10 Questions to ask before investing in CCTV Cameras

A casual perusal of any security trade show such as the recent IFSEC International 2017 event in London which attracted over 27 000 visitors and featured nearly 600 exhibitors from across the globe, is that there are more CCTV cameras on display than any other piece of security equipment. The sheer number of makes and models available, the enormous variation in specifications – and in many instances, the similarities between competing brands – can be truly bewildering.


The reason for the enormous competitiveness of the CCTV market is simple – global demand. Market research company IHS Markit says that 29 million high-definition CCTV surveillance cameras will be shipped globally in 2017, up from just 0.2 million units 2012. In addition, almost one trillion standard network surveillance cameras are expected to be shipped this year.

Although CCTV has long been a staple of physical security – it catches things patrolling eyes could easily miss – CCTV in 2017 bears little resemblance to the first commercially available CCTV systems which became available soon after the second world war.


A result of the many advances in video surveillance technology over the years is that today’s CCTV cameras capture nearly 6 000 Petabytes of data annually, and – by 2019 – a mind-boggling 3,3 trillion hours of surveillance video a day.


All this video data is being retained longer than ever for many reasons – not all of which are related to conventional security. Increasingly, thanks to the development of sophisticated video analytics applications, it’s used, for example, to monitor and evaluating consumer behaviour in order to enable better business decisions.

None of this would be possible without the evolution of the humble analogue and closed-circuit cameras of yesteryear, to today’s superior digital devices and network-based technologies that deliver better resolution, more efficient storage and easier video retrieval. High-definition displays and cloud-based systems have made for further even improvements including an ability to monitor larger areas within all kinds of environments, providing clearer views of the individuals or groups being monitored.

To avoid being overwhelmed by the huge choice of available cameras, ask yourself the following questions:


  1. Bandwidth in SA is not yet as affordable as most businesses would like. Does the camera include advanced features that significantly reduce bandwidth and storage requirements?
  2. Does the camera’s compression technology compromise image quality?
  3. Is the camera competitively priced while still offering the highest-quality images or feature sets?
  4. Can the camera be used effectively in the environment in which you need it to be placed? Does it, for example, include true wide dynamic range (WDR) for wide-angle shots?
  5. Does the camera provide a hallway view for monitoring of long, narrow passages without wasting bandwidth and storage space?
  6. Does the camera offer lens distortion correction?
  7. Is high powered infra-red illumination provided to ensure the camera delivers high-quality video in low-light environments?
  8. Are compression, streaming, storage, and analytics capabilities bundled into the camera to deliver greater value?
  9. If you need a large number of cameras to cover a specific area, would multi-directional cameras placed in one housing do the trick? Should you rather opt for a high resolution, panoramic camera?
  10. Finally, do you fully understand the camera’s job – its context and relevance – or are you purchasing technology that you don’t (and many never) need?