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   Buyers Guide

When you plan to buy a Surveillance Camera or complete CCTV security system you need to consider the main purpose of the system. For example:

Purpose for which you intend to use it for :


Evaluate your needs: Do you want to monitor general comings and goings? Do you want to see faces, merchandise, crowds? Do you need wireless or wired cctv security systems? Do you need indoor and/or outdoor CCTV camera systems? Would you benefit from an IP network camera? Do you need a 1, 2, 8, 16 or 32 camera system? What is your budget?

Combination of the above the application will determine the type and specification of the system that is needed. There are normally six things to look at before Selecting a CCTV security systems.

1. Camera Selection
2. Recording Options
3. Detection
4. Time and Date Stamping
5. Cable and Connectors
6. Camera Protection

Based on your needs and recording environment, you should select a camera that is best for you:

Camera Selection


Location is the camera to be located indoors or outdoors? If outdoors then you need to ensure that it is appropriate for the environmental conditions that are likely to be encountered such as rain, snow, sun-glare, low light etc. Outdoor CCTV camera security systems outdoor cameras should either be classed as weather resistant or mounted in a special enclosure to provide protection. The leads are of sufficient length to enable connections to be made inside the building.

Light Levels

Light Levels choosing the right camera based on the amount of available light is very important for an effective security system. An ordinary colour or even monochrome camera will not give very good pictures in low light conditions although the monochrome will perform better than an equivalent colour one. Solutions available for low light conditions can include: B&W cameras with built in IR illumination, Colour Day / Night cameras, Use of additional security lighting Use of a separate IR illuminator in conjunction with a monochrome camera. When using IR illumination ensure that the range of the illuminators is adequate for your needs. Light levels are usually measured in lux and although full daylight can be around 10,000 lux, dusk can be as low as 1-10 lux, complete darkness is 0 lux and side street lighting can also be less than 1 lux in some cases. The closer a camera is rated to 0 lux the better its performance in low light levels.

Colour, Black and White or Day Night Cameras B&W cameras generally provide better image quality than colour ones at lower light levels. They are also usually cheaper than colour ones of equivalent specification. Colour cameras require the availability of good lighting and will generally provide better recognition capability. Day Night cameras provide the best of both worlds in an external environment.

They operate as colour cameras during the day (or in good light conditions) and automatically change to B&W when the light levels drop. Wired or Wireless Wireless CCTV cameras are easier to install. There is no cabling to run from the camera to the receiver and they are ideal for temporary applications, rapid deployment or where running cable is not desirable.


A standard wired colour security camera. Wired cameras are available in BNC or DIN terminations (connection ports) and will require video extension cables.


More and more people are turning to wireless cameras as a cost-effective way of building a comprehensive surveillance system in their home or business.

IP / network:

IP (Internet protocol), or network cameras are another option. These cameras connect to your computer's router just like a computer or other net-workable device. IP network cameras allow you to access the cameras from remote locations over the Internet. Many also give you the option of recording video directly to your computer or to a network video recorder (NVR).

Decide whether you want wired or wireless cameras. Wired cameras offer a larger selection of cameras and more importantly, much better video quality than wireless cameras. Wireless cameras can somewhat be misleading as they need to be powered at the camera location. In addition, they require a line of sight with no obstacles, which often poses an issue.

Reliability and video quality are the main reasons that you should use a wired camera. Wired cameras are powered back at the DVR location and only a single cable (RG-59 Siamese coax power/video in one) needs to be run from the DVR to each individual camera. You can run cameras up to 800 feet (243.8 m) away with this particular cable. If going over 800 feet (243.8 m) you will need to use CAT5 cable with video baluns and/or amplifier.
Expect a much longer lifespan and much higher quality with wired cameras.
Obstacles are not an issue with wired cameras. With that in mind, occasionally you may have a location of two that absolutely need it. In that case, you can plug the transmitter to the back of the DVR.
Understand the types of security camera available:
Infrared (IR) security cameras.
Dome cameras/Bullet cameras.
Indoor infrared cameras offer a clear video image in the light and in the dark.
Box cameras.
Pan tilt zoom cameras.
Hidden cameras.

Infrared (IR) security cameras.

Consider the advantages of using an infrared (IR) security camera. This is a popular type of camera for both business and home.

Infrared Cameras produce high resolution colour video during the day. In low lux (light) or no light conditions they are the preferred camera type.
They are able to "illuminate the area" by automatically switching from colour to black and white. The infrared illuminators turn on and allow you to see much cleared that the human eye in both low light and no light.
Whether being used indoor or outdoor, they provide a huge advantage in low light or no light situations.
They can be weatherproofed and can withstand hot and cold temperatures without any additional camera housing needed.
Indoor infrared cameras offer a clear video image in the light and in the dark.


