There are a lot of different types of security cameras to choose from.
In this article, I explain the most common types of security cameras so you can have a better decision before purchasing the one you need.
You can first choose between analog and digital (IP) technology, the most appropriate type for indoor or outdoor installation. You can then select other features such as Wi-Fi communication, night-vision, integrated audio, etc.
Below a list of the most common types of security cameras:
- Analog cameras
- Digital (IP) cameras
- PoE cameras
- Wireless cameras
- Wire-Free cameras
- Indoor cameras
- Outdoor cameras
- Box cameras
- Dome cameras
- Turret cameras
- Bullet cameras
- PTZ cameras
- Day/Night cameras
- Thermal cameras
- Panoramic cameras
Different factors can classify a security camera, and some models are designed with a combination of them. Let's start talking about security camera technologies so you can understand which one is better for you.
This technology is used by a security camera to transmit the signals to a monitor or a recorder. This is usually done via coaxial cables such as the RG59.
The picture below shows an analog camera connected to a DVR and a monitor via coaxial cable. It's a pretty simple and inexpensive system.
Analog cameras don't send the video directly to a mobile phone, so you need an extra device (the DVR) to convert the signals from analog to digital. It's essential to understand the concept of analog to digital conversion; please watch the following video where I talk about some different cameras and the idea of analog system recording...
The old analog camera technology represents its resolution in TV Lines (TVL), and the new one uses modern terminology such as 720p, 1080p, HD, and Full HD. You can find analog security cameras that use HD-TVI, HD-CVI, and AHD, which are now very popular for affordable systems in the market.
Just take a look at the image below. You can see it offers 4 analog cameras and a DVR recorder that can handle up to 8 analog cameras connected via coax cables.
Digital (IP) cameras
IP cameras are top-rated today since some types of home security cameras are inexpensive and easy to install (you can install by yourself).
As a practical example, please look at the camera shown in the picture below. It's an IP camera that works with audio/video. It is compatible with the Amazon Alexa, and there's no need to hire a certified professional to set up this model.
A security camera allows you to watch a live video stream directly into your mobile phone's live video is always an IP model. It doesn't matter if it's wired or wireless. Most people prefer using wireless cameras, but sometimes the wired ones are better because they are less susceptible to problems and interference.
The picture below shows a professional IP camera connected to an NVR and a monitor for local recording and monitoring.
You can use your computer, tablet, or mobile phone to watch live and recorded video as long as the NVR is connected to a router. You just need to set up the devices to be reachable via the Internet.
It's common to find IP security cameras with resolutions such as 2MP. Still, there are professional cameras with a much higher resolution, such as 3MP, 5MP, and even 30MP, but they are not necessary for small home projects.
PoE stands for Power Over Ethernet, a technology that allows you to power the camera via the UTP (network) cable, so there's no need for an extra power supply, which helps reduce costs and make the installation easier.
To power this type of camera, you can buy a PoE Switch that uses the same universal standard to power network devices. As long as the PoE camera and the switch are using the 802.3af or 802.3at standard, everything works fine. Take a look at the following picture that shows a PoE camera connected to a switch.
Below is an example of a PoE Home Security Camera System that can handle up to 8 cameras. In this case, the NVR can send power to every camera using PoE.
The concept is very simple to understand but bear in mind that it's necessary to follow the international PoE standard to power up the devices. You don't need to worry about other details other than the international standard. As long as the IP camera and the PoE injector or PoE switch are compatible, you just need to plug the UTP cables.
Why use cables if you can just buy a wireless camera ?
Of course, there are some limitations when working with this type of security camera since it's designed to work in homes and small offices.
It's very easy to find these cameras available in any electronics store since they are inexpensive, and anyone can install and setup them.
As you can see, the camera is offered as a Wi-Fi camera, which means it can connect to your Wi-Fi router to send video directly to your mobile phone or other devices in the network or even on the Internet (as long as you do the proper setup).
Alright, here's another type of security camera that is very interesting because it doesn't use cables at all. I bet you are thinking about wireless cameras, but I'm not talking about such models because they still use wires for power, right?
Wire-free security cameras don't use wires since they are battery-powered and can also send the data (audio, video, alerts, etc.) via a Wi-Fi connection. So you can install the camera wherever you want even if there's no power outlet around.
Easy to understand, huh? Wire-Free cameras are really 100% free of wires!
Take a close look at the advertisement above. Can you see the camera is offered as a Wi-Free Indoor/Outdoor camera? Yeah, it's wire-free and weatherproof.
Suppose you are planning to purchase a security camera for your apartment. In that case, chances are you will install it in a place that is protected from the weather, and in this case, you need an indoor camera, and there's no need to pay for a waterproof model.
Please take a look at the image below; as you can see, this is a wireless security camera with many smart features and is suitable for indoor installation. The model is inexpensive because it's not protected against water.
An international standard named IP (Ingress Protection) is used to classify the protection a device has against dust and water. For an indoor camera, IP65 is enough, so don't expend your money on weatherproof cameras if you don't need to.
With IP65 ingress protection, your camera is safe to be installed indoors. That's it.
Outdoor security cameras are weather-resistant since their enclosure is IP66 or IP67 classified, which means they are dust and water-resistant and can be installed in areas where they are hit by rain or sunlight without getting damaged.
