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Beginners Guide to CCTV

Beginners Guide to CCTV

Choosing the right CCTV system for you

I am sure if you know very little about CCTV then you would call a CCTV supplier and simply say “ I need a CCTV system for my house, what do you recommend”?

If we were to answer that question as its put to us, then the answer would be “the most expensive one we sell”!

so before you ask anyone how much will it cost?, ask yourself these questions-

  • Do you want a particular brand or don’t mind what brand it is?
  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • How many cameras do you need?
  • What’s your budget?
  • New install or an upgrade?

All too often we get customers saying ” oh I don’t know how much they cost so I don’t know how much a need to spend”

Everyone knows what they want to spend, very few customers say” I have a bottomless pocket! “This is proven when we start quoting for 5MP IP cameras with ultra-low light pickup and 30-day of real-time recording at 5MP!! The simple fact is a customer wouldn’t go to a Mercedes car dealer when they have £10,000 to spend. In the same way, don’t expect “the best system ” when you want 8 cameras and £300! yes were are not a car dealer but we do have a wide selection of CCTV systems so your budget is the only limit.

Have a look through the CCTV kits we sell, this will give you an idea of what you will need for a complete cctv system and how much its likely to cost. We can put a system together based on your budget and requirements. If a kit doesn’t have the cameras you need, simply put a kit together by choosing all items separately. The price is not likely to be any different so don’t be put off.

Also, don’t say you can buy it cheaper on Amazon or eBay as we will simply say “you’re in the wrong place”

Once you have established how many cameras you need and how much you are willing to spend, it’s time to move on to what CCTV system suits your needs within the limits of your budget.

Hikvision, HiWatch & Qtron brand.

Hikvision & Hikvision Hiwatch are made by Hikvision and use the same app as well as having the same user interface. The Hiwatch range is aimed at those customers on a budget. We are often asked, ” is the quality the same”? The simple answer is no, Hiwatch is the BUDGET range.

Another popular question is, “is the Qtron as good as Hikvision?”. Qtron fixed lens IP cameras are about 30% cheaper than Hikvision and Qtron varifocal IP cameras are half the price of Hikvision varifocals. Picture quality is not as good as Hikvision.Qtron IP is plug and play with Hikvision recorders and the user interface is very similar. It also uses the same diagnostic software as Hikvision called SADP tool. All Qtrons sold from June 2018 require no confiragtion changes in order to get a picture on a Hikvision recorder

Qtron IP is cheaper than Hiwatch IP and picture quality is also better.

Types of CCTV Systems.

  • IP CCTV Systems also known as Network CCTV, .uses CAT5 cable which is the same cable as computer network cable.
  • Analogue CCTV systems – this uses RG59 coaxial cable for video signal and another pair of cable to carry the 12volts power for the cameras ( like TV aerial cable ) or can use CAT5 with video baluns.
  • Analogue CCTV with Power Over coaxial ( PoC) is new(ish) which uses an RG59 cable to carry the video signal and power over the same cable, The power for the cameras come from the recorder thus simplifying cabling. You can use a CAT5 cable with PoC but cable lengths will be limited to 50meters at most for a small fixed lens camera.
  • Wireless CCTV system – Look no wires – with far more disadvantages than advantages! Remember, you still need a power supply to run the cameras.
What’s the difference between IP CCTV systems and Analogue CCTV systems?

1 IP CCTV System

IP CCTV systems are very neat all in one unit with power and the digital signal being carried on just one cable. The power supply is built into the recorder which is called an NVR (Network Video Recorder). All you need to do is connect the camera with a network cable and that’s it. BUT don’t mix and match manufacturers unless we state that it is compatible with.

IP doesn’t mean you need the internet

Just about every DIYist says ” oh no i don’t want IP because I have to have the internet!” YOU ONLY NEED THE INTERNET TO VIEW THE CCTV WHEN YOU ARE NOT AT THE PROPERTY WHERE THE CCTV IS INSTALLED.

IP CCTV also offers the highest resolution ( image sharpness) which is measured in Mega Pixels ( MP) currently up to 12MP which is 6 times higher than current TV which is 2MP or 1080P.

BUT remember, the higher the resolution, the more space you will need to store your CCTV footage. The storage space is a device called a hard drive which is installed within the recorder ( NVR ). For details on what size hard drive you need, click here. Don’t forget that you are limited to the number of the hard drive that a recorder can take – Minimum of 1 hard drive and maximum of 8 if you have the need and budget. If you need more then speak to us at CCTV wholesales or a CCTV installer.

Buildings can be linked with just one cable to carry a large number of cameras ( not for the DIY)

Where cable can’t be installed, the signal can be transmitted wirelessly ( not for DIYist )

Existing mains cables can also carry the digital signals.

Whats the downside of IP CCTV?

First, the cost – IP CCTV systems will cost about 30% more than its “analogue ” versions. if cost is the first hurdle, then don’t go for IP.

