Deciding on the right security camera system can seem like a difficult task. For every different application there seems to be an endless selection of cameras. From vandal domes to bullets and box cameras and everything in between. Surveillance cameras can sell for anywhere from $50 to $50,000 each. I have seen some explosion proof cameras in the $80,000 area. It seems crazy! When you decide you are going to select and install your surveillance system for your business or home yourself, focus on the infrastructure and the heart of the system and keep the cameras simple and inexpensive at first. I recommend you first focus on the heart of the system and make sure that you select the best quality security digital recorder you can afford. This is where you should spend your money first. Focus on the features that are important to you, but I recommend you consider H.264 compression, real-time recording and high end chipsets. Also make sure the DVR has a good warranty and is able to hold enough hard drives to meet your future storage needs. The DVR will make or break your experience, so if you can, invest in the best quality DVR you can.
Next, choose your cabling wisely. Plug and play packages certainly make installation easier and plug and play BNC cables are fine if you do not think you will want to upgrade your cameras in the future. However, if you may consider high end cameras down the line then you should consider running either Siamese cable which has RG59 and 18/2 in one so that you can run power and video in one run, or use CAT5 with video baluns which allow for power and video on one cable as well, and has the added bonus of offering an infrastructure that will work with IP (network) cameras down the road.
For those who feel they will need help selecting the right camera for each view, consider using inexpensive cameras that often come with security camera packages. Many of these cameras are great for general overviews and some will even be perfect all around cameras like the OD-LX420IR50 which is an inexpensive infra-red vandal dome that can be mounted inside or outside and can see in complete darkness. Once you have mounted the cameras, you can call the tech support hotline and have them help you configure and network the DVR. Then I recommend you ask the technician to take a look at your camera views and have them make recommendations for cameras that might improve your security. In most cases, the overview cameras will be perfect and save you a lot of money, but sometimes, a more detailed image is needed. The technician may recommend a couple of camera upgrades. Since you already installed high quality cable and have a high end DVR, all you need to do is take down the original overview camera and replace it with the upgraded camera. Now you will have an extra overview camera in case one of your others goes down some day. That’s ok, because you will have save thousands of dollars by installing the exact same surveillance system a high dollar security company would have selected for you. Not a bad trade off.