In the past, people used to have a notice board with the words “Beware of Dogs” on their gates to deter thieves.
Today, you have them with the words, “This house is under CCTV surveillance.”
This sentence can send a shiver up the spines of wannabe thieves as no thief ever likes to get caught. The thief would always prefer to play safe.
Does it mean that you should have this board on your gates and try to bluff the thieves? Maybe, you could succeed, but it would be better to install CCTV security systems in your house to protect your valuable assets.
Most modern residential apartment complexes have this system to ensure the safety of the residents. Almost all offices, banks, jewelry shops, departmental stores, restaurants, and other business places have them as an additional layer of security.
CCTV Cameras – Buying Guide
Buying and installing a CCTV camera security system is not something you frequently do. Usually, it is a one-time purchase unless you wish to go for an overhaul or upgrade.
Therefore, you need to focus on various aspects before deciding on the ideal CCTV camera security system. This buying guide endeavours to make it easy for you.
Before you invest your hard-earned money in purchasing and installing these security systems, try answering these five questions. The answers to these simple questions will form the base of our CCTV camera buying guide.
- Which is the best form of CCTV camera one should invest in as a security feature?
- What are the reputed CCTV security system brands available in India today, and what do they cost?
- What are the defining features of the CCTV system one should concentrate on when purchasing and installing these security systems?
- Will the CCTV cameras work in poor light or near darkness conditions?
- What CCTV camera accessories one should go for when purchasing these cameras?
Here are various aspects you should consider while purchasing CCTV cameras.
The Price – Your Budget
Installing a security system is a capital investment for anyone. You have to be careful with your budget. While drawing up your budget, you should concentrate on various factors.
- The nature of surveillance you require
- The area of surveillance
- Indoor or outdoor security
- Number of cameras you wish to install
- The brand of cameras you purchase
- The installation and maintenance costs
- The utility of the cameras
- The types of cameras you want
The Types of CCTV Cameras
CCTV cameras are available in various types depending on different characteristics. We shall look into the details so that you get a better understanding of the type of camera you wish to purchase and install.
Based on Iris
Before proceeding further, you should be aware of what the iris of the camera is. Have you observed a CCTV camera closely enough? You would find a slit or an eyehole through which the camera focuses on the objects in its range.
There are two types of iris, the manual iris, and the automatic iris.
You will find the manual iris on the analogue cameras where you have to set up the iris manually. These cameras have a fixed and steady position whereby it can focus on a specific area or spot. If you wish to change the point of focus, you need to shift or turn the camera towards the new object or area.
These cameras are useful when you have to focus on a single point or area such as the apartment gate, main door, stairway, vantage places in a warehouse where you expect thefts to take place, and so on.
You also find the manual iris cameras located at traffic junctions to focus on traffic violations. Banks also have such cameras focusing towards the cash cabins.
CCTV cameras can also cover a wide area in addition to focusing on a particular spot. Under such circumstances, the camera keeps on constantly moving while changing its angle.
You cannot use the manual iris cameras to cover such wide areas. You need an automatic iris camera that can change its point of focus depending on the viewing angle. These cameras are set up to tilt from top to bottom and pan from right to left.
These cameras are the most common applications in use today. You will find such cameras in jewellery shops, banks, offices, departmental stores, traffic signals, warehouses, factories, and so on. These cameras have a wide range of applications.
Based on Location
You have different types of CCTV cameras based on the location. These are indoor cameras and outdoor cameras. Both these types of cameras have specific characteristics to suit their functionalities.
As the name suggests, you have these cameras indoors. You can find them in offices, departmental stores, factories, warehouses, cinema halls, restaurants, and even inside homes.
The primary feature of these CCTV cameras is that they can work in low light conditions. Usually, they are black and white cameras that do not have very high resolution.
These are standard cameras coming with a fixed lens and manual iris. Installing such cameras is easy as they require standard installing equipment such as C-clamps or S-clamps.
You will find these outdoor cameras in outdoor locations such as traffic signals, outside the establishments like banks, factories, departmental stores, and so on. You also have them outside the malls and at vantage locations on the roads as well.
These cameras are capable of covering large areas. These cameras have specific features like auto iris, and they need (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) NEMA-rated camera housings for installation.
These outdoor cameras can distinguish between daylight and night-lighting in the output. Most of these cameras have automatic Gain function. The Gain function allows the camera to set the input lighting according to the illumination of the surroundings.
Based on Resolution or Lighting
There are three types of cameras based on lighting and resolution. They are the high-resolution cameras, low-lighting cameras, and the infrared lighting cameras.
Usually, the outdoor cameras have high resolution in the range of 470 to 570 TVL (television lines). You get clear images on the high-resolution cameras because they feature more pixels or dots per inch. Such cameras can have either the manual or auto iris.
