A home security camera is considered by many consumers to be a critical component of their home protection plan. In much the same way, business owners are beginning to see around the clock surveillance systems as an essential investment in their company. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that your loved ones, property and business are being monitored all day, everyday, is priceless.
Security cameras for home and businesses however, do come with a price tag! Understanding how these cameras operate, and the various options that are available to you, is essential in buying the appropriate security cameras. Will you be using it for a home, office or a warehouse space? How large is the space that you feel needs monitoring?
These are just a few questions that you will need to ask yourself before you decide to purchase a home or business surveillance system. The Security Cameras Guide team has put together an overview of some of what we think you need to know when choosing the security camera package that is right for you. Let’s start at the beginning…
Getting into the Guts of Security Cameras. The Basic Components.
Security camera systems, whether designed for home or business, all have several basic components in common. But there are variations in terms of how sophisticated each package is, depending on what it was designed to do. There are black and white security cameras, but full color, high resolution cameras are increasingly popular.
Different cameras have different formats as well. A unit’s format refers to how large the image processor inside the camera is. Security cameras with larger formats perform somewhat better under some specific conditions. The most popular formats nowadays are 1/4” and 1/3”.
Here are a few of the key hardware components that make up a surveillance camera, and what you should know about how they operate.
Security camera lenses may be sold already fixed to the camera, or they may be sold separately. Different lenses determine how much light comes into the camera, and are important in determining the angle width and how much space can be seen by each device. There are basically three kinds of lenses commonly available on the market today.
A fixed focal length lens is the most affordable type, but you are limited to only one set field of view. It is necessary to change the lens if you want to change what you are able to see with your security cameras.
Another popular option is purchasing cameras equipped with a variable focus length lenses. They cost a bit more than a fixed focal lens, but allow the user to adjust your camera’s field of view when you install the surveillance system. Swann security cameras often have cameras with a variable focus length lens in many of the mid-range home surveillance packages that they sell.
Security cameras that have been fitted with motorized zoom lenses are usually part of a high-end security camera system. They give you far greater control over what you can see, and in how much detail. Because these lenses can be operated remotely, you are able to zoom in on one specific area of view if you see some suspicious activity, from the safety of your own home, car, or office.
The Camera Housing
The housing is what keeps all the inside parts of the camera protected from damage. Perhaps the most important distinction here is whether the housings are designed for indoor or outdoor use. Naturally, outdoor security cameras will need a housing that is weatherproof, and sturdier than a camera you plan to mount in the interior of a property.
Also carefully consider where an outdoor surveillance camera will be mounted. If it is high up or kept well out of sight, it is unlikely to be the target of vandalism. A camera that is above a store entrance or driveway gate should have a tamper-resistant, rugged housing. Cameras that are in plain view and obviously watching a strategically important part of a property will be the ones that thieves and other criminals will want to take out first.
Security cameras for use in an indoor environment will often have a plastic housing. Outdoor cameras will usually come with a metal housing that has been weatherproofed. Camera housings usually are available in black or white. When you order your system, be sure and check that you will be getting the color that you want.
Security cameras that are used in military operations or for monitoring of defense installations and politically sensitive sites will often have extraordinarily strong housings. These specially designed casings have been designed and built to withstand bomb blasts and rifle fire.
Besides the camera itself, there are several other supporting bits and pieces that you will need to have at least a basic understanding of. Most security camera systems are extremely user-friendly, and easy to operate once you have got them up and running. Companies that manufacture home and business surveillance systems understand the importance of providing troubleshooting assistance. Should a customer have issues with one of their security cameras, help lines and 24 hour online support is almost always available.
The companies that produce surveillance cameras often sell them as part of a package that includes a monitor and all the other necessary required hardware and software. Some people opt to have a professional install their system, especially if it is for a larger property or business. There are a wide range of monitors offered by camera companies. The majority are intended to stay put once they have been set in place. However it is possible to purchase portable monitors that can be used with in-car surveillance systems and in other specialized applications.
Color LCD monitors are perhaps the most popular these days, and are available in many different dimensions. Security and surveillance professionals recommend that you invest in a monitor that is at least as high a quality as the security cameras that will be hooked up to it. As with many other parts in a video surveillance system, it is usually possible to upgrade to more powerful devices in the future if need be.
Additional cameras can almost always be added to an existing system with slight modifications. Try to purchase the exact same security cameras. If that is not possible, check with the manufacturer to be certain that the additional cameras are compatible with the surveillance system you have in place.
A wireless security camera system sounds entirely free-standing, but the name is slightly misleading. There are often still power cables and adapters to deal with, although some battery powered units are 100% wireless. “Wireless” usually means that there are no video cables that need to be run from the cameras to the main monitors.
