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What to look for when buying a CCTV system

Whether you are installing a CCTV yourself of having it installed for you, it is important that each component is
capable of producing and recording evidential quality images. The sections below will help you understand what
features are important.
Choosing Between IP and Analog Systems

IP camera systems are becoming increasingly common. They allow cameras to be linked into wider IT networks without the need for local
recording equipment. This is especially useful when cameras are located across large areas or where a building is prewired with Ethernet cables
(for instance office blocks). IP cameras can also capture denser images. This means greater detail and can reduce the number of cameras used to
cover an area.

Compared to traditional analog equipment IP camera systems are more expensive than analog systems and can require expensive computer
components to run them. Cameras capturing more detailed imaged may also require much more light in order work properly. There is currently
little advantage to using an IP system in a domestic property and you should consider carefully your requirements before investing in one.

Choosing The Right Recorder (DVR)

Right after making sure that the recorder has enough channels for purpose, the size it records its images at should be at the top of your list.

Only DVR’s capable of recording at the following standards should be considered:

PAL, 1080P (or greater), 720P, VGA, SVGA, WSVGA, 4CIF, D1.

If a recorder does not use these standards or records ONLY in 1 or 2 CIF, it should be avoided.

The table below shows the how much of the vertical image an average adult person should take up with each image standard. For evidence
to be used by the police, cameras that capture evidence of a crime should meet the “Recognise” category as a minimum with at least one of
the cameras set up to capture images in the “Identify” category.

Recording Rates

Images in the categories of “Recognise” and “Identify, should be recorded at no less than 6 images (or frames) per second. In general, the
more images you are able to record, the greater the opportunity to recognise a crime being committed and identify the person committing

Many DVRs give you the option of recording images in different standards so , to avoid confusion, try to choose a DVR that can record at
least 6 images per second (IPS) at a standard of D1 or 4 CIF across all its channels (these are often the most quoted standards).
Choosing The Right Camera and Lens

The most common problem with CCTV installations is that the wrong lens is chosen. This is usually because people buy CCTV DIY kits or simply
choose a camera that a salesman recommends. Most DIY camera kits use a 3.6mm fixed lens in all the cameras. This normally results in people
being too small to recognise. Digitally zooming in on the image will only result in the image becoming distorted or “pixelated”.

The images below shows how a person should fill a PAL standard image in order to meet each of the image categories set out previously:

It is important that the right lens and camera is chosen for

each area you wish to monitor. Fortunately, many cameras
are available with variable-focus or zoom lenses. In general
terms a 5 – 50mm lens will cover most domestic situations
and be capable of producing images in the categories of
“recognition” and “identification” (in houses with smaller
gardens and driveways a 3.6 – 12mm zoom lens may well be

In certain cases, a fixed lens may be only option available. In

this case you may need to calculate the size of lens you need.
To do this you will need to know the horizontal and vertical
size of the area it needs to cover AND the sensor size of the

Sensor size – this is the size of the chip in the camera that
captures the image. The most common in domestic CCTV
cameras are 1/3” and ¼”. For most situations neither is more
preferable to the other.

The tables to the left show which

lenses should be fitted to cameras
using different image sensors sizes
in order to produce a desired
image (these tables are produced
for images in the “recognition”
REMEMBER! the higher the
camera the greater the

Lighting and Lenses

The most common type of lighting used with CCTV is infrared. Many cameras with fixed lenses even have infra red lighting installed in them. If
you are using variable focus lenses you will probably need to buy separate lighting. In such cases you should ensure that the lights you use are
capable of illumining the area you are monitoring (range). Ideally these should be installed BEHIND the camera to avoid affecting the image and
be pointing in the same direction to avoid shadows. You should also make sure that your camera is capable of using infra red light (often known
as IR sensitive or Day/Night cameras) and that the lenses you are using will not shift focus under Infrared light (IR corrected). If you are using
colour cameras only, you will need to install suitable Metal Halide security lighting.
Choose the right installer

If you are already thinking that installing CCTV isn't as straight forward as you thought or you want a professionally installed system you
need to think carefully about who will install it.

Many local installers (and even some national companies) pay little attention to the evidential requirements of a CCTV system. Even worse,
there are installers who will charge you the earth for something that isn’t fit for its purpose.

It is important you know what you want your CCTV system to do before you contact any installer. Write down where you want your cameras
and what category of images you want to capture. Have a minimum specification in mind for the DVR performance and don’t forget to think
about lighting.

Getting at least five separate and itemised quotes will help you avoid paying too much or getting too little.

Finally we would always advise you to choose installers who are accredited for CCTV installation by either the National Security Inspectorate
(NSI) or the Security Systems and Alarms Inspectorate Board (SSAIB). Details of these organisations can be found at the bottom of this page.

Remember you can always ask a Police Crime Reduction Advisor for FREE and unbiased advice.

Useful Links and Contacts

SSAIB National Security Inspectorate

7 – 11 Earsdon Road Sentinel House
West Monkseaton 5 Reform Road
Whitley Bay Maidenhead
Tyne & Wear SL6 8BY
NE25 9SX

Tel: 0191 296 32 42 Tel: 01628 637512

Email: Email:
Web: Web:

Secured By Design Lincolnshire Police Crime Reduction Advisors

ACPO Secured by Design Community Safety Department

1st Floor, 10 Victoria Street Police Headquarters
London PO Box 999
SW1H 0NN Lincoln
Tel: 0207 084 8962
Fax: 0207 084 8951/01 Tel:
E-mail: Email:
Web :