10 Tips on Shopping for CCTV Cameras

If you are in the market for a CCTV package for your home or SME, you are definitely making the right choice. CCTV cameras offer security and peace of mind. When burglars or miscreants target homes or businesses, CCTV video footage can help identify the crime and criminals instantly. Surveillance studies conducted in cities, especially crime prone regions, suggest that installing CCTV cameras act as a crime deterrent, and media reports suggest a marked decrease in the number of crime cases reported from areas where CCTV cameras are operational.

Once you have made the decision to purchase and install CCTV cameras, the next step is shopping for the best fit. With so many options available, how do you decide what works best for you? Price can be one deciding factor. Many websites offer new economical CCTV camera packages, starting as low as USD $599. With price points for every budget, buying a CCTV package does not need to be an expensive ordeal. A first time buyer will encounter countless options: What kind of camera resolution or viewing resolution is best? What are the best viewing frame rates? Do I need night vision? How much video recording capacity and video storage capacity will I require?

In this article, we break down these terms for you and help you decide the best CCTV package for your needs:

1. CCTV camera resolution

Most tech savvy users wield phone cameras and video camcorders and discuss megapixels and camera resolutions like a pro. However, when researching CCTV camera packages, you may come across the term TVL or TV lines. What are these? Well, most CCTV cameras operate on the analog camera or analog television system. Therefore, instead of pixels, we talk in terms of TV lines. We understand that higher the pixels, better the image quality we receive. Similarly, the more the TV lines (subject to size of lens, light, and so on), you will receive better picture quality on your CCTV camera. For most home and business security purposes, camera resolutions may range from 420 to 700 TV lines. In fact, 700 TV lines is the maximum you may find. Once you enter the digital CCTV field, you may find pricier options with much higher resolution cameras.

2. Internet viewing resolution

Internet viewing resolution uses CIF (Common Intermediate Format) as a measurement unit. It defines a video sequence with a resolution such as 352 X 288 that maybe converted for viewing in PAL or NTSC formats. Confused? Let us try that again. Your camera captures an image at a certain rate called frames per second. The CIF resolution refers to how your DVR records this image or sequence of images. In a nascent hard drive or hard disk industry, storage was expensive. Naturally, people preferred to compromise and capture low-resolution images by sacrificing 4 CIF and maximum frame rate. With video storage turning cost efficient, you can now capture images on 4 CIF and get maximum detail. As the name suggests, 4CIF offers almost 4 times the size of the image and is especially beneficial in places such as front desks, doorways, bank operations, and so on, for facial recognition and clarity in images. In other areas, where you prefer fluid action and no lapse in capture of movements, you may resort to CIF while recording.

3. Internet viewing frame rate

We talked about frame rate (frames per second) in terms of captured video footage and its quality. The concept remains the same no matter what kind of video capturing device you may use. The device actually captures snapshots and replays them back in quick succession making it look like a fluid movement or action. Generally, in CCTV camera package terms, anything above 30 fps would provide a smooth footage without any jerks. Many places now offer exceptional deals on even 120 fps CCTV camera packages making it as ‘real time’ as it can get.

4. All weather CCTV cameras

While shopping for a CCTV package, you may want to consider the placement of cameras. Depending on if you want cameras mounted outdoors or indoors, you may choose from a wide variety of waterproof cameras. Waterproof cameras are better able to withstand damage caused due to rain, snow, and humidity. Some weatherproof cameras may come with a sealed glass enclosure to protect it from environmental damages. Another advantage of sealed weatherproof cameras includes protection from dirt or dust, floating debris, and humidity, even in enclosed spaces such as large warehouses, storage facilities, and inside factories, auto repair shops, and so on.

5. Day and night recording

Whether you are considering an investment in CCTV cameras for your home or business, you may want to look at cameras that offer night vision and 24-hour day and night recording. Break-ins, thefts, and vandalizing property happen often in the nighttime, and poor visibility is the number one reason criminals go free. Night vision and infrared cameras capture quality image despite dark surroundings. They provide better definition of objects, people, or animals, and make recognition and identification easy. Area of focus, angle of installation, lens size, and pan tilt zoom (PTZ) features may determine the efficiency of night vision CCTV cameras. Installation of infrared cameras may also require set up at night using infrared lighting or simulate nighttime conditions. If you are considering 24/7 recording, it is also important to look at DVRs with max storage and back up accordingly.

