What is the Difference Between IP and CCTV Cameras?

When researching security cameras, you will come across the terms “IP cameras” and “CCTV cameras.” While you may know what each one does, you may not know the difference. Today I will highlight the differences between IP and CCTV cameras.

What is the difference between IP and CCTV cameras? There are several differences between IP cameras and CCTV cameras including wires used, video output, available features, viewing options, and recorders used. Also, CCTV systems in their purest form have no access to the internet. CCTV data is transmitted through the coaxial cable. IP camera systems send all their video over an internet connection.

Continue reading to see the benefits of each, and which one I would choose.

What is a CCTV system?

A Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) system is a closed loop system that has no access to the internet. This system was designed before the adaption of the internet but has lost traction as the power of the internet grew.

What is an IP camera?

An IP camera is a camera that transmits audio and video via internet protocol (IP). Most people know IP as the internet, but IP can mean any type of networked device.


One of the most important differences between CCTV and IP cameras is the wires used to transmit video. As I mentioned CCTV systems transmit video to a digital video recorder (DVR) via a coaxial cable. While IP systems transmit video in one of two ways: Ethernet cable, or wirelessly through your local wifi.

I will break down those differences below.

IP camera

As previously stated, IP camera systems send video by Ethernet or wirelessly through the local WIFI. Ethernet cables are oversized phone inputs that plug into the back of your router or switch. This type of system is called Power over Ethernet (PoE). It is called PoE because the Ethernet cable fulfills two roles at the same time. The PoE system provides power and sends video back to the network video recorder (NVR).

A wireless IP camera or system sends data via the local Wifi network. Usually, the video is sent to cloud storage, a base station, or a local SD card. The benefit of a wireless security camera is there are no physical wires to transmit the video. You may, however, need a wall outlet to power the camera

The main benefit of IP cameras is the ability to send and receive digital data. The ability for cameras to send digital data means that they can send both audio and video without any issues. The video is usually high definition, and the audio is without distortion.

Some IP cameras have the additional benefit of receiving data. The benefit of receiving data is the ability to send audio back to the camera. If the camera has speakers, then the owner of the camera can communicate directly with the person in front of the camera.

CCTV camera

A CCTV system needs at least two wires to transmit video. A CCTV camera needs a coaxial cable to send data to the DVR, and a power cord to power the camera. A third wire is needed if you want to capture audio as well.

A coaxial cable sends analog video to the DVR. If you had cable TV in the 1990s, this is basically the same type of cable used. Analog video quality is a much lower than its digital counterpart. In addition, you will find that most CCTV systems only send direction one way, they do not provide the ability to support two-way communication.

Video output

Video output is another major difference between IP and CCTV cameras.

IP cameras

Because IP cameras send digital audio and video, they can send high definition audio and video. The picture quality of these cameras rival most modern flat screen TVs. While there is no industry standard, you can expect IP camera output to be 1080P resolution. In fact, newer cameras can output 4K resolution.

CCTV camera

As mentioned before, CCTV systems send data via a coaxial cable. The highest resolution this cable can transmit is 576i, or standard resolution. When compared to high definition, standard definition video appears to be grainy and distorted. Even if the camera is recording in high definition, the coaxial cable will reduce the output to 576i.

IP cameras can provide a clearly, better, high definition video.

Storage options

Another major difference between IP cameras and CCTV is the way recorded video is stored.

IP camera

IP cameras have multiple options when storing data. They can store data in the cloud, physical hard drives, base stations, or all three. IP cameras have this flexibility because they are already connected to the internet.

This storage flexibility can help reduce costs, make recordings more available, and save space. Also, because of the way the data is sent, IP cameras can store more video on NVRs.

CCTV camera

CCTV systems can only save data to local storage. The reason for this is CCTVs are a closed loop, meaning there is no access to the outside world. While that does have benefits, one of the downsides is that you must save it to the DVR, then move it someplace else.

Saving the data to a DVR then sending it someplace else is a relatively easy, but unnecessary step. For example, if you wanted to give a recording to someone else you would need to take the following steps:

  • Find the file on the local storage
  • Move that file to external storage (VHS tape, DVD, flash drive, cloud storage)
  • Notify the person you are sending the file to that it is on its way.

While this may seem like no big deal, but the time it takes to follow this process can take a lot of time if you must do these steps multiple times per day. Also, analog video files are bigger than digital files and need to be compressed to save room.

Viewing options

How recordings can be viewed is another important difference between CCTVs and IP cameras. CCTVs can only be viewed locally, while IP cameras can be viewed almost anywhere in the world.

IP Camera

Because IP cameras transmit files digitally over a network, videos can be viewed locally or remotely. Basically, IP cameras can be viewed, live or recording, from anywhere in the world if you have an internet connection. You can view clips via mobile apps, or by navigating to a web page. The newest cameras allow you to view cameras on your home TV via virtual assistants.

CCTV camera

CCTV systems only allow live local viewing. Because there is no direct connection to the internet, you are not able to view live or recorded footage from anywhere in the world. You must be in the loop to view the camera live.

In most cases you need to have an extra monitor to view CCTV footage live. The monitor must be physically connected to the DVR. The camera transmits the video to the DVR via the coaxial cable. Then the DVR sends the video to an external monitor or computer screen.


To conclude, I like to think of IP camera systems as upgraded CCTV system. IP systems can do everything CCTV systems can do, only better. The only shortcoming of IP camera systems is that they are less secure because the video is sent over the internet. There are a few steps you can take to reduce the chances of your IP system being hacked.

IP cameras enable the user to view live and recorded events remotely, store video in multiple places easily, and have a better picture quality. You can compare the difference between CCTVs and IP cameras like the difference between land line telephones and cellular phones.

Additional questions

What is the difference between surveillance and security cameras?

There is no difference between the two. The difference is perception. When people think of surveillance cameras, they may think of old CCTV cameras. All security cameras are surveillance cameras and all surveillance cameras are security cameras.

These cameras all serve the same purpose.

What is an IP camera used for?

An IP camera is used to send video someplace else using the internet. The IP camera can be used to send regular photos, videos, or audio and video. IP cameras can be used as a security measure, or to send pictures taken with a DSLR camera.

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