CCTV Camera Buyers Guide [Options, Perks + Tips]

When you begin looking into CCTV camera systems, you have dozens of things to consider, and you may not understand all of your options. I get it. It can be confusing with all of the different specifications, brands and power options.

Not to mention, understanding which system will protect your home best can be overwhelming. Most individuals don’t realize how many cameras they may need for full coverage and are stuck browsing the internet and often purchase a system that’s not fully capable of providing complete protection.

If your CCTV camera system can’t serve as a strong deterrent, there isn’t much of a reason to spend any money on it in the first place. That’s the entire point, right? Protecting our homes, families and prized possessions. If we can’t do this effectively or we have several “holes” in the coverage or protection, why spend any money at all?

A CCTV system should do two things. Allow us to have peace of mind when going to bed at night and to keep bad things from happening to our properties, assets, families, and business.

My goal in this post here today is to provide a full-guide about all of the considerations that need to take place before making your final decision and purchase when shopping a CCTV system for your home or business.

Ultimately, this guide should allow you to know the perks and specifications you should be looking for in your CCTV camera system and also will enable you to gauge other essential factors such as storage options, power options and how many cameras you should consider having on your home.

Let’s dive into the details.

Analyze Your Needs Before Doing Anything Else

Before you do anything in the process, you need to take the time to go over your needs. This usually entails asking yourself several questions and taking a look at the best systems for different kinds of use such as the options below.

Personal Use and CCTV Systems

If you are purchasing a CCTV system for personal use, it’s likely your home. Perhaps it’s even a condo or apartment, but probably you aren’t trying to protect a business or a property that you don’t occupy.

 This makes things easier in most circumstances.

You are around and able to visually check on hardware and likely you will be using the CCTV reasonably often. A significant consideration when purchasing a CCTV for your home is to make sure you cover all access points and have the correct quality and storage to match your needs (More on this soon)

Business Use and CCTV Systems

Business use is going to be more complicated in some situations. Business use can often require a large number of cameras, recording large amounts of data and storing it for more extended periods and is usually going to be on the higher end of the budget.

It’s equally as essential to ensure you are protecting your business adequately when considering a system.

Also, professional or business use CCTV camera systems are also more likely to be professionally installed as opposed to self-installing your CCTV system which is also going to add to your final bill.

Remote Use and CCTV Systems

Remote use is going to be the rarest form of purchasing a CCTV camera system, but it’s still prevalent. This may include boat docks, vacation homes, and individuals who own a vast amount of land or have several secondary structures on their property.

When you begin looking at camera systems for remote use, you may even start considering out of the box options such as solar powered CCTV systems or even camera systems that connect ultimately by 4G cellular data.

Often remote locations are going to give you more issues with signal quality due to internet possibilities as well as power options. This will cause you to get a little more creative when purchasing for remote locations but it’s still 100% doable, and people do it all the time.

Determine Your Budget and What You Truly Want to Spend on Your CCTV System

Up next on the to-do list is determining how much money you are looking to spend on a CCTV system. Some CCTV systems can run you a few hundred dollars, and some can cost you thousands of dollars. It all depends on the quality and the use you are looking to gain from your system.

Knowing your budget before you enter the shopping phase will let you tailor your CCTV system more effectively removing some of the perks and specifications you don’t absolutely need and also allowing you to make sure you get the requirements and features you truly desire.

Not to mention it’s just a wise overall practice to have a budget in mind before going on a shopping spree for something that can be as costly as a CCTV system.

Trust me, they are fun to purchase, and it can get out of hand if you don’t set a hard limit or budget beforehand. Been there and done that in the past and wish I would have read this and taken the advice I’m giving you.

How Many Cameras Are You Looking for To Protect Your Property?

Next is one of the considerations people tend to forget. How many cameras do you need? Of course, this is going to come down to the size of the property, entry points and if you are using your CCTV system for professional use or for your own residential home.

Most commonly people will choose from either 2,4,8 or even 16 cameras, but you can mix and match these numbers as you wish. The best way to determine your needs is to first revert back to why you need the cameras in the first place. Start with the following question.

