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IP CCTV Buyers Guide

Keoni Granger

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IP CCTV Buyers Guide

In this thread we'll be looking at what you'll need for a typical IP system along with some of use-IP's recommendations for creating the best set up possible. :)
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Typical IP System
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A typical IP CCTV system all runs on your home network. The first thing you’ll need is a wireless router which will then be connected to an NVR. An NVR is the main building block in a CCTV system and will typically power your IP cameras whilst also saving your footage.

Most NVRs are an empty shell without any hard drives built in. In this case, hard drives will need to be purchased and fitted separately.

Network cable is also crucial and will be needed to carry power and data between each part of your system.

This illustration shows the cameras directly connected to the NVR, but you may also choose to add cameras directly to your network.
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Why Do We Love Flat Faced Domes?

With such a huge range of cameras available on the market it can be hard to decide which design is right for you.

Flat faced domes are our go-to recommendation for almost any outdoor application for a number of reasons.
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Firstly, with traditional domes, rain presents a big problem as the drops can distort the image and mark the dome cover when they dry. This isn’t an issue with flat faced domes as they generally have no plastic cover and the lens is covered by flat glass.

Removing the plastic dome cover from the equation improves image quality even further as it removes the risk of internal Infra-red reflection which also causes image distortion. Some flat faced domes have their Infra-red LEDs and lens in a different window which allows for stronger LEDs as there is no risk of this happening.

Having the IR LEDs and lens separate provides a solution to one other CCTV issue; Spiderwebs.
Spiders are drawn to the warmth produced by the LEDs in cameras and this leads to them creating their homes over the lens.

Most flat faced domes will feature IP66 rated (or above) weatherproof housing making them more than suitable for outdoor applications.

The final reasons for us recommending these cameras come down to their compact design, their 3-axes adjustability and the fact that they can usually be mounted many ways; with or without brackets and junction boxes.
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Other Camera Types

If you find that flat faced domes are not suitable for your application, there are many other shapes and sizes of IP camera that you may find more suitable.
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Dome cameras are usually vandal resistant which makes them a popular choice for people who want to mount their cameras closer to the ground.

Cube cameras are specifically designed for indoors and typically have built-in wifi capabilities.

Mini bullet cameras are favoured for customers who are looking for a more cost effective camera.

Standard bullet cameras have strong infra-red LEDs providing a clearer image over long distances in dark scenarios.

And finally, PTZ cameras are popular for customers who wish to utilise the pan, tilt and powerful zoom function along with the added benefit of some smart features.
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Choosing the Correct Focal Length

Once you are happy with your camera choices, it’s time to choose focal lengths for each of your cameras. The focal length, measured in mm, refers to the distance between the camera lens and the image sensor. The bigger the distance, the narrower the field of view will be.

There are a range of focal lengths available, so choosing the correct one for your application is important or you risk missing important details in objects of interest.

Here are some example focal lengths and the field of view they would provide if used with a typical 4MP camera with a 1/3 inch sensor.

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You can see from the example images that the 2.8mm is far too wide and detail of the mans face is lost as the image is panoramic with some curvature at the edges evident.

In this case, the 6mm is just right, covering a sufficient area and providing good detail.

Some cameras use a varifocal lens which can be changed manually or remotely to provide a range of views, for example, anywhere between 2.8mm and 12mm.

You should check the data sheets of your chosen cameras for the exact field of view given as this will vary slightly between resolutions, sensor sizes and manufacturers.
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How to Store Footage

The next step in completing your system is deciding how your video footage will be stored.


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Our recommended method is to use an NVR. This stands for Network Video Recorder.

Network video recorders will often come with built in PoE ports which will allow you to power your cameras and carry your data directly from the back of the unit.

They typically have multiple spaces for hard drives allowing days or weeks of footage to be stored.

They also allow you to configure and manage all of your cameras in one place and come with a variety of channel options, 4,8,16,32 and so on. Some people find that NVRs can be a little expensive but they are a vital part of any CCTV system and the most logical way to store your footage.

Another common way to store footage is by using an SD Card. SD stands for secure digital. SD cards are a popular choice for one camera set ups as they are easy to install and cost effective. However, for systems with more than one camera it is best to stick to an NVR as an SD card offers limited storage and is not very secure. There are also less configuration options and not all cameras will support on board storage.
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Choosing your Hard Drive

When you’ve selected an NVR, it’s time to choose your hard drives.
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We recommend Western Digital Purple as they are designed specifically for storing CCTV footage. They also have a low failure rate and are available in a range of sizes from 1TB to 10TB.

