What happens when someone is sneaking around your backyard? An outdoor security camera can help not only deter burglars, but it can help you capture them in the act, providing potential evidence for use later in court. Not only can you monitor your house from the inside and find out what’s going on in your front and back yard without having to open the door, but the camera itself can control access to your home when it’s connected to the locking and unlocking mechanism of your doors. Many times such complex use of an outdoor camera is for high security locations such as jewelry stores; however, an increasing number of homes also use this technology to protect their family and belongings. If you are interested in learning more than just outdoor cameras, check out our best home security system reviews.
Outdoor Security Cameras 101 Table of Contents
Read the article from top to bottom or use page navigation menu below to jump to a section of interest:
- What to Look for in an Outdoor Security Camera
- Types of Outdoor Security Cameras
- Where to Get the Best Outdoor Security Camera
First you should assess the type of property you are looking to protect. For example, are you looking to secure a small home or a large business? And what kinds of features are essential to you in a camera? Are you looking for a camera that can zoom, pan and tilt, capture video based on motion, or simply capture the image of a potential intruder? We’ll show you some of the more common features outdoor security cameras come with, and whether these features are worth the added cost.
The most important aspect of a camera or any piece of security system that is going to be placed permanently outdoors is that it should be weather resistant. The degree of weather resistance may differ from camera to camera, but it is imperative that the camera you purchase is able to withstand mild winds, rain, and snow. Often these types of cameras feature a hood that protrudes over the lens of the camera to make sure that the lens is not obstructed by precipitation. One thing that this type of hood cannot prevent is the formation of icicles. Then again, during extreme conditions it’s less likely that someone will approach your home.
Any security camera that is to be utilized outside the home should always be a certified camera. Certification ensures that the camera that you purchase is constructed with outdoor usage in mind and these types of cameras also generally come with some type of warranty that covers the cameras functionality for a predetermined period of time.
The fact that a security camera needs a power supply should be common sense; however, if you attempt to purchase a second hand camera you should be aware that not all second hand items will include all items such as power supplies. Power supplies may come in the form of batteries or a system that needs to be plugged in to an outlet. Whichever of these options you choose for your outdoor camera, you will want to keep in mind the layout of your building and the accessibility to a power supply if you choose a system that requires an outlet. You will most likely need to drill and run wires. And if you choose battery-powered, do not forget to test the battery regularly.
When it comes to choosing a camera to secure the outside perimeter of your home or business there are three basic options that you will have to choose from: a wireless camera, a wired camera, and a dummy camera.
Wireless cameras are the newer models of the three available options. They are also particularly versatile in terms of where they can be placed outside the home. Since the wireless outdoor camera is not limited by the placement of wires and access to power sources they are easy to install for even the amateur home improver. Wireless cameras are also more covert since they cannot be traced by wires that protrude from the system. This lack of wires also means that the cameras can easily be relocated if they are not capturing the appropriate area of the home.
Wired security cameras must be installed in a place where the necessary wires can meet with the necessary outlets, unfortunately the presence of these wires often tips off potential thieves as to the location of the camera. In a home situation a thief knowing the exact location of your security camera is not as much of a problem as it is in other more high security settings where thieves can cut the wires to the system to avoid being detected. Wired cameras are, by virtue of their name, something of a permanent feature and once they are set up they are particularly difficult to move. Whereas wireless cameras are easier to install, the wired cameras are not as easy to install and often require professional assistance for the installation process. The pro is that these cameras tend to be more stable and reliable as they operate on an uninterrupted power supply.
Dummy cameras are not as common as they once were when they first came out, at that time the technology behind security cameras was still rather expensive. Placing a dummy camera or ‘fake’ camera outside a location would save the expense of placing a real camera outside, but still serve to scare away potential thieves. Dummy cameras are made to imitate genuine cameras and while many do a good job of doing this, none of them offer the same type of protection that comes from a genuine camera. On some occasions a dummy camera may serve to deter a thief; however, if the presence of the camera itself does not deter the thief then there is going to be no evidence recorded by the camera to prosecute the offender.
When choosing the right outdoor security camera for you there is a variety of different options that you can choose from regardless of whether you choose a wired or a wireless system. Some of these features include: color vs. black and white, infrared illumination with a passive infrared detector, wide angle lenses, a variety of broadcasting abilities, speaker and microphone systems, thermostatic controls, and pan and zoom functions.
When choosing between a color and a black and white security camera you need to weigh out the cost versus the benefits of purchasing a color system. For the most part the color cameras that are worth their cost are more expensive than black and white systems; however, the color systems also provide more accurate information. For example, if a burglar were to enter your home when it was vacant, you would be able to determine the color of their clothes, the color of their skin and possibly the color of their eyes, whereas with a black and white camera you would only be able to distinguish between light and dark tones. In high security situations such as retail or wealthy or prestigious families there is generally no question that a color camera is the best option, but for the average home it usually comes down to a matter of what type of system fits the available budget. However, prices have come down quite a bit on all cameras in recent years due to improved technology and higher demand for such security systems.
