Guide to Buying a Security Camera System 1

With frequent updates in technology, it can be hard to keep up with the latest devices and the newest features. In the CCTV world, this could mean missing out on increased security and a safer environment. I’ll show you where to begin and what to look for when you are buying a security camera system.  

3 Types of Systems:

  • Traditional analog
  • HD analog
  • IP (Network)

There are three types of security camera systems: Traditional analog, HD analog and IP (Network). Traditional analog is the most cost effective type however, it has limited resolution. They use a combo RG59/Siamese cable and are a great way to cover your bases with minimal investment. Analog HD has many different types of systems but HD-CVI is considered the industry standard for modern HD. HD-CVI operates over a coaxial combo cable with BNC connectors and thus, is often referred to as HD over coax. IP, or network, systems are the most recent type to emerge and operate over a standard CAT5/6 Ethernet cable. They are capable of supporting 4K resolution video and are easy to set up with PoE (Power over Ethernet) capabilities.

HD cameras are able to deliver superior video image quality. This allows the user to capture details like license plates or faces in their footage. HD cameras also enable you to digitally zoom while keeping the image quality intact for the most part.

DVR vs. NVR:

Next you’ll need to get a storage system, this can be a hard drive storage, however most people tend to go with a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) or NVR (Network Video Recorder) because it stores feed more efficiently. DVRs and NVRs store data for a select period of time and then delete the footage. This ensures you always have storage and if something were to happen, you still have sufficient time to retrieve the surveillance footage. Whether you’ll need a DVR or NVR is dependent on the type of system you selected. Both Traditional and HD analog will utilize a DVR (just check to ensure your DVR is HD compatible if you are using HD cameras) and an IP system will use an NVR.

If you do end up using hard drive storage, you should note that HD camera video uses a considerable amount of storage and it is recommended to use motion recording to save space from unnecessary footage.

Types of Cameras:


First off is the box camera, these cameras are useful because they provide a menacing appearance to criminals given there more traditional shape. These tend to have the best performance out of all the types, however, they are also the most expensive. Box cameras are able to be placed in whatever style housing you choose, allowing them to be used in a multitude of conditions. They generally have the longest service life but require separate illumination for use in low light.

Next, we have the common bullet camera; these are actually box cameras sealed inside their own housing. They tend to be easier to install and larger lenses are able to be equipped to their bodies. These larger lenses allow bullet cameras to reach a longer range. These tend to be great for outdoor use and the design helps reduce glare.


Next, the dome camera is a more discreet option, blending in with its surroundings better. It also includes a rotating camera and wide angle, allowing a single unit to capture a greater area. Dome cameras are also vandal resistant and often come equipped with night vision. They are also great for indoor or outdoor use, depending on their weatherproof rating.   

Finally, there is the turret camera; these tend to have extended IR capabilities due to a single IR glass near the lens, as opposed to the traditional ring of LEDs. They have a versatile mounting system and can be mounted vertically or horizontally. Turret cameras tend to offer no, or less, IR bounce as opposed to the other styles mentioned. IR bounce is cause by debris build up in the lens causing the light to bounce around. This creates a cloudy haze over the image and will progressively get worse over time if the camera is not properly maintained.


Hidden cameras are disguised as common household objects and are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. They often contain an internal batter and memory storage device to aid in discreteness. They can come in the form of smoke detectors or air fresheners and are a great option for those looking for a minimalist setup.

Features You Want to Consider:

  • Wide angle lens
  • IR
  • Motion detection
  • Weatherproofing
  • Wired for sound
  • Image Stabilization
  • Focal Length

Focal Length:

The next thing to consider is what focal length would be best for you. Focal length determines how far or wide a camera can see. A longer focal length will allow the camera to focus in at longer distances, however, a shorter focal length will enable it to capture a wider field of view.

A fixed lens camera operates using a nonadjustable lens. You have a fixed focal length and you are unable to adjust the field of view. These tend to be the cheapest option because of the simpler lens mechanism. They also tend to provide a better picture quality because there is no zoom adjustment occurring. For general surveillance needs, or if you know you are installing multiple cameras on your property, fixed cameras will serve you just fine. 

A varifocal lens camera allows the user to adjust the zoom and angle of the lens. This is done on the camera unit itself and cannot be adjusted remotely. They function well in locations where traditional fixed lens cameras will not fit discretely and still be able to capture an optimal view. Users can install a varifocal camera and then adjust the view to the desired location.

PTZ stands for “pan, tilt, zoom.” This is a more advanced form of varifocal lens and adjustments may be made through an external device. Users are able to move the lens around to focus on different aspects around the property. PTZ cameras tend to be the most expensive due to the more complex motorized mechanism which allow it to move. Although, with the increase in cost, you gain the ability to control your cameras from any location.

Infrared (IR)/Night Vision:

A lot happens at night or in low-lighting. Some cameras have sensitive light-gathering sensors (sensitivity expressed in lumens) that allow you to see in the dark. The smaller the number, the better the camera can see in dark. This feature becomes even more valuable if your camera is going to be used outside, where loss of light is guaranteed at night.  

Wide Angle Lens:

Depending on the type of area you are trying to capture and the positioning of the camera, you may want a wide angle lens to enhance your view.

Motion Detection:

Motion detection is a benefit because you don’t need to continuously record. This helps save storage from unnecessary footage and makes reviewing footage much less time consuming.  


If you are putting the cameras outside or possibly areas with harsh environmental conditions, you may want to check into certain styles of special housings. These housings are designed to be durable and keep the technology inside safe under extreme conditions. You will also want to check the camera’s Ingress Protection (IP) rating. This will determine how air tight the unit is and therefore, how much water and dirt protection it has.

Sound Wiring:

If you want to use a camera for baby monitoring purposes or other specific areas, you may want to make sure your camera is wired for sound. Most cameras have a microphone built in but some will still require an external mic, if they are compatible at all.

Image Stabilization:

Image stabilization keeps the picture clear from vibrations messing up the image. Some stabilize all the time, some only stabilize only when the camera is stationary (not while panning).  

Package Deals:

If you need a lot of devices or don’t want to deal with selecting each component, you can purchase a complete security system packaged together as a unit. This option has many benefits as you do not have to worry about compatibility issues, you know everything you purchased is designed to run together. 2M Technology offers a wide range of CCTV products, whether you’re looking for a complete system or individual components, they have an amazing team of highly trained personal to help you with your decision, installation and servicing.

Read Previously: How to Fix Condensation on Camera Lenses

One Comment

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