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Have you ever watched a crime drama movie or TV show where a bunch of detectives are gathered around surveillance footage and suddenly one of them exclaims, “Wait! Zoom in on that guy! Enhance the image!” And then suddenly and miraculously, the grainy and blurry footage of what might have vaguely appeared to be a human, becomes a precise, crystal clear vision of the culprit.
Well, the scene you watched was truly total fiction. In the real world, grainy footage from an analog security camera would only produce blurrier and grainier images when zooming in for a closer look. On the other hand, there are IP cameras. No longer does security camera footage need to consist of the poor quality, narrowly focused images we're used to seeing on analog CCTV. But should you decide to make a switch from an analog to an IP security camera, expect to pay more. Read on to learn the differences between the two to decide if the upgrade is worth it.
WHAT'S AN IP CAMERA AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM ANALOG?
IP stands for Internet Protocol, and basically refers to a digital video camera that can send and receive data via a computer network, as opposed to sending a feed to a Digital Video Recorder (DVR). This is advantageous for a lot of reasons:
- • Picture Quality: The best analog surveillance camera still can't hold a candle to the worst IP camera when it comes to the resolution of the image it captures. Additionally, IP cameras capture a much wider field of view than comparable analog cameras, meaning a single IP camera is potentially able to do the job of three to four of the old school cams.
- • Video Analytics: This is a fancy term that basically means you can set your network to flag “events” that occur in the camera’s field of vision. This could be anything from motion detection to missing objects to tampering with the camera itself. Instead of poring over hours of footage, your network can tell you exactly when these events occurred and point you right to them.
- • Flexibility and Scalability: In a traditional analog DVR set-up, each camera must be connected directly to the DVR. IP cameras can circumvent this using switches. These allow cameras in close proximity to each other to be connected to a single switch, which then runs a single wire to the NVR (Network Video Recorder). This reduces the amount of cabling runs, which makes it ultimately less labor intensive. It also allows you to connect more cameras because you're no longer limited by the number of ports on your DVR. On top of that, using a PoE (Power over Ethernet) switch allows your Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable to run the signal and provide power to your camera, eliminating the need for a separate power supply.
WAIT, WHAT'S POE?
PoE, as we mentioned previously, is an acronym for “Power over Ethernet.” It refers to a system that passes electrical power along with data on an Ethernet cable. This bundles power and data together and removes the necessity of a separate power source, which just adds more cables. A POE switch also allows you to rig more cameras together to the same NVR. These switches can provide several ports for connecting cameras. Those POEs, in turn, can be connected to a single NVR in a “tree” style configuration, provided your switch is able to handle the power and network traffic. A similar number of cameras would require additional DVRs in an analog set-up, which means more cables — and more work.
TYPES OF IP CAMERAS
- • Box Cameras: A box camera is optimal for when you need a small, specific area that you may want to zoom in close on, since its aim is fixed in a single direction.
- • Dome Cameras: This camera type is available for indoor or outdoor use, offering clear images, even in low light and at night. The outdoor versions are completely resistant to dust, water, and weather-related activity. This type of camera has wide-angle capabilities that capture footage best at shorter distances. The housing on many domes also helps disguise the exact area where the lens is pointed.
- • Bullet Cameras: Like dome cameras, bullet cameras can be adjusted to point at a specific desired location, but they usually have a better range and zoom capabilities than most dome cameras. However, they are far less discreet. While a dome camera is small and unobtrusive, a bullet camera is more conspicuous, making it abundantly clear what is being filmed. Your choice may depend on whether you want your cameras to be noticed. While bullet cameras are also typically used outdoors and rated highly in weatherproofing, their design makes them more susceptible to damage or tampering, as they lack the compact enclosure design of dome cameras.
- • Turret Cameras: A turret camera is best for indoor use, with this type nicknamed an eyeball camera because of its appearance. Like the human eye, it is capable of viewing and swiveling in multiple directions.
- • PTZ Cameras: PTZ stands for Point-Tilt-Zoom, which can be remotely controlled to look at what you want, when you want. They are unlike box cameras, which can only be pointed at one location. Even domes and bullets must be manually adjusted to look at a different area.
- • Fisheye Cameras: This type captures a 360-degree panoramic view and can be mounted on the ceiling or a wall. It also allows you to monitor different angles simultaneously.
DVR VS. NVR
If you're familiar with a traditional analog CCTV set up, you know your cameras need to be linked to a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) that records, processes, and stores all the data. IP cameras require a Network Video Recorder (NVR) that serves much the same purpose. What’s the difference between the two? As we mentioned, switches enable you to connect several cameras to a single NVR. There is also more freedom and versatility in their placement, as it only needs to be on the same LAN (local area network) as your IP based cameras.
From a technical standpoint, the two recorders differ in where the video footage is actually processed. In an analog set-up, a DVR is responsible for this, while in an IP setup this is done in-camera and then streamed to the NVR. An NVR is actually more or less a software program. And while it is usually run on a dedicated, standalone device, there are pure software NVR options available.
When selecting the right NVR, one of the most important things to keep in mind is throughput, which is the standard for determining an NVR's performance (measured in megabits per second [Mbps]). The higher the throughput, the more bandwidth the NVR is capable of handling. The higher the resolution and frame rate of your camera, the more bandwidth it'll take up.
SECURITY AND SURVEILLANCE PRODUCTS FROM TOP BRANDS
- • Arlington Industries (Cam-Light™ Box and Cam-Kit™)
- • Black Box® Network Services (Switches)
- • Iluminar® (LED Lighting and Brackets)
- • Intellinet® Network Solutions (Switches)
- • InVidTech (Cameras, Recorders, Monitors, Junction Boxes)
- • Jewell Instruments® GEM Electronics (Connectors, Adapters, Baluns, Hubs, Converters, Special Products)
- • Kendall Howard® (Lock Boxes)
- • Legrand® Middle Atlantic Products® (Lock Boxes)
- • Signamax™ (Switches)
- • Eaton® Tripp-Lite® (Switches)
- • Video Mount Products (VMP)(Lockboxes)
- • Quest Manufacturing Co. (Lockboxes)