You find the low-light cameras in places where you expect the natural illumination to be poor. You can find them inside factory warehouses, underground parking areas, basements of buildings, and so on.
These cameras can produce images under extremely low lighting conditions up to 0.00001-foot candles. These cameras natural have the auto iris to adjust to the focus according to the lighting conditions. They require NEMA rated housing.
Infrared lighting cameras
Infrared cameras are useful where the lighting is negligible or is absent such as during night time. These cameras have infrared LEDs that can capture accurate black and white pictures at night. You can have anything between 25 to 70 LEDs surrounding the camera.
These cameras are extremely useful in defence locations, in border areas, and other places where you need 24X7 surveillance activities
Based on shape and size
Depending on the shape and size, you have different types of CCTV cameras classified as box camera, dome camera, bullet camera, board camera, and hidden camera. The functions of all these cameras are common.
The bullet, board, and hidden cameras are outdoor cameras because they are high-resolution cameras having an auto iris. You can also have these cameras indoor. Such cameras do not need any housing because the chances of moisture and weather conditions affecting the cameras are remote.
Based on Applications
There are different types of CCTV cameras depending on their applications. You can broadly classify them into three types.
Special Application Cameras
The special application cameras have a gamut of uses such as in defence establishments, underwater surveillance, and other covert operations. These cameras come with either manual or auto iris. They have a robust explosion proof body because of the pressurized construction. Usually, these cameras have a resolution in the range of 330 to 380 TVL.
Black and White Cameras?
The black and white cameras are the most common cameras you see in homes, offices, and business establishments all over the country. These cameras are the most reasonably priced of all CCTV cameras. These cameras have infrared sensors and can function in low lighting conditions.
Network IP Cameras
The Network IP cameras use internet protocol for its functioning. At the time of the introduction in the market, these cameras were extremely expensive. Also, the quality of these cameras was poor in comparison to the other CCTV cameras.
Nowadays, with advanced technology, you have high-quality network IP cameras available at reasonable prices. The network IP cameras have unique features not usually observed in the conventional cameras.
Advantages of Installing CCTV Security Systems
For homes and residential apartment complexes
- Ensures the safety of the home while protecting the property
- Identify burglars and unauthorised persons who gain unlawful entry into your property
- Alert you about any unsuspicious activity in the vicinity of the house or the apartment complex
For offices and business establishments
- Helps track the movement of employees by maintaining tabs on them
- Monitors the work environment, especially in jewellery shops and departmental stores where the workforce is large
- Identify shoplifting customers
- Identify pilferage of inventory and its shrinkage
- Helps customers enjoy a safe shopping experience
- Monitor the movement of all customers and employees and assist in identifying suspicious movements, especially in large crowded places like marriage halls, jewellery shops, departmental stores
- Serve as a watchdog at all times, especially during the times the establishment is closed for business
- Identify traffic violations and help the police investigate accidents and other types of unsavoury incidents on the roads
- Deter suspicious movement on the streets and in the vicinity of sensitive areas like banks, factory installations, and so on
- Crowd monitoring in public areas that sees a high volume of visitors, such as beaches, public parks, gatherings, cricket stadiums, and so on
In short, we can state that the CCTV cameras are useful to the law enforcing authorities and help them maintain law and order.
Disadvantages of Installing CCTV Security Systems
- Cost of maintenance as it involves recurring expenses
- Requires continuous monitoring, especially in case of the manual operations
- Installation and maintenance requires specialised assistance
- People unfamiliar with the equipment, especially children can tamper with it
In spite of these disadvantages, one should install these security systems to deter unlawful activities. These security systems have helped the police department solved countless cases of theft and other criminal activity.
Which is better, Wired Security Systems or Wireless Security Systems?
Initially, you had the wired security systems all over the place. It requires high installation and maintenance costs. Now, with the improvement in technology, you have wireless security systems. Such systems transmit signals using radiofrequency waves.
They are instrumental in locations that require continuous surveillance such as defense outposts and so on. However, the cost of a wireless system is higher than that of a wired security system. Secondly, wireless networks can face interference from other radio frequencies.
The sophisticated systems available today work at specific frequencies and are less susceptible to external interference.
Advantages of Wired Systems
- The quality of output is high
- Once set up, it does not require much monitoring
Advantages of Wireless Systems
- Image capturing and display is of excellent quality
- Easy to install anywhere
- Ideal for locations that need 24X7 security
- Stealth installation possible
Disadvantages of Wired Systems
- Requires constant power to function
- Needs maintenance and upgrades frequently
Disadvantages of Wireless Systems
- Interference from other radio waves is possible, hence requires continuous monitoring
- The interference can also affect the quality of the output
- Expensive in comparison to the wired system
Principal CCTV Camera Accessories
We have discussed various aspects of CCTV cameras and security systems. Here are the standard accessories that come along with the CCTV cameras.
