If you’ve ever stood in front of the yogurt section of the supermarket, you’ve probably been overwhelmed by the choices available. When yogurt first came on the market, it was available in a few flavors. Then they started to add more varieties, different fat contents, fruit on the bottom or mixed in, Greek vs. traditional.
The same can be said for the security camera market. At one time, there were just a handful of choices to be made. Everything was analog and fixed and boxy. Now the selection rivals that of the yogurt case, with PTZs, fisheyes, domes and high definition, low light, and more.
But unlike yogurt, where a poor choice means you don’t eat the whole container or keep it off your shopping list for next week’s trip, picking the wrong camera can be a costly transaction, not only in terms of budget but also overall security.
Thus, when the time comes to make a camera choice it’s critical that you carefully weigh your options. To help you through that process, here are some questions to consider:
What do I want to accomplish? With all the options in the marketplace it’s important to drill down to just how the camera will be used and what result is desired. Think about not only how it will be used, but also where — indoors, outdoors, in a setting where aesthetics are important, and so on. If you’re running a meat packing company and need to record video within a chilled meat locker, you’ll have different specifications than someone looking for a camera that can zoom in on a person at the perimeter of a dark parking lot.
If you need to track shoplifters within a retail setting using recorded video that can be used to make a case against an individual, you’ll be looking for video quality and the selection and placement of cameras that allow a seamless experience. That’s different than the meat packer, who is more concerned with a camera that operates in extreme temperatures and rugged conditions.
Next, ask yourself: What do I already have in place? While there are instances when you are purchasing cameras as part of a new installation, often a camera is being added to an existing system. So think about what types of recording and analytics systems you have in place and if the camera will be the appropriate fit.
Once you’ve determined how the camera will be used and what works with your existing or desired system, you can move on to looking at specific types of cameras to fit your need. In North America, mini-domes have become the form of choice, having proven to be versatile, robust cameras that provide wide angle, telephoto, and IR illuminator options. Cameras also come with various mounting options, so add that to your list of considerations when making a selection. Compact mini-domes may be a more appropriate choice in a budget-conscious installation, still providing high-definition, but in a smaller size for discrete applications.
If you’ve determined that you are best served by a rugged, all-in-one solution, a bullet camera may be the right pick. Sturdy and weatherproof, bullets often come with included mounts so there is ease of set up. On the flip side, box cameras can be among the most flexible, offering dozens of lenses, built-in recording, and various housings and mount options so you can customize and tailor the camera installation to fit your need.
Of course, specialized cameras such as fisheye cameras and PTZs offer different levels of functionality for a variety of applications. For example, the fisheye provides a 360-degree view, offering good situational awareness. But there are also limitations; in this case, a 20 to 25-foot sweet spot, which means that anything beyond that range falls off in resolution and image clarity at a much greater rate than other types of cameras.
A PTZ camera can track and zoom in on a subject. However, PTZs perform best when used in conjunction with other types of cameras because the PTZ may not be looking exactly where you want it to when an event occurs. A fisheye or fixed camera, for instance, may catch an event in its field of view, but it’s the PTZ that can then be used to zoom in, pick up the action, and follow it.
And then there’s camera resolution: How much do you really need? Higher resolution comes with trade offs, especially in terms of storing and moving data across a network. Deciding on the proper resolution goes back to the first question about the goals of your surveillance program. How does the resolution of the camera support your objective? Is the goal to be able to capture faces and license plates, or simply detect movement in the dark? Knowing the answers to these questions can determine your resolution needs.
Finally, in making your camera choice, don’t rely solely on the product specifications provided, but rather narrow down your options and put them to the test. There are no industry standards on specifications, so they vary by manufacturer and individual camera. The best way to figure it out is to see a camera in action — does it address the issues you have and allow you to see, capture and analyze video to its fullest extent? If it does, then you’ve found the one that’s right for you.
Please visit our website for more on selecting from the many different IP cameras available from the American Dynamics.
For a more deatiled review, please watch my ASIS 2013 recroded presentation below, which explains how to make an educated decision on selecting a camera based on visibility requirements, resolution, form factor, design needs, and much more!
What other factors have you considered prior to purchasing a security camera? Let me know in the comments section below.