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8 Key Features of Surveillance Cameras

Night vision, wiring, Web access, and flexibility are key features.

Lisa Montgomery · March 1, 2010

Over the past several weeks, the yard at my friend’s home had been the target of teenage horseplay. Toilet paper had been tossed among the trees and egg yolks have stained the finish off their siding.

Needless to say, they’d had it. So they decided to invest in a surveillance camera. It’s something they’d rather not have to buy, but the unfortunate circumstance has inspired me to track down the top features to look for when installing a surveillance camera.

It may be too late to pass along the information to my unfortunate friends, but you never know when it might come in handy for you to pass on to clients.

Low-Light Viewing The lower a camera’s lux rating, the better it can see in the dark for night vision application. For viewing in total darkness, look for 0 lux with built-in IR illuminators, advises Darrel Hauk, president and CEO of Channel Vision. If the yard lights will be on, you can go with .01 lux; a starlit night, .001 lux.

Wiring It can be difficult to route the necessary cabling to the planned location of an outdoor security camera. Even wireless models still require power. Look for a camera that requires as little wiring as possible.

Style Do your clients want their camera to be noticed or to go unnoticed? “Sometimes a camera that’s easy to see is an effective deterrent,” says Joe Lautner, VP of sales and marketing at HomeLogic. If they’d rather be covert in your surveillance tactics, look for a stealthier design.

Adjustable Fixed cameras focus on one spot, which may be fine for your clients’ intended use. However, if they’d like to be able to watch a larger area, you might want to choose a camera for them that can be panned, tilted and zoomed in for a better look.

Recording Trespassers, vandals and toilet-paper toting teenagers are most likely to strike when people are not at home. For this reason, your clients may want to invest in a camera that can record captured images on a computer or on a digital video recorder.

Web access (IP cameras) For the same reason, they may want a camera that can be accessed via the Web. They’ll be able to see the yard, the front door or the patio from the screen of an iPhone or laptop.

Picture quality As great as IP cameras are at granting access from anywhere, the video they transmit is usually choppier than the images transmitted by an analog camera, says Lautner. If image quality is important, an analog camera can still communicate over the web - they’ll just need to invest in extra equipment.

Rain resistance Some cameras are better than others at handling the rain. If your IP camera will be fully exposed to the elements, look for a waterproof rating of 65, advises Hauk.

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  About the Author

Lisa Montgomery has been a member of the CE Pro and Electronic House editorial teams for nearly 20 years; most of that time as the Editor of Electronic House. With a knack for explaining complex high-tech topics in terms that average consumers can understand, her style of writing resonates with people who are interested in adding electronic systems to their homes, but are unsure of the steps involved and the solutions available. From basic lighting control systems to full-blown automation systems, Lisa understands the home electronics market well, and is able to point consumers in the right direction on their quest for a smarter, more convenient, efficient and enjoyable home. Over the years, she has developed close relationships with key manufacturers and seasoned custom electronics professionals, giving her a keen sense of what home technologies are hot now and what is on the horizon. She shares this wisdom regularly through feature stories, product roundups, case studies technology spotlights and comprehensive guides and books. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Lisa at

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  Article Topics

Security · News · Channel Vision · IP Camera · Security Spotlight · Surveillance Cameras · All Topics
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