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February 6, 2022


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CCTV & Video Surveillance

Different CCTV camera types and what they offer

Once upon a time, CCTV cameras came in one shape: big and boxy. In recent years technology has given us so many more CCTV camera types to choose from. We’ve gone from simple to bewildering as CCTV cameras continue to dominate modern cities, and a CCTV system becomes an ever-more integral part of an organisation’s security and business operation. So, in collaboration with experts from Tavcom Training let’s explore some of the common types available.

Analogue versus IP CCTV cameras

While manufacturers may push their IP solutions as the most effective choice for new CCTV installations, there remains a vast legacy estate of traditional (standard definition/SD) analogue systems together with a growing number of high definition (HD) analogue systems. Many of the cameras described in this article will be available as either analogue or IP options.

The major difference between the two is how images are transferred between the cameras and recording system. IP cameras allow images to be streamed digitally (binary data) over a network, with each camera having its own IP address in order to communicate back to the recorder.

An SD/HD analogue (or analog) camera, on the other hand, transmits images as a composite video signal over  coaxial cable, directly to a Digital Video Recorder (DVR), where the signal is converted from analogue to digital and then compressed for more efficient storage.

With IP systems, the A/D conversion and compression processes take place within the camera, thus reducing the bandwidth required to stream the video images over the network, often to a Network Video Recorder (NVR) – though other storage solutions such as server/cloud-based options are becoming increasingly common.

As image resolutions and network/internet speeds have improved, IP cameras are becoming more and more commonplace. While analogue systems are often lower in price and have fewer bandwidth limitations, they are unable to provide the video analytics, scalability and cabling/wireless flexibility associated with IP cameras.

IP cameras are also ideal for operators looking to utilise a cloud-based surveillance storage option, where video footage is streamed directly to offsite servers. A cloud-based solution offers the benefits of offsite storage, ease of access to authorised parties, and also includes VSaaS (Video Surveillance as a Service) alternatives to video storage.

High Definition (HD) and Ultra High Definition (UHD) Resolutions

High definition (2MP) resolution is a minimum expectation today with many manufacturers providing ultra-high definitions as standard on static camera offerings with 4K (8MP) resolution now commonplace for both HD analogue and IP cameras.

Even 8K (33MP) options are now beginning to come to market, providing operators with ‘super high resolution’ alternatives. These are said to be particularly ideal to high-level security environments, such as transport hubs, stadiums and other open environments at risk of terrorist activity. These options are best suited for situations which demand recording video for evidence purposes, especially in cases where high levels of zoom without pixelating the image are required, though such devices do tend to be on the more expensive side of the market

Generally, ultra-high definition cameras will require more bandwidth to transmit their images to the recording system and limitations with processing very large resolutions can result in a trade off against frame rate; (i.e. real time video may not be possible).

Box cameras

The traditional form of camera type remains a box camera, to which a lens of the user’s choice (depending on operational requirement) is attached at the front and cables to the rear. Incidentally, some ‘box’ models have a built-in lens, maybe even a zoom lens, but these are not common.

If the naked camera and lens is expected to suffer damage from dirt, rain, frost, heat or tampering, a protective enclosure or ‘housing’ is recommended. Basic dust-proof options are simple rectangular or cylindrical boxes with a window for the camera’s view, cable outlets for power and video, and a fixing bracket. These are likely listed as ‘IP54’, meaning the Ingress Protection is officially dust protected and protected against splashing water, but not rain-proof, so often fine inside buildings.

For external use, IP65 is recommended (dust-tight and protected against water jets) as a minimum and add a sunshade to keep glare off the housing’s window. In hot and cold environments ventilating fans/blowers can be specified to reduce camera temperatures and thermostatically-controlled electrical heaters to prevent window misting.

A ‘windscreen’ wiper can be advisable in dirty environments, as can a squirting washer if extreme. Such ‘shoebox’ housings offer the flexibility for camera and lens to be changed easily as future needs require, and are easily carried by motorised pan/tilt units described below.

Fully Integrated Camera Assemblies

Most other camera types are essentially fully integrated assemblies, with camera, lens and housing inextricably combined at manufacture, trading operational flexibility for ease of installation. Available in a variety of cases, they often include LED lighting.

Bullet cameras

Bullet cameras were so named because of their cylindrical form, although rectangular versions are now commonplace.

Generally a bullet camera is utilised for external applications, as it often comes installed within IP (ingress protection) rated casings and head covers that prevent damage from dirt and protect from the lens face being interfered with. They are also considered easy for installation purposes, often simply being screwed on to a mounting bracket.

Cube Cameras

Cube Cameras commonly refer to small block shaped HD or UHD camera with fixed focus lens and may include several additional features such as:

  • PIR motion detector
  • Two-way audio
  • Short range IR Illuminator

Dome CCTV cameras

Domes have become the housing chosen most often for compact camera assemblies, largely because CCTV users consider them more visually appealing than the old ‘white shoebox’ of yesteryear.

