This is the first part of a series on setting up business security camera systems. Later this month, we’ll be discussing how to choose a network video recorder (NVR), when to use edge storage, and how to use a central management server to aggregate business security cameras across multiple locations into a single management pane.
Choosing a business security camera.
There’s a lot of business security camera companies and hundreds of products to choose from. However, there’s really not much difference between them. Many of them are made in the same factories with different brand names affixed to them. This doesn’t mean that they are inherently low quality, in fact, some of them are quite impressive. However, we need an effective means to sort through the junk. Here’s a set of criteria to look for when choosing a business security camera.
Criteria #1: H.265 Encoding
As of now, February 2020, this is a key differentiator between a high quality and low quality business security camera is the type of encoding it uses. Older style cameras, even though they may be affixed with a new model number, use H.264 encoding. Newer and more up to date business security cameras use H.265.
This new encoding method is critical to managing storage space and bandwidth. With all other video encode settings being the same, H.265 produces the same image while using half the bandwidth, which mean half the storage space, and you can view more business security cameras at once while consuming less resources on the viewing device.
Properly setting the video encode settings of a business security camera, including the ability to select H.265, is the #1 difference between a high and low performance camera system.
Criteria #2: Resolution between 2-4MP
Don’t be tempted to just buy the camera with the highest available resolution. This is the number that most business security camera companies are after, but it’s a red herring.
There’s a steep drop off in noticeable quality after 2MP, but an enormous additional consumption of network bandwidth and storage capacity. The only time you will ever see better than 2MP is when using the digital zoom of your viewer.
That’s not to say there’s never a case where it’s worth the extra bandwidth consumption and money to get a higher resolution business security camera. There are some situations where it’s justified, but it’s rare.
Resolution is not a way to compensate for long viewing distance. If something is 100′ away an 8MP business security camera will still not be able to effectively zoom in on it. I’d say for every 2MP of resolution gives you the ability to zoom in an additional 25% without losing quality. Also consider that if the lighting is not perfect, small detail will not be caught on any resolution.
Stick with business security camera between a 2 and 4 megapixel resolution for the best value and the best system functionality.
Criteria #3: Lifetime warranty
If a business security camera doesn’t have a lifetime warranty, don’t buy it. The longer it’s warranty period the less likely that it will ever have to be used. Warranty periods are directly proportional to how long a manufacturer things a product will last before too many of them need to be replaced.
If it’s an outdoor business security camera, this becomes even more critically important, especially in climates that are very cold, very wet, or very hot.
One additional key aspect to the warranty period of the business security camera is the tech support provided. Always test tech support for any product before buying it. Call the support number on the business security camera company’s website and tell him the camera will no longer on and that you’ve tried several different POE ports and switches. If they don’t offer to replace the business security camera within 5 minutes then don’t buy their camera.
Criteria #4: Avoid the list of deal breakers
There are some things that every business security camera should have and that should be mentioned in their datasheets, which leads us to our first deal breaker. If there’s no datasheet for the camera, don’t buy it. As previously mentioned, most of these cameras are churned out in the same handful of factories. If the manufacturer doesn’t have a datasheet then they are probably just using that factory’s flavor of the day. A datasheet goes a long way towards proving the business security camera company is taking ownership of their product, or perhaps even engineered it.
If a business security camera is not ONVIF 2.4+ compliant, or there is no mention of it in the datasheet, don’t buy it. Non compliance means that the business security camera company is uninterested in playing nice with third party equipment. It’s cheaper, easier to produce a camera that is not compliant, and this indicates the company is choosing cost cutting over quality. Not to mention, you may have a use for it, especially if intending to use our surveillance cms platform.
Business security camera CMOS sensors should be at least 1/2.8″ (1″ x 2.8″). They should also have at least a 2.5 mm lense and mention that they are support WDR (wide dynamic range). All of these will help the camera produce a quality image in low lighting conditions. IR illumination is in no way a replacement for being able to produce a quality image in low light. If any of these are not the case for the business security camera that you are interested in, don’t buy.
Criteria #5: wide breadth of compatible accessories
As previously mentioned, businesses don’t just buy business security camera they buy security camera systems. Consider how the camera will integrate with everything else. It’s always recommended to buy the recording device from the same company as the cameras, so before buying any business security cameras make sure that their recorders are high quality as well.
Also make sure that the camera company offers a wide variety of cameras, not just bullets or domes. I’ve had great success using 360 degree fish eye cameras that have 4 CMOS sensors digitally stitched together on the backend. Some business security cameras offer similar technology in a 180 degree camera that capture an entire wall of a warehouse, potentially halving the amount of cameras necessary.
Don’t look at buying a business security camera as just buying a camera, it should be looked at as a system, and it’s important that the system has all the parts and pieces that might be needed.
Summary to choosing a business security camera.
As mentioned, there’s a lot of
companies out there producing a lot of the same products in the same factories. There’s a lot of quality gear out there, but it can be tough to find. Using the criteria we’ve discussed you’ll be sure to end up with the best business security camera for your application.