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Network Cameras

Network Camera Buying Guide

Web cameras are very popular these days with the incr...
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Network Camera Buying Guide

Web cameras are very popular these days with the increasing popularity and emergence of new video sharing websites, but standard webcams are being quickly replaced by Network or IP cameras that utilize the bandwidth of your network to send larger amounts of data faster to your computer. The large amount, and speed of the data allows us to have higher resolution Network Based webcams for very high quality videos.

There are two basic kinds of Network Cameras, the ones that are your basic webcam replacement, they look like a standard webcam, but the hardware inside is a bit different. The second type is those used in video surveillance, be it for professional or consumer level applications, these allow greater flexibility and usability to the end user in terms of performance, quality and the amount of cameras that can be utilized at any one time.

Things to keep in mind, and features to look for when purchasing any type of IP/Network Cameras:

Bandwidth Use: IP or Network Cameras use the bandwidth of your network, be it a home or business, so that's it possibly a concern. A small single camera on a home network won't be much of a bother, but when you decide to add numerous cameras for a surveillance system you might experience a bandwidth hit on your network. Of course if you are a business with many computers on the network this might be more of a concern. Another concern with bandwidth is of course if you plan to monitor your cameras while you're away, if you're on a metered bandwidth package you can easily chew through your available bandwidth and incur additional charges.

-Video encoding formats that the cameras record in, these formats are just like those your computer uses and will vary between cameras. The differences between them are compressions ratios and of course the quality of the video, some examples of formats that IP cameras utilize are: civ, mjpeg, avi, mpeg4, jpeg, h.264 and more.

-Outdoors or Indoors is another decision to make when purchasing a Network Camera, of course what you choose will depend on your own situation.

-Wireless or wired cameras: Wired offers of course the best quality, and you can use your existing network wiring for them, but depending on where you want to put the camera you may have to run new wiring. Wireless cameras of course offer great freedom of putting the camera pretty much anywhere within the range of the frequency being used, of course though you've got to provide power the camera and possibly the wireless transmitter as well for these types of cameras. Wireless Network cameras also have encryption built into them so your network will be more secure, it also seems that IP cameras are less susceptible to interference as well.

-PTZ or Stationary Cameras: PTZ refers to Pan, Tilt and Zoom, these types of cameras can be adjusted through those motions remotely, but PTX cameras cost quite a bit more than stationary ones do. Stationary of course are just that, they don't move, you have to manually move the camera, manually focus and zoom as well.

-Auto focus is a feature that could fit with the above, but is a features that is available on stationary cameras as well, it is exactly what it sounds like, the camera has auto focus so the user won't need to adjust the lens to focus on the subject, which of course makes life easier.

-Interchangeable lenses: Many cameras, especially the higher end ones for surveillance, offer the ability to use different lenses with them, this is great for their ability to be swapped out when the situation arises, and of course you can change them as need be or to fit your own needs.

-Vandal proof: Network cameras can come pre-installed in what is called a 'vandal dome', the housing for these are vandal resistant, meaning that, without a lot of work on the criminals part, the camera can't be damaged while in the housing. These types of cameras are also usually weather resistant as well, making them well suited for outdoor use.

-Infrared capable: Most cameras are infrared capable, meaning that they can see in the dark with the use of infrared LED arrays that are sometimes built into the camera housing itself. These are of course excellent for security situations, but they are limited in range unless you use an external infrared LED source to extend the range.

-VGA vs MP: VGA or Video Graphic Array and MP, meaning Mega Pixel of course offers much better picture quality over it's VGA counterpart but with the higher quality you are using more bandwidth as well. While it's great to have a good picture, sometimes you just might not need it depending on the situation, and the higher the quality the higher the cost, why pay for something you're not going to utilize or really need? On the upside though using higher quality cameras allows you to sometimes use less cameras to cover an area that is under surveillance as you can easily make out all of the details and won't need other cameras to cover the area.

-Compatibility: IP cameras are picky compared to analog styles, they might not work with other brands of equipment, whereas analog will work with anything. Network cameras might claim to work with all other vendors hardware but that isn't always the case, best thing to do is research into the camera to be sure it's compatible with your current equipment or the parts you intend on buying.

-Color or B&W: If you're thinking of getting a Network camera to monitor your pet you really don't need a color camera, black and white cameras are much cheaper, also bringing the overall cost of your IP camera system down.

-Manual or Auto Iris lens: Manual iris lenses are just that, they are set manually, these are great for situations where the lighting does not change, set it and forget it basically, like an indoor setting. Auto iris lenses are great for outdoor situations, these lenses require no adjustments by the user as they are automatically done by the camera itself, the lens adjusts to meet the lighting situation automatically.

While Network cameras are a great product, they tend to cost quite a bit more than their analog counterpart does because of the inclusion of the specialized hardware inside of them, and even more when they are the wireless versions.

Of course you can pick up relatively inexpensive personal Network Cameras that are used as webcams, these can have some of the features and specs listed, but the personal webcam style tend to be easier to use, with less features and are much cheaper.

Though I have seen many companies that have come out with PTZ type of IP webcam, so that does add quite a bit to their value and usefulness, especially for remote monitoring. You can pick up one of these types relatively cheap to monitor your home while your away remotely or just for basic monitoring as well, these are great for keeping an on things, like family, pets and the like.

Normally I might suggest checking out reviews online for these types of products, but with the higher end surveillance type cameras you won't find many reviews really as they are professional products with limited interest for the consumer. You will however find numerous reviews of the webcam style of Network cameras as they are very popular these days and I foresee them possibly replacing the traditional webcam in the future.


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