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There are many reasons to install a camera system. If you own a business, you may want to be able to identify or avoid theft or keep vandalism away from your property. Or perhaps you may just want to be able to keep an eye on things without actually being there physically and set a general deterrence for your employees. As a homeowner there can be many reasons to have a video security camera system. You may be having trouble with a neighbor, trespassers, vandals, or perhaps you have kids and want to be able to monitor them while you're at work or away on business. 


This term is used when a video camera is to be wired directly to a recording device and/or TV monitor. If you are purchasing either a covert camera or full size video camera this means that you are going to have to wire the camera directly and run the wire to a recording system and monitor.  We have prefabricated cable made up to 150 feet or you can buy what is called; RG59 with power for longer cable runs. 

  • A Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) is a light-sensitive integrated circuit that stores and displays the data for an image in such a way that each pixel (picture element) in the image is converted into an electrical charge the intensity of which is related to a color in the color spectrum.
  • CCDs are now commonly included in digital still and video cameras.
  • A CCD in a digital camera improves resolution compared with other technologies (such as CMOS).
  • Another asset of the CCD is its high degree of sensitivity. A good CCD can produce an image in extremely dim light, and its resolution does not deteriorate when the illumination intensity is low, as is the case with conventional cameras.

    Pro's & Con's
  • CMOS chips are less expensive to manufacture, and that cost savings translates into lower camera prices.
  • CMOS chips perform better than CCD chips when capturing highlights, such as the sparkle of jewelry or the glint of sunlight reflecting across a lake.
  • The main argument in favor of CCD chips is that they're more sensitive than CMOS chips, so you can get better images in dim lighting.
  • CCD chips tend to deliver cleaner images than CMOS chips, which sometimes have a problem with noise (small defects in the image).
  • CCD chips suffer from blooming, which means creating unwanted halos around very bright highlights, while CMOS sensors do not.

    This term is used when a video camera, usually covert, is connected to a wireless video transmitter device that will send the video signal usually over 300-500 feet to an awaiting receiver. The camera is usually self contained inside a clock radio, air purifier, can opener or other common appliance that can blend into any home of office environment. The unit comes with a receiver that can be hooked up to a DVR recorder and VCR recorder and then be monitored by any common TV or LCD monitor.  Much easier to use and operate. One can even purchase a small covert camera and hide the camera in any room and hook up a transmitter to the camera for do-it-yourself surveillance.


    You can either purchase a Digital Video Recorder or a video time lapse recorder that will be able to record images from you camera system. First, a DVR will be able to record your video cameras via motion activation and record the images to a hard drive built into the DVR so you will never have to change a video VHS tape.  All DVRS usually come with Internet remote viewing capabilities so one can remotely monitor your office or home anywhere in the world provided there is DSL or a cable Internet connection. 


    Spy Source sells covert cameras build into fixtures and appliances ready for plug in and play action, or you can purchase small covert cameras and place them in an environment suitable for the right surveillance position.

    Wired vs. Wireless vs. Cordless
    You need to understand that there are 3 different types of setups. 

    Wired - have a wire that stretches all the way from the camera itself to your VCR or TV.  They also have a power supply that plugs into an A/C outlet.

    Wireless - still require a power source.  On almost every system you will have to plug it into the wall or use batteries while a separate receiver system attaches to your TV or VCR.

    Cordless - require power also but use batteries or battery packs.  There is NO wire running to a power supply plugged into a wall.

    The Law and You
    Society and law enforcement are becoming fed up with the illegal use of this equipment.  Seemingly ordinary people are turning into convicted felons for improperly photographing unsuspecting people in places where they expect a reasonable amount of privacy. When in doubt, contact a lawyer in your city.

    Whatever your reason for wanting a camera system if you donít get the right kind of equipment based on your needs, you will just waste your money. So if you are thinking of getting a camera system, you will need to look at your situation in order to get the right system.

    Some questions to ask yourself:

    1. Is what you want to see indoors or outdoors?

    2. How many areas do you want to see at your location?

    3. Is there a lot of light available throughout the day and night?

    4. Do you want to see a wide area, such as a parking lot, or a specific location, like the front door?

    5. Is it important to see the small details or is a general idea good enough?

    6. Do you need to see the picture only on sight or is off sight viewing necessary?

    7. Do you need record what the camera sees?

    8. Do you need to record for a long or short period of time?

    Okay, now that you have an idea of what you are trying to view, we can take a closer look at the equipment.


    First letís look at the camera itself. There a hundreds of cameras to choose from. There are even fake cameras that you can use if you only want to give the illusion of having a system. Of course there are different prices ranging from cheap (poor quality) to the ridiculously expensive but does everything. If you donít know what to ask for, you could be disappointed in what you get.

    Do you want color or black/white? If you need to see the details clearly and you have good lighting throughout the time you need to keep watch, then a color camera is probably going to be the way to go. Color cameras are typically more expensive than black/white and they donít see very will in the dark.