When it comes to choosing how much storage is necessary, most people aim to keep around 2 weeks of footage and keeping your frame rate low. Most IP cameras can record up to 25fps but this is unnecessary and will eat into your storage. With a frame rate around 6fps your footage will still be smooth and much less storage is needed. We typically use this frame rate in our sample videos here on YouTube.

The default setting for most NVRs is to overwrite the oldest data on your hard drives when full.

Cameras that record with video codecs such as H.265 or H.265+ also offer up to 60% savings on storage space over H.264 so this is something to keep in mind when looking for a system. To be sure you’re investing in the correct hard drives, It’s best to check exactly how much space you’ll need by using a storage calculator online.
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Network Cable

The final piece of the puzzle is network cable. Network cable is designed to connect one network device to another. In most IP systems, the cable will carry your data and power between each device, eliminating the need for additional power supplies. The connectors at each end of the cable are commonly known as RJ45 connectors.​
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We often get asked whether CAT5e or CAT6 cable is the better choice. Cat5e can support 1000Mbps while Cat6 can support up to 10Gbps. However, if your run of Cat6 is over 165 feet then it will match Cat5e’s 1000Mbps anyway.

We tend to recommend using CAT5e as IP cameras use well under 100Mbps each so the bandwidth wouldn’t be pushed at all and it would perform just as well as CAT6 but for a cheaper price. However, as the price premium for CAT6 continues to shrink, many people opt to install CAT6 cable anyway in order to fully future proof their system.

It may be tempting to save some money and choose some cheaper cable but we would advise against this. CCA cable has poor flexibility, is prone to oxidation and corrosion, is generally poor for PoE systems and the cable runs must be much shorter. Cat5 cable should also be avoided as it’s maximum bandwidth is 100Mbps and it is prone to cross talk.

When installing your system, remember that the maximum run of Cat5e or Cat6 cable is 100m. If your run is longer you would need to invest in a PoE extender or a PoE switch.
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Frequently Asked Questions

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Megapixel is basically a term for how many pixels your camera sensor has. The more pixels, the clearer the image. For example, 1MP = 1 million pixels.

Resolution is similar to this. Resolution is the width and height of your cameras output. For example, a 2MP camera would state that it has 1920 x 1080 resolution. If you multiply 1920 by 1080 you get 2,073,600 pixels which is equal to 2MP.

So to summarise, resolution is the size of the image and megapixels is how many pixels within that image.

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Some cameras will have the option to be powered by a mains power supply. Although this method would power your camera, it wouldn’t put it on your network which is why we recommend using a PoE injector or PoE switch instead.

PoE injectors and switches can provide PoE power to single or multiple network cameras allowing them to record to NVRs on the same network without being connected with them directly.

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Brackets and junction boxes are optional for most cameras and aren’t a necessity. A lot of cameras can be mounted directly to a wall or ceiling. It’s best to check the datasheet of each camera to find out whether this is the case.

Junction boxes are designed to keep your connections tidy and waterproof. Alternatively, waterproof tape can be used.

Brackets are usually optional for dome style cameras. They may also have space inside the arm to make your connections but the main thing to keep in mind for brackets is that they would provide your camera with a completely different view. Your camera would be suspended from the wall horizontally rather than vertically and would also be a lot more noticeable.
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A common misconception with wireless cameras is that they are battery powered and thus completely wireless.

Battery operated cameras are actually a completely different thing. Wireless cameras are just wifi ready, this means they would not need to be wired into your network but they would still need a source of power, such as a mains power supply.

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This all comes down to the specific model and manufacturer of the units you are trying to connect. We recommend checking the compatibility lists of each model. These lists will normally show the full list of functions and whether they are supported.

Another thing to check is whether your devices are ONVIF compliant. If the datasheet for your device mentions ONVIF compliancy, then it will work with other ONVIF compliant devices but the features may be limited.


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If you already have a NAS in place then recording your CCTV cameras to this is definitely an option. As previously mentioned, you should first check the compatibility of the devices that you are hoping to connect to your NAS.

You will also need to make sure you can get each device on to the same network as your NAS and that power can be supplied to them.

If you don’t already have a NAS in place but you are wondering if this is recommended, we would instead recommend sticking to a dedicated NVR from the same manufacturer for a more simple solution and for full control over configuration. The manufacturers NVR will also come fully loaded with the appropriate number of camera license, NVRs often work out to be the most cost effective solution too.
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Thanks for reading, I hope this helps but please feel free to ask any questions! :) We also have this information available in a video below...

 

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