Selecting an IP Camera - Step away from the ATM!

Okay, lets see a show of hands here; how many of you have ever gone to the bank, removed a goodly sum of money, lets say $400 dollars US, or £218 Pounds Sterling and then promptly chucked it in the first trash receptacle?


That’s exactly the process most folks take when selecting their first IP/Network camera. 


With so many choices, how do you choose?  Do not buy a camera until you have done your homework.  Do not collect $200 dollars, step away from the cash machine.


Location, location, location 

Like the real estate mantra, location, location, location.  Start with a site survey.   You think you need to see what’s happening at a particular junction or area, but is that where you want your camera to be placed?  Right on top of the area?  Step back, way back – look at the area from as many angles as possible before you permanently mount your camera.  If at all possible, test the area.  Use a traditional hand held home video camera and shoot as many angles as you can.  Note them in a log book then play them back to see what the camera sees.  Make notes on time of day, weather conditions, indoor/outdoor, volume of available light – return to the area at different times of the day to get a sense of the changing light and volume of people, vehicles or objects being monitored.  You also need to take into account any municipal codes that enforce privacy rights if your camera is not positioned correctly and has too broad a field of vision and can see into personal abodes. I think your getting the “picture.”


Specs? I don't need no stinking specs!

Now that you have the location what camera do you use?  Check your specs!  Is this an indoor application or outdoor?  Is the camera even rated for outdoor use?  Don’t think you can just put an indoor use only camera in a protective enclosure and call it a day.


At a recent AXIS training session in Las Vegas, another place to chuck hundreds of dollars in the closest trash receptacle or the closest craps table, we learned first hand about indoor/outdoor application of specific cameras at it relates to the cameras iris.  The camera iris, like the human iris can be flooded with light to the point of not being able to see.  In both instances, over time you will have diminished vision if not a total loss if you’re not careful.  As this relates to IP cameras you need to know if the iris is rated for outdoor use.  Too many installers think this is just about keeping the camera dry or out of harms way from dust and moisture – not so grasshopper.  Go out to and find out more about training.


Let there be light!

So, now you know that you need an indoor or outdoor camera – what is the lighting like?  Will the lighting schedule change?  If you’re placing cameras in a public school you may run into lighting schedules that give you great indoor light during the day but change over into a “saver” mode after the custodial staff goes home.  Trying to record the dark is not a fruitful exercise.  It wastes storage space and makes you look bad.  On the other hand, your client may have terra bytes of NAS and could give a hoot what gets recorded after 8:00 PM.  Smart installers ask first.


Be sure you cover these kinds of recording aspects with your clients so you both can partner on what works best for the situation.  Like I said, they may not care what happens after 8:00 PM until 6:00 AM – you need to ask about this kind of situation and come up with a solution of cameras, IR (infra red) and light to make sure your meeting their needs or least giving them the option to say they do or don’t need it.  You then need to documents this so you CYA, “cover your ankles.”


And there was more light - Lux 

Lux – no, not like Delux – light lux as in candle power.  Your camera will be rated for a range of lux – the optimum range that you can expect to see stuff happening with good resolution.  Know thy light!  So how do you know what the lighting conditions are to match up with a camera?  Guess?  It’s light so it’s good?  It’s dark so its not?  Jeez you guys – give me a brake.  Get a light meter and test the area.


Yes that’s right, buy a light meter and join the human race.  Not the little hand held jobs that your great grandfather used to measure light for his 35mm camera but the nifty Digital Light Meter units that measure lux – check out Charlie Pierces website – Leapfrog training - - click on the “Tooling Division” link and find the Digital Light Meter.  While your there check out his articles and training material.  This guys is either on to something or on something – not sure.  Charlie's the best - really - look up CCTV guru in the dictionary and you'll find Charlie's bio.


So what do you do with the meter now that you have it?  If the camera will be used outdoors take readings through out the course of a day to get a lux baseline to gauge what kind of lux range your area of interest falls in.  Also factor in light loss if a camera enclosures glass is smoke coloured (that was for my euro-friends – my word processor spreaks engrish, two!).  If you’re using a fast speed dome camera it most likely will include a dark privacy cover over the camera.  Factor you light accordingly.


So, you thought you could just throw a few cameras on the walls and call it a day.  Wrong-o camera citizens – there’s art and science involved here with a dash of trial and error.  Do your homework to avoid the “trial” part of the equation.  I don’t want any of you installers to become my next news article in


Have I got a deal for you

There’s more to placing cameras than being a “camera slammer,” a term derived from days of yore when shifty salesman called “trunk slammers” would pitch their snake oil from the back of their cars with the trunk lid up and the motor running.  Being the generous lot that they were their products would include a “tail light” warranty.  When you could no longer see their tail lights the warranty was up.


Get smart 

Here’s some links to peruse to “up” your camera knowledge quotient –


Sony -

Samsung -


And don’t forget the forums here at IP Camera Reports – some of the best and brightest installers and camera geeks hang out here.  Ask them, they’ll tell you so.


Now where did I put that ATM card?


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