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Posted: 5/24/2009 5:40:06 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 6/19/2017 8:05:57 PM EDT by TheGrayMan]
WARNING: This entire thread is extremely picture-heavy... we're literally talking 1000+ pictures in this thread... it sucks up 8-9GB/month of bandwidth on my Photobucket Pro account.

If you're on 56k, close this window now, and hie thee hence to a broadband connection. Seriously... this is not a joke. Don't say you weren't warned...




Table of Contents:

(Now updated for new ARFcom format!)

Page 1: Camera types, power types, picture examples, IR illuminator examples. Analog vs IP-megapixel night pics, pixels-per-foot, PTZ

Page 2: Cabling, lenses, more IR illuminator pics, Camera servers, hybrid systems, home-made enclosures, tools

Page 3: Illuminator failure, fake cameras, specialized cameras, Software information, CPU/network utilization, Florida home-invasion discussion

Page 4: Panasonic analog dome prep, and step-by-step installation, Network DVR and PoE install prep, network cabling

Page 5: DVR lock-box, network cabling and rack-mount cabinets, Fake camera autopsy, Acti dome, DVR lock-box install, analog camera replacement

Page 6: Funny bug videos, analog camera autopsy, PoE network camera install, dome day/night images, NAS example

Page 7: Camera mounts, system examples, resolution discussion, alarm integration, dome day/night images, Analog bullet install, IR illuminator install with pictures (x2), DIY PC-based DVR

Page 8: Megapixel dome shootout (Panasonic, Mobotix, Acti). IR illuminator amperage, NVG+illuminator videos, More Illuminators, and NVG videos (Gen2-SHP... thanks, Victor!), Why squirrels are a**holes

Page 9: Port forwarding, Linksys, wireless bridging, new DVR, auto-tracking server, Mobotix ExtIO

Page 10: D-Link wireless bridge configuration for IP cameras, Mobotix Ext-IO installation/configuration, Mobotix Dual-Dome

Page 11: Crimpin' ain't easy, DVR innards, IR power supply replacement, Dual-Dome images, Managed PoE network switch, Senstar illuminator, Gigabit switch fan-mod, Mobotix Module change-out

Page 12: Board cameras, Mobotix vs Panasonic, IP camera failure, IP camera repair/replacement

Page 13: PoE camera testing rig, Analog-and-lens license plate testing

Page 14: Analog connector stripping dimensions, CNB Monalisa dome, Ubiquiti access-point

Page 15: Ubiquiti AP install, Analog-to-IP conversion, Ubiquiti interface and testing, Routing issues

Page 16: Axis 241Q and Luxriot troubleshooting, Luxriot and Axis step-by-step, NVR network/CPU load

Page 17: GD and PCI card discussion, Frosty the Pwned man.

Page 18-19: More port-forwarding troubleshooting, Remote wireless bridge, Harbor-Freight/Bunker-Hill/Night-Owl system review (thanks, Speargun!)

Page 20: Illuminator failure and repair/replacement, Drive cooling, Nuuo NAS NVR-mini review

Page 21: Ubiquiti wireless bridge installation, and configuration

Page 22: Acti ACM-8211 PTdZ review. Zoneminder travails... and install tips, More Zoneminder, including analog capture card config

Page 25: Stand-alone wireless cam, Autonomous wireless camera how-to

Page 27: Analog install, from site survey to final pictures. Wifi systems, wifi camera review, and budget IP-cam comparison

Page 30: Acti KCM-5311E zoom camera, and license plates

Page 32: Smarter Cameras and Sensors: getting the most out of Digital I/O

Page 33: Load graphs for PC-based DVR, and more Sensors

Page 36: Seco-Alarm timer module

Page 38 Panasonic WV-CW504S analog camera

Page 39: Car Cams

Page 40: More Car Cams, and Road Testing

Page 41 Axton Tech IR illuminator

Page 42 Vivotek Supreme Panoramic camera + PIR sensor

Page 45: Hikvision camera testing... a "Game Changer"

Page 47 Hikvision Mini-dome and Bullet-cam reviews

Page 49: Beware of pressure-washing.

Page 53: Hikvision compact NVR review

Page 55 900Mhz Ubiquiti Bridging

Page 58 Mobotix i25 cameras, and panoramic shootout

Page 69: Hikvision I/O with external sensors, and latest Firmware





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Link Posted: 5/24/2009 5:41:35 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/2/2010 11:44:35 AM EDT by TheGrayMan]
This is one of the most common issues that comes up on this forum. Some people want a "nanny cam" to watch the baby while they're sleeping, some want a front-door camera to see visitors, and some want the full-on 360-degree surveillance package for their home. For the first two applications, hit Ebay for pre-packaged and purpose-built nanny cams and doorbell cams. It will be cheaper, and less hassle than rolling your own. This post is directed towards the latter home-security-minded group.

Let me start with a disclaimer: I'm not a CCTV professional. What I am is a hard-core computer/radio/electronics geek who was not afraid to get his hands dirty... and so I DIY'd a system for myself... several times over. I'm going to do a quick exposition here, with examples taken from some stuff I had laying around in the garage. I've posted bits-and-pieces about this issue before, so this thread is an attempt to bundle all that information together in one place. I'll periodically add to it.

Let's start with the main physical configurations/ types of exterior cameras. There are bullets, and domes... each having specific advantages and disadvantages.

Bullets:


Advantages: cheaper, easy to mount, easy to wire, easy to include infrared for low-light, weatherproof, and variable sizes (note the included ruler).
Disadvantages: more visible, easy to redirect, easy to cut the wiring, IR attracts bugs and curious eyes (at night), hard to change lenses, can be ugly


Domes:


Advantages: blend in better, wiring is better-concealed, vandalism resistant, tinted domes make it difficult to see direction of camera, can't be redirected, can change lenses
Disadvantages: higher cost, most don't include IR (I'd argue that this is actually an advantage), harder to mount, harder to weatherproof.


In addition to physical configurations of cameras, there are two transmission routes for getting the picture from your camera to your eyes: analog cameras (using standard coax cable) and IP-based cameras (cameras that use network cabling). You can use baluns to run analog cameras over network cabling, but I'll try to keep this relatively simple for the sake of this discussion. Analog cameras have a standard RCA or BNC connector that attaches to your monitor (you can literally plug them straight into your TV if it has an RCA video-in jack), while network cameras require a PC to view the pictures: Both cameras require power (usually 12V in the case of analog cameras, delivered via a standard barrel connector), or in the case of IP-based cameras, through the very same cable that connects them to the network (eg. PoE, or Power-over-Ethernet).

Analog:


Here I circled the power and video leads coming out of the center-most camera.


IP-based:


Here I circled the network jack (top), and the power connector (bottom). This camera can also be powered by PoE (Power over Ethernet).


Analog cameras are the old standard, while IP-based cameras are the new kid on the block. IP-based cameras are more expensive, but the video quality (particularly in terms of resolution) is head-and-shoulders above what analog can produce, especially when you get into the megapixel IP cameras.

You're also going to need a way to power those cameras. If you've decided to go with analog cameras, you need a roll of Siamese cable. Siamese cable is a combination video/power cable, usually RG-59 and 18ga two-conductor for power. Siamese is nice because you can run your video and power at the same time, and it saves a lot of time fishing walls, and threading rods above drop-ceilings and attics. A roll like the one shown below will be in the neighborhood of 80-100 bucks:




IP-based cameras are best powered via PoE. Power-over-ethernet takes the unused twisted pairs in your conventional 100Mb Cat5 cable and uses them to deliver power, in addition to communicating with the camera via Ethernet. Note: you cannot get gigabit ethernet with PoE, since standard gig-over-copper networking uses all four twisted pairs for data, with none left over for power. Unless you have a very large system, you can get a couple of switches with PoE ports and put those cameras right on your network... but beware of bandwidth issues. IP-based cameras have much higher resolutions that analog, and consequently can deliver MUCH more data to that switch. If you put too many IP megapixel cameras on a regular 100-megabit switch, you're going to saturate it, and you'll get drop-outs (remember that when you consider protocol overhead and so forth, a 100Mb switch is only going to give you about 80Mb of bandwidth). With a lot of cameras, you'll need to move to a gigabit backbone off of which to hang your PoE switches.

Analog camera power supply (top) and PoE switch (bottom):




Now that you have the cameras hooked up and powered, you need some place to send the video data. This is the job for your security DVR (digital video recorder in the case of analog systems) or NVR (network video recorder in the case of IP-based systems). DVRs come in two flavors: embedded, and PC-based.

Embedded: (a Dedicated Micros unit)


PC-based (an IBM Thinkcentre SFF desktop, purchased from Ebay):



The two units pictured above do the same job: storing images. The strength of embedded systems is that they're very reliable, seldom break, contain everything you need (including software), and aren't susceptible to the usual vagaries that plague PCs (viruses, etc). The downside of embedded systems is that they're often proprietary hardware, aren't user-serviceable, are difficult to upgrade, and limit you somewhat on number of cameras. If you want/need more cameras, more resolution, more storage, etc, you're stuck with either sending it back to the factory (big $$), or purchasing a new one (even bigger $$$$). PC-based systems give you far more control over the hardware, are user-upgradeable, offer a choice of software to manage the cameras, and can be had much cheaper. To give you an idea of relative cost, the Dedicated Micros unit pictured above wholesales for around $3k, while the Thinkcentre SFF machine (that fits in the same 2U rackspace that the DM unit took up) was purchased off-lease on Ebay, and even including the cost of the camera management software, came in under $1k.

Most modern DVRs/NVRs are network-aware, and can provide pictures over the internet at work, or on vacation. They can also email you if motion is detected, send a text message on your cell phone, FTP images off-site for secure storage, or perform any number of actions based on alarm inputs (even from your home alarm).

*************** TO BE CONTINUED ***************
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 6:01:36 AM EDT
But what kind of pictures can you expect?

I'm going to give some examples from my IP-based system, with the analog cameras attached to a network video encoder (an ACTi SED-2120, for those interested), and the above-mentioned IP-based dome camera by itself. Note: for purposes of bandwidth, the larger pictures (eg. the megapixel IP dome) were scaled down to the size of the analog pictures (roughly 720x480). I did that to avoid killing my bandwidth... even with that, I think you'll appreciate the difference.

Baseline Pic of the scene (a drainage slough, picture taken with a standard Nikon Coolpix):




Intensifier Bullet cam (leftmost in the first set of pictures):



Generic "Enforcer" bullet camera (centermost in the first pictures):



Panasonic Analog dome (WV-CW484S):



Panasonic megapixel IP-based dome:



Just for fun... a pinhole Black-and-White covert analog camera:



It's not difficult to appreciate the difference in the resolutions of the respective cameras (in fairness, the intensifier picture is blurrier than usual... I may have bumped that one when I was screen-capping the picture). The IP cameras take a much higher resolution picture... but the downside is that they require oodles of storage space; multiple terabytes if you want to record a week or so of megapixel video from a couple of security cameras.

The bottom line is to consider your own needs, and why you're buying the system. Most people won't need megapixel IP-based cameras around their entire property, but in a few strategic locations, they're a good idea: driveways, entrance doors, and other places where you want a lot of detail to ID people, vehicles, and so forth. You can get that information with analog cameras too, but you have to be very selective in where you place them (focused on a gate in your fence for instance, or other natural choke point), and you may have to be creative with lens selection.

******************* TO BE CONTINUED *********************
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 6:14:27 AM EDT
Thanks for the info. Keep it coming. Much appreciated.
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 6:26:44 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/24/2009 6:32:41 AM EDT by MrHunterAZ]
Wow that is really neat.

Thanks, this is a great walk through.


Just out of curiosity are the camera's capturing real time video or is it more the delayed video you so often see on tv where it takes a picture every couple of seconds? I was just wondering if storing real time video is an option or just too space consuming.

You mentioned that the systems can email you or text message you when they sense motion, can they be set to only record when there is motion too?

Link Posted: 5/24/2009 6:32:55 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/6/2010 4:46:46 PM EDT by TheGrayMan]
But what about night-time pictures?

Ah... the true test of a surveillance system. Night performance is what separates the bad from the good... and it will expose any weaknesses in your system.

Cameras see at night a couple of different ways. They are either IR-sensitive themselves, or they increase their sensitivity to visible light. The sensor elements in many cameras are actually sensitive well into the near-infrared range... not unlike your NVGs. Most day-time cameras filter out that part of the spectrum, however... colors don't render properly if they don't filter out the IR. Naturally, filtering out the IR absolutely kills your night performance; the camera is literally blind.

Day-night cameras that are IR-sensitive do it a different way, and it adds a bit of complexity to the camera, thus increasing the cost a bit. These cameras have what's called an ICR (aka, an "IR-cut filter") that snaps into place when the outside illumination gets bright enough. This allows the camera to accurately render colors during the day. Then when the night "goes down in the city," the ICR automatically moves away from the lens, and the camera switches to black-and-white mode. This allows a bit of the best of both worlds.

Unfortunately it's difficult to get a single sensor that has all the spectral response you want for visible, and infrared... so higher-end IP-based cameras will actually have a dual-imager setup, one for day, and one for night, like so:




Some cameras enhance their night-time performance another way, and that's by amplifying available light. Unfortunately, they often do this by slowing down the shutter speed on the camera (you photography buffs know exactly what I'm talking about) to enable it to gather more light onto the lens. This does give you a brighter image, but it's only useful for static scenes. With the shutter speed slowed down, anything moving turns into a literal blur... a dark smear across your picture. It's the same thing that happens when photographers take those "city at night" pictures where they leave the shutter open, and all the cars down on the interstate look like red glowing streaks instead of discrete vehicles with individual tail-lights. Exactly the same concept happens with cameras that slow down the shutter to enhance night-time performance.

Here's an example of the slow-shutter-speed approach with the Intensifier bullet cam:


You can certainly see a bit more than just a dark scene... but if you tried to capture a person walking across that scene, you'd literally get nothing; an impossible-to-identify smear.


Here's the Nikon Coolpix without the flash:



Here's the "Enforcer" bullet camera:



Here's the panasonic megapixel dome that gave such nice daytime pictures:



And now you start to appreciate what a challenge it is to get even a quality security camera to see well at night. Even the megapixel panasonic is effectively blind... but that's because it doesn't have a removable IR filter... its' strictly a daytime camera. The "Enforcer" bullet cam actually has built-in IR LEDs... but that slough is about 100 yards long, and the IR isn't strong enough to reach out and bounce back with enough strength for the camera to detect it.

Ah... but what about NVGs? TOTALLY Different story...

(Taken with the Nikon Coolpix through a 3rd Gen MUM):



Here's a picture with the "Enforcer" IR-LED-equipped turned on. The bullet camera can't see the IR, but the NVGs can. Note the change in the contrast of the sky, which was previously lighter than the surrounding area. WIth the IR LEDs going, it's lit up the area enough that the sky is almost the same color...




To make it even more fun, here's a pic with a 60W military-grade IR illuminator. Notice that the sky is actually black now, as the surrounding landscape is blasted with IR (it actually triggers the brightness control on the MUM)




Hopefully the pictures and explanation illuminated (ahem) some of the ins-and-out of CCTV surveillance. If you don't have any idea about anything electronic or optic, you might want to hire somebody to do your system... but if you're a DIY sort of individual, you can literally buy everything you need on Ebay and roll your own.

*********** TO BE CONTINUED *************
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 6:36:20 AM EDT
Originally Posted By MrHunterAZ:
Wow that is really neat.

Thanks, this is a great walk through.


Just out of curiosity are the camera's capturing real time video or is it more the delayed video you so often see on tv where it takes a picture every couple of seconds? I was just wondering if storing real time video is an option or just too space consuming.

You mentioned that the systems can email you or text message you when they sense motion, can they be set to only record when there is motion too?



Most systems capture time-lapse video... it's not full motion, and it looks a bit choppy, but 4-8 frames-per-second is enough to ID most people, and see what they're doing. Some systems actually do 30+frames per second, but those are mostly used in casinos, and other areas where they're trying to capture sleight-of-hand, and people palming chips and cards.

You can also make a system record only on motion... that saves tons of storage space.
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 9:25:40 AM EDT
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 9:40:27 AM EDT
Good post...

What about a system that is effectively wireless?

Remote location( say on a tower, tree?), solar battery charger, wireless feed to house?

is there such a thing?

Link Posted: 5/24/2009 10:25:11 AM EDT
Tag, as I need a 3-4 camera system, and with my budget analog. I have a extra RG-6 at each TV set and all sets have PIP, so a few cams and a modulator, some wiring and I am set? I can use RG-59/RG-6 with a coax to rca adapter for comm line, and 18/2-16/2 with drain/shield for power. I just want to see my front door, back door and driveway. I have a extra media center PC not in use with a 250G HDD, so could use it to record I guess. Or, just turn on the vcr stored away while I am gone.

Thanks for the thread and the info, BTW
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 10:28:41 AM EDT
great info. I have been looking at this for awhile, still have yet to pull the trigger, but getting close..appreciate the detail by the op
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 10:53:06 AM EDT
Great job on this thread. Thanks for your time.
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 1:17:57 PM EDT
Post of the year right here!!!


This is good stuff!!!!!

Thank you for taking the time to do this.


Gene
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 1:57:10 PM EDT
Very impressive post. Perma-tagged for me.
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 2:22:14 PM EDT
Thank you for taking the time to post this.

It makes an unfamiliar situation easier to understand.
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 3:08:45 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/24/2009 4:54:43 PM EDT by TheGrayMan]
Originally Posted By Paul:
For home cameras IR illumination will give you a very usable picture. It's not like you're trying to avoid giving away your position.

Low-light cameras will work pretty well with just street light illumination too. For best low light video go with black-and-white cameras, they're at least 10-times more sensitive.

Higher resolution cameras in the 400-520 lines per inch deliver a noticeably better picture than the 240-320 line per inch cameras.

The cameras in my system are all +400 lines per inch and analog video. Using analog video allows me to connect the cameras to RF modulators which feed the cameras pictures into the cable system which feeds all the televisions in the house. For the TV's I watch channel 4 for the satellite or channels 88, 90, 92, or 94 for the cameras. For the monitors video is the satellite receiver and RF is the video camera. We have picture-in-picture on our big screen and put the front yard camera on when expecting visitors.

Audio is nice to have too - I have microphones to allow me to hear what's being said on the street, side yard, and front door. It's also nice to have a recording of what's said so I have a recorder too. Check your state laws on what and where you can record as they do vary. Here there is no expectation of privacy in a public place like the street but you can not record in places where a person would be expected to have privacy - like the bathroom or shower!

The analog camera signals are run to an MPEG-4 encoder where they are recorded. From there I can log-on via the Ethernet cable for watching or reviewing. I record in full resolution at real-time speed of 30-frames a second.


Yes... but with a few caveats, the main one being that you're virtually always better off going with visible illumination over IR illumination, if visible is a realistic option for your application.

Visible illumination has much to recommend it: It is readily available (floodlights are available at every hardware and home-improvement big-box store), cheap, replacement bulbs are easy to procure, they wire up to standard house 120V AC, they can be motion-activated, they don't look out-of-place on a regular residential structure, and lights are a visible deterrent (no burglar likes a lot of light). Visible light also allows your day/night cameras to operate in color mode, as opposed to black-and-white (color is helpful in identifying clothing, vehicle color, or the race of a suspect).

On the other hand, visible illumination is NOT covert... and if you're trying to keep a low profile at your mountain cabin, or for whatever reason, a half-dozen high-wattage floodlights are going to really make you stand out.

IR illumination has its own strengths and weaknesses, and comes in two main wavelengths: 850-880nm, and 940nm. The longer wavelength IR (the 940nm) is completely covert, and isn't visible to the naked eye at all. 940nm gear is very pricey, and you have to be absolutely certain that your cameras have adequate spectral response that deep into the IR spectrum. Not only do many camera manufacturers not provide this data with their cameras, but many common IR sensitive cameras simply aren't as sensitive to that portion of the spectrum, requiring you to pump out a LOT more 940nm light to compensate (bigger $$$). (here is a PDF from IQeye on one of their cameras, showing the spectral response curves for various wavelengths... note the steep drop-off in response as you get deeper into the IR spectrum). 850-880nm gear is much cheaper, and most cameras can see it far better than the 940nm wavelengths, but it is slightly visible to the naked eye as a dull red glow if you're close enough to the camera.

I've personally gone away from cameras with integrated IR LEDs, simply because I've found that they never work as well as advertised. Whatever range they claim to have for their Infrared LEDs can be effectively halved for real world purposes. Camera-mounted IR also attracts bugs, which screws up your motion detection and fills your hard drives with garbage images. I still use quite a bit of IR, but it's from illuminators that are mounted separately from the camera.

I did a review of a couple of different illuminators a few months ago:

*********** Snipped links... IR illuminator pics attached below to keep it all in the same post *****************

ETA:

Here is a drawer full of IR-emitting goodness:


Most of those are Ebay specials, and will run from a standard CCTV 12V power source. but the black ones you see at the top of that picture are very powerful (60W each). That silver box in the bottom of the picture is the power supply that drives those illuminators, and together they pull almost 15A of current at 13.3V... quite a difference from your usual 4-500mA puck illuminator (and those big ones get pretty warm... the entire back assembly on them is one big heatsink).

