Your First Home Security System – Part 2: IP Camera Features In-Depth
In this second part of our multi-part series on setting up your first home security system, we’ll be building on the basics we covered last week and go more in-depth on the different IP camera features we should be considering when purchasing our system, and the options that are available. We’ll cover camera resolution, frame-rate, and infrared.
Resolution and Megapixels
Megapixel count in cameras refers to the size of the image outputted by the camera, measured in terms of the width x the height of the final image. The greater the megapixel count, the more information the camera can capture and the higher-quality the final images produced. Modern IP cameras offer resolutions that can rival digital photography cameras, and as such can provide extremely detailed pictures when used. The question, then, is how large a resolution should you look at when setting up your system? What are the factors to consider?
Typically, your standard IP camera that can be used in the home has a 3MP output, and this is generally the benchmark for what is both affordable and available on the market at the moment. However, technology moves fast, and these cameras are becoming superseded by the newer 4MP variants as these become cheaper and more available. Whilst cost is an important factor to consider, the price difference is low enough that 4MP cameras are now likely the best choice for the vast majority of customers, as these provide a range of benefits (see for example our recent YouTube video demonstrating the improved wide dynamic range) and provide a certain level of future-proofing that will keep costs lower over time. One final thing to note is that 4MP cameras will require larger storage solutions as they record more information than the 3MP versions, however with the price of hard drives coming down, as well as big advances in data compression with the latest video codecs, this isn’t something that requires a big extra expense.
The frame rate of a camera literally refers to the number of still images it takes per second whilst recording video. The average camera can record at up to 25 frames per second (fps), which doesn’t sound like a lot when you consider that many web videos services such as YouTube now support video of 60fps, but in reality it is more than enough to do the job effectively. In the case of a crime, the police only need 1-2 good still images of a criminal in order to help conduct their investigation. If you have a minute of surveillance footage, you’ll have somewhere in the region of 1500 stills to choose from!
Typically, we’d recommend 5-10fps is adequate for most camera setups. This balances good quality recordings with medium bandwidth usage and data storage requirements. Frame rates higher than this tend to significantly increase the load on your home network bandwidth, and the amount of storage you’ll require, whilst not noticeably increasing the quality of the coverage you’re receiving.
We have a bandwidth and storage calculator on our blog, designed to give a quick and rough estimate of what you’ll need for the system you’re installing. Whilst it’s not an exact figure, it should help you get an idea of what your needs will be and help guide you towards the correct storage solutions.
Most modern IP cameras come with some sort of infrared (IR) imaging built-in, though not all do so it’s important to check the camera specifications before buying if this is something that you want in your system. Note that this is different from a ‘night mode’ – where the camera simply amplifies the ambient light to improve the display in the dark.
The IR cameras on our site come with details about the system that they use, as well as the approximate effective range at which they can see at night. This is due to the strength of the IR LEDs that turn on when the camera is in this mode, as well as the sensitivity of the camera’s imaging sensor. As infrared imaging utilises different factors than visible-light imaging, it’s important to double-check the range if this is something that you need, as the image you’ll receive at night will be markedly different from that during the day, and so may not be clear enough if the range is too low.
As we mentioned last week, turret cameras tend to sport a slightly stronger IR capability than the other types of camera. This is because the camera lens and IR LED are housed in separate compartments, which allows the LED to be stronger than it otherwise would. When housed together, there is a small amount of light-bleeding, as the light from the LED reflects inside the glass casing back into the lens, which can lead to a slightly muddy image. If IR imaging is high on your priority list, this is certainly something to consider.
In this section we’ve covered resolution, frame-rate, and infrared. We’ve looked at how resolution and frame-rate are often tied to bandwidth, and how using the tools available at the use-IP website we’re able to find a good balance between quality footage and affordable storage usage. We’ve also seen how infrared technology means that we’re able to remain secure at night without the need for big lights, and of the things we need to take into consideration when setting this up. Hopefully you now have a better idea of what resolution and frame-rate are appropriate for the system you’re building, and how much storage space you will need to accommodate this.
Next week we’ll go into storage systems and cover NVRs (network video recorders), which will make up the heart of your security system and tie all your cameras together.
As always thank you for reading and if you have any feedback let us know! Praise, criticism, we’re always happy to hear from you. If you like this content be sure to check the rest of the blog, as well as our YouTube channel and Twitter.
This is part 2 of 2. View the other parts at the links below: