Posts Tagged ‘ what to look for when buying a security camera ’

A Common Sense Guide to Buying Security System Cameras

Written By:
Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

A Common Sense Guide to

Buying Security System Cameras

A Common Sense Guide to Buying Security System Cameras by Matt          Today’s security market is going crazy!  People are scrambling to protect themselves, their families, possessions, businesses, etc.  The economy has created a whole new wave of crime and out of control is only the start of the description of what’s going wrong.  This craze has in turn created a new type, style, and breed of consumer.  Oblivious, and its not their fault.  Most retailers confuse the average guy or girl so badly that “up” isn’t even a direction anymore.  Well, I’m going to sort all of that out for you.  By the time you’ve gotten through this brief read, you’ll be armed to the teeth with information that your average reseller isn’t even going to have.  Let’s get into it!

First things first:  TVL…  Television lines…  The grandaddy of bull.  I always hear people talking about it.  “My cam has 500TVL”  “My cam has 700TVL”  “My cam has 1,583,295TVL”   blah blah blah…. Who cares?  Ya, that’s right…  LA DI DA….  six bazillion TVL….  Who freakin cares?   What’s a TVL?  Why do you even care?  NO…  IT IS NOT REALLY RELEVANT.  Just stop…   Recorders can’t take advantage of ANYTHING over 480TVL.  That’s right 480…  you’re neighbor who’s clamouring over his brand new $8,000 1.65 gazillion TVL cams; he’s an idiot (and has probably been raked over the coals by a security company looking to make a quick buck).  Only until recently, most recorders couldn’t even record over 240TVL.  480!  That’s your magic #.  Anything over that, means NADA.  The only exception is High Definition, and they don’t measure that in TVL.

So now that I’ve pooped on your parade route about what you THOUGHT was important, let me bring you up to speed on what is ACTUALLY important: Chips, lenses, housings, illumination, features, and control.  These factors are what you need to be paying attention to.  This difference between cameras is great.  Not simple.  To decide what camera is best for you, you must first understand what you expect of the camera.  Do a thorough survey of each of your camera’s potential location on your site.  Know what you expect for the cam, and then start your research.  Also understand that cameras DO NOT work miracles.  If your recorder sucks…  No camera in the world will make it better.  In addition to that; cameras do NOT increase your recorded resolution.  If you like the way your picture looks when its small, and you hate the way it looks when you go full screen…  DO NOT waste your money upgrading your cameras.  That is your recorder that you’re not happy with.  On the other hand: If you’re not crazy about something in the image no matter how big or small (blurry, unclear, fuzzy, too dark, too bright, wrong colors, glare, etc etc etc), then you are looking at new cameras to make it better.  I call it “test your resolution”.  This small intelligent test could save you from blowing some major cash.

So now you’ve decided that you need to upgrade your cams, or perhaps its a completely new install and you want to make sure you buy the right thing.  Where do you start?  For me, its the physical requirements.  Are you mounting to a wall?  A soffit?  A Pole?  Having the most awesome dome cameras does you no good at all if they are blocked by a fascia board or you have to crank them to a perfect ninety degrees and get Infrared reflection in the view from it.  Housings do make a difference, but its completely from the install point of view.  Choose a camera design that works with your application first.  Then you can worry about everything else.

Once you have a housing and mount style in mind, you can then begin to consider what it is that you need, and the quality levels you are willing to pay for.  Yes, that makes a difference.  Lets get real here.  I’m always hearing someone tell me that they want to capture a license plate on a moving car from 50 feet away, but they only want to spend $1000.  Get real people.  You buying a multi-camera system.  You want it to produce CSI like results for under the price of one cameras they used to shoot the program.  Not to mention, not even those cameras do that. If you’re shooting a long wide area, and you want to be able to zoom in on the pic, be prepared to spend some cash.  You need a high resolution camera (megapixel) with amazing clarity and shutter speeds.  If you’re not prepared to spend thousands on your system then don’t even bother thinking that way.  That kind of technology exists, but its expensive.

