What type of CCTV Camera should I buy?

There are a lot of technical specifications to consider before buying a Surveillance camera or most commonly known as CCTV camera. It should be able to support your needs with regards to distance, coverage angle, mounting options, type of area and other special factors. When you browse the internet and search for CCTV cameras, you might want to understand the technical specifications so you would know if that type of CCTV camera is what you really need. In this article, I would like to discuss the basic technical specifications that you usually consider in choosing the right camera for your application.

Mounting – There are 2 types of basic CCTV camera that you need to consider. A dome type CCTV camera is designed to be mounted in ceilings. Dome CCTV camera is designed as it is for aesthetic purposes and should have a minimum impact visually on your interior design. The compact design also prevents people from vandalizing the equipment by forcing it to face the other way. On the other hand, a bullet type CCTV camera or also known as barrel camera in some CCTV brands is usually mounted in walls. Bullet CCTV camera is designed to stand out so it will be visible enough to intimidate thefts and vandals. However, you can also use Bullet CCTV camera in ceiling type installation if you care less about aesthetic and you need it to stand out but you have to be aware that basic Bullet CCTV camera is not vandal proof.

Indoor / Outdoor – CCTV cameras uses International Protection or Ingress Protection (IP) rating code to determine the level of weather proof protection. You can usually see the code IP65, IP66 or IP67 in an outdoor type equipment but what does it mean? The list is as follows:

  • IP60 – Total dust protection, No protection against liquids.
  • IP61 – Total dust protection, Protection against condensation.
  • IP62 – Total dust protection, Protection against water spray < 15 degrees from vertical.
  • IP63 – Total dust protection, Protection against water spray < 60 degrees from vertical.
  • IP64 – Total dust protection, Protection against water spray from any direction.
  • IP65 – Total dust protection, Protection against low pressure water jets from any direction.
  • IP66 – Total dust protection, Protection against high pressure water jets from any direction.
  • IP67 – Total dust protection, Protection against water immersion between 15cm and 1m depth.
  • IP68 – Total dust protection, Protection against long term immersion to a specified pressure.

It is safe to say that other CCTV cameras with no IP rating code is clearly for indoor type setup. But you will need to consider at least getting an IP60 rating CCTV camera if the area is prone to dust.

Type of Lense – CCTV camera lens specification usually measures the lense type in millimeters (mm). The lower the number in millimeter means wider angle coverage and lower distance coverage. The higher the millimeter gets, the angle coverage becomes less but the distance coverage increase. Below are the common CCTV camera lenses and it’s specifications:

  • 2.8 mm – 90 Degrees coverage at 5 meters optimal view range.
  • 3.6 mm – 69 Degrees coverage at 8 meters optimal view range.
  • 6 mm – 50 Degrees coverage at 15 meters optimal view range.
  • 8 mm – 33 Degrees coverage at 20 – 30 meters optimal view range.

A sample application or area that needs a wide view angle such as 2.8 mm lense is an intersection of a hallway; the CCTV camera is installed in the corner of the intersection so you can view both sides of the hallway. On the other hand, focused view angle such as 6 mm lense can be installed somewhere that is 15 meters away from your entrance gate so that you can still monitor the gate entrance without actually putting a camera near the gate area.

Infrared Almost every CCTV camera have night vision which enables you to see even in the dark. You also have to make sure that the distance of the infrared is inline with the distance of your optimal view. It will be useless during night time for a 6mm lense CCTV camera if the infrared range is only up to 10 meters when the area you need to monitor is 15 meters away. You have to make sure that you choose the correct night vision specification to avoid issues like this. 

Resolution – CCTV cameras uses resolution to measure the degree of detail visible in a screenshot photo or video  with the use of monitor screens. The type of monitor screen that you use for viewing is critical when deciding what type of CCTV camera resolution you should buy. Here is the list of High Definition standards that is relative to the CCTV camera’s resolution:

  • 720P resolution is also known as Standard High Definition (HD) and the minimum HD resolution that is usually good for viewing in Standard HD TV Screens, Laptops, Tablets and Smartphones.
  • 1080P resolution is also known as Full High Definition (HD) that is usually design for medium size screen television, monitors and smart TV’s. 
  • 2k resolution is also known as Quad High Definition (QHD) that is usually design for large screen television, monitors and smart TV’s.
  • 4k resolution is also known as Ultra High Definition (UHD) that is usually design for larger screen television, monitors and smart TV’s. 

Resolution wise, it is not advisable to view a lower resolution camera into a 4k resolution TV monitor because the video image will be pixelated and it means that the enlargement of the video image have reached the point at which no further detail can be resolved. On the other hand, it is not cost effective to purchase a 4k resolution CCTV camera if you only use a Full HD TV screen. You should also consider that higher resolution will take up a lot of storage space in your CCTV Hard Drive. But if you are willing to pay for the cost, that would not be an issue.

Wide Dynamic Range – Against the light image has been a problem for CCTV camera for a long time. On a basic setup, it is not advisable to install the camera that would be facing a light source for you will be only seeing silhouette images. But if you feel that it is necessary to install a camera in that kind of area, you will need to consider Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) to resolve the backlight issue.

Pan-Tilt-Zoom – A lot of our clients are asking if it is necessary to use a Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) CCTV camera so they can manually adjust from time to time the focus of your camera. First of all, PTZ Cameras are usually used by companies who have security personnel that constantly monitors the camera in a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week shift. So if you are not running a business with large operations such as manufacturing plant, casino, supermarkets or airport, it will not be cost-effective to buy a PTZ Camera.

About the author

Alfie D. is a technology solutions consultant for Netmax Solutions with over 10 years of experience working in Telecommunications Industry. He is a passionate learner who likes to discuss technology ideas with friends. He is also a front end web developer, system integrator, network administrator and likes to play the guitar.

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