Surveillance cameras used to be a niche product available mostly to the wealthy individuals and corporations and government entities. Now they are everywhere. It could be overwhelming for the average person to pick an adequate surveillance solution. There are a few important factors:

- number of cameras needed,

- resolution,

- retention time,

- camera night time performance,

- distance and coverage,

- audio capabilities,

- standalone system or subscription based system,

- indoor or outdoor cameras,

- overall quality and the brand preference,

- IP or HD analog,

- budget,

Number Of Cameras Needed

The most common DVR/NVR configuration support 4, 8, 16, 24, 32 or 64 cameras. That doesn't mean that you need to select one of those number when designing a surveillance system. It can be any number in between, but you should keep in mind that using i.e. 17 cameras would require at least 24 channel recording unit and that one extra camera, the 17th one, will cause the total price of the system to significantly increase. Of course you want to use a number of cameras that will allow the sufficient coverage of the property. You need to keep in mind technical specification of every camera to be used. Some cameras can cover larger areas, so using one, higher resolution or long range camera may be a better option than using two lower quality units to cover the same area. This is helps with determining the final number of the cameras. In case our first count is i.e. 17, it's worth to consider eliminating one or two cameras and using better quality cameras instead. It's not always the option, but often could be. Of course cameras can't see through the walls or around the corner, no matter how good they are, but there are usually some area where we can eliminate some cameras without losing the desired coverage.


Resolution directly affects the picture quality and coverage are based on DORI calculation. DORI stands for Detect, Observe, Recognize, Identify. Cameras with higher resolution can cover larger areas without losing the quality required for desired DORI calculation. Today's standard for surveillance cameras is 6 megapixel. Lower end systems are still available with the resolution of 2 MP and the high end systems feature resolution as high as 8K, 16MP. Of course the higher the resolution, the better the picture, right? Not necessarily. In the good lighting conditions, yes. But in low light or at night, higher resolution cameras usually under perform those with lower resolution. It has to do with the amount of light required to produce higher resolution picture. 16MP sensor will usually require more light than 8MP sensor. So it's important to consider lighting conditions before deciding on the resolution. Usually 6-8MP is the best value for a dollar, at least at the time of writing this article.

Retention Time

Retention time, or the time the video is stored on a local drive, is usually calculated in days, weeks or months. There is no way to exactly determine the required storage capacity, bur there are some calculators available on line to help us get an approximate hard drive space required to achieve the desired retention time. Many factors come into play when calculating the required space. Recording resolution, recording frame rate, quality, video codec, average recording bandwidth, average daily recording time if cameras are set to record on motion or schedule rather than 24/7, number of the camera on the system, audio recording. To calculate the storage needed, we have to be as exact as possible with every single of those factors. I.e. when recording at 30 fps, we may need twice as much hard drive space compared to recording at 15 fps. A standard retention time is usually around 4 weeks, but some clients are required to store the video for months or even years.

Night time or low light performance

Majority of the cameras available work great in the daylight. But what about the night time performance? We already mentioned before, that higher resolution cameras often require more light to produce a good quality image. Most of the cameras available on the market today, are already equipped with infrared night vision. While it's a good and affordable option to consider, we need to keep in mind that IR night vision is much different than day time picture. First of all, it is black and white. The camera is equipped with invisible infrared light which reflects from the objects creating an image. While it is sufficient for detection and observation, it may not be very helpful when it comes it recognition or identification. IR reflector on the camera also has a limited range. It is hard to cover large areas with just IR cameras. Range of every IR camera is usually listed by manufacturer. We recommend to cut that in half to get an actual range where there is sufficient light to get a decent quality picture. Another option for the night time are 24/7 color cameras. Those work without infrared and require very little light to produce and very good quality and color picture. We just need to keep in mind that those 24/7 color cameras won't work in total darkness. Good thing, they are usually equipped with white light LED which can be turn on if needed. Those cameras are also a little more expensive than standard infrared cameras.

Distance and Coverage

Most of the manufacturers will list the range for their cameras. It is important to remember, that this usually applies to night time infrared range and has very little to do with an actual distance or range. To accurately describe camera distance we use DORI calculation. Based on the resolution and lens we can determine at what distance we can detect, observe, recognize and identify a person. Coverage on the other hand, has to do with the field of view. Cameras with lower focal length produce wider picture, but DORI distance is shorter, Higher focal length will get a more details at the longer distance, but the viewing angle is limited.

Audio Capabilities

It is at the discretion of the end user to determine whether audio recording is needed. If it is, we need to make sure that the cameras and DVR/NVR can capture and record audio. It is also important to check local laws when it comes to audio recording.