That said, you do get your money's worth from the larger illuminators... they turn night into day.
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 3:19:47 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/24/2009 3:20:35 PM EDT by WolfFox]
A BIG Thanks. I've been considering a system, but I have no idea where to start and what to use. This helps to get me thinking about what I would need and what to expect. I am wanting a system with 2-3 cameras for around the outside of my home. Thanks for the time. Keep it up.

ETA: Would like to be able to record even at night.
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 4:57:12 PM EDT
Rescued from the older thread, and included in this thread. I thought it might be better to keep it all in one sock.

********************************************­*********************************************­***************************************


So you want some infrared illuminators to use with your security cameras or NVGs? You've probably looked at the dark, grainy images produced by many security cameras at night, and wondered if there was a way to improve those images. The answer is yes... and no.

First, some background.

As anybody with a video surveillance system knows, most day-night cameras do NOT function in complete darkness. They switch to black-and-white mode when the ambient light drops to a low enough level, but even a low-lux-sensitive camera is blind without some sort of supplemental light. Fortunately, CCDs (the actual "eye" inside many modern security cameras) are sensitive to wavelengths of light that are invisible to the naked eye, specifically the near-infrared band. CCDs are not nearly as sensitive as the tube in your NVGs, but it's possible to brightly illuminate a scene with infrared light such that a camera or NVG can see it, while having it appear pitch-black to the unaided eye.

Some cameras, including many cheaper bullet-cam varieties, include some form of built-in IR. At first glance, this would seem to kill multiple birds with one stone: camera and supplemental light source in a single package, less wiring, simplified installation, etc. However, there are significant drawbacks to this arrangement.

One notable limitation is that camera-mounted IR sources attract bugs... lots of them. Humans can't see infrared light, but many insects and animals CAN... and they're drawn to that light; the proverbial moth-to-a-flame. This is mostly an annoyance, unless you're using motion-detection with your cameras, DVR, or camera server software. In that scenario, the bugs flying into the lens will continually trigger your motion detection, and fill up your storage media with all sorts of images that you don't want. This greatly increases your signal-to-noise ratio, and may lead you to turn off your motion detection entirely.

Camera-mounted IR also gives away the location of your cameras. The vast majority of IR sources for security cameras are in the 880nm range. These are dimly visible to the naked eye as a dull red glowing light, and they may catch the eye of the very person you're attempting to discretely observe. There are IR sources that are truly covert/invisible to the naked eye, however these run in the 940nm range, and are significantly more expensive. It's also more difficult to find security cameras with good spectral response to the 940nm wavelengths, meaning that your regular CCD cameras may not benefit from the expensive 940nm illuminator you just purchased.

Many dome cameras also have built-in IR, some of which can be reflected back within the dome, interfering with the functioning of the camera. In addition, the polycarbonate domes that are frequently used on vandal-resistant cameras cut down on the transmission of the IR light, robbing your camera of yet more performance.

Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that way, because you can use IR sources (illuminators) that are separate from your cameras, or IR sources alone (without cameras) to augment your NVGs.

Illuminators run the gamut in terms of price, features, durability, water-resistance, etc. Even with all their differences, most modern illuminators have similarities in that they are LED-based, and run on DC current (requires a power supply).

I was surfing Ebay one day, and my curiosity got the better of me. They have a number of LED IR illuminators for sale there, and I wondered if any of them were a bargain (you can easily spend $1000+ on a high-end illuminator) I ordered a handful of them, along with a couple from US-based super-circuits, to see how well they would work.

These are the links for the following illuminators, starting at the top left. You can look at the prices for yourselves, but these range from about $30 dollars to almost $800:

********* EDIT **********
The new security "features" of the new editor are not allowing me to post links, so here are physical descriptions (if you look at the pictures on Ebay, it'll be immediately apparent which model is which):

Top left: round super-circuits IR illuminator.
Top right: round, 40-LED Ebay IR illuminator
Middle left: rectangular 140-LED Ebay IR illuminator
Middle right: tubular, lens-ended Ebay IR illuminator
Bottom center: RayMax50 high-end IR illuminator (not usually found on Ebay)


First two:




Second two:



Last one:



Here is the scene where these lights will be tested. This is a daytime view, through a 420TVL day-night armored dome camera. This particular camera has built-in IR that is advertised to go 100 feet. However, as you're going to see with the camera and most of these IR sources, their "estimates" of range are wildly optimistic. You can pretty much cut the advertised range in half right off the top. The distance to the corner you can see in the picture is about 40 feet, and the illuminators will be tested by being mounted about 20 feet away, just off-camera along the right-hand wall, roughly focused on the same spot perpendicular to the camera's view. If that doesn't make sense, it will as soon as you see the pictures.

As grainy as some of these images are, realize that the sensitivity of your NVGs is far greater than this camera. Rest assured... if you can see it with your security camera, you can see it (and more) with your NVGs.

Daytime view:


Night time view (with only the built-in camera IR operating). Ignore the IR light you can see coming from around the corner... that's another IR source and another camera. We're mostly concerned with the area between this camera, and the corner:





First, the super-circuits model. As you can see, it throws a dim pool of IR light, with a fair amount of dispersion. In contrast to what you're going to see from some of the other illuminators, it's more of a flood light than a spot-light. Take note of the figure standing at the edge of the illuminated area. For reference, that person is standing in exactly the same spot for all of these pictures.




Second, we see the round, puck-like, 40-LED Ebay model. Compared to the super-circuits model, it's brighter, and the beam is tighter. It also gets quite a bit hotter when operating.



Third, we hook up the square floodlight-appearing Ebay model with 140 LEDs. This one's the brightest of the lot so far (as you might expect with the higher number of LEDs). It also has a cooling fan inside that whirs audibly when powered up. However, there is no visible vent area for the hot air to escape the case, leading me to doubt the effectiveness of the cooling fan. The included power supply also died within an hour of being hooked up.



Fourth, we connect the tubular round-lensed model. This one seems to be a much higher-quality unit, and also gives one the ability to focus the IR beam by adjustments to the lens. It provides very even illumination, without hot-spots, though it's a little dim compared to some of the other lights.



Last, we hooked up the RayMax50. This industrial-strength thing puts out some serious IR light, and adjusts from a 120 degree beam angle to 180 degrees (you're seeing the 120-degree setting in this picture). The angle adjustment allows one to illuminate the entire side of a structure with a single device, if desired. This all comes at a steep price, of course; more than 20x the cost of some of the other units:



I can't say anything about long-term reliability with any of these units, but they all do seem to work as advertised, with the aforementioned caveat about the limitations of their stated range. Even the RayMax doesn't seem to reach out quite as far as company literature claims.

I should point out that ANY of these illuminators would be sufficient for a person wearing a proper set of NODs. The sensitivity of an NVG intensifier tube is such that just the spillover from one or two of these illuminators is sufficient to light up the entire area. I tested all of these illuminators with gen2 (SHP) and gen3 NVGs and found that even the cheapest illuminator (or simply the camera's built-in IR) literally turned night into day. The entire area is pitch-dark to the naked eye. When there is no moon (as in these pictures), it's positively stygian... but wire up a couple of these illuminators and don a set of NVGs, and it literally turns it into daylight.

