We’ve all seen security cameras on websites like eBay, Amazon and a few others that offer fantastic deals on security cameras at ridiculously low prices but most of us don’t know the actual quality of these cameras and the support that they offer. It would seem that most security cameras are the same but in reality, there are vast differences in the type of security camera systems that most people mistake as professional quality cameras. One of the biggest differences happens to be their warranties. A company will definitely stand behind their cameras if they know that their security cameras can withstand extreme heat and cold temperatures as well as damp and wet weather.
Low-quality security camera producers know that human nature dictates that only a small fraction of their customers will return an item that malfunctions, so why should they worry about quality control. In fact, they will bank on a certain price point and the fact that your life is too busy to leave a comment online or make the effort to return a security camera or the full security camera system when you’re frustrated with the cameras’ performance. Look carefully at the fine print, you’ll notice that most of the companies offering high definition security cameras for a suspiciously low price have strict return policies within their limited one year warranty. Requiring you to return their security cameras in the exact same box that the security cameras originally shipped to you in or if you decide to call or email tech support, you get a person half way around the world who doesn’t take the time to understand the situation you’re in or can even comprehend or care what it is you are asking of them.
Here, I lay out all of the features you should look for in a professional security camera system.
Types of Security Cameras
The first thing you should know is that there are two different types of camera systems, HD-Analog and HD-IP. HD-Analog cameras are more affordable and are perfect for most homes and businesses. The newest type has up to 3 megapixels per camera and can view license plate numbers clearly half way up a driveway. IP cameras are a little more expensive because they can give you up to 5 megapixels or more and because of that higher resolution, you can view details from much further away.
In my experience, most property owners are astonished by the resolution and quality of the HD analog cameras (better known as HD-CVI and HD-TVI cameras) and they can’t tell the difference between IP and HD-Analog cameras when it is shown on a widescreen TV or monitor.
There are a lot of features I can talk about in a professional security camera system but here, I’m just going to talk about the most important must-have features I’ve suggested to my customers.
Back Light Compensation
The first and one of the more important feature you want in a security camera is the BLC function, which stands for Backlight Compensation. Without Backlight compensation, your security camera becomes practically useless in contrasting light. When the sun is overhead, stark shadows from buildings and trees become so contrasting that people and objects disappear in the shadows. Also, if the security cameras are inside a home or building and there is natural outdoor light coming in from windows and doorways, any person standing in front of that outdoor light will be blackened out and turned into a silhouette shadow. You need the BLC feature to balance out the light in front of an image that happens to be in front of a contrasting light to make sure you can see people and objects when they are standing in front of harsh lighting in a lower lit environment. Most security cameras you find on eBay, Alibaba, Amazon and a few other sites do not offer Backlight Compensation which is a shame because you simply end up wasting the high resolution and cost on something you can’t see during certain times of the day. That can be a disastrous video playback during an investigation. In more advanced security cameras WDR which stands for Wide Dynamic Range has taken the place of regular BLC because of its superior light contrast sensitivity.
Line Detection and Geofencing
Secondly, you may want to invest in a security camera and camera system that has Line Detection or Geofencing. Just about every security camera system in the market promotes their motion detection feature that’s included in almost every security camera on the market today. Unfortunately, motion detection only works great indoors where there’s a controlled light environment. Most security cameras are notoriously bad for outside use. Flying insects, birds, blowing leaves and other outdoor materials can give a multitude of false notifications throughout the day. Line Detection and Geofencing is a much more sophisticated function for indoor and outdoor use. You can set the lines or circle a perimeter within an image of an area that you want notification from. Most importantly, in Line Detection, you will only receive a notification if someone moves from one particular direction to another crossing the line from point A to point B. The camera system can even count how many people or vehicles crossed a line from a particular direction within a given time. Geofencing is similar, ignoring motion in some areas like trees blowing in the wind or traffic from a far off street and let you concentrate on anyone entering a certain area. You can also set a particular time you want to be notified of these intrusions like during the evening hours.
See Further In The Darkest of Areas
Third, look into security cameras that have Matrix Infrared Emitters to give you the widest and longest viewing area at night. Traditional infrared emitters in most security cameras only see in a very short and narrow range. Some only show a spotlight in an area within 50-60ft of the camera. Matrix emitters spread out their Infrared light in a matrix for wide coverage and you get up to 130 get or more of reflective viewing. You need to cover as much area as possible at night, so make sure not to overlook this important feature.
Superior Dust and Waterproof Rating
Always check this rating! Before you purchase a security camera, make sure you know the enclosure rating. Most security cameras sold today have an IP65 rating. In this case, the IP stands for Ingress Protection, which is a technical phrase meaning how much protection a security camera has against moisture and dust. The rating is similar to what they give to wrist watches and diving equipment. IP65 means “moderate water and dust resistance”. I find this rating perfectly fine for air conditioned indoor use but I prefer that my clients purchase a security camera that’s rated IP66 or IP67, the reason being is that you want the highest enclosure rating when you use your security cameras outdoors or in extreme temperatures. IP65 security cameras will allow a bit of moisture seepage over time through the seals and cause the lens to fog up during outside temperature change. Fogged lenses can partially and sometimes completely block the cameras field of view at night and in the early morning due to internal condensation.
IP66 completely blocks moisture from seeping into the security camera and IP67 rated security cameras can be completely submerged in water for a significant amount of time. Also, when it comes to longevity, the IP66 and IP67 rated security cameras have UV protected seals that prevent them from breaking down because of sun exposure for up to 3 to 5 years.
Experienced Installers Matter
Last but not least, hire an experienced security camera installer who knows how to set and implement these security camera features to give you a full-bodied defense against loitering, burglary, and assaults while also giving you the investigative power a sophisticated security camera system can provide.