Here are our network camera picks for 2021. 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 – Megapixel resolution – the number of millions of pixels in the image sensor. The higher the resolution, 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 so doesn’t require a separate power supply.
- 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 (collectively called “auto-iris”) allow the camera lens to automatically adjust its aperture 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 adjust the field of view at installation time. A focal length of 2.8mm is wide-angle; 4mm is medium; 8mm is moderately telephoto (a bit “zoomed in”). This is not the same as true “zoom” lenses: varifocal lenses are designed to be set once at install time, whereas zoom lenses are designed to be operated continually.
- 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 lack of support from the manufacturer.
We are not affiliated with any outlet or manufacturer mentioned on this page, and we get no financial incentive for recommending them.
BASIC OUTDOOR TURRET/DOME: DAHUA TECHNOLOGY N53AJ52
Dahua make a dizzying array of cameras across all form factors. Turret cameras (sometimes called “eyeball” cameras) like these have advantages over traditional dome-type cameras in that they are generally physically smaller, and there is no curved perspex outer dome to gather dirt and reduce image quality. This particular camera is notable for its good all-round feature set, offering 5 MP resolution, IR night vision up to 30m (98′), PoE, a built-in microphone, and excellent low-light sensitivity. Its 2.8mm lens offers a wide view. Retailing at $250, this would be an inexpensive and effective addition to any CCTV system.
HIGH-SPEC OUTDOOR DOME: HANWHA TECHWIN QNV-8080R
The aspect that sets this camera apart from the profusion of similar domes on the market is its high-quality optical system, which employs a DC auto-iris lens and provides a motorised varifocal range of 3.2-10mm, allowing for a good amount of control over the field of view. Other features include 5 MP resolution and built-in IR night vision to 30m (98′). The retail price is $390, which is very competitive for a camera with such a good feature set.
INDOOR MINI-DOME: AXIS M3046-V
When you buy an Axis camera you can be sure you are getting a high-quality product from a long-established manufacturer of IP surveillance products. This mini dome camera is notable for its lens options: a wide 2.4mm or an ultra-wide 1.8mm that offers an amazing 152° field of view. It’s also very compact, measuring only 10cm (4″) in diameter. The 4 MP sensor provides detailed images, but the lack of night vision and moderate low-light performance means that this camera must have good lighting in order to function well, so a retail location would be an appropriate use case. Retail price is around $280.
PANORAMIC INDOOR MINI-DOME: AXIS M3068-P
This panoramic camera offers a full 360° field of view at an outstanding 12 MP resolution. Designed to be installed in the ceiling in the centre of a room, this offers a single-camera solution to cover the entire space. It can provide a full “fisheye” panoramic image in addition to multiple de-warped images of specific areas. Light sensitivity is very good, and although there is no built-in IR illumination, the camera is sensitive to IR light, so separate IR illumination can be used if required. PoE allows for easy installation. At $600, this camera represents very good value in its class.
BASIC OUTDOOR BULLET: DAHUA N42BD32 or VIVOTEK IB9380-H
We can’t decide on our favourite between these two models, so we are going to cheat and recommend both! Both these cameras have compact form factors, PoE, and offer built-in IR night vision to 30m (98′). The Vivotek has the edge on resolution, offering a 5 MP sensor compared to the Dahua’s 4 MP, but the Dahua offers better low-light sensitivity. A useful feature of the Dahua is that it can operate in harsh temperature conditions – down to -40°C (-40°F), making it more suitable for colder latitudes than most other outdoor bullet cameras on the market. Another difference is the lens focal length: the Vivotek has a 3.6mm lens whereas the Dahua has a more wide-angle 2.8mm lens. Prices are similar, with the Vivotek retailing at $190 compared to $140 for the Dahua.
HIGH-SPEC OUTDOOR BULLET: VIVOTEK IB9387-HT-A
This camera is a step up in quality from basic fixed-lens bullet cameras due to its high-quality optical system that incorporates varifocal and P-Iris. A comprehensive focal length range of 2.7-13.5mm allows the camera to be adjusted from wide-angle to moderately telephoto, allowing for a range of installation setups. A 5 MP sensor provides detailed images, and built-in IR night vision to 50m (160′) combined with good low-light sensitivity ensure clear images at night. PoE allows for easy installation, and an audio input connector allows the connection of a microphone if required. This camera offers an excellent all-round feature set, in our view justifying the price tag of $560.
HIGH-SPEC BOX CAMERA: ACTi E210
Box cameras can be difficult beasts, as they usually require separate lenses, which adds complexity to purchasing and installation, introduces the possibility of compatibility issues, and requires manual adjustment of focal length and focus upon installation. As an all-in-one unit, this camera suffers from none of these drawbacks. The built-in high-quality lens offers a useful zoom range of 3.1-13.3mm, P-Iris and auto-focus. The huge 10 MP resolution, combined with the high-quality optical system, provides outstanding image quality. PoE allows for easy installation, and an audio input ports allows addition of a microphone if required. There is no built-in IR lighting for night vision, but this can be added separately if required. Outdoor use requires an additional housing from ACTi. The price is $510.
INDOOR COMPACT/CUBE: HIKVISION DS-2CD2455FWD-IW
This compact indoor cube camera has an extensive feature set and is suitable for many applications, from home to retail to commercial use. Features are: 5 MP sensor, PoE, WiFi, two-way audio with built-in microphone and speaker, IR night vision with 10m (30′) range and a 2.8mm lens with 97° angle of view. The price tag of $250 represents good value for such a versatile camera.
INDOOR PAN/TILT: AMCREST IP4M-1051
This is a good basic pan/tilt camera that would work well for indoor domestic or small business usage. Features include a 4 MP sensor, built-in 10m (30′) IR 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 movable camera.
OUTDOOR PAN/TILT/ZOOM: LOREX LNZ44P4B
This is a great all-round outdoor PTZ camera, offering 4 MP resolution, 4x zoom (2.7-11mm) and auto-iris, all in a surprisingly compact package of 12cm (5″) diameter. PoE makes for easy installation, and good low-light sensitivity provides good image quality at night as long as there is some ambient lighting (there is no built-in IR illumination, though this can be added separately if required). The price tag of $300 makes this camera extremely good value.
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!