Black and White Cameras?
The placement of the CCTV cameras is vital. Usually, you have them on the ceiling, walls, and the roof of the house. In outdoor locations, you erect specific poles for setting up these cameras. You require S-clamps and C-clamps to hold the cameras in place.
Ensure that your mounting equipment is strong enough to bear the weight of the camera, especially when there are movable parts in cameras that cover a wide area.
Outdoor cameras require specific camera housing equipment to protect them from the elements of nature. Ensure to have quality housing equipment certified by NEMA.
Camera Stand and Brackets
Indoor cameras require camera stands and brackets to hold them securely. This equipment is small, but you should take care to install them correctly.
Video Recording equipment
The camera performs its responsibility of capturing the images. You need specific video recording equipment such as camcorders and monitors to record, view, and store the footage.
Other than the housing and installation equipment, you need additional accessories to carry out specific tasks. These tasks include recording and storing the footage. You need memory cards or cartridges to store data.
Some CCTV security systems come with microphones to record audio proceedings. The wired CCTV systems require adequate cables and power cords.
Maintenance and Servicing
Your CCTV security system has many recurring costs that you should include in the budget. In addition to the equipment cost, you have to incur installation costs. You need regular maintenance and servicing to keep the system in proper condition.
Most of the security cameras come with a warranty period. It is better to enter into an annual maintenance contract (AMC) with either the manufacturers or specific service providers to ensure the systems remain in peak working condition.
You also need to spend on memory cards and hard disks for storing information. Regular upgrades are also necessary to keep up with technological advances.
Special Features of CCTV Cameras
You should be aware of specific terms associated with CCTV cameras. Let us discuss these terms in brief.
The lens is a critical part of the CCTV camera. The lens helps to focus and capture the images. The type of lens depends on the area you need to cover with your CCTV camera. The lens of the CCTV is similar to the lens of any other camera.
The measurement of the camera lens is in millimetres. As per the principles of Physics, the measurement of the lens is inversely proportional to the focus of the camera. The smaller the size of the lens, the wider is the Field of Vision (FOV).
The physical distance between the centre of the lens and the image sensor is the focal length of the camera lens. The size of the image and its quality depends on the focal length. Depending on the functions of the lens there are two types of lenses.
Fixed focal length
The name suggests that the CCTV camera lens has a fixed focal length. Such lenses are ideal when you focus the camera on a fixed location. You need to change the focus or the angle manually if you need a different view. Analogue cameras usually have lenses with fixed focal lengths.
As this lens can vary its focal length depending on the positioning of the image, there is no need for setting up this camera manually. The advantage of the Varifocal lens is that its size does not affect the type of the camera. Such lenses can cover wide areas.
Camera lenses come in various sizes. You can select the one that suits you the best.
We shall list out the common lens sizes. This list is indicative but not exhaustive.
|Size of the lens||Name of the lens|
|2.8 mm||Wide-angle lens|
|8 mm||Semi-wide-angle lens|
|12 mm||Short range narrow lens|
|50 mm||Long range narrow lens|
You need your CCTV camera to capture images in poor lighting conditions as well. The worth of the camera depends on the quality of images it captures in low lighting conditions. This ability of the lens to capture images in poor lighting conditions is measured in Foot Candles or Lux.
The light sensitivity of each camera differs according to its efficiency in poor lighting conditions. The value depends on the amount of light thrown on the object from a distance of one foot. The thumb rule is as follows.
If the object is at a distance of one foot from the light source, the object has 10 Lux of light.
The following table will clarify the concept of light sensitivity. This factor is vital when you select your CCTV camera. You need your camera to work under all lighting conditions.
|Type of Light Source||Lux|
|Direct Sunlight||100,000 to 130,000|
|Indirect light during the day||10,000 to 20,000|
|Indoor lighting in offices||200 to 400|
|Dark overcast conditions||100|
|Deep twilight conditions bordering on darkness||1|
|Full moon night||0.1|
|Quarter moon night||0.01|
|Moonless night but a clear sky||0.0001|
Frames per Second
The number of frames per second (FPS) determines the speed of the camera. It denotes the number of frames that pile up in a second to form the image. The quality of the pictures depends on the FPS value. Analogue cameras with Varifocal lenses have less FPS than the standard cameras. Hence, you can experience a time lag in the display output.
The camera resolution is similar to the TV screen resolutions in many ways. The higher the number of pixels, the better is the resolution. Outdoor installations require cameras with high resolution whereas the indoor lighting conditions determine the camera resolution you should go for.
The ideal resolution for an indoor camera is around 350 to 560 TVL whereas a camera with a resolution of 700 TVL should be enough for an outdoor camera.
