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7 Tips to Select the Best Security Camera

CCTV (closed circuit television) systems are gaining mainstream popularity as a crime-fighting tool. The do-it-yourself (DIY) security camera system is commonplace. Video surveillance can be a powerful tool, but only if the system is designed properly for the particular situation and intended outcomes. Whether you're in the market for a business or home security camera system, choosing the BEST security camera is key to ensuring that high quality video surveillance footage is obtained.

1) Determine Coverage Area and Target Distance - Before buying a security camera do a simple survey of the area that you want to observe with your CCTV system. What particular area(s) are you covering? Depending on the situation you'll need to choose a security camera that will best capture the scene.

Here's where you need to "think like a criminal" and ask yourself what you would do and where you would go if you were trying to rob the place. what areas would you cross?

You'll most likely need multiple cameras and each camera should be chosen to cover a specific area.

First, determine how wide of an area needs to be covered - this is called the field of view. Next, determine the target distance in feet. The target distance is the distance that the subject is expected to be from the security camera.

Security camera placement is based on several factors such as accessability (i.e. can you install the security camera there and get a wire to and from it?) and visibility of the camera (do you want the security camera somewhat hidden or in plain sight to act as a deterrent?), and of course whether the camera will capture the activity in the area. Exposure to the elements is another consideration when determining placement of security cameras.

2) Select Security Camera Focal Length - Once you have determined the target distance and desired field of view, you'll want to calculate the best focal length for each security camera. The best way to do this is to use an online CCTV lens calculator.

Based on the target distance and field of view, the lens calculator will recommend the focal length lens needed to obtain the desired view and magnification of each security camera. This is extremely important in order to obtain high quality video surveillance footage. There is a trade off between field of view and magnification.

3) Choose the Right Camera Type - There are a huge variety of CCTV cameras manufactured today. The right security camera depends on the specific environment that the camera will be placed in (outdoor versus indoor), the desired visibilty of the camera (do you want the camera in plain sight as a deterrent, or somewhat hidden), and the desired aesthetics (does the security camera need to look nice and blend in with the surroundings or does that not matter?).

Here are some common styles of security cameras:

Bullet Cameras: (also known as lipstick cameras) These are small (about the size of a finger) cylindrical shaped cameras that are usually sealed in a weatherproof housing. They are a well hidden camera due to their small size and inconspicuous shape. These fit well under an eve of a house, and can be used indoors or outdoors.

Dome Cameras: These are very commonly seen in malls and department stores where the security camera needs to look nice and blend in with the surroundings so as not to make customers feel uncomfortable. These security cameras also sometimes come with dark tinted glass which makes it difficult for anyone to determine which way the camera is pointed. Many dome cameras are also fitted with vandalism proof lexan plastic domes to prevent damage. There are also dome cameras that come with fortified metal housings and crush proof glass. Dome cameras come in both indoor and outdoor weatherproof versions.

Box Cameras: These are very commonly seen in some shops and in banks were the security camera does not need to be hidden and is used partially as a deterrent. The box shape of the camera is highly visible and also allows for a variety of variable focal length lenses to be used to achieve the desired coverage area and magnification of details. These security cameras are usually restricted to indoor use only since they are not sealed.

4) Choose Camera Resolution - This refers to lines of resolution of the security camera. The more lines of resolution, the more detail that can be seen in the video so you want this to be as high as possible. 350 lines of resolution is fairly low resolution by current standards. 480 lines is very common and fairly good for general use. 525 to 580 lines of resolution is considered high resolution for standard CCTV and will give the best picture quality. There are megapixel cameras and hi-definition security cameras that have much higher resolution. These are on their way to market but are expensive and require more storage space for the increased video information.

5) Night Vision Cameras with good IR lighting - If your security cameras are going to be used for any night time surveillance where the lighting is dim, then you'll most likely want to choose a security camera that has infrared (IR) LEDs that illuminate the area. IR is invisible to the human eye but not to the camera.

6) Wired vs. Wireless Security Camera - Many first time CCTV buyers are attracted to the concept of wireless security cameras due to the 'high tech' appeal and the fact that no video cable is required. However, be aware that wireless cameras are susceptible to interference from other wireless devices such as cordless phones, wireless internet devices etc. that also utilize frequencies in 2.4 Ghz and 5.8 GHz range.

Also, wireless cameras do require a power cord so they aren't completely wireless in that sense. Finally, wireless cameras require a radio transmitter and receiver which add to the cost of the camera. Whenever possible, use a conventional wired security camera instead of a wireless system.

7) Cost Consideration - In general, the old adage "you get what you pay for" applies to a certain extent when buying CCTV equipment. Sure, you can save some money if you shop around, but beware of very cheap security cameras as you're likely to be disappointed with the results. Find a good vendor who is willing to work with you and takes the time to become familiar with your requirements. Don't just settle for the cheapest security camera. Take the time to research various products, talk with a vendor you can trust and then buy CCTV equipment that represents the best performance for the price as it applies to your security needs. The best value option in CCTV equipment is not always the cheapest one, nor the most expensive one.

Bob Arpin is the founder of www.HowToSurveillance.com/ an information website that features free how-to videos and articles on the topic of video surveillance. The website also features a free online CCTV lens calculator www.howtosurveillance.com/HowToVideo/CCTV-lens-calculator.html

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