If you want anything more than an overview camera to see what’s going on in a area, your best bet is to talk to someone that knows how to get it done.  You could fiddle faddle around guessing and adjusting and buying dozens of cameras trying to get it right, or you could just talk to someone that knows.  Yes, learning about cameras DOES help…  But until you get the thing into your hands and play with it, you’ll never really know.  Every company claims their product is the best.   Get on the line with them and ask them why.  If they seem like they’re mumble-bumbling and spewing vague bullcrap, they probably aren’t qualified to help you.  Its the guy that actually says something like “we use only the top components in our equipment” and can name what that is and why its so awesome that you want to talk to.

If you’re still bent on doing it yourself, here are a few factors that will actually make a difference:  Super WDR/True WDR (or 3DNR, or DWDR, in that order important), Super ATR (or standard ATR), megapixel lenses (which are relative to clarity, not image resolution), warranty length, infrared distance, motorized mounts, user-controlled on screen display, white balance, shutter speed adjustment, lowlight enhancements, headlight compensation, etc.  Features and capabilities are what make a high end camera worth it, not resolution (or TVL).  The trick is to understand what you expect the camera to do, and find one with the features that will enhance the situation.  Its fairly obvious that headlight compensation is not going to be very useful in a basement cam, nor will wide dynamic range glare resistance outdoors overviewing a field.

In essence, if you just look past “the easy route” and do a little research into what you are buying, and the individual features of the camera, you should really be able to do a fantastic job finding the right cameras for your situation.  Spending time learning the equipment will pay off big.  Finding self help videos is also a great way to see what a product is all about.  Remember to test a salesman for the basics before taking his word on the advanced, and if they really know the product don’t be afraid to take their advice.  They most likely know it better than you do.  A good salesman will be more than glad to let you know when you’re over buying, and that’s critical.  If you’re going to spend money on something you don’t need, chances are there’s something you DO need that you aren’t spending on.  The perfect camera system is a balanced camera system.


A Common Sense Approach to Choosing Cameras for People Fed Up With Salespeople and Pitches

Written By:
Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Common Sense Approach to Choosing Cameras for People Fed Up With Salespeople and Pitches A Common Sense Approach to Choosing Cameras for People Fed Up With Salespeople and Pitches

One of the most confusing things anyone can do is attempt to buy cameras with a limited amount of knowledge.  There is so much misleading, conflicting, and flat outright wrong information on the internet and coming from sales persons, that its enough to drive any new buyer absolutely insane!  I’m going to try to help you, the end user, make the very best decision possible with these few tips.  Use them as a checklist, and you should be able to quickly narrow down the right camera for your needs.

TIP 1:  Don’t believe the hype! 

You’re going to see, hear, and read all sorts of crazy claims.  Seven million television lines (TVL)!  Super ultra thingy ma doo dad.  Three hundred feet of infrared!  One millionth of a millionth lux gigawatts!  Most of what you read is a specification that is either someone’s opinion or guesstimation or has simply been tested under unrealistically ideal situations.  What’s worse than that?  Some of these “fantastically amazing whiz bangs” might not even apply to you.

TIP 2: TVL only matter up to a certain point.

If you’re purchasing an analogue transmission camera system, you’re going to hear all about the size of the camera’s TVL (TeleVision Lines).  This is an important measurement of sharpness.  However, what most companies or salesmen don’t realize or want you to know is that after four hundred and eighty (480) TVL, the entire number is moot.  That’s right.  You’ve bought the world’s largest left handed smoke shifter.  Every retailer on the planet goes out and brags about huge TVL numbers like they’re horsepower in a Ferrari.  Well unfortunately analogue transmission is the little old lady in a Buick in front of you doing 45 in a 55 zone.   Your Ferrari can do it.  You’re conscious is clear, there’s no harm in speeding up…  But she just won’t get out of the way.  That’s analogue for ya.  Welcome to disappointment.

