CCTV Buying Guide
There are 3 types of systems that all CCTV equipment will be divided into, these are Analog, HD and IP. Analog equipment is the most basic of these but with the fall in prices for HD and IP systems the demand for analogue systems has dropped. IP systems can be run over an existing computer network and can support a higher resolution than the others. HD systems are the most popular at the moment as the prices are very competitive for the quality of the pictures that are being captured. There are several protocols being used for HD systems and we will explore in the next section.
As mentioned earlier there are several types of HD protocols and it can be difficult understanding or differentiating between them all. The four most popular are HD-SDI, AHD, HD-CVI and HD-TVI.
HD-SDI has arguably the best quality picture and has been around the longest of the four mentioned. The cost of HD-SDI is higher than the others and has fallen out of favour due to the other types being able to achieve close to the same image quality but for a substantially lower price.
AHD has the weakest picture of the four mentioned above but has a substantially lower price. Although deemed cheap it is still a step up from an analogue system.
HD-CVI and HD-TVI. There will be arguments from those who favour either of these protocols stating that the overall picture quality on one of these is better than the other. You can see a lot of sites comparing the images under certain lighting conditions and stating that one of these is better than the other but in all honesty the quality between the two is marginal. One picture may look better in a low light situation whilst the other may look better in night vision. At the moment we have chosen to stock HD-CVI as the software on the systems are easier to use and offer better functionality. We also like the picture quality that this format captures, it's closer to the natural colour image you will see naturally. From the cameras we have tested using the TVI format the pictures are clear and bright but we find the brightness can be too much in a naturally bright environement, such as outdoors on a clear day.
Note that we didn't mention resolution. Each type of systems will output video quality to a different maximum resolution. Analog resolution is usually measured in TV Lines (TVL) with the maximum being 800 TVL, 976 x 582. IP and HD systems are normally measured in MP, 1MP being 720P and 2MP being Full HD. On top of this you also need to be wary of the quality of the chipsets used. Even when comparing 2 cameras of the same spec the chipsets used may be different causing the images captured to appear different. Unfortunately there's no way of identifying the quality of the chipset without physically viewing the captured camera footage.
We touched upon the software on the DVR's and that is one of the main reasons we decided to sell HD CVI products. For home installs or self-installation it is probably more important to choose a DVR/NVR that is simple and straight-forward to use. A lot of sites sell items that are aimed at CCTV installers, unfortunately the end-user does not have 10 years of experience installing and setting up CCTV systems. Nor does the end user have extensive networking knowledge that is required with some units on the market. Even if you are looking to buy elsewhere check out what is needed to set-up the system and if it isn't listed on the website don't hesitate to call the company. As a guide all our DVR's and NVR's use P2P and users can easily view the systems just by scanning a QR code.
It is important to know the limitations of the cameras or know what camera is needed in each application. We don't stock a huge range of cameras as the choice can be overwhelming. The cameras we offer are 3.6mm fixed lens cameras and 2.8mm to 12mm varifocal cameras and are IP66 rated so are suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications. Ideally all cameras should be pointing away from any direct light source and slightly downwards (to avoid water being collected on the glass front). We would also recommend that there are no obstructions to the camera nearby and the cabling does ont run adjacent to any strong power sources, although the cameras have Smart IR there will still be some IR bounce-back from any object that is obstructing the view of the camera.
A common theme with CCTV equipment is that it's often seen as a specialised area. Now with more and more companies supplying to the end user directly there is a wealth of knowledge that is being lost. Given that the average cost of a system will run into hundreds of pounds you need to be sure that assistance is available should you require it. Always make sure that there is a telephone support number (anyone selling a good number of systems should offer a landline number) and an email address for out of hours queries. We offer a paid for service where a technician can remote into a PC onsite and setup the networking for you but in the majority of instances most routers will allow the P2P function on the recorders to work.
What makes us different?
There's nothing to say that we are different to any other company out there but we understand that when selling DIY home installation CCTV kits it needs to be easy to setup and install. If we feel that a particular range is difficult or confusing to install then we won't sell it. Our view is any customer who is able to order a system should be able to set one of our systems up.