Analog vs digital security cameras
When building your home security system, you are definitely going to want to include several security cameras. But you may run into the issue that there are so many cameras on the market that will make your choice rather challenging. To make this easier, you will first want to know about the two camera types: analog and digital. Most professional home security systems utilize both options, as both analog and digital cameras have their pros and cons. When it comes to analog vs digital security cameras, it all depends on your circumstances and how you want your security system to be set up. In this article, we are going to take a look at how these security cameras work, their pros and cons, and provide you with some recommendations as well.
How do analog security cameras work?
Analog cameras of today come in two varieties, low-resolution analog security cameras and HD analog security cameras. The former is mostly obsolete at this point but it may have some use in low-cost home security systems.
An analog security camera is a device that utilizes a coaxial cable to connect it to a video monitor or a DVR (Digital Video Recorder). The main reason why you are still able to purchase a low-resolution analog camera is the fact that many old systems still use them. That being said, analog cameras are slowly being pushed out in favor of digital security cameras. Most of the different types of home security systems of today utilize either an HD analog camera or a digital security camera. If you are looking to set up your home security system for the first time, you will want to know more about both camera types.
To start with, analog home security cameras’ resolution is measured through “TV lines”. If you are looking to purchase an analog camera, this is a term that you need to be familiar with.
A TV line is, quite simply, a line that scans up and down your TV’s screen, forming the image. The greater the number of TV lines an analog camera is able to produce, the better the image quality. Now, if you are not specifically going for an old-fashioned analog camera, you might want to skip buying any device that has a “TV line” specification. The reason for this is that these cameras produce low-quality images, even at 1000 TV lines or more. In most cases, these cameras are unable to create a clear image even if someone is standing a few feet away from it.
These are relics of the past, so to speak, and you have much better options at your disposal. If you are “dead-set” on purchasing analog cameras for any reason, you will want to look at HD analog security cameras instead.
HD analog camera
An HD analog camera utilizes a coaxial cable to produce an image that is measured in megapixels. You might be familiar with the term as it is used to represent the image quality of mobile phone cameras. An HD analog security camera is capable of producing video output of up to 8 megapixels. However, you will most likely be dealing with lower resolution cameras, unless you plan to considerably invest in your home security system. One thing to note about HD analog security cameras is that they are not compatible with older low-resolution analog security systems. The compression that the camera uses is completely different.
HD analog cameras operate under one of the three video formats:
- Analog High Definition (AHD)
- High-definition composite video interface (HD-CVI), and
- High Definition Transport Video Interface (HD-TVI)
The most popular video format, as of today, is HD-TVI, and the least popular is AHD. With this in mind, you might want to be careful of manufacturers slowly phasing out AHD, meaning that it might become increasingly more difficult to find security cameras for this format.
Interestingly enough, there are no discernable differences between the video formats when it comes to video quality. The difference usually lies in the features of DVRs that are required to reproduce the image captured by these cameras. If you are undertaking the risks of DIY home security installation, you will want to purchase a DVR that is compatible with all three formats, just to be safe. You can, however, get one that does not support AHD, unless you require that specific format for your existing home security system.
HD analog security cameras still have their place in home security systems. But they come with advantages and disadvantages.
Pros and cons of HD analog cameras
Many home security experts will state that when it comes to analog vs digital security cameras, IP (Digital) cameras are far superior to HD analog cameras. However, this is not the case. Since regular analog cameras are quite obsolete at this point, we will be discussing why you may (or may not) want to install HD security cameras for your home security system.
- Fewer compatibility issues
- Utilize a coaxial cable / category 5e network cable
- Cable length is not a problem
- Less connectivity with home media devices
- Cannot utilize memory cards or clouds
The main benefit of an HD analog home security camera is that it is much cheaper and more cost-efficient than a digital camera. Furthermore, since they have been on the market for longer, compatibility is far better than that found on digital cameras, as almost every DVR from any manufacturer is compatible with almost any HD analog camera. Lastly, the fact that these cameras utilize coaxial cables, which are really easy to acquire, replace, and maintain, is a big bonus. Cable length is not an issue either, as HD analog cameras can have up to 1500 feet of cable length without compromising image quality.