Which of The Following Is the Primary Use of Your CCTV Camera System?

  • A Deterrent from Criminal Activity on a Residential Home or Business?
  • Evidence Collection or Evidence Reviews
  • Live Monitoring and Alerts to Be Informed When Someone Enters the Property?
  • For Live Streaming Use?
  • A Combination of Multiple or All the Above?

Once you have this pinpointed, you can begin determining what areas need the coverage. Some individuals are often confused by this and think a camera on the front door, back door and garage are good enough to get the job done.

Sadly, it’s not. Here’s a look at popular spots where people enjoy having CCTV camera coverage actively monitoring.

  • Front Yard of The Property
  • Front Door and Front Entry Access to the Property
  • The Porch or Doorstep (For Visitors and Often Supplemented with a Quality Doorbell Camera)
  • Back Door and Back Yard of the Property
  • Living Room or Living Area of The Home or The Most Open Floor Plan Area of The Home
  • Children’s Room or Hallway that Shows Access to The Children’s Room
  • Kitchen
  • Garage Doors (Inside and Out)
  • Each Floor of the Home and Access to Those Levels
  • Areas with High Amounts of Valuables

Those are the common areas, and I know some of you may be thinking that having that many cameras indoors are not necessarily the way to go. This is entirely up to you. Some individuals are concerned with only protecting the main entrance to the home, but you have to keep other factors in mind.

Factors such as basement windows that could allow access or even second story windows. With this in mind, having indoor surveillance isn’t a bad idea by any means and adds additional protection.

Additionally, individuals think that placing a camera in the backyard and front yard is good enough for these areas, but that’s not always the case.

Often, individuals buy cameras with no rotating capabilities or that don’t have a large field of view which can cause further problems. This will leave blind spots and coverage that still allows for a stealthy criminal to gain entry to the home. Thus, defeating the entire purpose of the system altogether.

We will cover this further when we reach the discussion about specs and features to look for, but it’s essential to have these small things in the back of your mind when you start the buying process for any CCTV system.

Now we need to move into storage needs and capabilities that CCTV camera systems can offer.

Do You Want to Use DVR or NVR or HVR?

DVR, NVR, and HVR are going to be your three options when choosing a storage option for your CCTV system. Both have upsides and downsides. Let’s discuss those briefly.

NVR CCTV Camera Systems

Many consumers believe that NVR is the superior choice when it comes to your storage options with CCTV cameras. While they do have great features and offer the ability to record and store data wirelessly using Wi-Fi, it doesn’t necessarily make them the best option in all circumstances.

Additionally, when choosing an NVR CCTV system, you will have the option to use PoE NVR which stands for (Power over Ethernet). This is a superior connection and personally my recommendation if I was forced to choose.

Using these options will eliminate the need to hardwire all cameras into the actual system using coax cables. If you opt to use the PoE option, you will still have one cord needed to run which will be your ethernet cord so your NVR can receive data and store it.

NVR’s are also typically costlier than a DVR system.

DVR CCTV Systems

DVR is the original player in the CCTV technology world. It’s the old school way of using analog cameras and connecting them to your DVR box via a coaxial cable.

HVR CCTV Systems

HVR CCTV systems are going to give you the best of both worlds. You can use this system to transmit the data via WiFi or via analog using the coaxial cables. HVR CCTV systems are going to be the most expensive of the bunch and can quickly put you over 1000.00 dollars out the door.

It depends on what you are looking for to make the final decision on which one to choose. Your NVR is going to be used with IP cameras and have very high quality and easy install/setup, but they are also going to stretch your budget much more.

On the flip side, you can opt for the DVR system. This will be more challenging to install and use analog-based cameras with the lower recording quality, but the cost is also significantly lower.

Depending on if quality and ease of install are on your must-have list, you may want to lean towards the NVR CCTV systems. 

However, if budget is a number 1 concern, a DVR camera system would be the best path for you to take.

How Much Storage Do You Need for Your CCTV Camera System?

