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DIY CCTV Kits and what to consider

CCTV kits and cameras are now available in abundance over the internet, so choosing the right setup for your needs can be daunting. Even though many packages have been put together for the DIY installer new to CCTV systems, it is still important to check that the most important specifications and functions meet your requirements.

Wireless CCTV?

There are numerous wireless cameras on the market today hoping to capitalize on this trend. While a standalone wireless CCTV camera with SD card recording has its uses, generally speaking, a multi-camera system just isn't viable when reliability is the single most important thing to consider, which most of the time it is. To add to this, there are far more wired options available to the consumer.

Choosing your CCTV cameras

So, you've decided on whether to go wired or wireless and now you are looking at buying suitable cameras for your system. There a few things you'll need to consider at this point before buying. Where will you put these cameras? What area are you going to be looking at? What is your budget? And probably most importantly, what technology are you going to invest in? For example, Analogue, IP, HDTVI? With so much to choose from in today's market, it's important to buy a system that fulfils your needs.

Analogue, IP or HD over Analogue CCTV?

With so much to choose from, how do you go about deciding? Each platform has its pros and cons, so let's break them down.

Analogue CCTV

The most common kind of CCTV out there mainly due to it being the oldest in the market place. Some consider this an ageing technology, beaten in image quality by other platforms such as IP. While some of this is true, analogue does have some positives going for it which are enough to sway the potential buyer. Firstly, analogue CCTV has the widest cross compatibility of all the other platforms, making a replacement camera more “fit and forget” than other technologies.

Another major benefit to analogue is storage. Analogue CCTV kits use far less storage than the other platforms making it possible to record more footage to a hard disk than the other technologies. Less Storage equates to less cost which leads us to our biggest benefit of analogue. It's much cheaper than some of the other platforms.

Cost of analogue CCTV or its lack of, is perhaps its biggest selling point. Coupled with its strong cross compatibility, it's easy to see why it still remains a popular choice for surveillance.

IP CCTV

IP CCTV has seen a huge rise in sales over the last few years with recent figures suggesting that IP CCTV makes up 50% of all CCTV sales globally.

IP systems have the benefit of superior image quality as there are no unnecessary conversions of the digital signal on its journey. It is not uncommon to see IP cameras with very high Megapixel sensors of 6MP or more. This high Megapixel count equates to very high resolution images, resulting in very sharp picture quality.

Cross brand compatibility is not a strong point with IP CCTV and can cause some issues, while following the same protocol, specific features like motion detection sometimes to do not function correctly. Being the more expensive of the surveillance options, its price is often the deal breaker for some people looking for an inexpensive way to keep an eye on things.

HD over coaxial solutions

Recent advances in CCTV have spawned numerous High Definition solutions over coaxial based systems. HDSDI, HDCVI, HDTVI are among a few available to consumers these days and all of them achieve their desired goal. But which one should you choose?

HDSDI was the first to hit the market, but as with most first generation products it wasn't without its issues. HDSDI suffers from interference from strong RF. So installing them near WIFI Routers isn't really recommended. Mobile phone signals have been known to cause issues too.

HDCVI, much the same, has improved on the issues that HDSDI is prone to. It utilizes low frequency modulation and in doing so manages to avoid RF interference. It also improves on transmission range making it cable of up to 500 metres through coaxial cable. However, it was invented by Dahua and its future compatibility does not appear to be great, this is where HDTVI steps in…

HDTVI technology is the latest addition to the HD over coax family and has all the benefits of HDCVI. The biggest advantage of HDTVI is that it is an “open” chipset not being sold to any “single” manufacturer. This is great for the consumer that likes to mix and match, searching for the best deals. Hikvision, the world's largest manufacturer of CCTV has adopted this technology for their HD over analogue solution. We expect HDTVI to dominate this market space in the future due to its excellent cross brand compatibility.

Lens, viewing angles and zoom

By now you will have worked out what cameras you want and where you want them. Next you will need to calculate what coverage you want from your cameras. Viewing angle of the camera is determined by both its lens size and sensor size. A wider angle of view will allow you to see more area but will be more zoomed out, making it more difficult to catch finer details such as vehicle registration plates or faces. A narrow field of view will be the opposite, more zoomed in but less overall coverage. It's important to find a happy medium.

Lenses

As we've discussed the size of the lens will determine the field of view. The smaller the lens size the more zoomed out and wide angle the field of view will be. Small lenses such as 2.8mm are great for porches where the subject will be very close to the camera and larger lens sizes will be good for looking at more distance areas such as driveway entrances. Some cameras will have the choice of a Varifocal lens. This is an adjustable lens that can be tuned to suit exactly. In some cases there are motorized Varifocal lenses that can be zoomed in and out remotely if the viewing area needs to be changed regularly. These are most commonly found on PTZ cameras where all the axis are motorized allowing the unit to “pan, tilt, and zoom”.

Recording Compression

Until recently the two most common compression types have been M-JPEG (High quality and larger file size) and M-PEG4 (Lower quality and smaller file size). M-PEG4 with its lower file size has proven popular for remote viewing DVRs and keeping storage costs down where the lower quality is acceptable.

Luckily now we have H.264 video compression, offering high image quality, while maintaining lower file sizes. Most of the new DVRs now use this sort of compression as it offers the perfect performance balance and is seen as the future of CCTV DVRs. However some still favour M-JPEG compression for local viewing, so a few top end DVRs provide both M-JPEG as well as H.264 video compression for remote viewing.

Remote viewing via the internet

One of the most popular features of modern CCTV Kits is having network capabilities to remotely view over the internet, even when using analogue cameras. You can receive alerts when a camera detects motion and even view them from any mobile device.

Recording resolution and framerates

The other important factors to consider that will affect the quality of the recordings are the recording resolution and frame rate per camera. The recording resolution is the size of the image that will be replayed back to you (measured in pixels), so the higher resolution will always contain more detail.

The frame rate is measured in frames per second (FPS), which determines how smooth the recordings are. The more frames per second the smoother the recording. Recording at the higher frame rates and quality will result in better quality recordings but will also use more storage space, so it is best to reduce the quality and framerate to the point that the recordings are not unusable and therefore maximizing your storage.

The last word

There is so much more that could be talked about, but I think we've covered the necessities. Hopefully this little piece of light reading has answered some questions that you may have had surrounding CCTV and has armed you with the knowledge needed to make an informed decision. For further information please visit us at CCTV Kits.