August 18, 2009
| by Lisa Montgomery
Over the past several weeks the yard at my friend’s home has been the target of teenage horseplay. Toilet paper has been tossed among the trees and egg yolks have stained the finish off their siding.
Needless to say, they’ve had it—so much so that they’ve decided to invest in a surveillance camera. It’s something they’d rather not have to buy … I wish they didn’t, too, but the unfortunate circumstance has inspired me to track down the top features to look for when shopping for a surveillance camera.
It may be too late to pass along the information to my unfortunate friends, but you never know when it might come in handy for you.
1. Low-Light Viewing. The lower a camera’s lux rating, the better it can see in the dark for night vision application. For viewing in total darkness, look for 0 lux with built-in IR illuminators, advises Darrel Hauk, president and CEO of Channel Vision. If the yard lights will be on, you can go with .01 lux; a starlit night, .001 lux.
2. Wiring. It can be difficult to route the necessary cabling to the planned location of an outdoor security camera. Even wireless models still require power. Look for a camera that requires as little wiring as possible. “Pulling one wire is always easier than pulling two,” says Panasonic product manager for retail communication devices Erica Martinez. Panasonic makes models that can deliver power and video images over a single Ethernet wire.
3. Style. Do you want your camera to be noticed or to go unnoticed? “Sometimes a camera that’s easy to see is an effective deterrent,” says Joe Lautner, VP of sales and marketing at HomeLogic, a manufacturing of home control systems. If you’d rather be covert in your surveillance tactics, look for a stealthier design.
4. Adjustable. A fixed cameras focus on one spot, which may be fine for your intended use. However, if you’d like to be able to watch a larger area, you might want to choose a camera that can be panned, tilted and zoomed in for a better look.
5. Recording. Trespassers, vandals and toilet-paper toting teenagers are most likely to strike when you’re not at home. For this reason, you may want to invest a camera that can record captured images on a computer or on a digital video recorder.
6. Web access (IP cameras). For the same reason, you may want a camera that can be accessed via the Web. You’ll be able to see the yard, the front door or the patio from the screen of your iPhone or laptop computer.
7. Picture quality. As great as IP cameras are at granting access from anywhere, the video they transmit is usually choppier than the images transmitted by an analog camera, says Lautner. If image quality is important, an analog camera can still communicate over the web—you’ll just need to invest in extra equipment.
8. Rain resistance. Some cameras are better than others at handling the rain. If your IP camera will be fully exposed to the elements, look for a waterproof rating of 65, advises Hauk.
Also, for greater convenience keep in mind tying your surveillance system into your home automation so video can be easily accessed on the home TVs or touchpanels. If you’re looking for more than just cameras, check out these 10 cool security products for your home.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.