On the other hand, you can’t simply play the recording from an HD analog camera via your smartphone or a computer. You will need to connect these devices to a DVR first. Digital cameras are much more convenient in this regard. Speaking of convenience, the fact that you can’t have a memory card or utilize cloud storage with HD analog home security cameras can be very inconvenient for some.
Lastly, there’s the fact that HD analog cameras are far simpler to install and troubleshoot. Of course, since there are so many different types of home security cameras, some of them might be easier to install/troubleshoot than others. But in general, HD analog cameras win in this particular scenario.
Digital security cameras
The main benefit of an IP (Internet Protocol), or digital security cameras, is the fact that they receive and send their footage through an IP network. Thus, they are commonly used in surveillance systems as well as many home security systems. Another great benefit is the fact that digital cameras are their own recording device, provided they are connected to a local network. These cameras connect to the network exactly the same as your phone and computer do.
Digital cameras also have a much higher possible resolution. It is possible to hit as many as 16 megapixels with a digital camera. However, this is usually not that big of an issue when it comes to home security systems. The difference between 8 megapixels and 16 megapixels is all but indistinguishable for the average person. Digital cameras have their own share of pros and cons, as well. Let’s take a look.
The main benefits of utilizing a digital camera in your home security system are:
- Image quality
- Fewer cables
- Wireless capabilities
- Easier to position
Digital security cameras provide much greater coverage than HD analog cameras. In some cases, you might require 3 or even 4 HD analog cameras to achieve the same coverage as a single digital camera. While analog cameras might be cheaper, if you need fewer of them…you do the math.
While the image quality might not be as important, the fact that digital security cameras often have digital zoom features can be quite important. Having the ability to zoom over 100ft may be the deciding factor for some homeowners.
And then there’s the fact that digital cameras require far fewer cables than HD analog cameras. If you are not only looking to improve the privacy of your home but want to maintain the aesthetic appeal, having fewer cables is always welcome. Additionally, digital cameras have wireless capability, further reducing the need for cables and getting them one step further in the analog vs digital security cameras “race”.
Lastly, most of today’s digital cameras have encryption features. This means that it will be extremely difficult for anyone to steal your data.
The main issues that come with digital cameras are:
- Hard to install/setup
- Bandwidth requirements
- Storage requirements
Even though you may require fewer cables for the installation, that does not mean it is simpler. In fact, installing digital cameras into your home security system can sometimes be quite challenging. Setting everything up may require hours of troubleshooting and is generally very difficult if this is your first time dealing with digital cameras.
The price tag on digital cameras is significantly higher than their analog counterparts, as well. If you can’t take advantage of the wider field of coverage, it will be more expensive to install them ins. And then there’s the issue of necessary bandwidth. If you live in an area with a “spotty” or slow internet connection, you might want to consider analog security cameras. Getting higher broadband speed is an option but it represents yet another expense.
Lastly, higher resolution and frame rates that digital cameras produce will require more storage capacity. While hard drives are not that expensive, it is still another cost that you need to factor in.
Analog vs digital security cameras
When it comes to analog vs digital security cameras, there is no contest. But between HD analog cameras and digital cameras, there are no clear winners. The choice usually depends on a variety of factors, with the price being the most prominent one. Digital cameras offer much better image quality but that is usually not a concern for most homeowners.
There are a lot of questions that you need to ask before you can get to the optimal choice. Will you install the home security system on your own? Do your cameras need to cover large areas? Will you use your smartphone to view the footage? The more questions you ask, the easier it will be to make the best choice.
HD analog cameras are best utilized in small areas, where digital cameras thrive when wide coverage is required. It is also possible to combine the two in a home security system, as well. But this comes with unique installation/setup challenges. Furthermore, there is another thing to consider: Availability. While HD analog security cameras are still quite prominent, they are slowly being “phased out”. More and more security systems utilize digital cameras, meaning that more of them are being produced. Currently, the price difference between analog and digital is significant but that might change in the coming years.
Ultimately, the choice comes down to your circumstances, needs, and requirements. There is no clear winner when it comes to analog vs digital security cameras. It is all about the features that you expect from your security system and whether you are planning to install it on your own. Analog home security systems are usually more difficult to install but they are much easier to troubleshoot and maintain. Whereas digital systems might be easier to set up initially but troubleshooting them can be extremely difficult at times. Either way, it is usually best to leave the home security system installation to the professionals.
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