6. Online viewing

Many security and surveillance companies offer client-centric features that go beyond installation and maintenance. One such feature includes registering a domain name with your security company and having them set up a personalized website to view your property anytime anywhere through a PC, tablet, or your web-enabled cell phone. Just type in your specific URL, and you will be linked to your CCTV protected property, home or business instantly and in real time. This is especially great if you want to keep an eye on your business while you travel or watch out for your children, pets, or even the elderly while you are at work.

7. Tracking via smart phones

With smart phones stepping up to meet the personal computer challenge, it is not surprising that security companies now offer wireless tracking through your web-enabled smart phones. Creating a domain name with a specific URL allows you to personalize the security viewing system on your smart phone. You do not have to download any external apps or software for this purpose. The security system companies selling you these CCTV packages may offer these features for a nominal price.

8. Video compression

An important aspect of CCTV installation includes compressing large video data into a format that can be easily stored or transmitted. Compressed data needs to undergo through the reverse process for viewing. Standardizing this process allows various different devices to inter operate with each other efficiently. In the CCTV industry, the gold standard is H.264 compression used by various different HD and Blu-Ray disc players, streaming video formats, and other Internet applications. CCTV cameras using H.264 video compression ensures the absolute best quality of video footage transmission.

9. Alert systems: Message or email, motion detection

CCTV cameras allow you to capture images as they happen or an additional feature called motion detection maybe added or purchased with your CCTV cameras. In the latter case, only movement in front of the camera prompts image capture and recording. Motion detection comes handy if you prefer to use less disk space for recording. In a designated quiet area, sudden movements maybe recorded making it easy to store minimum data and review it later. Many motion detector cameras maybe pre installed with an alarm or sound system that maybe triggered by movement. Some surveillance companies may also provide an email alert system that warns you of intrusion or movement in a monitored area.

10. Recording and storing

Any CCTV package is incomplete without a reliable DVR system that can record and store your data for future reference. Online recording and viewing allows you to look at your monitored area on a specially designated domain. Remote monitoring is possible on your computer as well as your smart phone. Offline recording and storing requires hard disk space, which can maybe purchased according to your needs. Some hard disks range from 500 GB all the way to 2 TB and may allow you to store your video data for up to 12 months.

How to Choose a CCTV System

Do you want to choose a cctv system for the bragging rights, or do you want it to keep you safe? CCTV is considered a pancea for all sorts of crime. There are many articles, lamenting the inefficiency of cctv systems. Yes, 90% of CCTV systems are useless, because they where not chosen, designed or installed properly. This article, How to Choose a CCTV system will highlight the fact that CCTV Security is a job for professionals, and must be designed and installed by professionals to be effective.

The Value of Half Measures, when Choosing a CCTV System

Think about this.

Imagine that you suffered from some sort of medical problem which required minor surgery. You just happen to be acquainted with a medical equipment provider. How comfortable would you be buying a scalpel from your friend and performing the operation yourself, based on specific instructions he gives you? I won’t be comfortable with that – because a professional doctor makes a single incision, based upon years of experience, and study – study which covers many narrowly related subjects – which all come together when making that incision. You would be making the incision minus the years of experience and study! Ouch…

Now when you ask How to Choose A CCTV System?, you will get answers from a security provider, and CCTV retailer and some friends. Usually the retailer doesn’t only sell CCTV equipment, they may even be the corner hardware store, with some CCTV on the shelf, or the local mass mart store, selling CCTV equipment along with your groceries, or some popular online destination promoting all sorts of gadgets.

I want you to think about this. Can a mass mart retailer help you to choose a CCTV system for your home, or help you to buy the CCTV system which they have on the shelf? Does the mass mart retailer help you based on years of experience and study? – remember our little medical example at the beginning of this article!

Why get professional assistance to help you Choose a CCTV System?

If you want a CCTV system that is going to protect you in your home or business – I suggest you get answers from a professional security advisor.

There are a lot of products in this market. Many are assembled in Asian backyards using equipment from generic providers – yet they all look the same. It takes a few years of sampling and testing to get to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Here’s a little story I would like to relate.