Voila! The view through a gen2 (SHP) MUM, illuminated by the dimmest illuminator of the bunch (the super-circuits model).


******************* TO BE CONTINUED ***********************
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 4:59:09 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/24/2009 5:00:30 PM EDT by TheGrayMan]
Here's another set of pictures, with a higher-end dome camera (a Panasonic WV-CW484S), and the identical illuminators. For easy reference, these illuminators are shown in the same order as the first pictures. Pictures were taken under identical conditions (clear night, little moonlight, person standing in same place) and identical camera placement.

This particular camera is about four times the cost of the first camera, and lacks any built-in IR LEDs. It is higher resolution (570TVL), has wide dynamic range, dynamic noise reduction (you'll notice there's much less "snow" than the first pictures), and is also waterproof/armored/shock-resistant. It also has a tinted dome to hide which direction the camera is directed... these pictures would be even brighter if you opted for a clear dome (Part # WV-CW4C for this particular camera).

Super-Circuits illuminator:



Ebay round 40-LED puck illuminator:



Ebay rectangular 140-LED flood light:



Ebay tubular lens-ended illuminator:



RayMax50 IR illuminator:


Link Posted: 5/24/2009 5:27:46 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/24/2009 10:43:36 PM EDT by TheGrayMan]
When I talk about mounting an Infrared illuminator separate from the camera, this is what I mean:



The illuminator is mounted about three feet away from the dome itself (A Honeywell HD4x vandal-resistant dome), and runs off of the same 12V power supply. This provides IR illumination, and the bugs that are attracted to the IR aren't flying right into the lens of the camera. This has the benefit of not tripping your motion detection. Also, if your IR burns out, or you don't like the pattern/spread provided by that specific illuminator, you don't have to trash the camera... you simply replace the illuminator.

Here is what the view looks like through that setup (this is an analog camera, and you generally get more graininess with night-time IR images):




ETA: I'm glad I save pictures. I was digging back through my picture archives and found an older view of that same area, with yet another camera. This particular photo was taken with a "long range IR" analog dome camera with integrated infrared LEDs... I hadn't yet installed the separate illuminator. Note that this camera in question is a standard analog dome, and doesn't have Wide Dynamic Range (important... keep reading).



NOT what I'd call an impressive picture; excessively bright and washed-out in the center, and almost completely dark at the edges... terrible. Compare that to the picture above it, and note the difference. What you're seeing here is the "hot spot" effect of too much IR, a too-tight beam, at too-close a range. One of the things you need to pay attention to with IR sources is the total power compared to the amount of spread (beam spread is usually expressed as an angle measurement (50 degrees, 60 degrees, 90 degrees, etc). If you buy a camera or IR source that advertises 100 yards of range, take a close look at the amount of spread... the beam may be as tight as 30 degrees. That's fine if you're focused on a single doorway 50 yards away with a long vari-focal zoom lens on your camera... but for area illumination, it will be completely ineffective. Like the picture above, it will bloom out the center, and screw up the gain for the remainder of the scene. You see this in regular visible light too, when there are excessively bright areas and excessively dark areas. Some cameras are specifically designed to compensate for this, and that feature is called "Wide Dynamic Range" (abbreviated WDR). Most non-WDR security cameras have great difficulty with hot spots like those in the above picture, and produce a terrible image under those circumstances.
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 5:40:42 PM EDT
This is very nice. Great info a lot of us have been looking for. Thanks a bunch.
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 9:32:31 PM EDT
Fantastic! I've always wondered about pic quality both day and night and now have a better understanding of what I'll be getting into.
Link Posted: 5/25/2009 12:10:37 AM EDT
Guten TAG!
Link Posted: 5/25/2009 1:36:10 AM EDT
tag and a half!



I can't wait until we get to camera systems for apartment dwellers.
Link Posted: 5/25/2009 6:29:47 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/25/2009 6:35:38 AM EDT by ireload]
Good posting. Back up the cameras with motion sensons same ones used for the exterior lights hooked up to a door bell that's seperate from your existing door bell and set it to 1 minute duration on the motion sensor. This way not only do you have video capability you also have audio capability. Do use a door bell with a different tone. You are not going to be in front of a monitor 24/7.

Since the motion sensor has a photo cell just use dark colored silicone to cover it and viola you have daytime capability for the sensor as well.

I know they do sell drive away alert monitors but why limit yourself to that. You can set up the above around the house perimeter. Tie it to a master switch to turn off when you are outside doing yard work or what have you.

It's not 100% foolproof but does gives you another layer of security.
Link Posted: 5/25/2009 12:58:09 PM EDT
Thank you for the wealth of information.

Link Posted: 5/25/2009 2:27:12 PM EDT
Thanks for the great post!

I have a small system with a consumer grade 4-channel MPEG4 DVR and I'm not happy with the quality of the stored video. The cameras look great live but the stored images lose a lot of detail.

Do you think I will see a noticeable improvement in quality if I upgrade to a consumer grade 4-channel DVR with H.264 compression?
Link Posted: 5/25/2009 2:51:33 PM EDT
Tag!

GREAT Info!!

Do you have some cost info you could add for noobs just looking into this?

What would be expected "startup" costs?
Link Posted: 5/25/2009 4:06:16 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/25/2009 4:06:38 PM EDT by TheGrayMan]
Originally Posted By KwaiChangCaine:
Thanks for the great post!

I have a small system with a consumer grade 4-channel MPEG4 DVR and I'm not happy with the quality of the stored video. The cameras look great live but the stored images lose a lot of detail.

Do you think I will see a noticeable improvement in quality if I upgrade to a consumer grade 4-channel DVR with H.264 compression?


Probably not a huge increase in quality. What you will see is a decrease in file size. However, if the picture quality isn't what you really want, where's the benefit? First and foremost, the system has to have the picture quality you want... and everything else follows from that. Storage space is incredibly cheap these days, and there's almost no reason to sacrifice quality for file size; just get more/bigger drives. (1.5 Terabyte drives go for about 120-150 dollars on Newegg, all day long)

Personally, I use MJPEG... the pictures simply look better than MPEG4, and you get less compression artifact. The file sizes are significantly larger... but I've probably got 2.5 Terabytes of local storage on my NVR, and an additional 4.5 Terabytes in network storage that the NVR can use for overflow.

My advice would be not to skimp on picture quality... that's the whole reason why most of us get these systems.
Link Posted: 5/25/2009 4:29:23 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/25/2009 4:30:18 PM EDT by KwaiChangCaine]
Thanks for the reply. What is the best way to improve my stored picture quality? My current DVR was around $180 new and I can't really spend much more than that at the moment.

Here are two different sizes of the same image from it, stored on the DVR and viewed over a network connection. I believe one is a 720 x 480 frame and the other is a 352 x 240 CIF.

The fire truck is approx 115 feet away from the camera.



Link Posted: 5/25/2009 4:34:33 PM EDT
Originally Posted By sirostac:
Tag!

GREAT Info!!

Do you have some cost info you could add for noobs just looking into this?

What would be expected "startup" costs?


That's a very involved question.

