One of the most common questions that I get asked is about wireless camera systems. Everyone wants to have wireless cameras. I guess that Hollywood has done a lot to make people think that a completely wireless camera system is a good viable option. There are several advantages and disadvantages to both wired and wireless cameras. When it comes to my personal security, I will always choose the hardwired system over a wireless system any day of the week.
A wireless camera is a camera in which the video is transmitted over the air to a receiver which captures and records the video. A wired camera is a camera that transmits the video over a hardwired connection to a receiver. The camera generally not only transmits the video over the cable, but with the correct cable can get it’s power source that way as well.
Pros of Wireless Cameras
There are some pros to having a wireless camera system. The biggest pro would be the fact that installation is generally easier. When you do not have to worry about climbing through attics or fishing wires through ceiling and walls, the job just got easier. Typically all you need to worry about when installing a wireless surveillance system with regards to the camera is having a power source in a relatively close proximity to the camera. Once that is done, all you need to do is mount the cameras and set up your recording device. This sounds great on the surface, but in reality it’s not that easy.
Cons of Wireless Cameras
With wireless cameras there are a multitude of downfalls. One of the biggest downfalls that I see are picture quality. With almost every wireless camera that I have seen on the market, the resolution quality is generally less than 702×480. When it comes to quality surveillance cameras you want a higher resolution to gather as much detail of the image as possible. I feel that the reason a lower resolution image is used is so that it can transmit the video footage in more frames per second with less latency in the video. Another downfall with wireless is that they generally are in the 2.4ghz spectrum. If you look around most places, that spectrum is inundated with use. Generally speaking there are 14 channels available in this range. Inside of this range you have everything from wireless B and G networks, some parts of wireless N networks, a new wireless network AD which is in it’s draft phase will still use some of this range, microwave ovens, baby monitors, digital cordless telephones, car alarms, and bluetooth adapters.
This range of frequency is very crowded and the overlapping of channels with their frequency ranges is a recipe for disaster in a security system. Adding in yet more devices that are on the same bandwidth, you are asking for interference. With interference you will get lost signal, dropped signals, and lost video. I don’t know about you, but I want to know that my CCTV system is always going to record when I needed it to. Lets say you want to put a camera in a spot without a close power outlet, you have one of a few options. You can either try and find a battery powered camera, good luck finding anything worth it, have an outlet wired closer to the camera location, or move your camera location closer to an outlet. These all seem to me that they are more trouble than they are worth. When I am installing a camera, I want to be able to put it where I am going to get the best possible shot, not where power is going to dictate. If you find good locations with close power, you better hope that there is no major obstructions in the way, like too many concrete walls, or any of the other items that may interfere with the signal. If you want a wireless Pan Tilt Zoom camera, they are out there, but if the video signal doesn’t come in do you think the control of the camera is going to be any better.
Pros of Wired Cameras
With every type of method, there are pros and cons. One of the pros of having your cameras hardwired is that you can count on the picture coming into your recorder. The power and video can be ran on 1 cable, so everything can be centrally located. No interference from telephones, bluetooth, wireless networks, microwave ovens, baby monitors, or car alarms. A wider selection of camera styles are available for use. You can have a Pan Tilt Zoom camera, to allow you to have one camera to look all around. You can add audio to your security system without major hassles. No need for the cameras to be mounted close to a power source, the cable will carry it wherever you need, within reason. If you use a power distribution box up to 16 of your cameras can be powered with one unit, eliminating multiple power supplies. There are several different types of wire that can be used to wire your cameras. You can do simple plug and play, separate RG59 or RG6 and 18/2, Siamese, or Cat 5 cable to wire your cameras. Wired cameras are harder for someone to disrupt the service of the camera system, by not allowing frequency jamming devices to interrupt you video signal.
Cons of Wired Cameras
With every wiring job comes some complications. When you are wiring a camera system it is no different. You can run into studs, concrete block, and other obstacles that can not be seen with drywall up. You typically have to climb around in an attic and deal with insulation. You will have to fish wires down walls and around other objects in your path. If you lay the cable on a high powered line you will get interference on the picture of that camera. If you choose to use any cable other than plug and play cables, you will have to terminate the ends for it to work properly.
There are some advantages and disadvantages for both types of camera styles. I personally feel that if a wireless option is what you are looking for, you should do an IP solution with access points and an omni directional antenna. With this type of setup you are getting the highest rate of resolution for security cameras and you are dealing with network based protocol with better transmission than standard 2.4ghz wireless receivers and transceivers. With this type of a setup you will still need a power supply close to the camera location for the access point and the camera. Another cool thing you can do is if you need a camera at a location that is too far to run a cable, and there is line of sight, there are access point/bridges that can travel for miles. This is very useful for gates and remote camera locations but you will still need a power source. This will save you from trenching a cable all the way to the camera location.
There are some downfalls to this type of setup, you are sending high quality images over the air and most units can only handle a portion of the data at once. Most access points are limited to 150 mbps (Megabytes Per Second) up and down. When you are talking about a high resolution image you may be able to get approximately eight 2MP cameras before running into network issues. If you want to get around this you may want to use multiple access points/bridges to communicate with each other and then you will have 150 mbps on each set of units instead of being limited to the one omni directional access point. By doing this type of a setup you will be limited to the switch that they go into.
You can probably tell by now my which way I lean when it comes to wired vs wireless. I am a firm believer that if you are going to spend the time and money to do something, you should do it right the first time and not have to do it over again. I do not want to have to worry about not getting the images from my camera to my DVR, take the trouble to have to have electrical reran just to fit a camera location, or settle for subpar equipment just to make my job easier. Wireless cameras are still in the infancy and I feel are years away if ever from being perfected.