TIP 3: Figure out what you need.

Look at your camera environment.  I mean really…  Look at it.  Figure out with common sense what is going to work for you.  Figure out the field of view you need.  Why you’re buying cameras in the first place.  What do you NEED it to do.  If you can afford it; What would you like it to do.  These days camera systems integrated with other systems can do all sorts of thing.  I just bought one that walks my dog twice a day.  Ok, I didn’t…  But they’re supposed to be out in a few months.

TIP 4: Talk to people, ask questions you know the answer to.

This practice should yield obvious results.  Having an idea if the guy is pulling the wool over your eyes or not is definitely useful info.  Use the old “how many TVL do I need?”   That always works like a champ to root out a clown.  If they’re knowledgeable and truthful, you’ll hear what you already know.  Then you might be able to have trust in them to answer your other questions as well.

TIP 5: Features are greater than numbers (for the most part). 

Resolution is an extremely important number.  This is the size of your image.  Bigger images mean better detail (like looking at a wallet size and letter size version of the same picture side by side).  Other than resolution you should really be finding out about the guts.  Ask the QUALIFIED salesperson about their interior components.  If they are top notch, SOMEONE will know whats in there.  There is a lot of garbage on the market, and those systems are the ones that no one has a clue what’s inside.  If a company is spending money on quality components, they will know about it.  Also ask “What makes this camera different from others”.  If they simply say “well it just looks better”, don’t buy it.  Higher end/higher quality cameras are loaded with features and enhancements that improve quality, counter light issues, and give excellent characteristics to the final recorded image.

TIP 6: Listen, think, and determine. 

Again, this is a common sense process.  If an article, ad, or salesperson are rattling off about something that sounds cool, but you’ll never use; you probably don’t need it.   Huge hard drives, remote access, and other features could be this way.  Its easy to over buy on security.  Just simply ask yourself each time you hear about a feature: “Will I use that”?

TIP 7: Demos.  This should really be a no brainer. 

Ask a company for their footage.  Live demos can be deceiving because factors that aren’t in play on your own installation are effecting the quality.  By asking for the recorded footage, you are getting a real life example of what to expect if you’re broken into or otherwise need your footage.  Recordings are what the security camera world go around.  Think about it.  You’re not going to hand the police a live video stream.

TIP 8:  Warranty. 

Warranties of over a year say a LOT.  One year warranties are everywhere, so we’ll call them “average durability”.  When a company goes as far as extending beyond that, it means they KNOW the quality is above average, and they are willing to put the money where their mouth is.  Buying products with above average warranty is always a good sign.

TIP 9:  Always call the service line. 

If you have a problem, who are you going to call?  Try it out.  If you’re on hold for an hour, guess what?  That’s right…  you’ve entered the black hole of information.  Thousands of people like you are sucked in and no one gets out alive.  Ask about support and service.  Find out who is going to take care of you if you have a problem.  most companies have little or no support for the products they sell.

TIP 10: Find out where the goods are. 

The newest trend is to sell inventory that doesn’t exist.  Some of it isn’t even in the country.  Its being shipped from some other company, in China, Mexico, or elsewhere.  This doesn’t bode well for warranty issues.

TIP 11: Buy from established companies. 

Good companies are the ones that have been around awhile usually.   John’s start up might be a good company, or maybe not.  Plus start up companies have a harder time capitalizing their business often.  Choosing an established source for your security equipment often means you’re buying from an organization that hold a much better chance of being able to combat Murphys law and will also have a more likely chance of being around in a few years.


Just pay attention.  If something seems like it is nonsense, it probably is.  This is not rocket science.  The security camera industry is over 50 years old now.  There are no sudden revelations that are being handed down.  Yes, revisions.  But they are hardly Earth shattering.  Simply pay attention and think.  Most of your needs should be easy to determine a solution to.  Find a company and sales person you like and isn’t trying to sell you swamp land on the moon, ask them many questions, and let them make your eventual purchase much easier.