I'd first have to ask what you're attempting to do with the system... identify faces? Identify vehicles? Simply be able to tell that "something's out there?" How large an area do you hope to cover? Is night-time performance an absolute must? How much ambient light do you have to work with? What climate will this system be expected to endure? Analog or IP-based? What kind of structure is this system going into? Do you need covert cameras?

I had my first system professionally installed by some alarm guys, and they did a nice job. I may be a computer geek, HAM operator, etc... but I didn't know the first thing about surveillance video. After they were done, and I looked at it, I realized that I could do a lot of this myself. I started with a four-camera analog system... and it's grown into a hybrid system, including PTZs, day/nights, covert cams, megapixel IP cams, and a PC-based DVR that I built myself.

I recently did a four-camera system for my elderly parents (mixture of domes and bullets)... took about a day and a half (my old man helped me fish the siamese cable up through the soffits and into the attic... that's a much easier job with two people.). They now have an internet-aware system that they can check when they're traveling... and I'm going to add a bit more to it before I'm done. Here's a rough cost breakdown for what we used:

Nuuo SCB-5004 4-port encoder card (purchased from these guys): $450
IBM Thinkcentre small-form-factor desktop, purchased from Ebay: $200
Honeywell dome cameras x2: $400
Armored IR-equipped dome x1: $100
IR-equipped Bullet x1: $100
Cable and Connectors: $150

It's about $1400 in parts, and the encoder card came with its own software (Important... see below). The software is expandable. It has the capability to add IP cameras by purchasing additional licenses and a USB dongle. We did all the labor ourselves, and we split the hardware cost.

If you go IP-based, you're going to need some sort of camera management software... (which is why it was so nice that the encoder card I mentioned above included it). There are all kinds of options as far as that goes... that probably deserves an entire post of its own, but depending on what you need/want, you can drop up to $200 per channel just for software.
Link Posted: 5/25/2009 5:09:56 PM EDT
Good topic and info Grey.

Someone asked about remote cams and we've been thinking about putting cams at a remote location that has between a 10 and 20 mile line of sight to here.

We bought an IP cam at Fry's a few months ago but haven't taken it out of the box yet. Also picked up a video card for analog cameras.

The first use for the camera is to point it to various temperature sensors there, the cheap LCD ones to monitor temp and also to monitor battery voltage and current drain, from anywhere.

We also picked up an IP outlet strip that lets you remotely turn things on and off, with feedback confirmation. It was about $100. We'll use that to remote control lights or whatever we want.

I haven't rsearched too much how to handle the non-static IP addy for the cable conx here so I can remotely access the cams and switch when traveling and still don't know how to do that. I'd like to receive an email and maybe a call to my cell phone if something interesting happens.

Link Posted: 5/25/2009 5:21:40 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/25/2009 5:31:58 PM EDT by EXPY37]
On the remote cam question...

The pix GreyMan showed in the posts above demonstrates how high the resolution of an IP camera is vs analog.

An earlier poster asked how he could remotely [I presume maybe 1/4 mile] monitor a camera. I've been giving the same issue some thought so in a SHTF, I can put a cam a mile or two away to watch a road or something.

The best way I can think of [and there are a LOT of variables for each application] is to use a large 12 volt battery, solar panel, an IP cam and and a wireless bridge like 2 Linksys WAP54g's at 2.4 gHz with a couple of gain antennas to bridge the IP cam back to the shelter. Then it can be linked here at 5.8 gHz, many miles away.

Also, it might make sense to get an old 2nd gen intensifier to adapt to a cam to be able to see at night w/out using IR illuminators. Make a flip shield [with a pinhole in it] to block light from the NOD during the daytime.

Use some frequency hopping Trisquare walkie-talkies on 900 mc with encoders/decoders to control the cams remotely to save battery power

The Linksys draws about 1/2 amp at 5 volts and the cams draw the same probably. That's a total drain of 5 watts or 120 watt hours per day or about 10 amps from a 12 volt battery, not incl inefficiencies, per day.

A 20 watt solar panel might be overkill in this application.

Two covert IR sensors could be located ahead and behind the cams to detect movement and activate them and signal an alarm to base.
Link Posted: 5/25/2009 6:47:09 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/25/2009 8:57:02 PM EDT by TheGrayMan]
Originally Posted By EXPY37:
On the remote cam question...

The pix GreyMan showed in the posts above demonstrates how high the resolution of an IP camera is vs analog.

An earlier poster asked how he could remotely [I presume maybe 1/4 mile] monitor a camera. I've been giving the same issue some thought so in a SHTF, I can put a cam a mile or two away to watch a road or something.

The best way I can think of [and there are a LOT of variables for each application] is to use a large 12 volt battery, solar panel, an IP cam and and a wireless bridge like 2 Linksys WAP54g's at 2.4 gHz with a couple of gain antennas to bridge the IP cam back to the shelter. Then it can be linked here at 5.8 gHz, many miles away.

Also, it might make sense to get an old 2nd gen intensifier to adapt to a cam to be able to see at night w/out using IR illuminators. Make a flip shield [with a pinhole in it] to block light from the NOD during the daytime.

Use some frequency hopping Trisquare walkie-talkies on 900 mc with encoders/decoders to control the cams remotely to save battery power.
The Linksys draws about 1/2 amp at 5 volts and the cams draw the same probably. That's a total drain of 5 watts or 120 watt hours per day or about 10 amps from a 12 volt battery, not incl inefficiencies, per day.

A 20 watt solar panel might be overkill in this application.

Two covert IR sensors could be located ahead and behind the cams to detect movement and activate them and signal an alarm to base.


I'd probably do that a little differently... intensifier tubes aren't cheap, and running one 8 hours per night would burn most out within a year or two, particularly second gen.

Assuming you're attempting to monitor a road up to your mountain cabin, I'd mount a number of separate IR illuminators, point them at a gate in the road. Make it a choke point, so you can really focus in with your camera. The gate (or a fallen tree, etc) also makes them get out and open it... gives you much more time to assess who they are, and how they're equipped. I'd then put in a covert B&W camera (those are naturally IR sensitive)... maybe more than one. A pinhole cam discretely potted in a fence post would give you an initial look at them... or a regular analog day/night camera further up the road, with a zoom lens, and hidden it in a bird house or an old floodlight casing up on a pole.

ETA: They make low-wattage FM transmitters that run in the 900Mhz band, and while they may be low-watt, selecting the proper directional antenna would do more good than simply pumping up the power. Here is one that SuperCircuits is selling. I've considered using one of these combined with a small B&W board camera to make a "mailbox cam"
Link Posted: 5/25/2009 7:50:19 PM EDT
Excellent post thanks

FerFAL
Link Posted: 5/25/2009 9:07:24 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/25/2009 10:13:13 PM EDT by TheGrayMan]
Originally Posted By KwaiChangCaine:
Thanks for the reply. What is the best way to improve my stored picture quality? My current DVR was around $180 new and I can't really spend much more than that at the moment.

Here are two different sizes of the same image from it, stored on the DVR and viewed over a network connection. I believe one is a 720 x 480 frame and the other is a 352 x 240 CIF.

