Don't Buy A Security Camera
Until You Read 
This Free Guide!
"How To Design The Perfect Camera System"

Here's What You'll Learn

  • How Many Cameras You Want vs. How Many You Actually Need
  • How To Choose The Right Camera For Your Specific Situation
  • When To Use Color Cameras vs. Black & White Cameras
  • How To Determine Proper Camera Placement
  • The Importance Of Choosing The Proper Lens
  • Why You Should Use A CCTV Monitor vs. A Regular TV
  • Camera Recording Devices - DVR vs. NVR
  • Bonus sources and money saving Tips
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What You Need To Know Before
Designing Your Camera System

With the serious changes in today’s society, the need for security related products have risen to unheard of levels. Among the strongest demand is for security camera systems. Large and small manufacturers alike have flooded the market with products to meet this demand. In the past installation of home security cameras was mostly limited to professional installers. Because they had insider knowledge, skills and the right tools for the job, you could expect to pay a premium price for their services. However the influx of Wi-Fi enabled cameras and the ability to purchase them online has decreased the dependence on hiring them. Instead “Do-it-yourselfers” are opting to purchase and install their-own camera systems. The idea of course is to save some money. However the reality is that many consumers end up choosing a camera system that doesn’t meet their needs. Worse yet, even if they do catch a criminal in the act, the quality of the video is so poor that it can’t be used for prosecutable evidence. What was originally thought to be a good idea can turn into a total waste of time and money.
cctv camera wall

Its Easier Than Ever To Buy Security Cameras Online

buy security cameras online
With a few clicks of the mouse you can purchase just about anything online and have it delivered in a matter of a few days. The same is true for home security cameras. This has resulted in both good and bad consequences for the consumer. The cost of owning a high quality camera system has gone down but without the proper knowledge of a professional installer, consumers are spending too much money on systems that don’t meet their needs.

This guide was created so you can design the perfect camera system and avoid the most common mistakes people make. It will help you make better choices on the equipment you purchase, contains installation tips, as well as give you an edge in negotiating with a professional installation company. Just imagine the look on their face if they try to sell you something you don’t need. You’ll have the knowledge and confidence to set them straight.

What Do You Want To See?

One of the first things you need to decide before designing a camera system is "What do you want to see” It may seem obvious or even silly to ask but not having an answer will cost you money and cause hours of frustration.

The biggest mistake consumers make is to purchase their camera system from one of those wholesale clubs or from a "security company" that doesn't know what they’re doing! What ends up happening is that the system is designed around the number of cameras you want versus the number and types of cameras actually you need!

For example: Your car has been getting vandalized in the driveway and is parked about 50ft away from your house. You might think that you’ll need only one camera to cover the front yard and driveway.This application actually needs 2 cameras.

Here's why: To see the whole yard you need a camera with a wide-angle lens. This produces a large field of view left to right but at distances beyond around 16 feet it's would be difficult to identify the vandals face. The first camera would use something like a 4mm lens to cover the yard and the second camera should use around a 12mm lens to focus on the area around the car itself.

This simple example gives you an idea of how important it is know what you want to see before you determine the number of cameras you need. The whole point behind a properly designed security camera system it to alert you to dangerous situations and to record those events. What good is a camera system that doesn’t do both while producing prosecutable evidence!

Disclaimer: While doing research we ran across this video on YouTube which was uploaded by If asked we would gladly remove it from our site. In no way do we claim any ownership of the video or any images used. If you are from Europe or the UK why not visit their site for more information. They'd probably appreciate it.

The reason we are including it here is that It perfectly illustrates the point we were making above. Using the street sign pole as a reference to where they're standing, you could easily give a general description to the police if needed. Such as the number of people involved, the type of clothes and the color of the clothes they are wearing. However only the the photo labeled 12mm FL would give you clear prosecutable evidence without using digital zoom.

In the video itself, you can see other examples of lenses being used. The 2.8mm lens at the beginning shows the widest field of view left and right but would produce prosecutable evidence only when someone was very close to the camera itself.This makes the lens more suitable for doorbell type camera installations.

The 6mm lens strikes a pretty good balance between the overall field of view and capturing what's happening on the sidewalk safety wise. It's much different when your car is parked in a driveway. The vandal may stop at the car and never get any closer to the camera. If that's the situation you're facing, do you really want to watch someone vandalize your car and just walk away or do you want to prosecute them? That's why we say 2 cameras are needed.