The second disadvantage – If it doesn’t work when you plugged in the cables you need to determine what the fault may be. Most installers struggle with fault finding IP CCTV systems as they have just been used to plugging 2 wires in and getting a picture. IP needs basic networking skills for fault finding AND the installer must have a thorough knowledge of the product. Most installers don’t even turn up to a job with the basic tool which is a laptop! If you have called an installer to install your IP CCTV system and they don’t have a laptop, think again before letting them loose on your premises. IPADS and iPhones won’t do!

What do we suggest to ensure your install goes smoothly? Buy a simple CAT5 tester which is about £10, Test the cable with this tool and make sure all connects are secure by moving the cables. If you have made the cables up correctly and plugged one end into the NVR and other ends into a camera without stretching the cable and without going over 100meters, then you either have a faulty camera, faulty NVR or camera may not be compatible or there is a firmware mismatch if you didn’t buy the recorder and camera at the same time.

2) Analogue CCTV Systems

In 2015 you could be forgiven for saying ” analogue CCTV is dead”, why? Because in 2017, sales shifted back to analogue for the following simple reasons –

  • a) A 5MP IP camera will cost you twice as much as its analogue version
  • b) Up to 8MP resolution is now available on analogue
  • c) Analogue is cross-compatible with other manufacturers
  • d) 80% of properties already have the old system with coaxial cable and the analogue signal can be carried on these cables.
  • e) Simpler to find faults.

For a full new Analogue CCTV install, you will also need-

  • A Digital Video Recorder (DVR)
  • Analogue camera(s)
  • Hard drive – Only one needed
  • Cables- one per camera
  • Cable clips
  • Power supply – only one needed for all cameras
  • Power splitter – only one needed
  • CCTV monitor screen or your own TV to view it on
  • HDMI cable to connect your screen

What’s the downside of analogue?

You will get a signal even if poor quality cables are used but you may get interference – wavey lines or spots and so on.

Rolling lines if it’s installed on 3 phase building which most commercial builds have. and large domestic manor houses

Needs thicker cable than IP which could be a problem for under carpet wiring.

Need separate cable for audio microphones

Need separate cables for advanced functions such as PHYSICAL motion detection. ( don’t mention built-in motion detection on recorders which should only be used to save recording space).

Not easy to link without cables

Needs one cable between recorder and camera which makes it unsuitable for large areas such as shopping malls and separated buildings.

Analogue PoC

PoC stands for Power Over Coaxial. simply put, a single coaxial cable is used for the video signal and power and the power for the cameras is supplied by the recorder called a Digital Video Recorder with PoC ( DVR PoC) . There is no need for separate power supply or power splitter or shotgun ( siemese cable). You can’t use CAT5 cable for PoC

4) Wireless CCTV?

There are numerous wireless cameras on the market today hoping to capitalize on this trend. While a standalone wireless CCTV camera with SD card recording has its uses, generally speaking, a multi-camera system just isn’t viable when reliability is the single most important thing to consider, which most of the time it is. To add to this, there are far more wired options available to the consumer.

Which camera?


All too often customer says I want 8 megapixels and then they say “it’s not any good at night!” Currently, 2MP Sony Starvis or the Sony Starlight will outperform any 5MP cameras at night in anologue CCTV systems.

A cameras performances in low light is determined by its sensitivity to light which is measured in LUX. A 0.008 lux camera would provide a better image in low light than a camera that has a LUX figure of 0.01. So don’t just go for the highest Megapixels, you need to take both figures into account.

Lens, viewing angles, and zoom

By now you will have worked out what cameras you want and where you want them. Next, you will need to calculate what coverage you want from your cameras. Viewing angle of the camera is determined by both its lens size and sensor size. A wider angle of view will allow you to see more area but will be more zoomed out, making it more difficult to catch finer details such as vehicle registration plates or faces. A narrow field of view will be the opposite, more zoomed in but less overall coverage. It’s important to find a happy medium.


As we’ve discussed the size of the lens will determine the field of view. The smaller the lens size the more zoomed out and wide angle the field of view will be. Small lenses such as 2.8mm are great for porches where the subject will be very close to the camera and larger lens sizes will be good for looking at more distant areas such as driveway entrances. Some cameras will have the choice of a Varifocal lens. This is an adjustable lens that can be tuned to suit exactly. In some cases, there are motorized Varifocal lenses that can be zoomed in and out remotely if the viewing area needs to be changed regularly. These are most commonly found on PTZ cameras where all the axis are motorized allowing the unit to “pan, tilt, and zoom”.

Remote viewing via the internet

One of the most popular features of modern CCTV systems is having network capabilities to remotely view over the internet, even when using analogue cameras. All of our CCTV systems allow viewing over the internet and there are no additional costs. Setting up is now very easy thanks to self-networking built into each recorder.

Recording resolution and framerates

The other important factors to consider that will affect the quality of the recordings are the recording resolution and frame rate per camera. The recording resolution is the size of the image that will be replayed back to you (measured in pixels), so the higher resolution will always contain more detail.

The frame rate is measured in frames per second (FPS), which determines how smooth the recordings are. The more frames per second the smoother the recording. Recording at the higher frame rates and quality will result in better quality recordings but will also use more storage space, so it is best to reduce the quality and framerate to the point that the recordings are not unusable and therefore maximizing your storage.

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