Field of Vision (FOV)
The viewable area captured by the camera is the Field of Vision (FOV) of the camera. You also refer it as the angle of coverage. Three elements determine the FOV. They are the lens, the angle of placement of the camera, and the sensor element within the camera.
The image captured by the camera is in direct proportion to the FOV. It implies that the image is bigger when the camera has a large FOV.
The cameras with the motion detection feature will send you notifications as it observes the motion within its field of vision. It alerts you to any suspicious activity thereby allowing you to monitor it easily.
Nowadays, you have CCTV cameras with Wi-Fi capability. Such cameras can communicate wirelessly with any network. The advantages of having Wi-Fi cameras are that they are not only easy to install but also challenging to disable. There are no wires for you to cut off.
Here are some camera applications that have non-standard requirements. Hence, you need unique solutions as well.
These types of camera lenses have ultra-wide viewing angles that can capture video in both the 180 degrees and 360 degrees FOV. You find such cameras in large retail stores, restaurants, and big offices.
Such cameras have high resolution and are capable of capturing detailed video. The fisheye cameras are expensive but worth every penny you spend on it.
The PTZ cameras get their name from the Pan, Tilt, and Zoom facility. These cameras can capture videos in multiple areas of interest at different FOVs and varying distances from the camera.
You can control these cameras remotely using keyboard and joysticks. The specialty of these cameras is that they capture video at 2 MP resolutions.
It can zoom in and capture details from distances as long as 2000 feet. They have use in large open warehouses, military bases, shipyards, and so on.
The LPR cameras or the License Plate Recognition cameras can capture images of objects moving at high speeds. Hence, they have significant use in the traffic control departments.
They have an IR cut filter that allows them to capture B/W images. You need specific software to go along with this camera. This software program can create and maintain a database of number plates as well to help the police in their investigation processes.
Spy cameras are miniature cameras which you can place discreetly to monitor specific areas. You can place them in motion detectors, sprinkler heads, clocks, and smoke detectors as well.
These pinhole cameras can capture1080p video in extremely poor lighting conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
We continue our buying guide through these frequently asked questions. It will help us to understand the concepts better.
1. Do the security systems come with an inbuilt SD card slot or do you need to invest in a separate DVR internal storage system?
Today, the latest technology ensures that most of the CCTV cameras come with inbuilt SD card storage compatibility.
Depending on the allowed memory, users can insert cards of various capacities such as 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB and so on. However, you also have comprehensive surveillance systems that come with DVR storage facility with memory storage capacity up to 1TB hard disk storage.
2. What is the PTZ feature that we hear so much about when we purchase CCTV cameras?
PTZ stands for Pan, Tilt, and Zoom. As against the fixed cameras that require manual intervention to change their FOV, the PTZ cameras come with automatic features that help you to change the FOV from remote locations.
The inbuilt rotational motors allow the cameras to pan horizontally at angles as wide as 355 degrees and tilt vertically at angles up to 120 degrees. You can control these activities from remote locations through specialised mobile apps. Some of the latest CCTV cameras come with 2X and 4X zoom features that enable you to zoom on to the images to observe specific details.
3. How do motion and audio sensors work?
The latest technology present in the CCTV cameras comprises motion detection and audio sensing. Such cameras alert you through the apps and emails whenever the cameras sense motion or audio interferences.
Usually, you have the cameras with such facilities located at vantage positions. Often, people switch these detectors at night so that the cameras start recording the moment they sense any motion or audio disturbance. It is in addition to alerting you to take prompt corrective action.
4. Is it easy to set up and install CCTV cameras?
Installing the latest wireless cameras is easy. However, you need expert assistance to install the complete security surveillance systems comprising of multiple cameras and DVR, and so on.
5. Do CCTV cameras allow 2-way video communication?
Yes, specific CCTV cameras come with inbuilt microphones that allow for 2-way audio and video communication. Thus, you can connect to your families from remote locations using the mobile app.
6. What is the use of Infrared vision?
The IR LEDs enable the cameras to capture images in complete darkness. Higher the number of IR LEDs, the better is the recording during the night.
7. What could be the maximum range of a CCTV camera?
It depends on the focal length of the lens and the image sensors. You have CCTV cameras coming with range as long as 25 to 30 metres as well.
8. How do the traffic police read license plate numbers of speeding cars?
The CCTV system installed by the traffic police department comes with cameras having LPR technology. This license plate recognition software system can help the cameras focus on the license plates and read them even on speeding vehicles.
9. How much should a decent CCTV camera cost?
It depends on the nature of the camera you need. The standard cameras for homes should come between ₹2000 to ₹3000 each.
VS Chaitanya is a Computer engineer, creator, and editor in chief of Kitchenarena. He is a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert and has experience of Ten years in technology news reporting and his area of expertise includes Large Appliances and Electronics.