Selecting a home CCTV system can be a daunting task. This is because there is a wide variety of CCTV systems on the market. CCTV technology has progressed rapidly throughout the years. There is now a wide variety of CCTV systems available.
Timeline of CCTV Systems
1970’s – VCR Technology
Video surveillance first become mainstream in the form of Video Cassette Recorders (VCR) in the 1970s. This technology was a big deal regarding surveillance, as it meant footage could be recorded. Before the 1970s live monitoring was the most popular option. There were reel-to-reel magnetic tape-recording systems before the 1970s, but they were very difficult to operate, and therefore rarely used.
1990’s – Multi-Camera Recording Technology
A technology called multiplexing was born in the 1990s. This basically allowed more than one camera to be fed into a single monitor. Plus, more than one camera could be recorded at the same time.
2000s – Digital Video Recording (DVR) Technology
By the millennium Digital Video Recorders (DVR’s) were available. This really made CCTV systems simpler to use and install. It also meant that data did not need to be stored on a video tape.
These days analogue systems are generally cheaper than digital ones. This is because digital systems are a better technology that offers superior image quality. DVR CCTV systems work by sending an analogue video signal from the camera to the Digital Video Recorder (DVR), via a coax cable.
Each camera has its own power supply. Sometimes the power cable and coax signal cable are connected via a special RG59 Siamese cable, such as the one from the Amazon store below.
The purpose of the DVR is to convert the analogue signal received by the cameras, into a digital one. This signal is then compressed and stored on a hard drive. A homeowner can then access the software on the DVR and play back camera footage. A good DVR will allow the homeowner to configure scheduling, digital zoom and motion detection. DVR’s are viewed via a monitor which can be plugged in, with advanced systems allowing remote viewing via internet. Resolution capability have held these DVR systems back over the years. As from 2017 improvements in this technology means higher resolutions can now be achieved, even 8k (UHD)! Although this sounds great on paper, it is still not as crisp as a fully digital CCTV system. And will also lack many of the smart features that a digital system has.
Analogue Resolutions Available (Typical):
360 x 240 (CIF)
720 x 576 (D1)
960 x 576 (960H)
1280 x 720 (1MP or 720P. HD) as of 2017
1920 x 1080 (2MP or 1080P. Full HD) as of 2017
2560 x 1960 (5MP. SHD) as of 2017
3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) as of 2017
2010s – NVR Technology
This is the decade that Network Video Recorders (NVRs) started to become popular choices for CCTV systems. These systems work by encoding and processing video in cameras, then streaming the footage to NVRs for storage or remote viewing. NVRs are particularly useful for companies with various site locations because they allow users to view various departments at any one time across the network. They can also access footage via the internet very easily, and in very high resolutions, more than DVRs are capable of.
When selecting a home CCTV system, digital technology is best if you can afford it. These types of CCTV camera’s use your network or Internet Portal (IP) to send the signal to your computer’s router, giving you access to footage over the internet from remote locations. Video footage from your camera is usually stored on a Network Video Recorder (NVR), which can be accessed remotely over the internet. A homeowner can then playback recordings or adjust settings such as scheduling and camera zoom.
IP cameras are superior to analogue ones, due to their higher resolutions. For many years analogue cameras were typically limited to a maximum resolution of 720 x 480 (known as D1). But advances in this analogue technology have pushed the boundaries of resolutions to 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD). However, digital IP cameras will always offer much higher resolutions. In-fact IP cameras have a starting resolution of 1280 x 720 (HD, 1 megapixel). And currently go up to resolutions of 33-megapixel resolutions (8K UHD).
Digital Resolutions Available (Typical):
1280 x 720 (1MP or 720P. HD)
1280 x 960 (SXGA or 960P. HD)
1280 x 1024 (1.3MP. HD)
1920 x 1080 (2.1MP or 1080P. Full HD)
1920 x 1200 (2.3MP. HD)
2048 x 1536 (3MP. HD)
2592 x 1520 (4MP. HD)
2560 x 1960 (5MP. SHD)
3072 x 2048 (6MP. SHD)
3840 x 2160 (8.8MP or 4K UHD)
7680 x 4320 (33MP or 8K UHD)
2010s – Wire Free & Wireless Signal Cams, plus Doorbell Cams
Wireless and internet technology has been around for some time now. However, CCTV systems are now becoming advanced enough to operate easily through your internet. This is a game changer when selecting a home CCTV system. Usually CCTV systems (such as DVR’s and NVRs) require a storage box for all the data that has been recorded. But there are now many devices that allow footage to be stored on the internet. This has allowed CCTVs to be installed into doorbells for example, as no recording box is necessary. Signal wires are not needed either as they have onboard wireless technology built in. Below are examples of smart CCTV technology from the Amazon store.
Google Nest Cameras
The great thing about Google nest products is that they can all be controlled from a device such as a mobile phone. Google sell products such as the Google Nest Hello Doorbell, Google Nest Thermostat and more. This means you can control your heating, view your doorbell, and more. The Google Nest phone application is very easy to use.
Wire-free cameras such as the one below is very easy to install. All you have to do is screw it to your outside wall. You will then be able to connect to the camara via your wireless network.
Ring Doorbell Camera
There are various video doorbells on the market. The Google Nest Hello and Ring doorbells are the most popular. The ring doorbell below is appealing to most people because it is wire-free. You simply attach it to your door without having to worry about power wires. It will just require charging a few times a year. When a visitor presses the doorbell, you will get a notification sent to your phone, and through an indoor chime (view on the Amazon store here). This doorbell also allows 2-way chat and video recording.