This option for your new outdoor security camera sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but it’s not. Some outdoor cameras have this advanced feature, which allows them to tape live video footage in the blackest of night by lighting up moving objects that are moving within a 10-foot radius of the camera. The infrared illumination is the part of the camera that is responsible for lighting up the moving objects while the passive infrared detector is what allows the system to detect movement in the dark and capture it. Some cameras do not combine both of these features and instead have only the infrared footage ability. These cameras will generally record in color during the daylight and take infrared footage at night. These types of cameras are particularly useful in areas that are not well lit because they can record footage in dimly lit or unlit areas of the perimeter of the property. However, if you make use of a motion detector spotlight then this expensive technology may not be necessary particularly for your residential location.
Wide-angle lenses are an option that is very prominent in the security camera market since you may find that a normal lens camera does not capture enough of an area to be useful. Installing a wide angle lens camera will allow for larger areas of your property to be monitored in one single snapshot, generally this covers 104 degrees of movement and can record for up to 40-feet in distance. The arc of viewing with the wide-angle lens security camera is approximately 92 degrees. Wider lens cameras are generally not required for residences that wish to monitor the entrances and exits to the home; however, if the entrance to the home includes a large gated entrance, a wide-angle lens may be required to capture all activity. Wide-angle lenses are also not particularly useful in some retail locations, such as at the front entrance to a jewelry store, in this situation cameras are often utilized to identify faces and individuals in close range so it is not necessary to view an extended snapshot of the area. Wide-angle lenses can be useful when surveillance is being done on a larger portion of the property, such as an estate or a portion of farmland.
It used to be that outdoor security cameras only came in wired form and footage from the camera was recorded on to a videocassette, which could then be played back. Now as technology has advanced there are many more broadcasting options available for video camera monitoring. There are still some security cameras that record to a videocassette, which must be changed out after a certain period of time; however, with the phasing out of VCR’s and videocassettes there are not many of these available anymore.
The most current method of broadcasting footage is for a camera to stream directly to a computer or hard drive where the footage can be stored without having to be replaced as often as a videocassette. The trouble with videocassette recording use to be that after a week or so stores would reuse tapes making it particularly difficult to determine if an individual who committed a crime had frequented the store previously. Utilizing hard drive footage allows for more storage space and data to be stored while using less physical space. With hard drives taking up less room than videocassettes footage can be stored for longer periods of time, which is extremely useful in commercial settings.
Speaker and microphone systems are not built in to all security cameras and other security cameras are linked up to intercoms that also allow for monitoring via verbal contact. The benefit of using a security camera that has a speaker and microphone system is that it not only allows for direct communication with individuals outside the home, but it also allows you to eavesdrop on any individual that is prowling around the perimeter of your home. Some people use cameras with speaker and microphone systems at the front entrance to their home in order to question individuals that approach the door, but these systems are also helpful in determining specifics about an intruder when they succeed in breaking and entering a home. To catch an intruder on video with their voice allows for more precise identification of a suspect in a lineup situation. With that said, however, the purpose of a security system of any kind is to deter burglary, not catch details should there be one so whether you want to shell out the additional cost for this feature is up to you.
Thermostatic controls are a feature that is specific to outdoor security cameras. The presence of thermostatic controls allows for a camera to heat or cool in order to prevent condensation from forming over the lens. When a camera lens becomes fogged with condensation it is pointless in having a security camera because nothing determinable is being seen. Of all of the additional features that are available on security cameras thermostatic controls are the most beneficial when it comes to cost versus benefit.
Pan and zoom features are becoming increasingly popular on modern surveillance cameras because they are in increased demand. The cheaper security cameras on the market are fixed without the ability to move and capture different angles on one location, these types of cameras work well for small or narrow areas; however, they do not allow for zooming. Zooming can be a useful tool in a security camera particularly when the camera is being used to monitor a front entrance because it allows you to obtain details about individuals approaching the front door. Depending upon the flexibility that you wish to have in your camera, purchasing one that offers panning and zooming capabilities may or may not be worth the investment.
You can buy standalone outdoor security cameras, or you can buy them as part of a monitored home security system. Many of these systems are DIY and let you add various types of security cameras to your home security package. Read our article on home security systems reviews for companies that offer DIY outdoor camera options.
We’ve written an entire article comparing the top outdoor security cameras, and outlining their features. Read our article on outdoor security camera reviews for the scoop or search below to see some of your options (don’t see your search options? Allow ASecureLife.com on your ad blocker)
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