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Selecting the Right Camera


Chapter Video Surveillance Made Easy e-book






How To Select the Right Camera



Selecting the right camera is not as difficult as you may think. There are three simple steps:


Decision 1: Will the camera be inside or outside?

An outside camera can always be installed inside. Some cameras are only rated for inside use because they are not properly sealed to keep moisture out and operate in extreme temperatures. Obviously if the application is outdoors, you should eliminate the indoor rated cameras. If the camera is to be used indoors you can consider using an outdoor rated camera; operating indoors is not a problem. All Backstreet outdoor cameras are rated for extreme temperatures ranging from -40 degrees to 120 degree Fahrenheit. Thousands of our cameras have been installed in the harshest of conditions and have operated flawlessly.


Decision 2: How large of an area do you need to view; and how far away is it?

These two distances dictate what size lens the camera will require. Choosing the right lens is simple if you understand the relationship between the lens size and the horizontal viewing area. The rule is simple:

The smaller the lens size the wider the viewing area.

The chart below shows a 3.6mm lens provides a 29 foot horizontal view at a 30 foot distance from the camera. The 6mm lens provides an 18 foot horizontal view at 30 feet from the camera. Because the 6mm lens provides a smaller horizontal view, an object at a 30 foot distance from the camera would appear larger and have more detail in the video. In comparing the two, the 6mm lens would be considered a “zoomed in” view. This may make the 6mm lens the right choice if your goal is to view an area 30 feet away from the camera. However, the 3.6mm lens maybe the right choice if you are interested in viewing an object 10-15 feet from the camera because the lens would provide a wider horizontal view at a closer distance.

Viewing Distances

With this information you can see there are only two factors you need to know to choose the right lens; the distance from the camera to the area you would like to view and the horizontal distance you want to cover. For example, if you want to view an area 80 feet from the camera and need a horizontal distance of 20-24 feet, the chart above indicates a 12mm lens would be a good choice.

The Brilliance of a Manual Zoom Lens:
Many of our cameras are equipped with a manual zoom lens. This feature allows you to mount the camera and then, using the zoom knob on the camera, you can manually adjust the viewing area. This allows you to zoom the view in and out until you get the perfect view. Because of this flexibility we highly recommend a camera with a manual zoom lens.


Decision 3: Do you need night vision?

The majority of surveillance cameras are equipped with night vision. The night vision technology built into surveillance cameras is the most cost effective solution for day and night surveillance. The cameras automatically switch from day operation to night vision when the light level drops below a certain point.

The following is an example of our 60NV-HD-Vandal camera in day mode and night vision mode (zero light).

Viewing DistancesViewing Distances

For the money the night vision is very good but you should expect to see a 10-20% drop in resolution in night vision mode. By industry standards this is still considered exceptional performance. The video below explains how night vision works.

How Night Vision Works


Cameras are rated by the distance they cast infrared light (their night vision distance). They range from 30 feet to our long range 350 foot cameras all the way to our 550 foot PTZ cameras. When choosing the camera for your application try and balance the distance of the night vision the camera provides with the distance of the object or area you want to view.

For example if you choose an 80 foot night vision camera and use it to view an area that is 20 feet from the camera, the infrared light may overwhelm the area and cause a “hot spot”. Image 1 below is an example. But if you use the same camera to view an area 50 feet away, the “hot Spot” does not appear; image 2. This is because the infrared light the camera casts out has enough distance to disperse. This is why you should balance the distance of the area you want to view somewhere in the middle of the cameras maximum night vision distance. Image 3 shows the same 80 foot camera viewing a distance of 80+ feet in total darkness. Note: In image 3 there is another night vision camera on the other side of the house casting infrared light into the view of this camera. This creates overlapping infrared light that both cameras can see.


Night vision hot spotsNight vision without hot spot

Image 3

Night vision long distance


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