Simple Facts Everyone Should Know When Choosing Security Cameras
We receive numerous calls every week from representatives of various companies, Home Owner Associations (HOA’s), condominium and apartment communities regarding their desire to install security camera systems. Since most of the representatives that call have the same questions I have compiled this information to assist in the decision making process.
There are many things to consider when contemplating security cameras for your company, home or other entity and remember that the security camera professionals of Benson Systems can answer all of your questions condominium security cameras.
As you start your search for security cameras you will see security cameras that cost $100 and security cameras that cost $3500. In addition, all camera manufacturers will state their cameras produce the best picture quality under any circumstance. The truth is, just like everything else in life, you get what you pay for.
Unfortunately, many people look at price alone and do not consider all aspects of the job at hand or the different technologies that are available.
If you are considering price alone remember that the manufacturers of cheap cameras build their cameras with inexpensive components and processors. The imaging mechanisms inside the cameras are very poor quality and with this in mind the pictures you capture will be poor. In addition, low end cameras cannot perform well in harsh conditions like we have here in Arizona.
We use cameras that are manufactured by well known companies such as Pelco, Mobotix, Bosch, and Panasonic just to name a few. We never suggest using low end cameras because we know our customers will not be happy with the end result.
Camera manufacturers may tout that they use Sony image processors to manufacture their cameras and indeed they may. Sony makes most of the image processors on the market today and most camera manufacturers use the Sony processors.
However, in the manufacturing process, Sony will have processors that come off the line that are not up to the Sony standards. Like most manufacturers, Sony has several categories of their imaging processors – ranging from a processor that is rated as ‘excellent’ all the way down to a processor that Sony knows will fail within weeks.
It is the processors that are not up to Sony standards that will be sold to the manufacturers of cheap cameras. So remember, a Sony processor does not make a camera a Sony camera.
Less expensive cameras will have fixed, or non-adjustable, lenses. With fixed lens cameras there is no way to move your focal point in or out of a particular area. A fixed lens camera provides a ‘plug and play’ type of camera. Benson Systems suggests and installs cameras that have variable focus lenses, so the right focal point can be obtained. There are many variables to choose from for security camera lenses. Benson Systems can help you choose the correct lens.
Adequate Lighting is perhaps the most important issue when you want good quality images.
Color cameras need substantial light to be able to see. Once the sun goes down and if you do not have a camera that can compensate very well for inadequate lighting, your images will be dark, if not non-existent. However, no matter how good the camera is all cameras need adequate lighting to be able to see in dark situations.
Some cameras have low light processors and can see in low light situations. Infrared cameras can see in very dark conditions – but I encourage you to read more information below on infrared cameras.
Cameras need to be installed in protective housings. Remember, cameras are mini computers. In fact, qood quality cameras are manufactured using many of the same elements as our personal computers. Like our PCs, cameras must be protected from dust, dirt, high temperatures, low temperatures and water, vandalism and theft. Environmental housings help to protect the cameras from all elements and offer the cameras an increased lifespan.
Infrared cameras are heat-seeking cameras. If you are trying to see a person who is sitting in a car you’ll never make out their image. The reason? The car engine emits more heat than the heat our bodies generate inside the car, so your infrared camera will never see beyond the hood (engine) of a car.
IR images are good to about 50′ from the camera. In hot weather (like we have in the night during Arizona summers), the ambient air temperature is too hot for IR cameras to be of much use. As opposed to considering IR cameras install additional lights in an area that is dark and you’ll be much happier with the results.
Facial Shots and License Plate Recognitions –
With facial shots and license plate recognition megapixel cameras are the only cameras to use.
There are two ways we have found to provide our customers with facial and license plate recognition. I’ll discuss license plate recognition first:
If you are trying to use one standard (non-megapixel) camera to obtain a general view of the area and obtain the license plate of a car with that same standard camera, you will never be able to read the license plate. The reason? The image that the standard general view camera will place on your recording device is very small. When you go back to the recording device to review the saved video and then try to zoom in to the image to get the detail you need, the saved image will ‘pixelize’ (become very distorted and out of focus.)
Megapixel cameras take and store large formatted pictures to your storage systems. The large image size allows for you to digitally pan and zoom into the captured image to obtain the information you desire. The larger the image size recorded, the more information you will be able to obtain.
If you want to capture license plates you should use megapixel cameras that have special lenses that will allow the camera to focus solely on the area of a driveway where a license plate could be captured (such as the exit drive of a parking area.) The cameras should also be placed at an angle that looks directly into and level with the license plate area of the vehicle. If you are trying to capture a license plate when looking at the license plate from an angle you’ll be able to capture see the license plate only about 50% of the time.
The same scenario works with facial recognition cameras. If you want to capture the face of a person who is coming into your building you should place the megapixel cameras into an area where you know people will be walking closest to the camera. If you’ll follow these principals you’ll capture the best facial pictures available.
The images captured from your new security cameras are not worth anything if they are not saved onto some type of media. The media storage devices that are available today are Digital Video Recorders (DVR) Network Video Recorders and video servers. Also, some of our new Mega-pixel cameras have embedded imaging software, and use flash cards for on-camera storage of the captured video.
Alternatively, you can send captured images from the cameras to a remote computer location for storage by using Internet Protocol (IP) cameras and a high-speed Internet connection or, you can send information back to a remote computer location by wireless technology. Either of these types of transmission devices are considerably more expensive that the other technologies mentioned.
DVRs and NVRs
If you are planning on using a Digital Video Recorder or Network Video Recorder for IP based systems, the DVR or NVR must be in a structure that is environmentally protected and cooled. Remember, DVRs and NVRs are small computers and cannot be out in the open or in an area that is not environmentally protected and cooled.
I have heard some of our competitors suggest to our customers that they put a DVR outside in a protective enclosure, but not cooling the enclosure. To explain why this is not a smart idea think of the following as an example: If you put your laptop outside, but in an enclosure, and you left the laptop running how long do you think your laptop would survive? Not long I assure you.
IP(Internet Protocol) cameras are the newest technology for cameras The IP cameras use a digital converter on the camera to convert the images the camera sees to a digital format. The digital format can be sent across the Internet over a high-speed connection to a designated computer. This computer must be left ‘on’ all the time to receive the images.
Wireless Transmission of Video
We can send the images the cameras see to a remote location via wireless technology. The wireless systems transmits the digital information over an antenna to a wireless receiver at the location specified. We can wirelessly transmit the signals from the point of transmission up to a mile away. However, the camera must have line of sight, with no obstruction between the camera transmission device and the receiving device. Other devices allow for transmisson of video more than 20 miles away, but understand that the further the distance you wish to send the video the more your checking account will feel the pain.