Dome /Bullet cameras

Consider the advantages of a dome camera. The different styles of domes include infrared domes, indoor domes, outdoor domes, vandal proof domes, and pan tilt zoom controllable domes. Classic "smoked" dome cameras offer an additional degree of surveillance as friends, customers, employees, and burglars have a difficult time seeing where the lens is actually pointing. The smoked cover does not affect picture quality.

Expect a clear color high resolution picture with the dome camera.
Most pan tilt zoom cameras are in a dome type housing as well.
Professional "box type" cameras are used both indoor and outdoor with camera housing.

Box cameras

Consider the advantages of a pro box camera. These cameras are known for their high video quality. Pro box cameras are often found in banks, supermarkets, convenience stores, etc.

Lenses can be changed on the pro box camera based on the viewing angle and zoom that is required.
Some Pro Box Cameras are called day / night cameras as they can switch from color during the day to black and white in the evening or in low lux (light conditions).
The lower the lux, the better the camera can see in complete darkness.
Infrared cameras are considered night vision cameras and have a 0 Lux rating. You might prefer a box camera if you do not need or want infrared and are more concerned with quality daytime video.

Pan tilt zoom cameras

Consider the benefits of a pan tilt zoom camera. These are cameras that can be controlled through the DVR, remote viewing software, and/or a joystick. They can go up, down, left, and right. They also have zoom capability.

For example, you can capture a license plate or zoom in on a face from far away.
You can also program them to do preset tours where you can have them monitor certain areas while you are away.
Airports, casinos, large department stores such as Target or Walmart are examples of places that use PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom Cameras).
Pan tilt zoom cameras are expensive, starting at $500 and up. The question is, "do you need a pan tilt zoom camera", or can you use fixed cameras to get the desired solution?
Pan tilt zoom controllable cameras require one additional cable for operation. A CAT5 cable is needed in addition to the power/video RG-59 Siamese coax cable in order to control it live and over the internet. Simply run a CAT5 cable next to the RG-59 to control your pan tilt zoom camera.

Hidden Cameras

Consider the benefits of hidden cameras. These offer perhaps the highest degree of surveillance. If you do not want someone to know that there is a camera, use a hidden camera. Fake smoke detectors, motion detectors, clocks, sprinklers, EXIT signs are examples of the type of hidden cameras that are used.

The main disadvantage is that hidden cameras do not have infrared capabilities which limit their performance in low light.
In addition, many hidden cameras are not weatherproof, so they take are not as useful as infrared bullet and dome cameras when being used outdoors.
Pharmacies, hallways of hotels, assisted living facilities, and homes are examples of some of the applications in which hidden cameras are used.

How to Choose a Digital Video Recording System

When you're unfamiliar with the latest equipment and how its features may benefit your particular situation, it's easy to select the wrong equipment. Sadly, you may never know until it's too late, and that's not the time to find out. With the proper tools and knowledge, selecting DVR CCTV systems will be easy. Here's how.

Know that a digital video recording (DVR) surveillance system is only as good as the equipment purchased.

Some might try to save money by taking short cuts or purchasing cut-rate equipment, but you need to do the research to find the best system for your needs.

Look for a DVR that has an Internet connection with email notification.

When someone walks into the cameras frame of view, email notification activates the DVR that in turn sends an email to your cell phone, or any programmed email address. This feature alerts you via email that something is going on, instead of finding out when you come home or open up your business. It is better to be alerted while the incident is occurring then just reporting it to the police after the fact.

Most DVRs have a feature that allows you to connect to your existing alarm system.

When the DVR detects motion, the DVR will trigger your alarm system, thus making your DVR part of your overall security system.

Determine your HD size, based on the length of time you want to store information. Hard drives found inside DVR's are used to store video and audio.


Avoid power surges.

Power surges can decrease the cameras life. You can avoid this by purchasing a distributed CCTV power supply. Many installers and CCTV suppliers will sell you a power supply for each camera. This costs less, but it can leave the power cords visible and can easily be unplugged if located next to the camera. When using a distributed CCTV power supply, power to the cameras are centrally located. Each camera is individual fused offering a greater reliability factor when compared to individual transformers.

Never leave camera wires exposed.

This provides the thief with an easy and accessible way of disabling your system. This may seem obvious but you would be surprised how many installers cut corners by not doing something as simple as safeguarding the CCTV wires. Just look around at some cameras at your local stores and you'll see what we are saying.

Keep in mind that if the camera doesn't incorporate Infrared technology, it will be useless in a dimly lit or dark areas such as a bar or parking lot.


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