Storage is another concern you want to keep in mind when purchasing your CCTV camera system. Some systems and DVR/NVR’s are going to either off more hard drive storage or more “cloud-based” storage.

If you don’t have adequate storage for your specific needs, you may be losing out on the primary purpose that led you to your original purchase in the first place. Storage can also be impacted by factors such as compression and resolution for your cameras.

Simply put, the higher the quality of your video, the more storage it’s going to take up during recordings and vice versa. Many individuals opt for the abilities to have a 30 days window to view previous footage.

If you need a lot of storage on a smaller budget, you can also opt to use other options such as a PTZ camera that can cover more ground with less footage or you can use the H.264 IP cameras that help compress and reduce the format to keep more storage space free.

Other considerations can include adjusting your camera resolution or simply opting to store less footage but performing regular backups to keep your footage safe but free up hard drive space for more current and future footage.

What Perks Do You Desire for Your CCTV System?

Now that we have covered some of the more significant topics to consider during your first CCTV purchase, it’s time to start getting more into the fun stuff or the “goodies” that these systems can offer. The perks and additional specifications that many CCTV systems come chalked and loaded with.

Depending on your needs during your “analyzing phase” that we discussed previously in this post, this part of the process should be nearing the end and having you closer to making your payment and arranging for shipping on your next system. Let’s dive into the additional perks you can look for now.

What Style Camera Do You Need or Want?

The style of camera you choose can make a big difference in the physical appearance of the camera, the quality and capabilities as well as the cost. You have everything from bullet cameras to dome cameras. Bullet cameras aren’t as sleek and hidden as dome cameras, but many individuals still prefer them.

Bullet cameras perform great in situations where you need long distance viewing. Both cameras can be mounted relatively easy, and the price doesn’t fluctuate significantly between the two.

Your best bet when choosing a style is to determine your needs and taste (for the physical appearance of the camera) before ultimately deciding.

Don’t forget that passing up a dome camera could be a mistake. Especially for business use. Dome cameras offer the ability to conceal which way the camera is actually pointing which can be great for use in large square footage businesses with heavy traffic or assets to protect such as large department stores using dome cameras for loss prevention purposes.

What Power Option Are You Shooting For?

Power options are one of the most significant considerations you will make when purchasing a CCTV system. It can make a difference based on location such as remote locations and the stability of your system.

Many individuals are leaning towards the newer battery-powered options, but in recent years, you can also purchase solar-powered cameras.

Solar powered cameras are going to provide great options for areas such as secondary structure on a large property or areas that can get access to a great deal of natural sunlight.

Hardwire power systems are going to offer the best stability, but they also come with pesky install cost and require more drilling and cord running throughout your home or business. Most individuals who opt to hardwire a system if they don’t have a handyman background will need to choose to look for professional install which can play into your total budget allotted for your CCTV system.

Depending on how many cameras need to be wired and the complexity of the job, a hardwired system can either set you back a few hundred dollars or multiple thousands of dollars. It’s essential to consider these options before choosing your power source.

Battery powered cameras are going to be excellent for self-install, but like all batteries in this world, they do run out so they require more routine monitoring from yourself to ensure the system is always functioning at peak performance and your home and business are fully protected.

Night Vision and Quality of The Night Vision

Most decent CCTV cameras are going to come with night vision of some sort anymore these days. It’s 2019, and most of the big brands are wanting to compete and earn your business. However, some will offer higher quality night vision and resolution using infrared technology.

Higher quality cameras will have longer or more enhanced IR technology and can provide stunning quality in total blackness up to 190 feet away. Of course, these are the CCTV cameras that will cost more money as well.

Depending on the purpose of your CCTV cameras, night vision is undoubtedly a top consideration to keep in mind.

Quality and Resolution for Your Cameras

Resolution for your camera comes down to your exact needs and your taste. Some individuals don’t mind lower resolution cameras which can help save money during the purchase. Some prefer to have higher resolution and the best of the best that the CCTV world can offer.

A D1 camera is capable of 704 x 480 pixels which are known to be the highest a CCTV camera is capable of currently.

