|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
CCD chips tend to deliver cleaner images
than CMOS chips, which sometimes have a
problem with noise (small defects in the
CCD chips suffer from blooming, which
means creating unwanted halos around very
bright highlights, while CMOS sensors do
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.
vs. Wireless vs. Cordless
|You need to
understand that there are 3 different types of
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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