I once commented to a Chinese Manufacturer, that the price of their camera was quite expensive. He asked me what I would like to pay for the camera. I gave him a price about 30% lower. “Of course I can do it!” he exclaimed “I’ll just use one board instead of two, and put less IC’s on the board”

If you are going to be choosing your CCTV system, based on price alone – I can tell you now that you are likely going to be buying inferior equipment, it will have a shorter lifespan, will probably not be effective, and will serve to provide a false sense of security.

I imagine this isn’t the kind of article you expected to find, when you typed How to Choose a CCTV system- right?

Well generally these types of articles are going to try and teach you about CCTV. The knowledge they give is limited to that which the sales guru behind the article has. Generally such advice doesn’t include any security based information, and just assumes that CCTV is the best solution to your problem.

You are going to be told about Lenses, and CCD’s and more and more – BUT you know what!? My CCTV technicians have attended month long courses, and quite a few of them – and I can tell you that choosing a CCTV system involves 100 if not 1000 times more information than you are going to get over the mass mart counter.

It never fails to amaze me — that people will buy a CCTV system, that won’t work! The reason DIY is half price, is because it’s a half measure!

Now hopefully you have the point – when faced with the decision of how to choose a CCTV system, get professional assistance.

What you should do before calling the CCTV company

There is something you should be doing in your home or business before you call the professional though. Not even a professional can give you an effective system if YOU do not know why you want it! I Suggest you do the following.

  • Get hold of the plans for your home or business, or draw a schematic if you don’t have predrawn plans.
  • Divide your home or business into major sectors. eg. Kitchen, garage, sitting room, front yard – you will know what the major areas of concern are for you.
  • Label each sector 1,2,3 or A,B,C – it doesn’t really matter.
  • For each sector write a list of undesirable events that have occurred, or might occur in the area.
  • For each event describe how visual assistance (that’s what CCTV is) could help you manage, eliminate, or reduce that event and it’s consequences.

Once you have compiled this list, you are ready to call the CCTV company, and describe what you actually need. The CCTV stuff, about interlacing and progressive scan, spatial and temporal resolution, lenses, and camera types – leave that up to the CCTV professional – learning 10% of someone elses trade, isn’t going to help you much!

Oh, and before I finish the article, I just want to mention that bad equipment will quickly erode the income of a CCTV integrator – if they have to keep going back, to fix it! You can be sure that CCTV integrators are using the equipment that works for them – it may take you a few purchases, at some expense to find a quality product, that works.

Do You Need a CCTV Camera?

Why businesses should invest in CCTV cameras?

As a small business owner, you are concerned about the safety of your business premises and the security of your staff as well as your customers. Employing security personnel 24/7 may prove cost prohibitive and running background checks on personnel employed may not always be foolproof. Security measures such as CCTV cameras, recorders, and fingerprint/password protected access control systems ensure legal help if things go wrong. More important, they can actually prevent or stop things from going south.

Studies suggest that establishments that own CCTV cameras actually deter antisocial behavior including theft and vandalism. If you own an establishment that deals in goods and commodities, strategically placed CCTV cameras may deter mobsters, shoplifters, and even rough behavior by unhappy customers or members of the public. Both your staff employees and customers are likely to be more professional if they know that any unlawful action maybe caught on tape.

Another reason you may want to consider CCTV is due to growing threat of violence at work. The violence could be in the form of bullying at work or sexual, verbal, or emotional harassment. CCTV in different places in your establishment acts as a monitor and allows you access to any unprofessional behavior at work. Violence at the workplace may also arise from individuals who are intoxicated, suffer from mental health problems, young people in groups, and armed robbers. In such a scenario, having a security system in place is very important to either stop a situation or seek police help incase violence has occurred. CCTV recording maybe entered as evidence with the police and often helps them track down miscreants.

CCTV for Business

CCTV packages come in various selections at different price points ensuring that there is one that will fit your budget. Certain packages are best for home security or small businesses, while others are optimal for bigger properties and shopping establishments. Whatever CCTV package you choose; ensure that you receive the maximum bang for your buck.

