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Selecting the right camera

Posted by LiveHouse Automation on

So much choice!

I know the feeling. You're looking at the menu and it's a four page double sided list of how many ways you can cook a shrimp! You're hungry, you just want your shrimp. But don't rush into it. Your hasty decision here will likely lead to food envy when your mate orders a better dish because he did his research earlier on Yelp that week.

The same applies for selecting your cameras. You want to come to the table (ok, i'll get off the eating analogy!) well informed so you can find the best camera to suit your needs. This little article will attempt to give you a run down on camera features and why those three letter acronyms such as PoE and PTZ are crucial to choosing the right camera.

Inside or Outside

This is the easy part. Will the camera be exposed to the elements? If so, then you will need an outdoor rated camera with an IP (Ingress Protection) of 66 or higher. IP66 is considered dust tight and protected against heavy seas or powerful jets of water. IP67 is all of the above and protected against total immersion in water. However, we don't recommend you use our cameras for recording of underwater footage. Go get a gopro for that!

All our outdoor cameras are rated at IP66 or above.

Dome or Bullet?

Most cameras come in two form factors. The bullet camera as the name suggest looks like a barrel and protrudes from where it's mounted. The dome cameras are the rounded "dome" types you are probably most familiar with. In general, the dome is installed on the ceiling and the bullet is installed on the wall. 

However, there's a few other differences to keep in mind. Dome cameras are generally smaller so have less space to fit stuff in. This equates to smaller lenses and less infrared LEDs squeezed in. This can potentially mean shorter viewing range and lower light performance compared to their larger bullet brother. Although due to their smaller size dome cameras are more inconspicuous and more difficult for intruders to know where the camera is pointing. 

Dome cameras also come in "vandal proof" options so they are more durable and able to withstand knocks from rocks or sticks. A bullet camera can easily be knocked or moved to no longer monitor the area you intend by an intruder. 

Wired or wireless

A camera needs two things to work. Power and a way for sending the image it captures (data).

Data can be sent wirelessly over your WiFi network for cameras that are WiFi capable. Please note that not all cameras have wireless capability. Data can also be sent over the wire using a blue cable that's connected to your network. We always recommend cameras to be connected via cable as its more secure and also more reliable. 

In terms of powering your cameras. All cameras can be powered by plugging their power supply into a 240 volt plug. This is great if there's an existing power point near the location of the camera. If there isn't a power point close by then there are a few options. 

The first option is to get an electrician to install a power point near the camera. This is costly and depending on how difficult it is to get the power point to the location it can cost more than your camera!

The other option is to get a PoE (Power over Ethernet) capable camera. PoE allows the camera to be powered via the standard blue network cable when connected to a PoE switch. A licensed cabling contractor is still required to run the cabling. However, there are a few advantages with this option.

Firstly, the blue cable can transmit power and data on the same bit of cable avoiding the need to run a separate data cable or connect the camera over wireless. Secondly, physical cabling is always a more reliable form of transmitting data than over your wireless network. 

1 Megapixel? 720p? High Definition

All this guff is about the video resolution of the camera. Below is a table showing a list of common resolutions for IP CCTV cameras. 

NAME  HORIZONTAL PIXELS VERTICAL PIXELS MEGAPIXEL
720P 1280 720 0.9
SXGA 1280 1024 1.3
UXGA 1600 1200 1.9
1080P 1920 1080 2
QXGA 2048 1536 3.1
QSXGA 2560 2048 5.2

 

In general, the higher the resolution the clearer the image. A clearer image will allow you to recognise number plates on cars from distances and also assist with recognising faces. 

Nightvision

Will the camera need to perform in low light conditions or do you expect to be able to have clear night vision? Most of our cameras have IR (Infrared) LEDs (Light emitting Diodes) that light up the scene with infrared light and the camera is able to view the scene in black and white. The more LEDs usually the better the low light capability of the camera. If you're after one of the best night time viewing in the industry check out the Hikvision Darkfighter. This thing must have eaten a lot of carrots when growing up!

Check out its low light performance here.

PTZ

Pan, Tilt or Zoom. Not surprisingly this feature allows you to pan the camera left or right. Tilt the camera up or down or zoom in and out. Cameras with PTZ will let you remote into the camera from your smartphone or web browser and have a "look around" with the camera. Handy if your PTZ enabled camera is monitoring your pet budgies and while your at work you can search around and see them. You can also set predefined locations so the camera will move to specific areas at a click of a button. Cool huh!?

Lens Options

The lens (or focal length) of the camera determines how much picture you can squeeze into the frame. All FOSCAM cameras have a fixed focal length however, some of our Hikvision products allow you to select a lens option. These options usually are 2.8mm, 4mm, 6mm and 12mm and it determines the field of view of the camera. The lower the focal length (lens) the wider the field of view. 

Depending on the what you want to monitor will dictate which focal length will suit your needs.

Some cameras have a variable focal length which allow manual adjustment of the focal length to suit the scene. Naturally these cameras are more expensive but give your greater flexibility.

NVR

It's all well and good having cameras to monitor your home but unless you're a security guard sitting in front of the screens you will want to record onto something for viewing later. That's when you will need an NVR.

A Network Video Recorder (NVR) allow the camera feeds to be recorded onto a hard drive. All of our NVR's allow motion detection recording so it will only record when something is actually happening saving your disk space and you trawling through hours of video footage where nothing of significance occurs. The motion detection sensitivity can also be adjusted so an ant crossing your driveway doesn't trigger the NVR to record. 

FOSCAM vs HIKvision

We get lots of inquiries on what's the difference between the two brands and our response is along the lines of the Toyota vs BMW analogy. The FOSCAM range are the best bang for buck cameras on the market today. They are reliable and have great after sales support with smart phone applications for both Apple and Android devices. However, they only go up to 2MP in resolution so if you're after higher clarity then the HIKvision range of cameras will fill that gap. The HIKvision offerings are targeted towards the prosumer audience with higher mega pixels and also some very low light models. 

 

See our follow up Blog where we assist the police using IP Camera recordings


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