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Video Surveillance Equipment Overview: We walk you through the purchase process to help you get the Video Surveillance Equipment you need.
Before you start talking to vendors, ask yourself these questions:
- How many locations do I want to watch?
- Where will you mount the cameras?
- Where will the central recording device be set up?
- Will the cameras be monitored live, or only played back if there's been a problem?
- What is the lighting like in your target areas?
- Do you need physical protection for the cameras?
- How long do you need to save your recordings for?
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Then you can choose to speak with one of our Purchasing Advisors who can walk you through the process and handle any issues or questions that arise. Our Advisors provide these services and more:
- Verify your information and give an overview of the purchasing process
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Video camera specs
One of the most basic specifications of CCTV systems is the format of the camera and lenses. 1/4" and 1/3" cameras are by far the most popular for security work – and they should do the job for you, too. Make sure the lenses you get match the format of the camera.
Another important spec is resolution. Ask for measurements of horizontal TV lines, or TVL. 300 is low-end, 400 is good for security work, 500 is very high quality. If you're going to want to see detail, upgrading to a higher resolution is a good choice.
Do make sure that all of your equipment can handle the resolution your cameras put out, though: it's no good having a 500 TVL camera if your monitor only displays 400.
Black and white or color?
Older CCTV systems were often black and white to save money: color cameras were more expensive. These days, there's hardly any price difference, and color video is far more effective for identifying suspects and pinpointing problems. The one remaining advantage of black and white cameras – that they work better in low-light situations – is negated by newer color cameras that switch to a black and white mode in low light to improve results. Our advice? Buy color.
Most video surveillance cameras are installed in one location permanently. For this case, fixed-focus lenses are the most cost-effective. If you want to be able to move your camera, variable focus lenses are adjustable, letting you change your field of view when you reposition the camera.
If you want to be able to move the camera remotely, you'll need a pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) camera. They can cost 10 times as much as a standard fixed camera, though, so make sure you really need one before spending the money.
There are two main reasons to get housings for your cameras: protection from vandalism, and protection from the elements. The placement of the camera will determine what you need: if your cameras will be mounted indoors and far out of reach, you may not need any housings at all, while outdoor cameras may need impact-resistant coverings and heaters.
Digital video recorders (DVRs) have replaced VCRs as the workhorses of the video surveillance industry. While they are still somewhat more expensive than VCRs, their advantages are immense.
One of the most significant is their ability to adjust to what they see: if they're recording a static image, such as the inside of a warehouse at night, they may only record 1 frame every 5 or 10 seconds. But when they detect movement, they can instantly switch to full video to capture any suspicious activity.
Because they record to hard drives, you can instantly watch any specific time – no lengthy fast-forwarding and searching for the right moment. They also let you jump to 'events' – situations where the picture changed. And don't overlook the fact that they don't have tapes: you won't have to worry about storage or tapes deteriorating.
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