Standalone System or Subscription Based Security Camera System

Standalone systems store the video on local hard drives or other means of storage like NAS or DAS. Video is recorder and stored at the highest possible quality and once the equipment is paid for, there are no monthly subscription fees. It is usually a preferred method for the majority of customers. The downside is that often there is no backup device and in case of break-in, unsecured storage device can be destroyed or taken. The other popular option is subscription based storage. These type of systems have been becoming more and more popular because of aggressive marketing and low introductory cost. The advantages are that the system doesn't require NVR to be on-site so there is nothing to steal or damage, also the simplicity of installation could be very appealing to many DIY home or business owners. But there are also some major disadvantages. The cost over time, especially when the system involves several cameras. The quality. Most of the cameras available with the subscription model, are very low quality and there is a very limited choice when it comes to models and features. Storing video off-site means that the data has to be transmitted over the internet connection. Limited bandwidth of the internet connection often isn't enough for high resolution and high frame rate video transmission so the quality of the video needs to be significantly lowered. And finally, any internet outages will result in loss of recording. Subscription based systems and security cameras could be a great option for homeowners needing one or two cameras and some very basic surveillance rather than a real dependable security. It's more for parents watching their kids getting safely home from school, or catching the neighbor's dog pooping on the lawn, rather than for protecting from criminals and robbers or to help with prosecuting real crimes.

Indoor or Outdoor Cameras

Even though most of the cameras on the market are actually outdoor rated, there are many aspects to consider before deciding on which model to use for indoor and which for outdoor surveillance. Most of the outdoor cameras out there can also be used outdoors anywhere in the North America. They can easily withstand hot summer days in the South as well as very cold winter days in the North. So while pretty much any outdoor rated camera can be used outdoors anywhere in the North America, the question is, which are also good for indoor use? Generally the cameras use indoors should be small and with very limited night vision range. We recommend dome cameras for indoor application. They look good, are less offensive than bullet cameras and less prone to damage or tampering. For outdoor we recommend turret or bullet cameras. They tend to have much better nigh vision capabilities, are designed to be mounted on the walls or ceilings and easier to keep clean from the elements, spider webs etc. The bigger size allows for longer range and serve as a good deterrent.

Quality and Brand

With the wide availability of surveillance systems, customers often ask, why some surveillance packages cost a couple hundreds of dollars while other systems can cost as much as several thousands. It is pretty much like with any other products on the market. Quality matters and costs extra. And that's perfectly fine. Additional features on the cameras and NVRs can also add to the price. Current video surveillance systems and cameras are no longer just simple devices producing and recording the images. There is much more to it. We are seeing a rapid growth of AI in surveillance technology. It all matters at the end and ads to the final cost. Surveillance system is a big investment, but well designed and implemented, it will often pay for it self. There are also some companies depending on their brand to sell their products at a higher price. And that's not always good for the customer. We are seeing plenty of products out there, made by the same manufacturers, but sold under different brands at a very different prices. In this case the customer literally pays premium for the logo on the box and we do not recommend that. There are only a handful of actual CCTV manufacturers out there, like Hikvision, Dahua, Uniview or Hanwha and it is the best practice to buy their products under their own brand instead of paying extra for someone else's logo.

IP vs Analog HD

This one is pretty easy. The only reason Analog HD systems and the cameras are still one the market, is because there are still so many places pre-wired with the coax cable. So unless you are upgrading your current analog system, based on caoxial wiring, and you want to save some money on the re-wiring the entire place, there is no reason to use HD Analog or even HD-SDI/EX-SDI cameras and DVRs. They are still a little cheaper than IP based systems, but barely and offer very limited capabilities, features, quality and scalability. IP systems are definitely the way to go for any new surveillance system installation.


We all have some limited budget and it is important to take it into the consideration when designing a new surveillance system. There are customers who want all the latest and greatest and the price doesn't matter. It is important to know that the most expensive doesn't usually mean the best. And it definitely doesn't mean the best value for the dollar. We've seen PTZ cameras worth thousands of dollars each, installed in the places where it makes very little sense to use them and thus they basically serve as fixed cameras. There are NVRs deployed out there with all the extra features, which are never utilized. Example would be an NVR with the RAID hard drive configuration option, but having only one hard drive installed. There is a lot of wiggle room when it comes to the final price of the system, and it is a good practice to ask the customer about the budget. Good system designer or installer can then provide the best possible options withing the customer's budget by prioritizing the most important features.

And please remember, if you are located in our service area and have any additional questions, please reach out to us and we will be happy to assist you, design and install the surveillance system for the home or business.


Venture Security offers residential and commercial video surveillance installation in the following areas: Chester County PA, Montgomery County PA, Delaware County PA, Bucks County PA, Berks County PA, Philadelphia Metro Area, Lehigh County and Lehigh Valley, and the entire New Jersey. If your home or business is located within our service area, please reach out and we will be happy to discuss the options for your future video surveillance system, which match your needs and your budget.