Confusion of the CCTV Market
The recent market of CCTV is a confusing one. There are now so many more options you need to consider. Below are typical questions people ask themselves when trying to figure out what CCTV system they need:
- Wired or Wireless?
- Hard drive storage, or internet cloud-based storage?
- What resolution do I need?
- What camera field of view do I need?
- Are indoor camera’s necessary?
- Can i view my camera from my laptop, phone, etc?
- Should I buy a doorbell with CCTV technology?
- Do I need audio recording on my camera’s?
- Do I need facial recognition software?
- Does the camera have night vision?
- Is motion sensing necessary?
How to Choose What you Need
Many homeowners can become confused when it comes to selecting a home CCTV system. The one that is most suitable for you will depend upon your situation, and how easy it is to install. Read through our pros and cons for the different systems below:
Analogue or Digital Systems?
Analogue systems such as DVR’s are a very outdated technology now. Although some offer HD or UHD resolutions, the picture is still not as good as a digital system. You should only get an analogue system if you really have to. For example, if you already have coaxial leads setup for many cameras, then it might make things easier to buy a higher resolution DVR system.
Digital systems are the best choice, and they outperform analogue systems for resolution, smart features, contrast and many more.
Wireless Signal, Battery Powered Cams
The term wireless gets thrown around a lot. But this causes confusion when people find out their wireless cam does have a wire. Most wireless cameras require a power wire. This means you still got the trouble of drilling holes through walls to run this power wire. However, battery operated wireless cameras really do mean they are truly wireless. This is because they are operated from a battery power source that is part of the camera construction. You simply fix your camera to the wall, then access it via your phone, laptop, PC, etc.
- Quick and easy to setup.
- Usually cheaper than wired cameras.
- No cables need to be fed through walls.
- Lots of choice regarding camera location.
- You have to regularly charge your camera battery. This means it is possible your camera may be out of action for a period of time. Plus, it could be difficult to access the camera.
- Usually, battery powered cameras are not capable of incredibly high resolutions (such as UHD). They also may have limited recording abilities, as the device needs to preserve power.
Wireless Signal. Wired Power Cams
Wireless camera’s work by transmitting the video and audio signal through air to a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) for analogue systems, or to a Network Video Recorder (NVR) with a build in wireless Access Point (AP).
Wireless signal cameras do require a 9 – 12V DC power source. The 9 – 12V DC is typically supplied via a mains powered adaptor. The advantage of wireless systems is that a signal cable does not need to be run from your camera to the DVR or NVR box.
Wireless cameras have a certain wireless signal range. This range is decreased if the signal has to travel though materials such as brick walls. The type of material will affect the signal differently. For example, windows and plasterboard wall may not affect it that much, whereas brick and concrete will. Ideally your router or DVR/NVR box should be located close to your wireless cameras to ensure the wireless signal strength is high.
- Wireless cameras come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
- Easy to install.
- More flexibility when it comes to the location of your cameras.
- Wireless camera’s can save you money on installation costs, as less wire will need to be routed through your home.
- Wireless signal systems are more vulnerable to hacking. Someone who has the knowledge and determination to hack you can intercept your wireless signal. Not only hacking your camera network, but maybe your home network too.
Wired Signal, Wired Power Cams
Wired security cameras usually have two wires. One is connected to the mains power, via an AC-12DC adaptor plug. The other is a signal wire that travels to the Digital Video Recorder (DVR) for analogue systems, or via a wired network for digital IP systems (NVR systems).
- A very secure signal connection, as there is minimal interference. Wireless systems risk losing signal, meaning your camera footage can be disrupted.
- Wired cameras have much more range than wireless signal systems. Signal strength of wireless cameras become weaker when travelling through objects such as walls, and going long distance.
- Less risk of a wired connection being hacked. Wireless systems are open to hacking, as the signal travelling through air can be intercepted.
- Less time lag as a signal travels faster through a wire, rather than through air as in the wireless systems.
- Can be difficult to install as you need to run signal or network wires through your home
- Are usually more expensive than wireless systems.
Importance of Camera Image Quality
Resolution is important when it comes to selecting a home CCTV system. Higher resolutions provide a clearer and sharper image compared to lower ones.
The size and type of light detecting chip used in cameras also play a major role in image quality. CMOS chips (1/4″) are lower quality than larger CCD (1/3″) ones. The larger the chip, higher the quality as bigger chips are able to pick up more light.
Cameras can also have different sensitivities to light. This is important if you need a good quality image in low light levels. Camera light sensitively is measured in lux. This can be in the range of 0.001 – 130,000 lux. Lower lux levels mean a better image in low light conditions.
You should aim for a resolution of at least 1920 x 1080 (2MP or 1080P. Full HD). The higher the resolution, the more minor details your camera cam pick up. This is important because if you were robbed, then you would be looking at the minor details (persons face, number plate, etc) rather than the overall picture.
There you have it, our tips on selecting a home CCTV system. The one you choose depends on the level of security you require. The average household would be happy with smart products like the Google Nest Cam, and smart doorbells. These types of devices are relatively cheap for what they do. They are also super easy to setup yourself, which will save you money on installation. If you require a more serious setup, then maybe go for a wireless NVR 4k UHD system. Or even a 8k NVR UHD fully wired system if you operate a business from your home, especially if your address is in the public domain (such as being on the internet). Wired systems offer additional levels of security and reliability. Wired systems will have a more stable signal connection, plus the chances of your wired system being hacked is much lower.