    • Camera resolution, video quality and frames per rate (or how smoothly the captured video plays out) are key features to consider when you purchase a CCTV package for business. Availability of these features depends on price of CCTV and what your business surveillance system requires.
    • Innovations in CCTV recordings now allow you access to live footage via streaming video on your computer, and through the Internet on your smart phones and online on your security website or personalized website. Value additions such as phone and email alerts allow you to see real time video of any wrongful activity that maybe taking place on premises even when you are away. Real time video allows you to trigger the alarm response system to get immediate police help.
    • CCTV for business provides safety to staff and customers during working hours. After business hours, a well functioning CCTV package continues to protect your premises and property. Night surveillance systems consist of CCTV with night vision features. These cameras capture images even in low light areas and feature performance enhancing infrared lighting. Even in pitch darkness, night vision cameras can capture images of intruders and unlawful activity.
  • Consider investing in waterproof CCTV cameras if you need them for exterior purposes. Most surveillance systems need protection from environmental hazards such as wind and rain. Clarity and definition of images maybe compromised if your CCTV cameras suffer damage due to rains.

Installing CCTV for Security

If you are installing CCTV cameras at your establishment, here is what you need to keep in mind:

    • If you are a business owner installing any kind of security package for the first time, talk to your staff about the CCTV cameras, their location, their function and maintenance. Training your staff and making them aware of your security plan will assure them of their safety. This may also ease their concern about their privacy.
    • Many business owners install CCTV cameras but not DVRs to record the footage. Cutting costs with these “dummy cameras” will prove expensive in case burglary or break-ins take place in your establishment. Without the recording device, only a CCTV camera hardly provides for an effective surveillance.
    • While installing CCTV cameras around the business premises take into account the unique location of your property. You may need CCTV cameras to cover both a front entrance and a back alley entrance or gate. You may have a separate access to a storage unit that may also need monitoring. In this case, look for options that allow you to purchase multiple CCTV packages that maybe more economical.
    • A CCTV camera will only record the best image in given light. If a certain area needs more light or visibility, consider investing in motion sensor lights or night vision CCTV.
    • Regular maintenance of the CCTV cameras and recorder is important. Check that it is set up, working, recording and pointing in the right direction. If your DVR disc has reached maximum capacity, ensure that you either buy additional storage or make provisions for back up.
    • Businesses often complain about stolen or missing camera equipment. At the time of installation, ensure that you bolt down any recording equipment.
  • The CCTV Code of Practice dictates that you place prominent signs regarding the placement of CCTV cameras. Hidden or covert cameras in commercial establishments may risk punishment if they do not follow specific rules. Similarly, data protection laws dictate how to record or dispose data, viewing or monitoring security personnel and how long they should stay in storage. It is best to enquire about the CCTV Code of Practice in your area or country as these may differ from place to place.

More Security Measures for Business

Along with CCTV cameras, business owners should also consider security measures such as installing multiple-user finger print lock or finger print access control and digital locks. High tech built and stylish looks make these options a go-to for businesses.

    • Fingerprint Lock: Sometimes called a biometric lock, a fingerprint lock allows you to create a database of fingerprints for you and opens up a door only after fingerprint identification. You can decide which staff has access to certain areas secured by the fingerprint lock. Micro sensors on the fingerprint access control pad matches fingerprints with those in the data and will not open for individuals that do not possess this identification. The fingerprint lock is an excellent option over traditional methods such as keys, card inserts and padlocks. As part of a keyless system, it certainly beats having to carry keys or cards on you. Moreover, you do not have to deal with the hassle of duplicating keys for your staff and worrying about lost keys. When purchasing a finger print lock, look for features such as scratch proof and moisture proof sensors, durable alloy cover, maximum user capacity, LED display, high security mortise and qualified warranties.
  • Digital Lock: Traditional locks maybe picked by burglars using bump keys or pick cylinders. Businesses do have the option of using a digital lock at the main entrance to the property or even for their safes. Digital locks maybe available with a deadbolt or double claw bolt for added security measure. Different types of digital lock maybe available with keyword, pin code and back up keys. Check for features such as multiple card use, intrusion alarm, auto and manual options and weather proof touch screen. Additional features on digital locks may include smoke and fire detection, burglar alarm and remote control operation.