Unless you want to emerge the camera in water, the IP66 is enough for most installation, and you don't need to spend extra money buying an IP67 one because that is too much (unless you want to drop your camera on a swimming pool).
The image below shows an example of a kit listed on Amazon as a Wireless Home Security Camera. Note the camera is classified for indoor/outdoor installation.
As you can see, it doesn't matter if it's an analog, IP, or wireless camera. All of them can be classified as indoor or outdoor cameras depending on their enclosure.
Box cameras are rarely used in homes or small projects. They are more commonly used on special projects that require more control over the lenses, such as vehicle license plate recognition or other types of applications requiring expensive cameras.
These types of cameras have a box shape (that's why they have such a name) and their lenses come separated from the camera body, so you need to order the camera and desired lens for your specific project. See the picture for more details.
The lenses used in a box camera can be adjusted to guarantee a better angle of view, so a camera like this is versatile because it allows you to choose the better lens for a specific application; usually, they use a varifocal lens.
Dome cameras have a dome body shape with a lens in the center and also can have some infrared LEDs to illuminate the environment, as shown in the picture below.
You can buy dome cameras with fixed or varifocal lenses, which means you have an option to adjust the angle of view according to the place they are installed.
Some manufacturers offer a smoked dome to hide the camera lens so people can't see where the camera is pointing at. This is very clever and sometimes necessary.
Look at the picture below to note how this type of camera has some similarities with the dome; however, it's not quite the same model. They are a little bit different.
Contrary to the dome, the turret camera doesn't require opening the camera enclose to move the direction the camera is pointing to.
It's also possible to buy a turret camera with infrared LEDs, but it's usually impossible to use a varifocal lens since there's no way to adjust it.
Bullet cameras are also very popular. They also have a discrete body shape with the lens and infrared LEDs in the housing center.
The advantage of a bullet camera is that it is discrete and can be easily adjusted in different positions. Some models are weatherproof (I66) and are designed for outdoor installation with night vision. (use infrared LEDs).
Modern bullet analog cameras don't require to be opened for lens adjustment because there are external screws used for that job.
PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) cameras
PTZ stands for Pan Tilt and Zoom. Those are the camera's movements when somebody is remotely controlling it by using a computer or joystick. This type of camera is very interesting to follow suspect people and vehicles.
This type of camera can be remotely controlled from the recorder, computer, or mobile phone. You can set up for all these types of applications.
You can have an analog or IP PTZ camera. Either way, it's possible to use different methods to send the command to the camera and control its movements. An old analog PTZ camera uses the RS-485 standard protocol and needs extra wires for control. A modern analog PTZ camera uses coaxial control.
Day/Night cameras (infrared cameras)
Day/night cameras are designed to see in the dark by using infrared lights. Even if you can't see something with naked eyes, the camera can! That's cool, right?
Day/Night cameras have such a name because they can work during the day with natural illumination and during the night using the infrared LEDs.
A day/night camera can also be powered by a PoE switch (or an NVR) and meet the outdoor installation requirement as long it's at least IP66 rated. Most day/night cameras have visible, infrared LEDs, which means you can see the LEDs ON.
Thermal cameras (to see in the dark)
This is a type of camera you can't hide from because it can generate images based on the heat irradiation, which means it can see everything based on the temperature. No matter if you are trying to hide behind a bush, the camera sees you because your body temperature is different from other objects around.
Did you watch the movie "Predator" with Arnold Schwarzenegger?
If you did, you have an overall idea of how a thermal camera "sees" the images. It's exactly how the predator does, with different colors according to the object temperature (some models show only black and white images).
Though while hunting at night, these thermal cameras can be of great help. Click here to check out some good options for night vision scopes.
A Thermal camera is used for military operations on borders and to hunt fugitives in the dark. You can see them also on helicopters used for night missions where the cameras show people running in dark areas (there's no way to hide from them).
You might be wondering if these cameras are expensive and require a special license. You are right; those types of thermal security cameras are classified. They need to be licensed for use, and you can't simply buy one and use without the proper authorization unless you buy a basic model that works even on smartphones.
FLIR is the company behind these thermal cameras, either for professional or consumer applications, and boy; they are very good at design such products.
Panoramic cameras (fisheye cameras)
Just imagine a camera using a type of lens that can capture the images in an entire room. With 360º coverage, there's no blind spot, and you can see everything as long as the camera is installed in the correct location (center of the room).
After recording the footage, the camera allows you to navigate into its memory and see everything in different ways, including flat videos.
There are professional panoramic cameras (as shown in the video) and some simple consumer market models.
I have a Zosi 3MP Panoramic camera myself, and it's pretty interesting.
Since the camera is close to a wall, the 180º view is the best option.
As you can see, it's possible to monitor the entire room without any blind spot.
Last words and conclusion
It's essential to know what types of security cameras are available in the market before purchasing the one you need. This article can help you decide which camera is better for you; please share this information with your friends.
Claudemir Martins is a former Samsung Engineer with 19+ years of experience in the surveillance industry. He has been traveling around 17 different countries to teach people how to design, and install CCTV systems. He is currently working for Axis Communications as a Technical Services Engineer and living in the United States with his family.