Essential features of security cameras to consider when choosing a surveillance system

So you’re thinking it might be time to upgrade or install all new surveillance cameras, but you just don’t know where to start. A lot of the camera functionality information can seem like a confusing minefield of industry jargon and tech-speak, and it can be hard to know which features are important and which are a useless gimmick to increase sales. How do you pick out the good information from the sales junk?

Security Cameras Sign

When it comes down to it, getting back to basics is the only way to ensure you are comparing apples to apples and buying the right camera for your security requirements. Here are our tips on the fundamental security camera functions to look for when setting up or upgrading your surveillance system. If you need any guidance, it is highly recommended that you speak to your local surveillance professional and they will be able to point you in the right direction.

Top security camera features

The best components to look at when it comes to choosing a surveillance camera are as follows:

Field of view

The field of view, or FoV, indicates how wide the angle of vision is for the camera. The range can vary from 110° degrees up to around 180° - which, as you can see below, makes a big difference.

110 degree angle camera
180 degree angle camera

However, make sure you consider the area you are needing to monitor and the placement of the camera, as to whether you need 180°. If a camera is positioned in the corner of a room, a 110-degree field of view would be plenty. If however you are wanting to monitor the whole front yard or other large areas with a single camera, a wider field may be required.

Storage

The option used to store footage recorded by a security camera can vary, depending on the system. Choices include:

  • Cloud storage - otherwise known as internet-based storage
  • SD card - usually placed directly into each camera, often only capable of storing smaller amounts of footage.
  • Home computer - extra storage space may be needed
  • Network video recorder (NVR) or digital video recorder (DVR)

Check that the recording system you prefer is compatible with the cameras you buy and vice-versa. Additionally, the amount of footage and storage needed will vary depending on if your camera is motion activated or set to record continually - if you are continually recording, you will need more storage than if your system is set to motion-activation only.

Picture clarity and image quality

Around 1080 pixels is standard for many security cameras, with the general rule being the higher the pixel count the clearer the image will be. This is especially important in low light situations, where images may be difficult to register. Most cameras can provide a decent image of a well lit or sunny room, however the challenge for most systems is during night or evening recording. When you think about it, this is a common break-in period and you need your security system working its best. Higher pixel count also allows the camera more digital zoom (if the camera has this feature), which means it can get in close to record a clear picture for identification purposes.

Indoor or outdoor use

There are a large amount of indoor camera options available, however the outdoor options tend to be a little few and far between. Make sure the camera you choose is suitable for the area you want to use it in, either inside or outside.

Outdoor Security Camera

Cameras used for external monitoring must be designed specifically for outdoor conditions, including being hardy, waterproof, and able to withstand extreme temperature variations. Even if they are positioned under eaves or on the veranda, the ability to combat various weather conditions is crucial!

Wireless (or nearly)

It is quite common for cameras to be referred to as being ‘wireless’ although this may not be strictly true. The wireless reference can indicate the camera communicates wirelessly with the recording system or cloud back-up, removing the need to install Ethernet cabling throughout your building, as opposed to not having actual connecting cables and wires.

Wireless Security Camera

Most cameras which do not specifically state that they are battery powered will still need to have access to a powerpoint or be wired into an electrical circuit. Speak to your security specialist about the ideal wiring requirements for your home or business to ensure your preferred camera system is compatible, including whether a wireless or wired system is best.

Movement

Would you like to be able to move the security camera remotely to track an intruder or keep an eye on your property? If so, you will need to purchase a camera which has PTZ (pan, tilt and zoom) capabilities which will allow the camera to manoeuvre around either automatically or manually. The big advantage to this is the ability of the security camera to zoom in, move vertically and horizontally, and also from side to side, allowing the monitoring of different areas more effectively. Some cameras will only have one or two of the three options, so consider the area requiring surveillance when deciding which capabilities you need. Systems with these capabilities also usually cost a little more.

Motion sensors

Motion sensors are different to movement, in that motion sensors are set to recognise motion and automatically take pictures and video, as well as send alerts. They save on storage, as they are only recording when movement is detected, and contact you when something happens (which means you don’t have to monitor your cameras all the time!). This could be as simple as a courier dropping off a parcel on your front porch, to someone actively trying to break into your home or a person lurking around your house unnecessarily.

Security Camera

When looking at motion sensors, other things to consider include setting a specific ‘time slot’ for motion detection to be active and also if the sensitivity of the motion detection is adjustable. It is worth noting however that motion detection isn’t always as reliable as one would hope, but it is still a worthwhile addition where possible.

Remote access

Having the ability to access footage during or shortly after an incident happens enables you to respond quickly to a break-in or event by calling a security guard response service, the police, or a neighbour. It also allows your professional alarm monitoring service to see what's going on if an alarm is triggered at your home.

Mobile Phone

Many cameras and security systems allow you to connect from your smartphone or remote computer so you can check what's going on around your property from almost anywhere in the world. Other systems will send activation alerts via SMS, email, or an app to nominated contacts. The ability to stay connected to your system, even when you’re not home, offers another dimension to ensure your home stays safe all the time.

Two-way talk feature

Another thing to consider is audio features of your security cameras - do they have the ability for one-way or two-way audio communication via the camera? The benefit of a two-way feature is that you can hear what is going on from the cameras location, as well as communicate with anyone who is there. This can range from using your smartphone or tablet to remotely confront intruders or comforting your pets if they are upset during a storm.

Night vision

The benefits of night vision are quite numerous, however the major ones are :

  • Night vision allows the camera to work in low light conditions. This means it can capture images and/or videos in poorly-lit areas, like alleys or backyards, where systems without night vision would likely struggle to see and record.
  • Night vision security systems are equipped with lots of infrared LEDs, which provide lighting help so the camera can monitor low-light areas
  • Allow for round-the-clock surveillance
  • When you think about it, a lot of the time when you aren’t home your house won’t be actively lit up. Night vision cameras assist with surveillance in situations like this, even if it’s just a poorly-lit area of your yard
  • The location of your security cameras will affect night vision range - 30 feet or higher vision range is the best home surveillance option
  • If you have a quality night vision security camera, it will have an IR cutter filter to balance out the lighting on an image, coupled with true or digital wide dynamic range (WDR) to optimize videos/images

Remember, a motion-sensored light in your front and/or backyard are also a really handy addition to any security system!

Expandability

Something to consider when you are either upgrading your security cameras or installing brand new ones is the ability of the system to be expanded. If you wanted to add more cameras or sensors to doors and windows, would your chosen system allow that? And what about additional motion detection? This is a discussion that is best had with your surveillance specialist, who knows the most about systems and their potential expansion abilities.

Other security camera points to remember

  • Privacy laws : ensure your system is positioned correctly and that you do not share footage unless required to by a law enforcement agency. If you are unsure about privacy laws around security cameras, especially camera placement, speak to your local security specialist and they can assist
  • App-connected systems : as mentioned above, a lot of systems these days will allow remote access through apps on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Do you research when it comes to the best apps around, and what is compatible with your preferred system
  • Home-automation : some security systems are now capable of integrating into home automation systems, such as Google Home. This is something to consider if you have the appropriate equipment or are considering investing in it

Alltronic Security

If you are still a little unsure as to what you are after, or would like to speak to someone about the best security camera for you and your home, give the experienced team at Alltronic Security a call on 07 3353 3248 or complete an online enquiry form today. We know the importance of a high quality and properly installed security system, as well as all the components that make a security camera tick, so get in contact today.

 

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