Photo & Video Credit
CCTV street camera 4mm lens
CCTV street camera 12mm

Selecting A Camera For Your Specific Needs

Ok so now that you have a general idea of what you want to see, let's go into more specific detail.

In order for your camera to work properly it needs light. It can come in the form of sunlight or from artificial light sources such as light poles or infrared light.

Common Examples of Lux Ratings

Direct sunlight 100,000 - 130,000 Lux
Overcast day 1,000 Lux
Deep twilight 1 Lux
Full moon 0.1 Lux
Quarter moon 0.01 Lux
security camera light

Maximus Smart Security Camera Light

The 3 Main Types of Security Cameras
Indoor There will be many options to choose from for your indoor security cameras. As always it comes down to what your want to see and how will you achieve it. Do you want your cameras to blend in with your surroundings or something more low profile . Pay special attention to their mounting options. Some cameras are only designed to sit on top of a flat surface but not wall mount or ceiling mount.. Cameras that can be mounted anywhere will either give you the ability to move the camera orientation physically or through included imaging software processing.

Outdoor Need to make sure your security cameras are IP66 or IP67 rated This means the camera meet standards to be dust tight, water resistant and weatherproof. The security camera should have a wide operating temperature range well below zero to well about 100 degrees. This will ensure your camera performs and almost all weather conditions.

Specialty Cameras Doorbell Cameras as well as hidden cameras disguised in ordinary items such as alarm clock radios, blue tooth speakers and other low profile devices.

Other Features To Look For

Because cameras are installed in such dramatic lighting situations, make sure your camera includes a technology called Wide Dynamic Range (WDR).

This feature helps adapt your camera to most lighting conditions. Such as bright and dark areas within the same viewing area

Color Day/Night capabilities. This type of camera Is color by day and automatically switches to B/W at night using infrared illuminators? Some do not use illuminators but switch to low Lux B/W mode at certain

Wired & Wireless Camera Options
In addition to the 3 main types or cameras they can be further broken down into wired and wireless models.

All cameras need to be powered and have a way to get the video signal back to the monitor and recorder. The most reliable way to achieve this is to "hardwire" your camera system.

WDR - A Difference You Can See


With Wide Dynamic Range   Vs   Without Wide Dynamic Range

Video / Power cable can be purchase pre-made in specific lengths like 25', 50' etc. It can also be purchased in bulk rolls of 500’ or 1000’ that can be made to custom lengths.Although using pre made cables is perfectly acceptable there are drawbacks over making your own. With pre made cables, the connectors are already on the wire so you have to drill a larger hole to pull the wire through an opening.You may also have excess wire to deal with.This is especially bad when it's on the monitor end. Making custom cables makes for a neater installation and costs less per foot.
Some camera locations may require wireless transmission of the video signal. In those cases using a Wi-Fi enabled camera is going to be the best choice. Even though the video signal can be sent wirelessly the camera itself needs to be powered. In cases where the wireless camera is going to be used indoors they can be powered by a normal electrical outlet.

For Wi-Fi cameras that are used outdoors the lack of available electric outlets presents a more challenging problem. Luckily advancements in battery and solar technologies are available to meet your needs. It wasn’t that long ago that wireless cameras were only used for temporary placements due to limited battery life. Most Wi-Fi cameras now use rechargeable batteries that will need to be replaced on occasion.

Another leap in technology is the use of solar panels. There are Wi-Fi cameras that have integrated solar panels to charge internal storage batteries that ultimately power the camera.

Solar Powered PTZ Camera

Weather Proof Solar Power Camera

High Resolution Solar Powered Camera

How To Determine The Proper Camera Placement

This is an often looked but very important element of CCTV design. If you are installing outside security cameras keep in mind where the sun rises and sets. The sun can create glare on the lens that would make your video image useless during these times.

If at all possible avoid positioning you camera in the direct path of the sun and choose a mounting height that will let you look slightly downward at your viewing area. In addition look for cameras that have built-in sun shields. The combination of preplanning and mounting height will eliminate most of the problems you will face but sometimes there is nothing you can do.

There is a different set of problems for interior cameras. Because ceiling heights average around 8 feet high there is a limited amount of angle you can create to avoid direct sunlight. This is especially problematic for cameras facing windows.
The sun creates an excessive amount of background light, which causes a silhouetting effect. A person standing in front of the window would very hard to recognize. To combat the sun in this situation look for a camera with WDR and use an auto iris lens.

