There’s a gap in your coverage, and you’re not sure how to close it. The building you’re in is just a bit too far to get a clear image of the front of the parking lot from where you sit. You have a couple of choices at this point. You can just put up a normal camera and hope for the best, or you could get a variable focus camera, allowing you to get just that little bit closer and get the image you need. Understanding Specialty CCTV Cameras and Applications, and how to utilize them in your CCTV arsenal is one of the keys to a successful CCTV system. Let’s go over some of the more popular cameras and see what they have to offer.
1. The Variable Focus Camera (Vari-Focal)
- Dome or Bullet Style Camera Options
- Most widely available in 2.8 to 12mm focal lengths, so should fit most needs
- Allows user to focus on what’s important in the image, and set themselves
- Once the focal length is set, it’s set until the end of time. It’s not going anywhere.
- Can be a little finicky when trying to set
- May need a helper to get things focused properly, since it has to be done at the camera (Except for Motorized Zoom with UTC)
- Parking Lots
- Gas Pumps
- Cash Register Coverage
- Long Driveways for Home Users
- Anywhere that a tighter image is needed
There’s a reason I mentioned the Variable Focus or Vari-focal first. These are versatile cameras that will allow the end-user to get a nice, close image, without having to purchase an expensive box camera and lens. If you need to see an entry gate that is 70 feet away from the camera, the Vari-Focal Camera allows you to Zoom into that area and therefore use the highest resolution of the camera. With a standard fixed lens, your image may include the entry gate but also a significant area to the right and left of it. The gate will seem farther away and image quality of that area is greatly reduced. The Vari-Focal lens also gives the option to adjust the image if the user wants a wider angle in the future. Available in domes and bullets, they are easy to fit into any system configuration. You can also get a motorized zoom, Vari-focal camera, which cuts down on install time as they will auto focus the image for you. Just zoom in or out to the focal length you want and let it do it’s thing! The Camera will automatically get the perfectly focused image.
Mounting these cameras above or near a cash register is a really great way to keep track of employee movement when it comes to your business. With the current resolutions, you can even tell what denomination the bills are most of the time. Pictured is the STOIC, STH-B3271W Vari-Focal Bullet with 240 Feet of Night Vision. See it HERE!
2. The Panoramic or Fisheye Camera
- Large field of view
- Available in indoor and outdoor versions
- Monitor a whole room with a single camera
- Great for large or small spaces
- Many have software that allows for de-warping of the image
- Some have two-way audio
- If you’re looking for detail, this may fall short. Panoramic Security Cameras are really meant for a good overview rather than being a pin-point solution. That’s really the only con for these, though.
- Small or large stores
- Parking lots
The Panoramic camera is relatively new in the CCTV industry. Being able to cover a large area with a single camera is great for people with a smaller budget but can be great in supplementing any existing system. In the case of a large warehouse, three of these cameras can cover the vast majority of the interior. Adding fixed cameras to that, you can have a 7 or 8 camera solution that will cover an entire warehouse efficiently and can save money in the process. These Cameras are also great for covering a four-way hallway. Mount the camera on the ceiling, in the center, and you can see in all four directions.
Image below was taken with the STH-D1390WP
Covering a parking lot is similar. Mounted horizontally, the camera’s view is 180 degrees. This can easily cover 18 parking spots at a distance of only 30 feet, with just one camera. A single camera for overview supplemented with pin-point cameras would make for easy parking lot coverage. Not to mention inexpensive.
3. Starvis Low-Light Cameras
- Ultra Low-Light images in color
- Available in domes and bullets
- Amazing for ambient lighting, like restaurants and bars.
- Stays in color… it bears repeating
- None, to be honest. Maybe I can come up with some nit-picky thing… Nope.
- Anywhere that needs a color picture with a low-light environment
- Perfect for bars, cafes, restaurants, pool halls, etc…
We’ve done a previous post on the Starvis Back-Illuminated sensor and a few of the cameras that use them. It’s one of the few camera sensors that we always show off in our live demos. The difference in light sensitivity is pretty dramatic, which is why it’s always on our list. The applications for this one are pretty endless.
(Image on the left is without Starvis, on the right with Starvis. Two similar cameras side by side, same lighting conditions)
It’s a great sensor to begin with, but adding the low-light ability just puts it on another level. Let’s say you run a bar or have a client with a dimly lit restaurant and you or your client would prefer not to have to look at a black and white image all the time. When there’s very little light and IR sensors come on, the image tends to get a bit blown out. It’s dark enough for the IR to kick on, but still too bright for the IR to really be effective. With a Starvis equipped security camera, you’ll get a great image without having it get blown out, and still be able to accurately describe an individual should the need arise.
4. PTZ Cameras (Pan, Tilt, Zoom Cameras)
- Be everywhere all the time. Okay, not really… but you do have complete control of the camera. Pan, tilt, and zoom from the DVR.
- Programmable sentry mode means that you can set your own waypoints for the PTZ to track.
- Available with motion tracking
- Usually a minimum of 18x optical zoom available, some are up to 36x
- These cameras can get relatively expensive. Some even like cheap, used car expensive. Most aren’t, however, and will pay for themselves in the right application.
- They’re a bit large, so make sure that you’re okay with people being able to see them. (Generally not a problem with commercial applications).
- Can be a huge “Hit Me First” sign for vandals. Not a great idea to mount a PTZ at ground level.
- Large areas that need wide, pin-point coverage.
- Any application that demands on-the-fly control of a camera
- Great for warehouses, malls, shopping centers, etc…
- Usually for larger scale surveillance, but can be used for a home setting
- Active surveillance such as panning and zooming in to a license plate, or face.
Simply put, the PTZ camera is a wonderful option for any setting which needs a wide range of options, and needs it to be variable at a moment’s notice. Not only that, but playing around with these cameras is just cool. It’s amazing to just pan around and zoom in on things. Sounds kind of dorky, but it’s true. That aside, they’re wonderful for large-scale surveillance. Shopping centers, warehouses, large properties, even home applications. Keep in mind that while these cameras are coming down in price, the feature-heavy models are still quite expensive. The higher end models are up into the 4k (resolution, not price) range. They’re also starting to develop features like crowd recognition, facial recognition, abandoned bag detection, etc… these are features that are available now, but aren’t really quite there enough for the mass market. A good, entry level PTZ will start a just a few hundred dollars and go up from there.
There are other specialty security camera types that are not on this list, but these are the most common and useful that we’ve found. If you have any questions about these cameras, or have a question about your specific security application, please don’t hesitate to give us a call!