A good video surveillance system should deter criminals, protect you when you’re home, alert you to events, and provide rock solid evidence should something happen. All the while, your security camera system should be easy to install, easy to use and definitely earn you some bragging rights of being able to say, “They picked the wrong place to mess with.”
Unfortunately, many people purchase a video surveillance camera system blindly from a consultant, dealer or website and often have regrets.
To make sure that doesn’t happen to you, this guide shows how to select the right video surveillance system for your application. It will provide you key points to consider that will uncover your true needs, and help you select the right gear to match your needs and your lifestyle EvergreenIDSF.
Security Camera Locations
The number one question people ask when buying a video security camera system is “How many surveillance cameras do I need?” That’s a great question, but I’ve got to tell you from personal experience – it doesn’t matter how many or few security cameras you have. It only matters that you identify who is coming and going and that you document their activities while visiting your facility.
1. Identify the suspect
If you have limited funds, then I highly recommend that your surveillance system is able to clearly identify people as they come and go. Odds are that if something happens at your home or business that is noteworthy, you’ll know about it. And the only question you need to answers is: “Who did it?” If you know who is coming and going, figuring out “who” is in most cases very simple.
To achieve good identification of people or vehicles, you must identify the choke points in your business and the likely avenues of approach. By choke points, I mean areas of your home, business or property that anyone or thing wishing to gain entrance must pass through.
Good examples are obviously doors, windows, gates, parking lot entrances etc… Video security cameras dedicated to watching these choke points will put the bad guy’s mug shot in your hands before you even have to involve the police.
I would also recommend that you think like a criminal for just a minute. If you were a burglar, how would you enter your home or property? Would your approach be different during the day than at night? What areas on the property are least visible to your neighbors? The results of this exercise will confirm the number of security cameras you need to rest easy and will likely surprise you.
2. Document activity
For a business, having sufficient video security cameras in place to provide an overview of activity is usually not an option. There are simply too many instances that call for documentation of what happened. An easy case in point is shoplifting. By law in most states, a suspect must be observed actually concealing an item and leaving the threshold of the building before the activity is considered a crime.
Additionally, and many times more importantly, documentation of activity in your home or place of business will help to protect you from prosecution for “Slip and Fall”, and other litigious activities that may occur on your property.
At a residence, using surveillance cameras which view a wide area often provide some very valuable clues beyond identification, such as the direction of travel, a vehicle description, identifying accomplices and neighbors that may have witnessed the crime. In many cases, you can gain many of these important details with as few as four additional cameras located around your house.
Safety is another popular reason to have security cameras providing overviews of your property. It’s quite a comfort to be able to watch children at play in the pool, trampoline or yard knowing they are safe and having fun at the same time.
3. Create a sketch
When I’m consulting with customers, I prefer to use a sketch of the property – even if it’s a location I’m familiar with. A simple hand drawn sketch will work but if possible, one drawn to scale will help even more. This sketch is useful for determining field of views for your security cameras, ensuring an overlap of coverage if desired, or for getting a second opinion from a consultant.
So, as you are surveying your property and picking video surveillance camera locations jot them down on your sketch, you’ll be glad you did.
Video Security Cameras
After you’ve first narrowed down where you will need security cameras, you’ve also made it very easy for yourself to figure out which of the thousands of surveillance cameras will best suit each location.
Here are some things to consider in making your selection near bullet proof:
Selecting security cameras with the proper lens size is by far the most critical decision for obtaining clear suspect identification. A camera suited with the right lens will yield great results – even when used with modestly performing cameras.
Lens sizes are measured in millimeters. The bigger the number, the more telephoto or zoom capability the security camera will have. To give you an easy to use reference – one of your eyes has about the same field of view as a 3mm surveillance camera lens – or roughly 90 degrees.
So, when you are surveying a camera location, closing one eye will generally tell you what a surveillance camera with a 3mm lens will see. Using a lens with a higher millimeter (focal length) will get you a tighter shot.
For a more scientific approach, measure the distance between the camera and the area to be viewed. Next, measure the width and height of the area to be viewed. Type this information into a lens calculator (easily found online) to find the recommended lens size for your application.
Today, some of our more popular security cameras come with built-in varifocal lenses. These varifocal lenses are sometimes called zoom lenses, and cover a wide range of popular focal lengths and housing styles.
If for some reason there is not a ready-made camera available that meets your exact needs, then it will be simple to pair a traditional security camera with a CS-mount lens for your application.
Security camera styles
The style of security camera you choose is more important than just a fashionable appearance, although ascetics should definitely be considered. Some camera styles are better for specific mounting locations while others may be more universal.
Another important consideration is protection from the elements – both environmental and criminal. Regardless of the style that meets the needs your application, nearly all security camera styles offer similar features – so it should not be a limiting factor.
Traditional security cameras
Traditional type surveillance cameras, such as box cameras or fixed cameras are without a doubt the oldest type (hence traditional) and still are the most popular. There are literally thousands of different lenses available for these fixed cameras that make them useful for everything from home/business security, to border enforcement and even to covert surveillance operations.
There are a wide variety of enclosures available for vandal-proofing and/or weather-proofing these video security cameras as well. Also, because these types of cameras are easily recognizable, they act as a good deterrent – which should be a primary objective for most security applications.
Dome security cameras
Dome security cameras have become much more popular over the past few years, and can come equipped with all the bells and whistles, such as a 3-axis internal camera adjustment, a varifocal lens and infrared illumination for night vision. One reason CCTV dome cameras are so popular is that they can be mounted indoors, outdoors, underneath over-hangs, on walls… virtually anywhere.
Their varifocal lenses provide the right field of view for choke points, and their 3-axis positioning options make it simple to obtain the overhead or wall-mounted shot that you desire. Additionally, dome surveillance cameras are less recognizable, as they tend to blend in with the environment, potentially giving you better chances of getting good facial identification.