For the most part you don't have to worry about the size of outside cameras but with interior cameras this can be a major concern. No one wants a huge camera hanging on his or her living room wall.

Here you have a couple of options. You could use a low profile camera that can be placed on a shelf or a hidden camera such as a motion detector camera. These discrete cameras can easily blend in with the surroundings.
sun through window

Motion Tracking Pan/Tilt Indoor Dome Camera

Since a standard wide-angle lens has about a 90-degree field of view you should place most interior cameras in the corner of the room. This placement will give you the maximum viewing area. Additionally cameras with motorized Pan/Tilt are available giving even more coverage than static position ones.

Cameras Vs Black/White Cameras

Most consumers choose a Color or B/W camera based on cost alone. This is another area where a big buying mistake can be made. Although it’s easy to understand trying to stay within a set budget, the choice of camera should be made based on the available lighting level and what you want to "see" Color cameras need more light to work than do black and white cameras. That's why you'll see B/W cameras with generally lower lux ratings. In this next example a clerk is getting ready to close his store for the night. The parking lot is dimly lit and he is concerned about his safety while walking to his car. Since his main concern is whether or not someone is lurking around versus who it is, a B/W camera is better suited for this situation. Using a low lux B/W camera will not only save him money but the video will be clearer than a color camera. If the parking lot is well lit then you may consider using color. You would still need to match the proper lens to take advantage of the details a color camera would provide. Another option is to use a color day/night camera.

This type of camera is color when there is adequate light available and produces a B/W image at night using infrared illuminators. These cameras are ideal when there is no light available

Color Day/Night Cameras

They do have a down side though, infrared illuminators produce a light that is invisible to the naked eye but to a camera it's like shinning a spotlight in the area the camera is viewing.

This spotlight effect tends to “ghost” objects or people’s faces that are very close to the camera. So the bottom line is, it is better to use B/W cameras outside such as a super low lux camera if the primary application is for night time use.

Use color cameras for indoor use or where you have good lighting conditions. 

The Importance Of Choosing The Right Lens

The one size fits all approach to lens selection leads to big mistake #3.
Most out of the box camera systems that are sold by "wholesale clubs" use wide-angle lenses. Usually a 3.6mm or 4mm lens. Don't get me wrong there are many times that these lenses will work perfectly fine for your situation. The problem is that when you need application specific lenses they either won't know what you'll need or it's simply not sold that way.

There are several styles of CCTV Lens available on the market such as fixed focus, manual iris lens, vari-focal, DC auto iris and zoom lens to name a few.
The best way to determine the lens size you need is to use a viewfinder such as the Computar VM300 You simply look through it; adjust the viewing ring until you are satisfied with the view. Then read off the number on the side to get the size lens you need.

These viewfinders are a bit pricey but well worth it if you have a large number of cameras to purchase. You may be able to find a used on eBay. If you are looking for prosecutable evidence then a good rule of thumb to use is for every mm of lens multiply that by 4. So a 4mm lens will give you facial features of someone about 16 feet away.

If you can't justify spending the money on a viewfinder then there are many online lens calculators available. I like using this free Lens Calculator. It not only gives you a numerical value for your field of view but also some example pictures to visualize what each lens size will look like.

Adjustable Dome Security Camera

Next we'll determine the type of lens you need. If your camera location has adequate and constant light then a fixed iris lens will work. For placements that will be subject to variable lighting conditions you'll want to use auto iris lenses. These types of lenses automatically adjust the opening and closing of the cameras iris and lighting conditions change This keeps your images from being too bright or too dark.

One way to take all the guesswork out of selecting a lens is to use vari-focal auto iris lenses. This saves you time and hassle because the lens does all the work. Once the camera is installed simply adjust the field of view to what you want. The auto iris is good in all lighting conditions

Other options include cameras with built in optical zooming lenses. IP cameras do have the ability to use digital zoom.

While this is helpful you should look for the highest resolution and camera lens your budget allows. When optical zoom is used the image remains clear whereas digital zoom tend to pixelate at a extreme magnification.

If you use the proper lens for the proper application then the need to zoom in at a distance is less of an issue. That goes back to buying the number of cameras you need vs. the number you want.

CCTV Monitor vs. A Regular TV

When choosing a monitor for your system you should try to purchase one that has at a minimum the same lines of resolution as your cameras. A line of resolution is the total number of horizontal lines a camera or monitor produces. The more lines of resolution the clearer the picture will be.

