if you see a designer proposing you a camera system based on “coaxial cables” – you can confidently conclude that you are in wrong hands!