The fire truck is approx 115 feet away from the camera.

http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f261/killmoles/080803T142152.jpg

http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f261/killmoles/080803T142209.jpg


If you're starting with a low-pixel-count image, there's not very much you can do to improve the picture quality, and enlarging it will create terrible grainy/blocky images, with little chance of IDing a person or a vehicle (beyond making out the color of it). Think about it... pictures sizes are defined by the number of pixels, and you only have so many pixels, so enlarging it is attempting to find data that simply isn't there. The best approach is to acquire higher-pixel images from the start... so you'd be much better served with D1 rather than CIF.

Yes, it's more storage space... but again, storage is incredibly cheap. The problem may come in upgrading the hard drive in your DVR. Most of the embedded models are closed, proprietary systems, and swapping out a hard drive will either be impossible (they may only recognize drives of a certain size, configuration, etc)... and opening it up will definitely void your warranty. I've done it (and got 7-8x the storage out of my DVR as a result... totally worth voiding my warranty), but it was non-trivial. I wouldn't recommend it without a computer geek at your elbow, and a willingness to possibly kill your DVR in the process.

This is one of the advantages of having a PC-based DVR... adding more storage is as simple as cloning a drive, or sliding another one into the case and hooking it up.

In my case, my DVR was nonfunctional anyway (the OEM drive died), and I ended up spending about $160 dollars for some new drives, when the manufacturer would have charged me between $500-1000 for the same job. I also would have had to pay to ship it to them, been without it for however long it took to do the work... just so some guy can swap in a hard drive and copy a few files? No thanks.
Link Posted: 5/26/2009 8:08:52 PM EDT
Thanks. My cameras are good for what they are and the images look great on a monitor live. I think the limiting factor is my cheap low-end DVR. I have it set to the highest settings with a 500+ GB hard drive (largest it can handle) and can store over a week from two cameras. It's doing all that it can. I'll have to keep doing more research and save up some more money.
Link Posted: 5/28/2009 6:23:01 AM EDT
Here's a great illustration of the difference between Analog cameras, and IP-based cameras. This is the identical scene, with the camera mounted in the identical location. Compare the before-and-after pics, both taken at night, and with the same amount of ambient light (Note: the second pic includes some camera-integrated IR).

The first camera shot was taken through a Speco Technologies Intensifier weatherproof bullet camera. Speco is a major manufacturer of security cameras, and the intensifier series "intensifies" ambient light, but does so by slowing the shutter speed (see above post to see why this is not that desireable).






The second picture was taken through an Acti ACM-1231 megapixel IP bullet camera (also weatherproof). This camera has some lower-powered integrated IR LEDs, and is a day/night camera that switches to B&W+IR mode once ambient light drops low enough. At around $500 dollars each, it's actually one of the more-economical of the IP-based megapixel day/night cameras.






The difference between the capabilities of the the two cameras couldn't be more stark... and at 1.3 megapixel, the Acti camera isn't even that high-res for an IP cam (some of the higher-end IP cams go 3, 5, or even 8 megapixels), but the difference between IP and analog is pretty clear. The second pic even allows you to read the welcome mat; the same lettering is entirely illegible in the analog view. Keep in mind... this isn't a cheapo no-name analog camera... the daytime image from the intensifiers is quite good, they have cabling concealed within their mounting bracket (nice feature), the resolution is 540TVL, and they have additional features like digital noise reduction, etc.

When it comes to CCTV, night-time pictures, particularly night-time motion pictures, are what separate the men from the boys.
Link Posted: 5/28/2009 11:53:29 PM EDT
So what about PTZ cameras?

PTZ stands for Pan-Tilt-Zoom, and these are probably what most people think about when they see "security cameras" in the movies. These are the cameras that you can use to look all around... pan from side to side, tilt down to see things directly below them, or zoom in to examine license plates, faces, etc.

First thing to know: these cameras are more expensive than standard fixed cameras, and since they have more moving parts (slip rings, drive belts for motion, etc), they are more prone to failure. That's not to say they're going to crap out on you within a week... but let's face it, wear-and-tear on moving parts is wear-and-tear on moving parts... so be advised that they have a shorter MTBF compared to a standard fixed dome or bullet-cam.

They also work best when there is somebody monitoring/controlling them; somebody has to control where the camera is moving/looking (particularly when following a moving target, etc), and without an operator, these cameras essentially act just like fixed cameras, focused on their "home" position. There are PTZ cameras that are "auto-tracking," (they are "smart cameras" that use software to automatically follow people, vehicles, etc that wander into their coverage area) but these are BIG BUCKS; in the neighborhood of several thousand dollars per camera. Ouch. That said, there is value in standard non-auto-tracking PTZs, since it's nice to be able to take your camera and look around... and this can be done through web interface, or through a special keyboard/joystick device.

As you probably already figured out, these cameras need a way to get commands from the joystick/web interface to the camera. In the case of IP-based PTZs, this is easily done over the network, through the normal web interface that you use to view the video. In the case of Analog PTZs, there is additional wiring (usually two-conductor) you have to run in order to get movement commands to/from the camera, in addition to selecting the proper protocol. Which protocol to use with which camera is well beyond the scope of a post like this, but common protocols are RS232 (serial), RS-485, Pelco-D/P, etc. This part of camera wiring can get a little dicey, so if you're getting into the PTZ realm, you might consider consulting an alarm/security company.

In PTZ cameras, zoom is a very useful feature, and there exist cameras that provide only zoom, and not pan-tilt. These are great for a specific doorway you're watching, a narrow road, or a specific choke point. It essentially allows you to magnify whatever is happening, in real time (this assumes you're watching the camera). However, when discussing zoom, it's important to understand the difference between digital zoom, and optical zoom. Optical zoom means that there's an actual lens assembly within the body of the camera that magnifies the image you're viewing. Digital zoom means the computer takes the existing image, and without magnifying the image optically, simply takes the existing data and blows it up (this usually results in a nasty, blocky, pixelated image). If you have to choose, go with cameras that are heavy on optical zoom, and light on digital zoom. The possible exception is for high-megapixel IP cams, where there is sufficient image data (in the huge file that a multi-megapixel digital image contains) that you can have "digital zoom" that looks just like optical zoom. This is one of the advantages of multi-megapixel IP-based cameras.

Link Posted: 5/29/2009 2:39:15 PM EDT
As a follow-on to my previous post, here's a handy chart that shows what kind of resolution will give you what kind of picture. This gives you an idea of what you need for facial and license plate recognition. The ugly/pixelated view on the lower right is what happens when you use "digital zoom."

Optical zoom is far preferable:

Link Posted: 5/29/2009 3:56:01 PM EDT
thanks for the great info and pics
Link Posted: 5/30/2009 11:08:12 AM EDT
OST for pure awesomeness...and motivation to finish my cctv system.
Link Posted: 5/30/2009 12:58:28 PM EDT
Not a tag
Link Posted: 5/30/2009 6:22:34 PM EDT
Very nice post Thanks.

I've been wanting to put CCTV with recording capability around my house for over a year and have been looking at systems. The expense has kept me from doing it.

Today at BJs, I found what I think is my solution. It's a Lorex integrated system with 4 color and IR cameras, 15 inch LCD full or 4 split screen, integrated 160 GB ( hard drive swapable) DVR and Networked ( ie. can be veiwed from computers on the network or over the internet). It's ussually $1400 on line, $999 at BJs and it was onsale for $400 out the door,new unopened box. So I Ibought it.

