Here are our camera picks for 2018. They are listed in no particular order (they are quite varied in terms of cost and feature set, which makes them difficult to rank as a “top 10″ list), however they are all cameras that, due to their impressive features, we recommend to our customers for use with our SecuritySpy CCTV software for the Mac.
Some abbreviations used below are as follows:
MP – Megapixels – the number of millions of pixels in the image sensor. The higher this number, the more detailed the image, but resolution isn’t everything: the optical quality of the lens system is also extremely important.
PoE – Power-over-Ethernet – when using a PoE switch, the camera draws power over the ethernet cable and therefore doesn’t need a separate power supply. This is very useful for easy installation and ongoing reliability.
IR – Infra-Red – some cameras include Infra-Red LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) for night vision. Usually the manufacturer will specify the maximum useful range of the IR in meters.
P-Iris / DC-Iris – These features allow the camera lens to automatically adjust its aperture size, based on the amount of incoming light. P-Iris is more sophisticated and will give better results than than DC-Iris, but both are far better than a Fixed-Iris lens, especially for outdoor applications.
Varifocal – most lenses have a fixed focal length, whereas varifocal lenses allow you to zoom in and out somewhat (sometimes manually, sometimes motorised), to adjust the field of view. A focal length of 2.8mm is very wide-angle; 4mm is standard; 8mm is moderately telephoto.
PTZ – Pan, Tilt, Zoom – motorised remote control of the camera’s horizontal and vertical angle, and focal length.
Hikvision has a huge range of IP cameras, with quite a few outdoor bullet-type models at very good prices. This particular models offers a good all-round feature set, with 4 MP resolution, great low-light sensitivity, PoE support and 30-meter IR night-vision. It’s also great value, retailing at around $100.
Merit LILIN is an established manufacturer of quality IP surveillance products, and has an extensive array of network cameras available for sale, from inexpensive consumer-level cameras to top-quality professional models.
The LILIN LD2222 and IPD2220 are both dome-type indoor 2 MP cameras with very similar feature sets. They are small and discreet, and can supply 1080p HD video as well as audio via a built-in microphone. Both support Power-over-Ethernet, making them easy to install when using a PoE-enabled switch. The main difference between the two models is the low-light performance: the LD2222 is rated down to 0.6 lux while the IPD2220 is specified to produce useful images at down to 0.2 lux, due to what LILIN calls “Sense UP+” low-light technology. This potentially makes the IPD2220 particularly useful for installation in locations with poor lighting.
Here we are testing the LD2222E4, which has a 4mm lens (there is also a LD2222E2 model available with a 2.8mm lens), and the IPD2220ES2, which has a 2.8mm lens (there is also a IPD2220ES4.3 model available with a 4mm lens). The shorter the focal length the wider the angle of view, however lenses with very short focal lengths (such as 2.8mm) tend to exhibit significant barrel distortion, resulting in a mild fish-eye effect.
Vivotek is a long-standing manufacturer of quality IP surveillance products, and have an extensive lineup of network cameras to suit all requirements. We have supported their cameras in our Mac CCTV software SecuritySpy for over a decade, and we frequently recommend them to our customers.
The IB8168 is a small simple bullet-style camera for indoor use. Like its dome-style counterpart, the FD8168, it is described by Vivotek as “ultra-mini”, which is certainly appropriate for a camera that measures a mere 11cm (4.5″) long and 3cm (1.25″) in diameter. It features a 2 MP sensor that can supply 1080p video at 15fps, and is powered by PoE (Power-over-Ethernet), with no option to directly connect a power adaptor. One notable feature of this camera is the size of its image sensor, which, at 1/2.7″, is larger than the 1/3″ or 1/4″ sizes typically seen in IP cameras. Larger sensors almost always equal higher-quality images, due to lower noise and higher dynamic range.
The casing and mount are all made from plastic, which gives the camera a bit of a cheap feel. In addition, the rear cap (which can be removed to reveal a status light, SD card slot and reset button) is a little too easy to unfasten, so in an install I would be inclined to use glue or tape to ensure it doesn’t fall off accidentally. However the camera and mount are well-designed, allowing secure mounting and flexible positioning.
Despite a history of producing cheap cameras of questionable quality, Foscam has recently released some very promising models. Their cameras are popular with our customers due to their low prices, so we are very keen to investigate the new models on offer from this long-standing manufacturer.
The Foscam FI9800P is a compact outdoor 1 MP network camera with night-vision, built-in wireless communication, and audio input (microphone not included). Most waterproof outdoor cameras on the market do not have WiFi, so this is an unusual set of features that makes this camera particularly suited for installations where running ethernet cabling would be problematic.
Another nice feature is the mechanical IR-cut filter, which will filter out infrared light during the day while allowing it to pass through to the sensor at night. Having the IR-cut filter in place during the day results in better colour reproduction and image clarity. Many low-cost cameras with night-vision do not have an IR-cut filter, and this results in unfocussed images with bad colour reproduction in daylight.
Dahua Technology has been a major player in the IP camera market for the last few years, and their current lineup of cameras boasts many impressive models at very reasonable prices. Their outdoor bullet cameras in particular are very popular, and we frequently recommend them to our customers.
The IPC-HDW4300C is a compact outdoor dome camera. While there are a bewildering number of dome cameras on the market, this one stands out from the competition due to it’s comprehensive feature set, which includes 3 MP resolution, PoE (power-over-ethernet), infrared night-vision and built-in microphone. It’s rare to see an outdoor camera with a built-in microphone, so this feature alone makes the IPC-HDW4300C unusual. In addition, this camera has impressive low-light sensitivity, at 0.01 lux for colour and 0.005 lux for black and white. This, combined with the camera’s built-in infrared illumination, makes the camera suitable for outdoor locations where lighting is poor.
Due to the camera’s all-metal construction, it feels very solid and no doubt will be very durable. It’s compact in size, measuring just over 10cm (4″) across the base, and 9cm (3.5″) tall from base to dome.
There is a wide variety of network cameras on the market, and Foscam is firmly at the lower end, producing inexpensive cameras for home use. Unfortunately, due to reliability issues, we officially support only a handful of their cameras in our Mac video surveillance NVR software SecuritySpy. However, Foscam cameras are very popular with customers due to their low cost, and they have certainly improved in quality recently, so we are continuously reviewing this situation and adding support for new Foscam cameras wherever possible.
Foscam has just released a new camera, the C1, which offers a nice set of features at an amazing price (and hopefully spells the end of their horribly confusing model numbers!). For just USD $80 (GBP £54 or EUR €70) you get 1 MP resolution, WiFi, built-in infra-red LEDs for night vision, and audio. Here’s our take on it:
The camera is very compact, measuring just 7cm (2.7″) wide and 12cm (4.7″) tall when fully extended. It’s powered by a USB cable from a small USB power adaptor. This is a useful feature, making it easy to replace the cable or power adaptor when required – for example, if you need a longer cable than the 2m (6.5′) one provided.
Foscam C1 IP camera with Magic Mouse for size comparison