There are literally thousands of camera models from hundreds of approved manufacturers available in the market, and this makes the selection of the most appropriate CCTV camera to use a very confusing issue.
In this article, I will try to explain very simply the different parameters you need to look into when selecting a CCTV camera for your project, as well as the required knowledge to determine if what you are being offered really matches what you expect or not.
Please note that I will be discussing IP Cameras here and not analog. As explained in my previous article “Analog CCTV vs IP Cameras – What’s the Correct Choice?” – analog CCTV is not recommended anymore.
Key parameters for selecting the proper type of CCTV camera:
1) Outdoor/Indoor: One of the parameters that can be easily filtered by available choices is whether the camera is for indoor or outdoor use. While it is essential to use an “outdoor” type camera for outdoor installations to provide IP65/IP66 weather protection, “indoor” cameras are less bulky and more cost effective for indoor installations.
2) Coverage Area / Target Distance: The second most important parameter in selecting the correct type of camera is to determine the coverage area and target distance for each camera in your system. Below are some of the key camera parameters that will be determined based on the coverage area / target distance:
- Fixed vs PTZ: PTZ (Pan-Tilt-Zoom) cameras as the name suggests give the possibility to user to turn the camera view to any needed direction and to zoom on specific areas. They can be also pre-programmed to automatically scan specific routes. On the other hand, fixed cameras provide constant uninterrupted monitoring of a specific, fixed area like entrances and exits or perimeters.
Type of Lens: the type of lens determines the angle width and the distance that each camera can cover. As a rule of thumb, the wider the coverage angle is, the less distance is covered by the camera. Using a vari-focal lens enables you to adjust these two parameters of the camera in practice. There are also 180 degrees or 360 degrees fisheye cameras that are used indoors for providing a wider coverage.
180 Panoramic View
360 Fisheye View
3) Image Resolution: in IP cameras, this is determined by number of pixels (color dots) that each camera image consists of. The higher the image resolution, the more image details is captured and provided by the camera. At the same time, more storage capacity would be required for recording. The current common resolutions these days start from 720p HD (1280 x 720 pixels) and go up to 5MP (5 Megapixel or 2592 x 1944 pixels).
Camera Resolution Chart
Advantage of IP Cameras
4) Night Vision / IR: If you require capturing video in darkness, then you should look for cameras with day/night and IR (infrared) lighting configurations. IR cameras use infrared LEDs that are lit automatically when dark and enable the camera to capture black & white video in complete darkness. The coverage of cameras in the darkness is determined by the power of their IR light which is a parameter you should look into when selecting such cameras.
Security Cameras with Nightvision
5) Camera Housing: camera housing is also an important factor to consider when selecting your camera. Below are the main types:
- Dome Cameras: Dome cameras are used both for indoors and outdoors for both fixed and PTZ cameras. They have a nice look and it is also hard to determine which direction the camera is pointing at.
- Box Cameras: These cameras are also used both indoors and outdoors and are the standard type of security cameras we all have an image of in mind. The lens and direction of the cameras are clearly visible and clearly show everyone that the location is under CCTV surveillance.
- Bullet Cameras: These are small, cylindrical type, waterproof housings that are usually used for outdoor cameras especially when you don’t want the cameras to capture much attention.
6) Vulnerability: Apart from indoor/outdoor type of cameras, you might also want to select “vandal-resistant” cameras that come with very-hard-to-break glass covers to protect the camera against vandalism. There are also Explosion-proof cameras that are extremely expensive and protect the camera against explosions.
7) Other features: In addition to above main parameters, new IP cameras also 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. So these are also the parameters you might want to check into.
Please note while I’ve tried to focus only on the key factors, it is also important to emphasize that designing a professional CCTV solution still requires a high level of expertise and experience and it is always worth it to have a professional company involved in designing the proper CCTV solution tailored for your needs.