CCTV systems: IP cameras – yes. Analogue – Why?
A lot has changed in recent years when it comes to CCTV systems. Conventional Analogue CCTV systems were the standard for many years as they are mostly affordable and offers image quality fair enough for most users of these systems. Then IP CCTV systems came around and completely changed the CCTV game (for the good). Superb image quality, easy installation and less of a fuss to maintain than analogue systems. Well. Let’s delve a bit deeper into these systems. PLEASE DO NOTE: This article is based on consumer setups and for most DIY installers – not companies specializing in these types of installations.
Analogue systems are really cheap nowadays, but for DIY installers, there a far more then it being just a “plug-and-play” install. Remember your old TV antennae signal cable? Well – analogue CCTV systems still make use of these legacy cabling, called coaxial cables, which are joint with BNC connectors. And in most cases, alongside these analogue coaxial cables, you will find a power cable to power up your analogue cameras. So basically, it is a 2-in-1 cable. One for your video signal, and one to power up your camera. Simple enough maybe? Well. You will need an external power distribution box, separately from your DVR unit to provide power to each and every camera you have installed. Personally, for me that is already too much of a hassle just to keep track of which coaxial cable and power cable goes together (maybe you will disagree, and that is also fine). After all is installed and connected, it is plug-and-pray time. If your systems start up with all cameras showing up and have perfect picture quality, then I would personally congratulate you.
Now – IP CCTV Cameras. Most of you are probably familiar with the simple network cable plugging into your internet router and your computer, right? IP cameras work in the same way as a normal computer network (for that matter). The best part of it all, it connects to your NVR (Network Video Recorder) with only ONE cable per camera. Yes. CAT5 cables. Surely your cameras need power to function as well. So where is the power source? Ever heard of POE (Power Over Ethernet)? With one cable (the same one connecting your camera to the NVR), your NVR (or POE switch) sends the power as well as your video and/or audio signals with only one cable. But it is more than only audio and/or video. Your camera is a physical network device. It can operate on its own or connect to your NVR. If you don’t make use of an NVR and have a couple of cameras installed on your premises, you can make use of your computer and specific software to still manage and view all your cameras at once. And the awesome thing is – you can log into each camera individually and make changes like exposure, motion detection, smart Infrared controls, etc. It is just more flexible and overall better to use than analogue cameras.
And here is the big debate – which is better? A lot of sales representatives (or people with these different systems) will provide you with information just to make the sale. And let’s face it – everyone wants to spend as little as possible for the best products. We all want to buy a Ferrari at the price of a Volkswagen Polo. Right? But here is the thing. You will get what you pay for. Unfortunately. So, which is better? Analogue or IP CCTV systems? Here are some pros and cons of each system:
- ANALOGUE Pros
- Really inexpensive
- Fair picture quality
- Available almost everywhere
- Some smart features controlled by DVR unit
- Wide-spread compatibility and can use different camera brands on an Analogue CCTV setup
- ANALOGUE Cons
- Does not compare to IP cameras when it comes to picture quality
- Expensive cabling and can’t be used over long distances
- BNC Connectors are just a pain to work with
- Cameras are dependent on a DVR unit
- Lacks smart features and not controlled by the DVR unit
- Can’t display FHD (no matter what anyone tells you)
- Analogue signal needs to be converted to digital signal
- IP CCTV Pros
- Superior image quality (true FHD up to 4K and better)
- Inexpensive cabling and can be used/extended over long distances
- Can be controlled individually without the need for an NVR unit
- A lot of smart features controllable on each camera
- Digital signal doesn’t need to be converted
- IP CCTV Cons
- More expensive than analogue systems
- In some cases, some networking knowledge are required
- To mix camera brands on one system, they must be OnVif compliant
To some of you, these pros and cons won’t matter, but where it gets interesting is that people will tell you that analogue cameras can give you Full HD recording and display, and some might even claim better than IP cameras. Firstly, you shouldn’t believe that, and secondly, analogue signals aren’t digital and are limited to a certain amount of TVL (Television Lines), with the higher end analogue system getting close to deliver 580 TVL. Image quality will not be full HD. The analogue signal converted to digital display (even if they claim Analogue HD) will have a drop in image quality compared to IP CCTV cameras.
An excerpt from another website: “The best analog surveillance camera still can’t hold a candle to the worst IP camera when it comes to the resolution of the image it captures. At best, an analog camera can manage the equivalent of less than half a megapixel, whereas a Megapixel camera wouldn’t be much good if it didn’t produce an image of at least ONE of the things it’s named after.”
This excerpt can basically be used to cover this whole article with these two sentences, because it is exactly what it is.
So, in conclusion. Analogue systems will do the job if you are on an extremely tight budget. It won’t provide you with all the features of IP CCTV cameras, but hey – it’s cheap! IP CCTV cameras are more expensive, yes. However, you get superior image quality and a bunch of additional features which analogue systems can’t offer. In the long run, IP CCTV cameras would be the obvious and better choice to make when taking security serious at your premises and have more control over your system on a network environment.
I hope this article was of some value to you. For once, I am truly NOT a fan at all of analogue systems, as I have experienced only endless issues with them from install and long-term use. You probably get quality systems, but for the sake of working in the IT field for more than a decade, you see what works and what not. Leave your comments below and let me know what your opinions are between these two systems.