Here are our network camera picks for 2020. 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. All the wired Ethernet (i.e. non-WiFi) cameras on this list support PoE, but note that the larger “speed dome” cameras typically 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.
For purchasing IP cameras, we recommend B&H Photo Video – they are a reliable, established outlet. Amazon is another option, however there are many “grey market” cameras sold on Amazon (e.g. cameras designed for the Chinese market only, but sold into the US against the manufacturer’s rules), which should be avoided due to potentially foreign-language user interfaces, lack of firmware upgrades, and lack of support from the manufacturer.
BASIC OUTDOOR DOME: DAHUA TECHNOLOGY N44BN52
This compact outdoor Dome camera from Dahua is a good inexpensive ($180) camera for covering an outdoor area. 4 MP resolution and good low-light sensitivity, combined with 20m night vision and a built-in microphone, provide all the basic features necessary to make an effective addition to any CCTV system. And it works in temperatures down to -40° C (–40° F), making it ideal for extreme environments.
HIGH-SPEC OUTDOOR DOME: HANWHA TECHWIN QNV-7080R
Previously owned by Samsung, this manufacturer has an impressive array of high-quality cameras. The QNV-7080R is particularly notable for its sophisticated optical system (2.8 – 12mm motorised varifocal lens with auto iris), giving more flexibility for installation, and providing superior images, compared with the basic fixed lenses found in most other dome cameras in this price range ($320).
With a 4 MP resolution, good low-light sensitivity, and night-vision to 30m, this camera has all the features required to provide high-quality images during day or night.
MINI INDOOR DOME: VIVOTEK FD8166A-F2-W
Vivotek have a reputation for high-quality products, and this model is no exception. With its small form factor, low price ($200), good low-light sensitivity, and built-in microphone, this is a good basic camera to cover an indoor location. If night-vision is required, the related model FD8166A-N provides this (up to 6m). These cameras have a 2 MP sensor, which is fine for general-purpose use, but Vivotek have plenty of other models with higher resolutions, if required.
WIDE-ANGLED INDOOR DOME: AXIS M3046-V
Aside from its good image quality and impressive feature set, this camera is notable for its unusually wide field of view: a 2.4mm lens option gives a 128° horizontal field of view, or a 1.8mm lens option gives a truly impressive 152° horizontal field of view.
The resolution depends on the lens option you go for: with the 2.4mm lens you get 4 MP but with the 1.8mm lens you get a reduced 3 MP (a possible reason for this reduction could be to remove some of the more extreme distortions that typically occur towards the edges of the frame with ulltrawide lenses).
Low-light performance is good but this camera has no specific night-vision capabilities, so it should be used in areas with round-the-clock lighting, or at least motion-activated lighting. This camera costs around US$ 300.
BASIC OUTDOOR BULLET: DAHUA TECHNOLOGY A42AB23
This simple outdoor bullet camera is suitable for any CCTV system. With 4 MP resolution, good low-light sensitivity, and 40m night-vision, this camera can provide good images both day and night, and is good value at around $130. Dahua have a wide range of bullet-type cameras, so their other models are worth a look if you need any further features (e.g. higher resolution, vari-focal etc.).
HIGH-SPEC OUTDOOR BULLET: HANWHA TECHWIN QNO-7080R
This camera’s optical system is superior to the above Dahua bullet camera, comprising an auto-iris vari-focal lens. This allows for more flexible installation and higher quality images in all lighting conditions. With a 4 MP resolution, built-in microphone, 30m night-vision, and good low-light sensitivity, this camera is great value at around $320.
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 is capable of triggering recording.
Basic 10-meter night-vision is provided via built-in IR illumination. At around $130, this camera is excellent value.
INDOOR PAN/TILT COMPACT: AMCREST IP4M-1051
This is a good basic pan/tilt camera for indoor domestic or small business installations. Features include a 4 MP sensor, 10m night vision, WiFi, and two-way audio via a built-in microphone and speaker, all for under $100. Don’t expect stellar image quality, but it’s a good all-rounder if you need a basic pan/tilt camera.
OUTDOOR PTZ SPEED DOME: AMCREST IP4M-1053E
The specifications of this camera are very impressive, considering the diminutive price of around $380: 4 MP, 100m night vision, and 12x optical zoom. An all-metal case, and the ability to operate down to a temperature of -40°C (-40°F), make this camera suitable for harsh environments.
Axis have a great range of panoramic cameras, including these two models, one with 6 MP resolution (model M3047-P, $440), and the other with 12 MP resolution (model M3048-P, $600). These cameras are designed to be installed in the ceiling in the centre of a room, providing a complete 360° view of their surroundings. They 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 these camera are designed to be installed in indoor locations with lots of light (e.g. retail stores) so this is generally not a problem.
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!