    If you only need to have a general idea of what is going on in the area then you can go with black and white. Donít misunderstand me, you can get a nice clear picture with a black/white camera but if you are looking to be able to identify someone and not have there be any question, then color is for you. If the lighting in the area is bad then color may not be the best camera for the job. If you only have lighting issues at night then you can get a day/night camera. That will get you a color picture in the daytime and a black/white picture at night.


    Now letís focus on the lens for a while. The type of lens you want will depend on what you want to see, how far away it is, and how wide of an area you want to see. For most applications you can get a lens that is adjustable to fit just about all your needs. There are some cases where only a very specific lens will work, but those usually only occur in high end jobs. If money is real tight, then you can get a camera that has the lens built in. I would like to caution you here and say that once you get a camera like this, you canít just go and adjust it to get the picture you originally wanted. So, make sure you get a camera with the right lens.

    Recording devices-

    First you must decide how long you want to record. If you have a business and you are closed on the weekends and holidays, you may want to record for at least 72 hours. If itís for your house and you go out of town for long periods of time you may want to consider a longer recording time. There is a time lapse recorder (very reasonably priced) that can record for 960 hours. Thatís 40 days and a whole lot of video to watch if you are looking for something that happened a week ago.

    Something that has been on the market for a while and is finally coming down in price to something that is almost reasonable is the Digital Video Recorder (DVR). The DVR comes with so many features itís a little scary. First the picture quality is improved because you arenít viewing it from a tape that has been recorded over again and again and again. Second, it has a built in multiplexer that will let you view more than one camera at a time on the same screen. Third, itís easy to upgrade so that you can view your cameras remotely. So if you want to go on vacation and still keep an eye on things you can. Forth, the video is stored internally and itís a whole lot easier to view video without having to rewind and fast forward. Plus there is no need for a tape library. There are probably a few more things a DVR can do but these would be the most popular.

    In general standard CCTV cameras are supplied in three voltages, 120VAC, 24VAC and 12VDC. Here is some advice to help you choose.

    120VAC - These cameras are supplied with a 6 foot standard power cord like most appliances. The drawback is that you will need an outlet within 6 feet of where the camera is installed. When purchasing a camera that will be installed in an outdoor environmental housing the voltage of the camera should match the voltage of the housing.

    If you have a multiple camera system with 12  volt cameras, you can purchase a 12 volt central power supply where you can feed all the cameras into the unit at the location where the recorder and monitor it. There is no need to power the cameras at the source and the location they are in. This makes the installation a lot easier when you use Siamese cable that will allow you greater distance. 12 volt cameras and supplies can be connected up to 300 feet. 

    24VAC - This is usually the voltage of choice in commercial installations and systems we have installed. The advantage is the camera is powered by an external plug-in low voltage power supply. The power supply is connected to the camera using low voltage wire 18 or 20 gauge (speaker wire). Siamese is also available which is a cable with video coax and power cable under one jacket. Power does not need to be near the camera location. All power wires can be run to a central location near the monitor or the nearest outlet by the camera. 24VAC power wires can be run up to 1000 feet. Large Power Supplies are available that will power many cameras. The drawback is the additional expense of purchasing the power supply.

    12VDC - This selection should be made when the camera will be used in a vehicle or other locations where a large battery may be used to power the camera. 12VDC is supplied to the camera in the same manner as 24VAC but the distance of cable is limited due to voltage drop.


    What do you want to see the picture on? Monitors can vary in size and picture quality depending on your budget and how much space you have. You can view cameras on your existing television or you can view them on your computer screen or over the Internet.

    Wireless Systems-

    A word about wireless systems. Wireless technology has come a long way. Itís more reliable and the picture quality has improved greatly, but the distances and signal steadiness is still a factor. Going wireless is ready only to be used for temporary surveillance assignments. I do, however, like the idea that you can easily move the system. There is a system that just came out that has an awesome price. I have no idea how long the system will last, what the range is or if there are some environmental factors that can interfere with the picture. But if you are on a serious budget, this could be the answer for you.

    I would like to thank you for reading this report. I hope this report has helped you learn a little more about camera systems. Itís not easy to make an informed decision when you know very little about the subject. I hope now that you have read this report you have gained some insight into what kind of system would work best for you. If your system is driven only by cost, then please donít expect to get a great quality picture. If your system is driven only by features, then you had better open you wallet a little. I would highly recommend that whatever you are looking for, that you talk to a security consultant and discuss what is available for you in your price range.

    I have only scratched the surface when it comes to cameras. There are so many varieties available today it can be a little overwhelming for someone who doesnít know what they are doing. There are cameras that can Pan-Tilt-Zoom. There are covert cameras that would even make James Bond jealous. You just have to know what you want and how much you can spend. Iím sure you wouldnít go shopping for a car or a house and not know what your budget is or have an idea of what you wanted. Take this information and use it wisely : )

    About The Author

    John Frycek, PPS, CIS, LPD
    Director of Operations for Spy Source International

    A 23 year veteran in physical security requirements and security design


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