In an attempt to save money you might be tempted to use a regular TV.
A TV will work using the right video connectors but there are some trade-offs. For example: It may be convenient to connect your camera system to the TV in your living room but you have to deal with all the extra wiring and power supplies. It also makes it easy for a would be thief to steal the camera’s recording device. Cloud storage of your surveillance video is one solution to that issue. However you can expect to a monthly fee to do so.

Best practices dictate installing your camera system with a CCTV Monitor in a more secure or out of plain site location. It could be located in a closet or in a basement if possible. Since a CCTV monitor is specifically designed to work with your camera system there shouldn’t be any issues with compatibility.

Many low-end camera systems use a "Quad Monitor". They combine a quad processor and a CCTV monitor. A quad processor let's you display 1 camera at a time, switch between cameras on a timed interval or display all 4 cameras at once. In theory this sounds like a good idea. In reality there are multiple problems associated with these systems.

1. With multifunction products, the manufacturer combines two middle of the road products instead of you choosing the level of quality for each component.
2. If one of the products goes bad the entire system is down.
3. You can't expand the system. Your only option is to replace the quad processor to accommodate more cameras

Monitor Size
The size of your monitor is not only a matter of preference but will determine how well you see your video images. For a single camera system, just about any monitor will work. However if you’re smart you will plan ahead and purchase a larger monitor. This is so you can expand later without having to buy another one.

The reason you need a large monitor for 4 or more cameras is you'll be looking at more than one camera at once. Your screen will be divided into smaller sections. The more cameras you have the smaller each section is.
You still can pull up an individual camera in full screen in live mode.
The type of video processor will determine if you can pull up an individual camera to full screen of recorded images.
Remote Viewing Your CCTV Cameras
In addition to using a monitor to view your surveillance video footage, you should look for a system that can be viewed on any iPhone or Android device. Not only does it provide real time monitoring of your surveillance system, You can use your phone during the installation process to adjust the cameras. This alone will save you hours of walking back and forth from the camera back to the monitor to adjust them properly
Remote Security Camaer App

Security Camera NVR Recording Device

There are 2 basic types of systems for recording your cameras. They are a Digital Video Recorders (DVR) and Network Video Recorders (NVR).

DVR’s while still a viable and less expensive option they are quickly being replaced by the NVR in most new camera installations. The security cameras that connect to the system are hard wired using coax cable to transmit analog video signals back to the recorder. The video is then processed and recorded on a hard drive within the system.

By hardwiring the cameras directly to the DVR the video signal is secured and cannot be access remotely by default. There are some models that will have networking capability but you might as well go with a NVR.

NVR Recording Devices
Using a NVR gives you several advantages over a DVR. First of which is the type of cameras that connect to it. The first of which is you can get IP cameras up to 4K resolution. Secondly remote viewing is a breeze via any pc or phone app. Last but not least is the ability to store video via cloud storage.

Security Camera Recording Tips

Shop diligently. Lower cost DVR’s exclude full multiplexing, which does not allow you to view an image in full screen mode after a recording in its original quality. They take a quad recorded image and "digitally" zoom one of the cameras to give you the illusion it is multiplexed.

As with any digitally zoomed image, you lose image quality. You can identify a DVR that does full multiplexing by checking to see if it offers both "quad" and "field" modes.

The amount of hours your camera system will record is dictated by the frame rate you record at and the size of the hard drive. You will also need to factor in how long you need to keep the recordings. Full motion recording is 30 frames per second. Older systems use time lapse recording which makes the video seem like it skips. Avoid these types of devices. They will only lead to missed footage and poor video quality when you need it most.

Although motion detection recording helps limit amount of “dead time you record, you may still need to record 6-8 hours a day. When the capacity of the hard drive is used up it starts recording over old recordings. Be sure to pay close attention to the specs of the recorder regardless of whether it is a DVR or NVR Ask your vendor whether you can export the recordings to an external device or cloud storage.

Spend The Money Now So You Can Save Money Later.

When choosing a video recording device always buy the largest capacity you can buy. For example even if you actually only need 4 cameras for your particular application buy a 16 camera recorder. The difference in price is not that big but you will enough room to grow in the future. As soon as you purchase that 4 camera recorder and get it installed there’s a good chance you’ll find another location you wish there was a camera. If that happens you have to buy another recorder in order to expand.