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Analog Vs IP Security Cameras - What's the difference?

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Understanding The Difference Between Analog and IP Security Cameras

There seems to be a tug-o-war going on between analog and IP security cameras. Ask two people which one is better and you’ll get three answers. A new rendition of an old adage would say that opinions are like exes, everybody has one… or two… or five. When the time comes to purchase a security camera for your home or office, wading through the piles of opinions on which is better can be a daunting task. Let’s look at where each type of camera shines and then you can decide for yourself what kind of system suits you the best.

The important thing is…

As we roll through details about video conversion and networking bandwidth, let’s keep one thing in mind: When it comes to security cameras, they are completely useless unless you can see enough detail to accomplish your security goals. Security cameras are for protecting people and property. If you cannot see footage in enough detail to identify a bad guy or read a license plate, there isn’t much point in having security cameras except for the deterrent value they provide. It does no good whatsoever to show the police footage of a blurry, faceless humanoid figure doing something bad to some unidentifiable thing at your place of business. We need to be able to see clearly, end of story.

Let there be light

This point is listed first because it’s a big deal. Analog cameras tend to do better in low light situations. If you would like to use an IP camera system, be sure to consider whether the area to be monitored has enough light. If the lighting situation is questionable, consider addressing that problem before purchasing IP cameras. Fortunately for those who would like the features of IP cameras but have less than ideal lighting, there are IP cameras that include infrared LED illuminators. As the camera senses low light conditions, the illuminators will turn on and provide light that is invisible to the human eye but useful to a camera in the dark. This 720P HD PoE IP network dome camera is one such example of the many IP cameras that include infrared illuminators for low light conditions. Keep in mind that IR illuminators are found on analog cameras as well.


The next important item on the list when considering the differences between IP and analog cameras is resolution. The place where the rubber really meets the road in the resolution department is zoom. If you have to zoom in on footage to read a license plate or see the details of a perpetrator's face, this is where resolution can save the day. Standard analog cameras have the equivalent of 0.4 megapixels available. It’s easy enough to grab an IP camera with anywhere from two to ten megapixels. As stated before, this comes into play when you need to zoom in on footage to see who stole the bicycle across the parking lot at work. Without enough resolution for zooming in on details at a distance, you may be scratching your head, trying to decide if the blurry figure taking off on that bike is the six foot tall ex-con that lives across the street or if Bigfoot took your bike for a joy ride. When lacking the resolution to keep zoomed images clear, your guess is as good as mine. The issue of resolution means that a higher resolution camera can cover a larger area while still providing enough clarity to zoom in on some event that happened in one area of that coverage. Analog cameras can come equipped with advanced optics to allow high quality zoom, but don’t try to record a large area with an analog camera and expect to be able to zoom in on a small detail later. Simply put, a single IP camera with 2 megapixel resolution can effectively cover the same area as five analog cameras.

What is this going to cost me?

Cost is an area where analog cameras shine brighter than IP cameras. There are plenty of cases where an analog setup will cost far less than the same size IP camera system. Analog systems have been around for a long time, roughly 50 years. Some would say that this makes the technology more reliable and less expensive. This can certainly be true. Plenty of analog camera systems can be acquired for a very modest price tag. A perfect example of a complete analog system that includes four cameras and a DVR with a whopping one terabyte hard drive is the Zmodo 4 Channel Real-Time DVR Security Camera System. This system is perfectly sized for a small office or home and you won’t have to raid your child’s college fund to be able to afford it. One point worth considering when calculating the cost of an analog system is any installation expenses you may incur. Analog cameras require coaxial cables in addition to a power supply to make them work. There are plenty of IP cameras that require just one Ethernet cable to transfer video and power the camera. A reasonable example of a system that delivers power and video over one Ethernet cable per camera is the Zmodo Funlux 4 Channel 720P NVR Security System with 4 Bullet Network IP Cameras. Setup is quite a bit easier when you don’t have to search for a power outlet for each camera. Be sure to work this into your cost analysis.

Time is fleeting

Because of the fact that IP cameras process and encode video before it leaves the camera, you can expect a bit of a delay between an event that happens in front of the camera and when that happening is displayed on a monitor. This consideration is only important when the security system will be monitored in real-time by security professionals. Imagine the frustration just waiting to happen as a security officer tries to pan a camera across a parking lot to follow a subject that actually walked by a second or two earlier. An analog camera gives you an instant video feed that is easy to monitor on site.

Foretelling the future

Although there are some solid benefits to analog security cameras, future proofing is not one of them. You cannot update the firmware on an analog camera nor take advantage of new software features that a camera does not have. You will need to decide how important this is for your particular situation.

Remote viewing: myths abound

Viewing a feed from your home security camera is a pretty groovy perk of living in a globally networked world. Who wouldn’t want to pick up their smartphone and view their Labrador retriever sleeping on the couch all day? All joking aside, it can be pretty handy to be able to check in on things at home from anywhere in the world. There is a common misconception that this feature is strictly a benefit for the IP camera owners club. This is simply not true. While an IP camera’s standard feature set lends itself to remote viewing with ease, keep in mind that most DVRs can be connected to your home or business network and all analog cameras attached to that DVR can be remotely viewed. Just be certain that your system includes a network capable DVR. The Zmodo / Funlux 8CH Video Security System includes four cameras to get you started. Even though these cameras are analog, you can view them remotely with an internet connection.

Secure your security cameras

Isn’t it ironic that all of this great security gear means that we need to think about how secure our security footage is? If you are capable of logging in and viewing your home from your smartphone, be sure that a hacker will not have the same privilege. We don’t want anyone hacking in and making YouTube videos starring you picking your nose in a false sense of privacy. Just to make things more complicated, there are two sides to this coin. On one hand, an analog system that has no network connection to the outside world will require a snooper to get physical access to your premises in order to view a feed from your security cameras. While IP camera feeds can be encrypted and password protected, online security vulnerabilities may allow access to your system if proper networking security protocols are not observed.

The choice is yours

After taking a stroll through the key considerations when deciding on an analog or IP security camera system, you should be able to make an informed decision based on your particular needs. Both analog and IP cameras have their strengths. When you install a security system, you are planning for the worst and hoping for the best. I can honestly say that once you put your security system into service, I hope you never need it.