While we are manufacturers of quality security cameras and hope to work with large volume buyers, the points I touch upon would help any retail custom looking for a security camera to make a more educated decision. It can be hard trying to figure things out with limited information.
When you search for cheap security cameras on an online portal you get thousands of search results leaving you more confused than ever.I’ll try to give you some insight of the difference between cheap security cameras and little more expensive ones from a manufacturers perspective. In this post, i’ll focus on explaining IP cameras as we ourselves are IP camera specialists.
There is one thing to be said for a price premium to buy a brand name. Besides this, its in the specifications and usually the lack of specifications to make you think you are getting the same product.
Here is what you would expect to see in a typical product title –
720P HD WiFi Pan/Tilt IP Camera, Indoor, Wireless Security Camera, Plug & Play, Two-Way Audio & Nightvision
Even with technical specifications, you wont get too much more information in a listing.
720P = 1 Megapixel. What does this really tell you?
This refers to the CPU of the camera. A CPU that handles 1 Megapixel video can be manufactured by many different chip manufacturers. Name brand cameras may use a slightly more expensive CPU e.g. Ambarella. Mid range ones use Hisilicon and there are a range of cheaper ones from smaller Chinese companies like Anyka, Ingenic, Goke, Sonix, etc. The cheap security cameras you see nowadays are able to drop the prices because these CPUs are being developed by more and more low end chip manufacturers. There is a difference between buying a Range Rover and a Hyundai even though they both can do 60mph.
Better CPUs usually have better stability and additional features.
To go with this is an image sensor which are from companies like Sony, Aptina, Omnivision, SmartSens, etc.
I have listed these sensors in order of image quality. Sony does an IMX range for security cameras e.g. IMX322, IMX323, IMX291 (starlight sensor). Aptina has very good nightvision sensors, Omnivision is good value, SmartSens does low cost.
The size of an image sensor usually relates to the resolution and view angle. most commonly they would be listed as 1/4″ or 1/3″. The latter being larger gives a wider angle.
The lens that sits on top of the sensor is also very important, a cheap lens will give a more cloudy or darker image as it allows less light to pass through, while a good lens image is crystal clear. If the aim is to build a cheap security camera, the manufacturer will use a 1 Megapixel lens on a 1 Megapixel sensor. A better factory would use a 3 megapixel lens. Theres no way to really check this by specification.
A few other pointers would be nightvision, usually listed as 10 meters / 15 meters. These numbers are usually just estimated. Its hard to say how far a torch would shine in your house. Better companies use more powerful nightvision LED lights e.g. 10µ each, very cheap security cameras would have lesser power nightvision boards to save on costs e.g. 8µ. A common issue is that the nightvision boards go defective quite soon if they are poorly made.
Low quality apps and difficulty to connect to the cameras are some other common issues. (see our post on p2p cameras for more on this)
Two way audio – You can easily guess the difference between a good and poor mic and speaker for this audio.
Overall image and price
The overall image quality is from a mix of the CPU, sensor and lens. For a home wifi security camera, a combination like
Hi3518E + AR0130 (1.3 Megapixel) works really well. It doesnt use much bandwidth and has a good low light performance.
Cheaper cameras would use Ingenic T10 + H42.
Information overdose and how can you really put this information to use?
Ask the seller or manufacturer for more details on the specifications if you arent sure of them.
Between a good quality camera and the cheapest camera, there would be about a 25% difference in imaging. The cheap security cameras are getting better everyday. You should be able to use this information to go through a few prices to guage an average and take an estimated guess on what quality of camera you would be getting. There are just too many variables for me to cover all of it in this short post, if you have any questions, i’ll be happy to answer them below. I’d like to end with this quote for you to think about…
“There is hardly anything in the world that some man can’t make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.”
– John Ruskin
p.s. We sell our cameras in retail with the HDX and www.ZIVIF.com brandnames, look for these if you want no guesswork in knowing you will get a pretty high quality camera at excellent value.