A surveillance camera in your home can not only deter burglars just by its presence, but it improves the police’s chances of catching the burglar if one does break in. The huge selection of home security
cameras on the market today means a camera is available that suits your needs, but it also makes it harder to find the right. Once you have an overview of the types of cameras and features available, you’ll be better armed to find exactly what you need.
How You Can Use Your Home Security Camera
In terms of security, most cameras are used to keep an eye on the front and back doors and identify people before they enter. This way both you and, if you’ve installed a security system that’s monitored off-site, the security company can keep out unwanted visitors. They may also be installed indoors so that if anyone does manage to break in, they’ll be “caught on film” (or video, at least).
How Home Security Cameras Work
Home security cameras are CCTV cameras (closed circuit television) which broadcast the images they pick up over an closed circuit that is wired together. This is unlike regular TV, which broadcasts to an open network. While some cameras are designed to operate twenty-four hours a day, others contain a motion sensor that switches the camera on only when someone moves past it.
The Basic Components
The basic components of video security systems are:
–A security camera
There are many different formats, such as bullet and dome shaped, that may be designed for either indoor or outdoor use. They may also include features light infrared lights for “night vision”, motion sensors, and panning and zooming capabilities.
–A display monitor
Although the monitor isn’t as critical as the camera, choosing the right one can save you money in the long run. Make sure you choose a monitor that’s designed to be left on for an extended period (TV monitors aren’t a good choice). While computer monitors can work, you’ll get the best results from a monitor specifically designed for use with security cameras. Also, look for a monitor that matches your camera’s image resolution.
–A recording device
Surveillance cameras are often wired into a VCR or other recording device so the images they capture can be seen later. Time lapse recording, in which only a few still shots are recorded over a given period of time, and motion-activated recording can save room on the video cassette. With these features you can fit up to 90 hours of surveillance onto one videotape.
To do away with video altogether, there’s the option of a digital security camera that records images to a digital video recorder (DVR) or the hard drive of a personal computer.
Types of Security Cameras
Hidden cameras–also called “nanny cams”–can be bought already disguised as clocks, radios, smoke detectors and other household appliances. In most households, these “covert cameras” are most often used to monitor babysitters when the parents are away. Although a “spy camera” is also hidden, this term usually refers to the tiny cameras that can be worn as a lapel pin or hidden in a box of cigarettes.
The bullet camera is so named because of it cylindrical shape. While these are typically used outdoors, on some models part of the casing can be removed to make the camera suitable for indoors use.
The dome shape of the casing allows the camera to film from more than one angle without making it obvious with direction the camera is pointed. Some have multiple cameras inside for this reason. Dome cameras are ideal if you want one camera that can monitor a 4-way intersecting hall. Although they’re usually used indoors, armor domes can be used outdoors as well.
The main advantage of C-mount and CS-mount cameras is that you can change the lenses. If you need to see further than 35 or 40 ft, you’ll want a C-mount camera with a special lens. The difference between these C- and the CS-mount is the distance between the lens mounting surface and the camera sensor. Often, you can put a C-mount lens on a CS-mount camera by using a CS adapter ring, but not the other way around.
What Features Do You Need?
Today’s top-of-the-line security cameras film in full color, contain built-in microphones to pick up sound, and can track movement to stay focused on a potential intruder. While these features may be nice to have, they aren’t always affordable or necessary. Here are a few things to consider as you shop for a security camera for your home.
Color or Black and White?
Until recently, black and white cameras were the most commonly used because they offered a clearer image at a lower cost. Improved technology and falling costs, however, mean these days a color camera is likely to be a better choice. One reason is that most people have an easier time identifying someone from a full-color image than from a black and white one.
If you’ll need to capture images in very dim or completely dark areas, look for a camera that contains a infrared light. These cameras can typically see at least 35 feet with no external lighting, and some can see up to 70 feet. For nighttime use, you’re likely to get better results with an infrared camera that captures images in black and white.
Wired or wireless?
The choice between wired and wireless depends on where you want to put the camera. Wired cameras are fixed in place and have to be installed where the wiring won’t get in the way. To make up for this, though, they usually offer a higher quality picture and more reliable transmission than wireless cameras.
Wireless cameras can easily be moved from place to place and can be installed in more locations, but other household appliances like cordless phones and baby monitors can interfere with signal transmission and reduce the quality of the image captured.
Indoor or Outdoor Security Cameras?
If you plan to install the camera outdoors, you’ll want one with weatherproof and possibly vandal-resistant casing. Dome cameras are particularly well suited to standing up to vandalism attempts. If you live in an area with extreme temperatures, also make sure the camera you choose will tolerate your local summer highs and winter lows.
Fixed or PTZ Camera?
A fixed camera is focused on one location and doesn’t move to view other parts of the room or outdoor area. A PTZ (pan, tilt and zoom) camera can move to focus on different sections of an area and zoom in on details. While a fixed camera is usually sufficient for monitoring a doors and entryways, a PTZ camera offers more options.
There’s no lack of variety in the home security camera market, so once you decide on the type of camera and the features you need, you’re probably find the right camera on offer at more than one shop. That means you’ll have the chance to shop around for the best price and customer service.