Here are our network camera picks for 2019. 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 require a separate power supply. This is very useful for easy installation and ongoing reliability. Note that some cameras require the higher-powered PoE+ standard.
- 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 – These lenses allow you to zoom in and out somewhat (sometimes manually, sometimes motorised), in order to adjust the field of view at installation time. 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.
BASIC OUTDOOR DOME: DAHUA TECHNOLOGY N44CG52 / N44CG53
If there were an award for confusing model numbering, it would go to Dahua. They have so many models, which vary between markets (China / US / international) that it can be difficult to pin down which model to buy. If you are in the US, I would recommend using Dahua’s US-specific site as a reference, and specifically seeking out cameras with US-specific model numbers. Other Dahua cameras advertised on outlets such as eBay and Amazon may be “grey market” products: Chinese-market-only cameras that have been flashed by the vendors with English-language firmware. While these can work well, they are not officially supported by Dahua, and you won’t be able to update their firmware in the future without the cameras reverting back to Chinese language.
Still, Dahua Technology do produce an array of impressive cameras, and the N44CG52 “eyeball” camera is a good example of a basic but well-featured dome camera that will give good results in any system. N44CG52 appears to be a US-only model number, while the international model number is IPC-HDW4431EM-ASE.
The N44CG52 provides an ample 4 MP resolution, with good low-light sensitivity, 50m IR night-vision capability and PoE. Unusually for outdoor cameras, it has a built-in microphone. At US$ 170, it is good value considering the resolution and feature set.
The difference between the N44CG52 and N44CG53 variants is the lens, with the former having a wide-angle 2.8mm lens that provides a 104° horizontal angle of view, and the latter having a 3.6mm lens that provides an 83° horizontal angle of view.
If you are hunting for a bargain, the IPC-HDW4433C-A model is a Chinese-market camera with very similar specifications at a lower price, that is commonly available in the US and UK. However note that, outside China, this is a grey-market item, as described above.
HIGH-SPEC OUTDOOR DOME: VIVOTEK FD8382-VF2
Vivotek has so many good dome cameras that it’s difficult to pick one, but this model stands out due to its comprehensive feature set and competitive price point.
This camera’s 5 MP sensor and P-Iris lens ensure high image quality, and the good low-light sensitivity and 30-meter IR illumination provide effective night-vision. The optical system features an electronically-focussed 3-9mm varifocal lens, ranging from wide-angle to moderately telephoto. The camera features PoE for easy installation, and there is also an “Extreme Weather” variant with a built-in heater that can operate down to -20°C (-4°F).
While the camera does have an audio input, it has no built-in microphone, so you would need to attach a separate microphone in order to get audio. The retail price is around US$ 330, which is excellent value.
HIGH-SPEC INDOOR DOME: VIVOTEK FD8177-HT
This is an ideal choice for an indoor PoE dome camera for an office or commercial environment. Combined with a 4 MP sensor, the P-iris lens ensures high image quality in a wide range of lighting conditions, while electronic focus allows fine adjustment for optimum sharpness. The 2.8-12mm varifocal lens gives a good range of adjustment for different installation situations.
Good low-light sensitivity and 30-meter IR illumination provide effective night-vision, and the camera includes a built-in microphone. Pricing is around US $330.
WIDE-ANGLE INDOOR DOME: AXIS M3046–V
Aside from its good image quality and impressive feature set, this camera is notable for its unusually wide field of view: a 2.4mm lens option gives a 128° horizontal field of view, whereas a 1.8mm lens option gives a truly impressive 152° horizontal field of view.
The resolution depends on the lens option you go for: with the 2.4mm lens you get 4 MP but with the 1.8mm lens you get a reduced 3 MP (a possible reason for this reduction could be to remove some of the more extreme distortions that typically occur towards the edges of the frame with ulltra-wide lenses).
Low-light performance is good but this camera has no specific night-vision capabilities, so it should be used in areas with round-the-clock lighting, or at least motion-activated lighting. PoE makes for easy installation. This camera costs around US$ 400.
INEXPENSIVE OUTDOOR BULLET: DAHUA TECHNOLOGY N41BD22
This outdoor PoE bullet camera (international model number IPC-HFW1431S) is a good basic model that is suitable for any CCTV system. Its 4 MP resolution is high enough for most purposes, and its good low-light sensitivity and 30-meter IR lighting makes this camera a solid performer at night. Its optical system is basic, comprising a 2.8mm lens with fixed focal length, fixed iris and fixed focus, but that is to be expected for a camera in this price bracket, retailing at around US$ 140.
