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Camera Basics, what should I know about cameras?

A video surveillance system is a great way to protect your employees and your business. Choosing the components that make up a great system can be a challenge, though – cameras, digital video recorders, and display systems all have important points to consider. Here's a look at how to choose business security cameras and camera components.

Business security camera basics

The most basic distinction to make when choosing business security cameras is whether you want color or black and white, but these days it's a pretty easy decision. The advantages of black and white cameras used to be twofold:
they were cheaper, and they worked better in low light situations.

Now, prices for color security cameras have dropped so there's little advantage there. And, many color cameras can switch to a black and white mode in low light conditions. You'll almost certainly want color security cameras for your business.

The other basic aspect of choosing business security cameras is deciding on a format. Format refers to the size of the image processor in the camera – it can range from 1/4" to 1" or larger. While larger format cameras may perform slightly better in certain situations, the expense isn't worth it for most security applications. 1/4" and 1/3" are the most common formats for most surveillance cameras.

Camera lenses

Unlike with home video cameras, lenses are generally sold separately from business security cameras. The lens determines how wide an image is created and how much light is let in, so there are some important tradeoffs to consider.

You also need to decide what type of lens your business security cameras requires.

  • Fixed focal length lenses offer only one set field of view: to change the resulting image, you need to switch lenses. They are the least expensive.
  • Variable focal length lenses and zoom lenses offer greater flexibility, allowing you to adjust your image’s field of view when you set the CCTV surveillance equipment up.
  • Motorized zoom lenses give you the ability to control your cameras remotely, zooming in for detail when you spot suspicious activity. However, they're only useful if someone will be watching and operating the cameras at all times. They're also the most expensive.

Fortunately, lenses are usually interchangeable between different cameras, so you can buy multiple types of lenses and experiment to find the best results. Just make sure the lenses you purchase match the format of your cameras: 1/4" lenses work best with 1/4" cameras.

Camera housings

An important accessory to think about when buying business security cameras is the housing or enclosure. Indoors, housings are used to provide security or concealment, while outdoor cameras need protection from the elements, as well.

The right kind of housing will vary with your application, and the security camera business you choose to work with should be able to help you choose the right one for your surveillance needs.