Home Security Camera Options

Video surveillance has become very affordable and more diversified than ever with many types of security cameras available to the consumer. There are many different types of security cameras available for home protection. So which type of security camera system is the best one to watch your home? The advent of high definition camera technology has revolutionized videography, photography and television and that advanced video technology eventually makes its way to video surveillance cameras resulting in greater resolution and image quality. Wireless network IP webcams are now being designed and sold for video surveillance purposes and allow the user to view the camera from virtually anywhere over the internet. This article will discuss the main types of video surveillance systems and their suitability for home security purposes. Home security camera systems can be broken down into 3 main types: Standard-Definition (SD) Security Cameras, High-Definition (HD) Security cameras, and Wireless (Wi-Fi) IP Security Cameras.

Standard Definition (SD) Security Cameras

Standard Definition security cameras, (sometimes referred to as analog cameras) typically have 500 to 600 lines of resolution which equates to roughly 1/3 of a megapixel. These security cameras are very common, and are generally low cost, come in a variety of form factors (e.g. bullet cameras, box camera, dome camera) and utilize affordable standard definition digital video recorders (DVR) to record surveillance footage. These systems are commonly sold in “security camera kits” which include four or eight security cameras bundled with a DVR, connectors and cables. The consumer can also purchase the cameras and DVR separately allowing for some customization of the system to suit whatever the particular security situation requires. For example, you could purchase one wide angle security camera (with a fixed 3.6mm lens) and buy two more SD security cameras with a medium angle view (6mm lens) and then another camera with a telephoto lens (say 12mm or 16mm lens) for greater detail of a particular area. SD cameras are also available with variable focal length lenses (varifocal lenses) and many come equipped with built-in infrared (IR) LEDs to provide night vision illumination. SD cameras are also readily available with outdoor weather resistant casings (IP 67 rating) that are sealed against the elements.

High Definition (HD) Security Cameras

HD security camera systems utilize cameras that have a resolution of 1.3 megapixels (MP) or greater. Some common resolutions for HD security cameras are 1.3 MP, 2 MP, 3 MP and 5 MP. These cameras feature an imaging sensor (CCD or CMOS) that provides clearer and more detailed images than the older standard definition cameras. However, this greater image quality comes with a hefty price tag, as each HD camera with a lens can typically range from $250 to $1,000 each depending on the required performance and weather proofing needed. Additionally, HD surveillance video cannot be recorded on standard definition DVRs because of the higher resolution and different formatting of the HD video.

HD camera systems usually require an HD video recorder or a network video recorder (NVR) to capture the higher resolution provided by the cameras. Some HD video surveillance systems utilize a PC hardware with video management system(VMS) software that captures, stores and manages the surveillance footage from the HD security cameras. The VMS also allows for networking capabilities. In general, VMS software has a steep learning curve, and may be too complex for the needs of the typical homeowner. The cost of even a small HD system with a VMS or NVR can easily reach into the thousands of dollars which may be out of reach for a homeowner or small business owner.

As consumer HD video technology gradually makes its way into the HD video surveillance market, prices for HD security cameras will come down. In fact, as of late 2013, a number of companies have introduced HD security camera kits that come with a set of four 720p HD cameras, cabling and an NVR for less than $1,000. This represents the beginning of HD video surveillance for the mass consumer market, however, these kits are still substantially more expensive than a standard definition security camera kit. NVRs also run on sophisticated software that may need to have bugs worked out of it before it is appealing to the typical homeowner. For instance, the NVR software may be klunky and it may be difficult and time-consuming to search for events on the HD video surveillance using these cheaper, consumer-grade NVRs. Remember, HD video surveillance footage requires much more data storage and high performance hardware to search through hours and hours of digital footage.

Wireless (Wi-Fi) IP Security Cameras

Wi-fi security cameras are all the rage with consumers for home video surveilance. These cameras use a wireless camera that transmits the video to your router which allows the video to be accessed online from virtually anywhere. They are also sometimes referred to as network cameras or IP security cameras. These cameras utilize the IP, or Internet Protocol to allow video data (and sometimes audio data) to be transmitted over the internet to allow remote viewing. For example, you can set up a wi-fi camera in your home and monitor your home from a location in another city or state using the internet or smartphone app to access the video online. Examples of this type of camera are the Dropcam, Foscam, and other cameras by Logitech, Belkin and a host of other manufacturers. Some wi-fi cameras (such as the Dropcam) also allow the video to be recorded and stored for a certain amount of time on a remote server (cloud storage). This service usually costs a monthly subscription fee and allows the user to retrieve stored video. This type of system is known as Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) and is becoming more common as the high speed internet infrastructure to handle large amounts of data is expanded. In fact, many security companies and some internet service providers are offering free IP security cameras in exchange for signing up for a monthly subscription fee. VSaaS eliminates the need for a DVR or NVR recording device because the video surveillance footage is transmitted over the internet to a cloud server. Should the home be broken into and the camera stolen, the video surveillance footage is stored on the cloud server and can be retrieved remotely through the internet.

Wi-fi security cameras are ideal for use as an indoor security camera. These are generally somewhat delicate, and generally do not have outdoor weather protection, unless the model is specifically for outdoor use. While there can be problems associated with using wireless cameras over long distances in outdoor situations, modern wi-fi security cameras are well suited to indoor use. These cameras can be used as a nanny camera and are ideal for the homeowner who wants to be able to check in on their home from work. It is also possible to have multiple wi-fi cameras set up to monitor various rooms of your home or your business indoors. Options such as the Dropcam are simple to set up and do not require complex steps such as IP address configuration and router settings adjustments that other IP cameras require to function properly.


Choosing the best security camera system requires defining what your needs are and what you want to accomplish and what your budget allows for. In general, here are a couple key points:

  • For outdoor video surveillance (where weatherproof cameras are required) your main choices are either an SD or HD camera system. Eventually, the older SD security camera systems will be phased out by the HD cameras, but the low cost of the SD systems and the many different types of SD cameras available mean that SD camera systems are still the most practical option for most homeowners and even small business owners. Cheap video surveillance is available in the form of SD.

  • If money is no object, then an HD system will provide superior resolution, however, there is a learning curve to utilize the VMS or NVR to retrieve recordings and the actual set up of the cameras will be more complicated. Therefore, this option is only practical for homeowners that are willing to expend a lot of money and time.

  • For indoor video surveillance, wi-fi security cameras provide a great option for those looking to monitor their home or small business from just about anywhere with internet access. The Dropcam is an example of a wi-fi security camera that is easy to set up, and allows the option of recording, storing and retrieving the video surveillance on a remote cloud server (VSaas). This option is a very practical and affordable video surveillance option for homeowners that just need to keep an eye on the inside of their home or small business.

  • NOTE: Information provided on HowToSurveillance.com is general information only, and is not intended to substitute for informed professional advice. HowToSurveillance advises you to contact a qualified professional regarding your specific surveillance needs. HowToSurveillance advises you to determine and comply with all federal, state and local laws regarding the use and purchase of surveillance equipment, and shall not be held liable for any damages resulting from the use, misuse, or unlawful use of the information presented herein.