General Guide to CCTV in 2013

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With there being so many CCTV Products on offer now customer are often feeling confused with specifications and the difference between cameras, recorders and packages. Often many are led by price and opt for the cheapest system as they have very little understanding of specification and a 4 camera cctv system is just that.

As the specification of CCTV Systems are alien unless you do your research or are in the trade, we have created this basic guide to help customers and enable them to make informed decisions when purchasing.

System specifications explained

Recorder Specifications:

Frames Per Second - Frames per second are how many frames per a second a recorder can record, this determines how smooth the playback of your recording are. Modern Systems will record at 25FPS Per channel specs may show either 25PFS Per channel or a total FPS offered by the Recorder which can be split over all channels e.g 100FPS on 4 Channel recorder or 200 FPS on 8 Channel recorder.

Hard Drive size:

Recorders use a Hard Drive housed with-in them to store your video footage, the larger the size the more time you are able to hold at a given time. Always check as some sellers do offer system with no hard-drive installer so you can view your cameras but will not be able to record footage, these are often cheaper and should be cleared advertised as NO HDD or No Hard Drive Included.

500GB Storage on 4 Camera System = around 1 month recording
1000GB Storage on 4 Camera System = around 2 month recording
2000GB Storage on 4 Camera System = around 4 month recording 

Recording Resolutions:

CCTV recorders have a range of recording resolutions which is essentially the quality of your video footage.  The standard resolution for CCTV Recordings is now D1 Resolution, which is what you should be looking for when purchasing a system, always check how many Channels or Cameras can record at D1 at a given time, many cheap systems offer D1 resolution on only 1 or so channels meaning only a few of your cameras are able to capture video recording at a D1 resolution and the rest would be at CIF or even lower quality. With the rise of Network capable DVR's there is normally and option to set a secondary stream, this is used when viewing your CCTV Remotely via a portable device such as iPhone, iPad, Android tablet or Phone and Laptops or PCs. Secondary streams as being sent over a network or the Internet should be using CIF and around 15-25FPS as a standard, this is acceptable for remote viewing as your recordings are stored on your recorder at the D1 higher quality resolution.

When looking at a 4 Channel Recorder 4 Channel D1 @ 200FPS the specification which should be used unless you have a larger budget to be looking at HD Systems which are capable of recording in FULL HD 1080p @ 25 FPS Per Channel. 8 Channel Recorders often have 2 Channels D1 and 6 Channels CIF, which is standard spec at this time. If your budget allows you can also spec a box with the full 8 Channels at D1. Always Check the Live View and Recording or Encoding Spec will meet your requirements. 

Miss leading seller are often marketing their CCTV Systems as HD when they are in-fact either D1 or CIF resolution capable, as the definition of specifications for the average customer is still unknown big Brand and Companies are even culprits. A HD CCTV System should be capable of recording and Viewing at 720p or 1080p for Full HD.

Standard Features which you should expect your system to perform are:

- Remote Viewing (Viewing your cameras from another location via a device such as a PC, Laptop, iPhone, iPad, Android Tablet or Phone.
- Ability to Record 24/7 or on Motion Detection.
- Backup Via USB Stick

Camera Specifications:

When looking at CCTV Cameras there are also a range of specifications to take note on before making an informed purchase, please check below for some factors to consider.

- Image Sensor (The image sensor is the main part of the camera which is like the heart of it, these are made by quite a few big name manufacturers. The most popular are Sony, Sharp, Samsung and Panasonic. When looking at CCTV Systems lots lots are advertised as Sony CCD, now many customers are surprised when a product arrives at their door and it is not in a Sony box with branding and logos printed all over it. Sony are the makers of the technology which powers the camera, the camera housing wether it be Dome shaped or Bullet would not carry Sony branding as they are not responsible for this part of the camera. Standard Spec cameras for close range and indoor environments often use a Sony CCD Imaging Sensor with a 420TVL resolution, many cheaper systems use CMOS sensors which are not of comparable quality and result in lower quality recording.

- Resolution ( Camera Resolution is shown in TVL (TV Lines) a 420TVL is standard quality for most close range households and consumer based systems. However with the increase in technology we are now seeing much more 600TVL and 700TVL Cameras, as long as they are using a CCD Sensor these are of good quality. Users who require a higher quality image and have a larger budget should be looking at SONY EFFIO-E 700TVL Spec'd cameras, these are high quality and product good images.

- Lens ( The lens size of the camera will determine what angle of vision you are able to see from the camera, most fixed lens cameras offer a 3.6mm lens which is a wide angle designed for closer range monitoring between 10-15m typically. Another option would be to use a Varifical Lens enables the user to manually set the lens size of the camera by either zooming it in or out, the user can then adjust specifically to their needs. This allows the camera to zoomed into a Gateway or Door enabling a bigger image resulting into more detailed image. Varifocal Cameras are normally used for longer distances.

- Night Vision (Camera will have an IR or Night Vision range, this is the range in length of how far the camera can see at night. Once the cameras sensor detects low light levels it will switch into Night Vision mode, this will be a black and white image rather than colour as in the day time. The Camera uses IR LED's housed in the front of the camera casing these emit light which bounces back off objects giving us a picture at night.

Where are you buying from...?

When looking at perspective products always check where the seller is located and shipping time, there is an increasing amount of both overseas sellers and drop-shippers. When purchasing from overseas sellers factors to take into consideration are: Increased Cost due to VAT and & Duty when they arrive at your door, Technical support, returns and faulty items incurring huge shipping fees. If purchasing from a drop shipper all of the above apply but there is a middle man who is local which takes a profit in-between you and the overseas seller. If you are unsure always ask where they ship from and warranty cover details. 

Buying local ensures you get the best possible service with no headaches, as products are covered by a UK Warranty, carry UK Technical Support and there are no hidden charges with may arise 1-2 weeks down the line. If you are a company which is VAT Registered your also able to claim VAT back bringing the cost of your products down by 20% Current UK Rate. Your also supporting UK Businesses and the Economy enabling businesses to continue to offer great products with matching customer service.

This guide was produced by Think CCTV Systems (UK Retailer of CCTV Systems to Public and Trade)
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