You also have cheaper options such as 720p or 1080n.  The resolution will also have a lot to do with the frames per second you choose for your system. The higher frames per second the better.

30 frames per second for your resolution will produce clear images even on moving objects and help enhance the total image received back to you.

If you are opting to have a high-end resolution or top end system, I’d consider either the full HD quality such as 1080p or the D1. If, however, your goal is to get protection at a low price, you can undoubtedly get the job done using something such as the 720P quality.

It all comes down to personal preference with video resolution.

Analyze your budget and other needs with your system and tailor your system to what fits you best.

Weather Resistant and Tamper Proof Cameras

These are must-haves for any CCTV cameras that will be mounted outdoors. Your cameras are going to take a beating whether you believe it or not. Frigid cold temperatures dropping below zero degrees plus hot days exceeding 100 degrees is going to place some heavy wear and tear on your cameras.

Not to mention other factors such as direct sunlight beaming off your cameras, individuals tampering with them and other problems such as rain, snow, wind and even birds can cause a camera to be rendered useless over time.

Consider a tamper-proof camera. This will end the false alerts from birds hitting the camera. Additionally, make sure that the camera is weather resistant.

This isn’t a spot to shave cost. Doing so is going to cost you plenty of additional money in the future plus climbing back up a ladder to fix the broken equipment.

Zoom, Motion Sensing and Frames Per Second Options for CCTV Cameras

We already briefly discussed the frames per second and explained how more is better. The more frames per second, the better quality that you are going to get. Plain and simple. However, zoom and motion sensing can make a CCTV camera that much more powerful and useful for your home or business.

Motion sensing cameras with the ability to preset zones for motion and cameras with the ability to zoom at high levels of magnification or rotate can actually eliminate the total number of cameras needs for your home or business.

This may seem like it’s something that will add to your total bill, but likely it’s something that could help your overall bill decrease if you can eliminate purchasing other equipment or additional cameras to cover the ground your weaker cameras aren’t capable of covering.

Professional Installation or Self Installation Option for Your CCTV System

This comes down to your skill level and overall desire to install your own CCTV system. It also comes down to the complexity of the system and your total budget. A professional install can be great to get the job done quickly and if you hard wiring a system that required drilling and hanging wires through the ceiling tiles.

On the flip side, self-install is cheap, and some of the newer CCTV systems are incredibly cheap. Battery powered and Wi-Fi capable cameras can be installed in minutes.

The only thing that may hold some individuals back from doing it themselves is the height in which the camera needs to be installed such as a second story eave on a home or in the corner of a tall cathedral ceiling living room.

I believe in self-install personally. It saves plenty of money, familiarizes you with the system and if you opt for a wireless system, it’s self-explanatory in nature to complete the job.

If, however, you know you can’t get the job done on your own, don’t have the skills and you don’t mind spending the additional money for the professional install than by all means, go for it.

Where to Begin Shopping for Your CCTV Camera System

Personally, I think online is the way to go with a CCTV system if you have an idea of what you are looking for. Online is where you are going to find honest reviews, competitive pricing, and the best deals. I recommend starting on sites such as my own to gather the information and do your homework.

Then consider ordering from a platform such as Amazon or direct from the retailers. As long as you can find and piece together the system that’s going to protect your assets, family, and home, I recommend saving the money and time and purchasing your system from the comfort of your own home.

Final Word, Carefully Plan Your CCTV System Around Your Needs for Optimal Results

Careful planning and sticking to your budget are the most significant key and take away from our CCTV buyers guide. You need full protection and a system that doesn’t have gaps or holes in coverage for optimal results.

Some simple homework and analyzing your home and business will get you to a point to get the perfect system.

If you aren’t comfortable figuring this out on your own, take the time to speak to a professional about your needs. Doing so will ensure you don’t have issues after purchase and you can rest easy knowing that no criminal is going to find a way into your home or business without being captured on camera.

What’re your recommendations for new CCTV buyers looking for the best possible system? Be sure to drop a comment below.

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