2 problems, the bullet cameras are 'waterproof'" but the fine print says not for direct exposure to rain and snow, so I should house them in something. Also the cameras have one power source with a round plug into the camera ( like a laptiop power cord into a laptop, basic round DC power but at 14.4 volts). If the cameras are far away from each other, then I have to make some extensions. I like the special video/ power cable in you post, I will try to use that.

I am not sure where to mount the cameras because I live in a ranch and if on the house the cameras would all be accessible to destruction from ground level. Also no built in microphones.

I haven't opened the box yet, so any ideas / critisisms are welcome. For $400 I don't think I can beat this, it may not be the best most versital, but it was the right price. Any suggestions?

Link to system I bought
Link Posted: 5/30/2009 6:46:37 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/30/2009 6:48:53 PM EDT by TheGrayMan]
Originally Posted By Mach:
Very nice post Thanks.

I've been wanting to put CCTV with recording capability around my house for over a year and have been looking at systems. The expense has kept me from doing it.

Today at BJs, I found what I think is my solution. It's a Lorex integrated system with 4 color and IR cameras, 15 inch LCD full or 4 split screen, integrated 160 GB ( hard drive swapable) DVR and Networked ( ie. can be veiwed from computers on the network or over the internet). It's ussually $1400 on line, $999 at BJs and it was onsale for $400 out the door,new unopened box. So I Ibought it.

2 problems, the bullet cameras are 'waterproof'" but the fine print says not for direct exposure to rain and snow, so I should house them in something. Also the cameras have one power source with a round plug into the camera ( like a laptiop power cord into a laptop, basic round DC power but at 14.4 volts). If the cameras are far away from each other, then I have to make some extensions. I like the special video/ power cable in you post, I will try to use that.

I am not sure where to mount the cameras because I live in a ranch and if on the house the cameras would all be accessible to destruction from ground level. Also no built in microphones.

I haven't opened the box yet, so any ideas / critisisms are welcome. For $400 I don't think I can beat this, it may not be the best most versital, but it was the right price. Any suggestions?

Link to system I bought


Nice score for an entry-level system... that's pretty tough to beat for the money.

I suspect the weather-resistant moniker just means you shouldn't put them up on a pole by themselves. As long as you mount those cameras underneath your eaves or an overhang, you're probably good.

Those are 1/4" CCDs, which means they don't have a very large lens to gather light, so you may find their night performance could stand improvement. Ways to improve this are to add ambient light (like motion-activated flood lights... those are one of the best security additions you can add, and most homes could benefit from them), or add some additional IR illuminators.

The Laptop-like plug is probably a standard 2.5mm 12V barrel connector. They're center-positive by convention. I get most of mine from Radio Shack (expensive, but you can get them today), or Digikey:



If you're very worried about vandalism of the cameras, you can switch those cameras out for domes. Vandal-resistant domes usually run anywhere from $100-500 each, depending on features. Most don't include built-in IR, so you'd need to add illuminators. Remember my admonition about IR versus visible light: you're virtually always better off going with visible lights, unless you have a specialized situation/application that precludes it.

As for audio, I'd be VERY careful about recording audio... that can run you afoul of wiretapping laws in many states, and render your video useless for evidentially purposes. It's BS, but it's happened, and it would seriously chap my a** to go to the trouble and expense of installing all this CCTV, just to have some smart-aleck defense attorney get the burglar off because he didn't "consent" to being recording. Lots of alarm guys advise not installing audio AT ALL, just to avoid this pitfall.

Link Posted: 5/30/2009 7:00:18 PM EDT
Thanks for the great info. It doesn't do audio, good points, I was thinking of just having feeds without recording it.

I installed motion activated flood lights all around the house several months ago. Now I have complete coverage. Nobody can set foot anywhere on the property without a flood light pair going off. They all overlap.

I'm just realizing how good of a score that was, Home Depot sells it online for $1430. I paid $400. I think I'll keep it.

Thanks for all the good info.
Link Posted: 5/30/2009 7:04:57 PM EDT
PS.

On the box I have, under camera specs it says 1/3 inch color CCD sensor 1.2 LUX without IR illumination 0.1 LUX with IR. and the res is 420 TV lines so it looks like they are better cameras than what is listed online. Makes it even better.
Link Posted: 5/30/2009 8:13:20 PM EDT
Originally Posted By Mach:
PS.

On the box I have, under camera specs it says 1/3 inch color CCD sensor 1.2 LUX without IR illumination 0.1 LUX with IR. and the res is 420 TV lines so it looks like they are better cameras than what is listed online. Makes it even better.


Going up in CCD size makes a difference in night performance. All else being equal, a 1/2" CCD will outperform a 1/3", which will outperform a 1/4" CCD, simply because the larger imager can gather more light. That funky double-imager model I posted up-thread? It has two 1/2" imagers:




So does this one:




Both of those are pretty high-end cameras, and probably out of the price range of most ARFCOMers. They have 3 megapixel daytime resolution, and 1.3 megapixel night-time resolution out of dual 1/2" imagers... for a cost of $1200-1500 EACH.
Link Posted: 5/30/2009 8:58:57 PM EDT
Tagged, cool thread.
Link Posted: 5/30/2009 11:10:25 PM EDT
As a follow-up to my PTZ post above, here are a couple of images to give you an idea of what the zoom function can do. The camera in question is a Surveilux mini speed dome, like this one :






Our example object is that domestic object so beloved of ARFCOM... the Herby Curby (TM). The first image is a night image through a day/night PTZ, with zero zoom. We're far enough away that the centering "+" nearly obscures it.




The second image is at 10x optical zoom... you can just barely make out the Waste Management logo on the side of the container.




Cameras come in all sorts of zoom ranges... 0-10x is a lower-end range, but plenty of cameras do 20x, 26x, 30x, and so forth. Remember... Optical zoom is the one that matters most. This camera also does 10x digital zoom (on top of the 10x optical, giving a total of 100x of zoom) but the degradation in picture quality of the digital zoom very quickly pixelates your images, so I have it disabled in firmware. In this case, the 10x optical zoom is sufficient to read a vehicle license plate on the street.
Link Posted: 5/31/2009 1:11:32 PM EDT
Very informative thread.

I have a 4 camera system with a PC based DVR card. 3 out of 4 of the cameras have IR capability. Incoming camera feeds are split with one leg going to a 4 channel modulator, the other going to the DVR. I also have IP access to the video feeds.

A couple of tips for those using consumer grade cameras.

If you can find cameras that have termination points inside the housing as opposed to a tail coming out, use those. The tail is always either too long or too short.

Preterminated camera cables can be a huge PITA to route to the inside of a structure and fish down walls. Even with the ends staggered and taped, it still required almost a 1in hole to get the pile of ends into the exterior wall. Even if you have to buy the tools to terminate RG59 and the ends to do it, it is still easier.

Plus the preterminated cables are always 6 inches too short or about 35 feet too long.

Inexpensive, consumer grade cameras are hit and miss. I have 3 different types, all from the same manufacturer. One of them (with pretty much the same image specs as the rest of mine) has an excellent image quality. 2 of the other ones look not so good.

You do get what you pay for for the most part.

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