Security Camera Types Explained: How Do I Choose Security Camera? Complete Guide For All

A typical question we are being asked in the Pipl Systems Store is “What Type Of Security Camera Do I Choose?”

Which is quite a common one, standing on the same line with: How do I select the right camera, considering that the market offers so many options now, and what do those characteristics mean? Wired or wireless, outdoor and indoor differences? We can just describe it as a heap of questionsm you don’t know answers to yet. That’s why the goal of this material is to try to answer those questions in the full value, yet most compact way possible. My name’s Daniel, Pipl Systems Store.

The best way I see how to work this out is to ask yourself a set of questions, because this is what happens when our salesman receives a call – he asks these questions to offer a person what he actually needs. The set of questions as follows:

  • Type of Data Transmission: Analog or Network-based?
  • The install location:

    • Camera body type;
    • Weather conditions;
    • Use scenarios;
  • Features / Additional features / Smart functions:

    • Passive IR Sensor or Software-level Motion Detection;
    • Wi-fi data transmission type in compare;
    • Battery-powered;
    • IR night vision;
    • Pan-tilt-zoom and pan-tilt cameras;
    • Abnormal sound detection;
    • Line crossing and region protection;
    • Face detection and face recognition;

Do you need those?

1. Analog or Network-based?

We’ll start from basics – Analog camera OR IP internet protocol network camera. Generally, it’s about how data transmission process is happening: for Analog-type – camera is only a video capture device, from which data is transmitted over coaxial cable straight to DVR, short of Digital Video Recorder, that processes that data and makes you able to watch it in live mode from DVR and to forward the video over network to any other network device, like a PC, phone and etc. Now for the Network-type – the camera is both a video capture device and a processor that decodes captured footage into a Digital video file, and also network camera is a separate network device with its own address, which in sum makes network camera a standalone device, able to record video, process it inside of itself, transmit it to other network devices, and even save that processed videos onto a MicroSD card if it has the port for it and you plugged one in. Also note that normally analog cameras are way cheaper than network ones.

  • Analog Camera System:

    • Way Cheaper than IP-cams (maybe you just don’t need all those functions in IP system?)
    • No delay
    • No image interferences
    • Need to get DVR
    • Poor smart functionality
    • Bigger transmission range over cable: 500-800 m.
    • Inability to “modernize”
    • Lower Resolution available / worse picture (partially)
    • Old But Gold
  • Network
    • More expensive (around 1.5x and higher)
    • No need for Video Recorder
    • Direct video transfer to network devices: phones, PC’s
    • Ability to record straight to camera’s microSD
    • Video interferences due to network issues
    • Great possibilities for system upgrade
    • Higher resolution available / better picture quality
    • Wide range of smart functionality: Face / Zones / Advanced Motion / etc.
    • Small transmission range over cable: up to 100 m. (upgradeable through extenders)
    • More options: Battery / Wi-fi / Wired / PTZ / Fisheye etc.
    • Big network load and high internet traffic consumption
    • Super Ultra Modern

Summing up – with analog camera it is mandatory to have a DVR in pair with it. With network-type you need the camera only. Also, the advantage of analog – if you will be viewing the video straight on a DVR, there will be no Delay at all, which is so habitual for network cameras as it takes time to process and decode captured video into a digital file inside of camera and then send it to you over network. That is why network cameras are more expensive than analog ones – they are smarter. Also, a coaxial cable length for analog can reach up to 500 or 800 m. without any losses, while standard twisted pair cable used in IP-systems reaches up to 100m. only. Although you can use some extenders, but initially these are the numbers. Huge advantage of network-type though is a lot wider range of smart functionality. Consequently, you can make something really smart only with network system, the same regarding system size – large modern video surveillance system can be made with network-type only due to limitations of analog. Also, the higher resolution analog cameras you get – the lower is frames per second recording parameter. Plus, IP-cameras range can offer a lot higher resolution and a better image on output.

2. The Install Location – Body Type / Weather Condition / Use Scenarios

After you decided is it an analog or network type for you, next question to ask yourself is the install location, that influences xamera body type and use scenarios. Installation spot, and for the most part – this is what defines your camera body type. This is where all the confusion happens. Outdoor, Indoor, bullet-type body, dome-type, Pan-tilt-zoom or a variety of forms and range of features offered on market – cube body, round, floodlight camera, battery-powered, home wi-fi ones. And also characteristics – what do they all mean? Frankly speaking, only a few basic characteristics matter at this point. All video surveillance cameras are divided into outdoor and indoor, all other features are optional. Earlier it was a clear body type division – bullet camera for outdoors, dome camera mostly for indoors, though that’s a misconception. Dome cameras can be outdoor too, but doesn’t matter. The point is – the variety of forms offered is huge, but what really distinct indoor camera from outdoor is – a body protection, all other features like Wi-fi, Battery, Floodlight, Pan-tilt or Pan-tilt-zoom features are optional and depend only on your wishes and preferences.