Wireless systems are often referred to as “plug and play” packages. Installation is very simple as there are no cables to run through your home or business. Simply power up the transmitting device, position the cameras and you are good to go! You may pay a premium when you purchase a wireless package.
The cables that you will need to use with a system that connects the video cameras to the DVR monitoring system will differ depending on whether the system is digital or analog. You will also need to consider how long the video cables will need to be to properly connect the security cameras with the central monitor. Most surveillance camera system packages include everything you will need. If you require extension cables, you can purchase them from the manufacturer.
The Camera Mounting System
There are several kinds of mounting brackets available to keep your cameras in place. Some mounts are designed to keep several cameras in place, while many others only accommodate a single device. Like surveillance camera housings, mounting brackets can be constructed for indoor or outdoor use. Brackets that will be installed where they will be exposed to the elements will usually be made of metal and weatherproof. Indoor mounting systems will be light weight, and usually manufactured from plastic.
Knowing Which System is Right For You
There are an astounding number of home and business surveillance systems on the market. The Security Cameras Guide is here to help you figure out the parcel that perfectly fits your monitoring and video surveillance needs. Some of the most important factors that you will need to consider include:
Is the Security System for a Home or Business?
Protecting your loved ones, and the home you have worked so hard to build, is an important investment that most people make. A home security surveillance package is a great way to go. Provided you understand the requirements that your particular property has, you will have no trouble finding a system that goes about meeting them. An apartment will require a smaller system than a house. A house with a garage, shed and other outbuildings will require several outdoor cameras to provide total protection.
Homeowners will need to decide if they want all access routes to the house covered. In some cases setting your security cameras to motion detection only can save time and money. In other situations, you may want 24-hour recording capability. Some families with newborn babies want their system set up so someone can be watching over the newest addition to the family all day, every day.
Is your company in an office building, or in a warehouse or business park? You may need outdoor and indoor monitoring. In some cases, if your firm is located in a modern tower building, you may be able to get away with an interior surveillance system. This will save you cash as outdoor security cameras need to be more ruggedly built to avoid damage from vandals and the elements. Thus, they are more expensive.
How Large an Area Needs to be Monitored?
Are you monitoring the interior and exterior of a property? Once you have decided the square footage that will be involved, you can figure out how many cameras you will need to provide adequate video coverage. Take into consideration how wide an image each camera is capable of capturing. Also some areas may just need to be set for motion detection and not video monitoring and recording. Putting in a few hours of research is certain to save you some cash on your security camera system. Do your homework to avoid future hassle!
Do You Need Indoor and Outdoor Security Cameras?
There are video surveillance set-ups that provide all indoor, all outdoor, or a mix of both kinds of cameras. Outdoor cameras are generally more expensive, but also more durable than units designed for use indoors. Most people feel more secure knowing they have electronic eyes watching outside as well as inside the building. It is a good idea to have security cameras set up to watch the driveway, doorway, and any backyard entrances that allow access to your property.
How Do You Plan on Monitoring Your System?
You will need to decide how you plan on keeping track of the surveillance video being captured, and from where you will do the monitoring. Some businesses opt to hire someone to keep track of what is going on. This task often fall to security guards in larger buildings, especially in the evening hours. Professional home monitoring are available, but can be quite costly.
Remote monitoring is a sensible option for those who want to be able to view live video from a remote device. IP security camera systems allow users to keep track of what is going on from virtually anywhere that has internet access. Some premium security cameras have functions which will let you zoom in and out, pan, or tilt to get a better view if something doesn’t look quite right. Many devices can be set to detect motion in a specific zone or area, and alert you by smartphone or some other remote device.
For some families, a security system monitored from inside the house works just fine. Especially if one parent stays or works at home during the day, remote viewing options may be unnecessary. If this is the case, you may be able to find a very affordable package to provide you with round the clock protection.
Who Will Take Care of the Installation?
Many security cameras are relatively easy to install. Wireless systems may be the simplest of all as there are no video cables to run between the DVR/monitor and the cameras themselves. Simply plug them in and they are ready to play. If you have many indoor and outdoor units to set up, you may want to enlist the help of a friend or handyman. There may be some drilling involved to get the cables where they need to go.
The Way of the Future?
CCTV security cameras can be found in most major western cities on street corners, transportation hubs and on our highways. There is still some controversy and concern as to whether government surveillance is encroaching on the privacy rights of citizens. Nevertheless, increasingly sophisticated cameras are helping in the fight against violent and property crime. Some of the most advanced devices are capable of facial recognition and can even be used to determine the mood or state of mind of a suspect captured on video.