Featuring a hemispherical dome encasing the camera/lens module, dome cameras are used in a variety of settings, with many featuring vandal resistant casings as part of crime prevention tactics.

The majority can be quickly surface-mounted on walls/ceilings, recessed into ceiling tiles for a lower profile, or hung as a ‘pendant’ from external corner brackets or masts on a ‘swan neck’. Domes containing a static camera usually have a varifocal lens so that installers can tweak the precise field-of-view.

Some IP (Internet Protocol) CCTV domes go so far as to fit these static cameras with ‘actuated’ innards that can drive the orientation, focusing and focal length by remote control after physical installation, but stop short of being regular pan/tilt domes (see below).

Units with integral LEDs should be deployed with caution – while providing some benefits, they reportedly can cause glare for the camera and attract wildlife.

A dome security camera can cross paths with a variety of other CCTV options, including but not limited to:

  • PTZ dome cameras
  • PoE (Power-over-Ethernet) dome cameras
  • HD/4K dome cameras
  • CCTV dome cameras

Miniature Cameras

Miniature versions of HD camera technologies have widespread use in applications for:

  • Video Intercoms/Doorbells
  • Body/Head worn cameras (police/security guards/traffic wardens/sports-action cameras)
  • Dashcams
  • Covert Cameras (clock faces/smoke detectors/etc.)
  • ATM machines

Fully functional (PTZ) cameras

PTZ stands for pan, tilt, zoom. These cameras are popular for their flexibility, providing a lightweight option that can cover a wide area range. They offer operators the ability to manually control their cameras, or programme them to ensure they receive the most accurate view possible, so are often popular in cases with wide area surveillance applications such as cities, transport hubs, sports stadiums, retail centres and warehouses.

Where lightweight equipment will suffice, a fully functional dome camera (speed dome) is a popular solution. Indeed, so light are the innards that some claim to spin as fast as 360°/sec. Darkened domes can make the camera’s direction of view difficult to be ascertained by those surveilled, albeit also diminishing its low-light performance. Unfortunately, this type of PTZ negates the use of wipers and LED illuminators.

For rugged applications, ‘Ball’ PTZ cameras combine lightweight dome innards in very robust metal ball-shaped cases carried by fast externally integrated pan/tilt motors. Many of these incorporate wipers and powerful IR/white light LED illuminators that move with the camera.

PTZ camera/zoom lens combinations share much with low-voltage camcorder assemblies, which is why 48:1 optical zoom is commonplace along with auto-focus. Small and powerful onboard computing power adds telemetry control plus options, such as the preset-memory function, privacy zones that automatically move to keep user-programmed areas obscured from the video, auxiliary alarm inputs/outputs, wireless communications, and video content analysis including automatic target following. Many modern devices feature auto-tracking to capture and record moving objects/people, even if operators are away from their posts at the time.

PTZ cameras also provide a useful deterrent, as they can give off the impression that intruders/offenders are being watched when automatically panning an area.

Panoramic (180/360 degree) cameras

Panoramic cameras provide an efficient way of monitoring a large areas and can help reduce any potential blind spots. Some feature digital PTZs which allow operators to electronically pan, tilt and zoom on specific locations, while the camera continues to monitor the whole 180/360-degree field of view. Generally, these cameras are relatively low maintenance options, as they have no moving part.

Two different methods are used to create the panoramic view:

  1. A single megapixel imaging sensor with a fisheye lens providing a warped panoramic image. These cameras either have on-board de-warping functionality or can be complemented with video management software that can do such a job.
  2. Multi sensor (2-8 imaging sensors) cameras with fixed focal length lenses providing several separate images invisibly stitched together to create the panoramic view.

The number of CCTV camera types we’re subjected to nowadays might seem bewildering and advancing technology will surely make it grow. There is a huge variety of manufacturers of video surveillance cameras, though some of the most commonplace include: Hikvision, Dahua, Axis Communications, Hanwha Techwin, Motorola, IDIS, Bosch, Tyco, Uniview, Tiandy, Flir, Vivotek, and many more. 

And, with the widespread availability of video analytics and deep-learning software that can now be integrated into a surveillance system, the choices are certainly broad. Intelligent analytics software now has the ability to provide operators with the benefits of motion detection, thermal measurements, social distancing and face mask detection, facial recognition capabilities, and much more. Network and CCTV surveillance technology continues to evolve at some pace. 

Nonetheless, with an outline of the possibilities and a conversation with consultants, integrators, installers, or others involved in the sector, you should be able to narrow down your surveillance camera system choice quickly and efficiently to improve your security system.

Head to our video surveillance hub page for the latest in CCTV and surveillance news, or read our latest Video Surveillance Report to keep up to date with the current trends in security surveillance technology. 

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March 11, 2021 10:19 am

Very informative


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