You have definitely heard of IP ingress protection ratings. Your phone probably has a common for modern smartphones IP67 or IP68 body protection level, and this parameter varies from IP 00 to IP69, where 1st digit stands for intrusion or dust tightness, and 2nd digit is responsible for water, rains, snow and pressure resistance. And I would say that outdoor type starts at IP65-66 rating. That’s the first parameter to look onto if you’re considering to get an outdoor camera. Now the 2nd is a bit controversial. That is IK code or a vandal resistance rating. This defines a power of an impact applied to camera, the higher the number is – the bigger impact power your camera can stand. On one hand, this is optional many modern Wi-fi outdoor cameras don’t have this feature, and that’s okay as far as your camera is installed high enough so that person with a bat could not reach it, but on the other hand Sometimes it is indispensable. Essspecially in public places like subway, stores and etc. Also, there is a question about plastic or metal body to choose? Because the plastic ones are often cheaper. The same here – plastic body camera can be indoor and outdoor, but it definitely won’t stand a hit or a rock thrown to it. But generally – it’s OK to have plastic camera installed outdoors, but make sure it is high enough and with body protection rate higher than IP65.

3. Features / Additional features / Smart functions>

A little word about features, smart functions and optional features. Wi-fi only camera for outdoor and indoor is OK option, but as mentioned earlier – during atypical weather conditions like rain, snow, strong wind and etc, on Wi-fi type data transmission – be aware of possible connection losses, interferences on video, connection with camera suddenly going on and off. So, Wi-fi outdoor type is more common for areas with reliable weather conditions, but a Wi-fi home camera – I’ve got a few in my home. Also, if your camera is on the same Wi-fi router with your other home appliance like laptops and phones, and it is recording videos continuously in 4K resolution – expect a goood network load. Cameras with floodlight and alarm siren built-in body are great for outdoor use, they commonly have an IP67+ IK high body protection rates, but they require a lot of power.

PIR or a passive infrared sensor used for motion detection, that is able to distinct body temperature, usually looks like bulging out bulb on camera, or they can be built-in and not bulging out. And the opposite is a software motion detection, or detecting pixel change in image detection. From a brief description you could guess that a regular built-in PIR is way more accurate, and it is way more accurate. And it makes camera a bit more expensive – but it worth every cent, as it will reduce the amount of false alarms a lot, unlike software motion detection.

Now about a Battery-powered cameras. On one hand, it makes your camera absolutely wireless in combine with Wi-fi data transmission.. and that is a good and modern option. But we stumble into the same problems as for Outdoor Wi-fi transmission – weather conditions and network load. And on top – in regions with usually high or low temperature, your battery-powered camera worth nothing. Remember when your phone was suddenly turning off in your hand in winter? Same here… Lithium battery is and ooold enemy of low temperatures, combined with network load…. well… yeah…

Next is PTZ, standing for Pan, Tilt and Zoom. Consequently, cameras that are able to move their lens 0 to 90 degrees vertically and 0 to 360 degrees horizontally, plus they have mechanical varifocal lens that can move out and dynamically change its view angle and to zoom in without quality loss. Normally, cameras of this class are used in a more professional environment due to high cost, complex set-up and way more advanced tasks to complete. But they have an implementation in consumer segment – PT pan-tilt cameras. Same as PTZ, but lighter, same 0-90 degrees vertically and 0-360 horizontally, but normally with no zoom. 2 or 4 megapixels, quite easy set-up and pretty much nice performance. Usually they have PIR sensor and they response to motion or an abnormal sound. In such scenario, they can adjust thir lens position to track an irritant who raised an alarm. Or you can take control of it and make sure everything is alright on all 360 degrees around camera in your place.

Night vision. Of course, a division to outdoor and indoor again because from an outdoor camera it is normal to expect increased night view distance higher than 10, 20, 30 meters and more. This is achieved by more powerful Infrared LED’s built in camera’s body, so that’s a one more characteristic related to outdoor type to look onto when choosing a camera.

The most common smart features are: line crossing and region protection, face detection, motion detection, abnormal sound detection and PTZ, all other functions we can totally attribute to advanced. And as I have already disclosed motion, sound and PTZ, so what’s left is face detection. First things first – face detection is not a face recognition, that performs capture and memorizes a unique facial features of an individual. That’s a common misconception. Face detection is a software-level algorithm aimed to reduce false alarms quantity. Due to a specific software algorithm it is able to distinct a human face from all other objects and species. And in pair with a PIR sensor it makes up a great accuracy and can’t be called expensive, quite affordable and worthy. And what’s left is a line crossing and region protection. Usually, available on even entry-level equipment. The principle is simple – on the image from camera you draw a line or some kind of a, let’s say, rectangle to highlight it and set apart from other areas in camera’s sight. And we set the rule that when someone crosses a drawn line or comes in that rectangle – Boom, alarm event or it can just count them, but it’s not that interesting as first option.

When selecting a security camera, either analog or network, dome, turret, bullet body type, Wi-fi, battery-powered, pan-tilt-zoom, indoor or outdoor and whatever. The video surveillance appliance – there are many factors and pitfalls that only professionals could have seen before, but now, the fire went to people. We often get calls that sound like: “I just want this camera and that’s it.” And then it turns out person needs a completely different camera for his occassion. And we get a refund. And you get a pain in the ass and wasted time. Now you know how to select a camera specifically for your needs, wishes, preferences and your unique occasion. Or let professionals do it, but please, don’t refuse a consultation. In the Pipl Systems Store we can help you select your perfect camera or any other video surveillance appliance. We’ve got network cameras, analog, floodlight, cameras intended for night vision and a lot else.

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