HIGH-SPEC OUTDOOR BULLET: SHARX HTNC4503M
The more sophisticated optical system sets this outdoor PoE bullet camera apart from the above Dahua model: it has a 3.6mm-10mm motorised varifocal auto-iris lens, which is capable of delivering excellent image quality in wide range of lighting conditions. Good low-light sensitivity and 30-meter IR ensure good night vision, and at 5 MP, this camera’s resolution is high enough for most professional applications. At the widest 3.6mm end of the camera’s focal length range, it offers an angle of view of 94°, which is moderately wide. This camera retails at US$ 400.
INDOOR COMPACT: HIKVISION DS-2CD2442FWD-IW
There are a few consumer-level indoor compact cameras on the market from manufacturers such as Vivotek, Dahua Technology and Axis, but this one stands out due to its comprehensive feature set. At 4 MP, this camera’s resolution is easily high enough for most typical applications of this camera (e.g. use in a home or small office). It has three lens options: 2mm, 2.7mm and 4mm, providing 126°, 106° and 83° angles of view respectively.
Support for both PoE and WiFi provides flexibility for different installation situations (although we would always advise connecting cameras by wired Ethernet rather than WiFi wherever possible). A built-in microphone and speaker provide two-way audio, and a built-in PIR (Passive Infra Red) sensor that is capable of triggering recording.
Basic 10-meter night-vision is achieved using built-in IR illumination. At around US$ 110, this camera is excellent value.
INDOOR PAN/TILT COMPACT: HIKVISION DS-2CD2F22FWD-I(W)(S)
There are quite a few low-cost pan/tilt cameras of a similar form factor on the market, though most of them are simply not very good. This Hikvision model is a solid camera with a comprehensive feature set, that is suitable both for home and commercial use.
There are two different models depending on the resolution you need: the DS-2CD2F22FWD-I has a 2 MP sensor, while the DS-2CD2F42FWD-I provides 4 MP.
In addition, the “W” and “S” options indicate support for WiFi and audio respectively (however note that audio requires a separate microphone).
To further complicate things, there are three lens options: 2.8mm, 4mm and 6mm, that give angles of view of 106°, 83° and 55° respectively.
PoE is included as standard. Good low-light performance and 10-meter IR night-vision allows the camera to deliver good images at night, provided the subject is not too far away. Overall, this camera is a good performer, and far better than the cheap home-use pan/tilt cameras flooding the market (think Foscam, Wansview, YI etc.). The cost is around US$ 180.
OUTDOOR PTZ DOME: AMCREST IP2M-853E
Most outdoor dome cameras with similar feature sets are far more expensive, so this camera really does stand out in terms of value. At 2 MP, the resolution is adequate (if you are looking for higher resolution, Amcrest also do a IP4M-1053E model with a 4 MP sensor). 12x optical zoom (5.3mm-64mm) is very impressive, although note that at the wide end, the 58° field of view isn’t particularly wide.
Low-light performance and IR illumination are both excellent, giving the camera a long 100-meter night-vision range. An all-metal case and minimum operating temperature of -30°C (-22°F) make this cameras suitable for use in harsh weather conditions, while PoE+ aids in ease of installation.
At US$ 300, this camera really is very good value.
INDOOR PANORAMIC: AXIS M3047-P
Axis have a great range of panoramic cameras, including this 6 MP indoor model. It is designed to be installed in the ceiling in the centre of a room, and provides a complete 360° view of its surroundings. It can provide multiple simultaneous views, including the whole 360° overview, a 7:1 panorama, and quad views (i.e. four separate de-warped images that together cover the whole view).
Low-light performance is mediocre and there is no night-vision, but this camera is designed to be installed in indoor locations with lots of light (e.g. retail stores) so this is generally not going to be a problem. PoE is supported for easy installation. This camera retails for around US$ 400.
We hope this list helps you choose cameras for your own CCTV system based around our Mac NVR software SecuritySpy. If you have any questions about cameras, or about anything related to SecuritySpy, feel free to contact us and we will do our best to help!