It’s easy to make assumptions about how the most basic components of a video surveillance system function. If you’re designing or updating a system, these assumptions can be dangerous to your new design.

For example, if you have a challenging lighting environment—and most applications do—it’s easy to see daytime images from the recommended camera and decide on that option. It will likely deliver sharp, vibrant images that look great on that new 4K monitor you’re watching.

However, pre-recorded daytime video clips or footage observed in a conference room during a tabletop demonstration cannot tell the whole story.

Let’s look at some key factors and review some security camera basics.


Modern IP security cameras are connected to the IT network with the same type of cable that connects your computer: a Category 6 (Cat6) cable with an RJ45 plug-in connector, for example. This connection allows the camera to stream video images to your video management system for live observation and recording for future investigations. It’s also likely to be the cameras power source.

Managing that data stream is critical and you’ll want to talk to your IT department about how the camera you’ve selected is going to impact their network, especially when multiplied by tens or hundreds of camera data streams. The ability of the camera to keep the data stream to a minimum is a balancing act. The data rate during the day, during the night, with nothing moving in the scene, or with many things moving in the scene can generate very different data management challenges.

Camera hardware and firmware directly impact the amount of data you’ll need to manage.

Lenses and Imagers

Every camera has a lens and an imager that captures the images in the field of view of the camera. The lens quality therefore impacts the image quality you see on the security monitor screen, especially as the resolution of the camera increase to 4K and beyond. Very specific lens manufacturing and materials are required to minimize image distortion. Sometimes this lens is integrated into the camera—such is the case for a small dome camera—while other lenses may be manually attached or switched to change the focal length (zoom) of the camera.

The imager is inside of the camera. This small part of the camera receives and processes the captured scene that you eventually see on your screen. The imager size and type will impact the quality and resolution of the images you’re capturing. This will impact resolution (pixel count), low-light capability, image aspect ratio, wide dynamic range, and other performance capabilities.

Mounts and Housings

There are a variety of form factors available for camera systems, ranging from microdomes to large cylindrical housings with enclosed box cameras inside of them. Selecting the right form factor can involve a few key decisions including architectural appeal, deterrent or covert presentation, rounded protective cover, or flat glass cover. Once the camera style is determined, then a mounting solution is selected to fit the application. These range from wall mounts, to ceiling mounts, to rooftop mounts. All these factors impact the ease of installation, camera function, and image quality.

Fixed vs PTZ vs Panoramic

Security cameras generally come in three primary types: fixed, PTZ, or panoramic.

Fixed cameras are set to a specific field of view given the desired surveillance area. Fixed cameras may have either a wide or narrow field of view. This decision depends on performance expectations.

A PTZ camera, pan-tilt-zoom, is usually a dome style camera that can be operated in real-time by a security operator. PTZ cameras can be constantly moving, set to a fixed position, or operated manually as the security team investigates specific activity.

An up-and-coming style is the panoramic camera. Panoramic cameras are usually available as a single imager system or multi-imager system. A single imager is configured to see a 60-degree or 180-degree field of view. The result is a fish-eye image that is then “de-warped” to reveal a flattened image that is easier to view and interpret. A multi-imager panoramic system consists of multiple lenses that can may be moved around the circular mount system to view the area around the camera in a variety of configurations. Options range from separate fields of view to stitched together 60-degree images.

Professional Security Partner

The Vision team can survey your building, coordinate an IT-inclusive design, and professionally install and integrate hardware and software. Vision can also create a custom managed and hosted services plan, freeing up your staff to perform their core responsibilities, provide a safe working environment, and maintain the system. IT will appreciate the maintenance services as well. Limiting their involvement in regularly scheduled software and firmware updates may be the benefit they need to stay focused and effective.

The Vision Investment Protection plan, like your system, can scale and change with your organization. Together, you’ll uncover potential problems before they arise. Additionally, Vision Investment Protection provides onsite and remote response, safeguarding your staff and securing your facility.

Vision has a full-time AutoCAD engineer on staff. Our engineering team can provide planned drawings, riser diagrams, and as-built diagrams in both electronic and hard copy formats for every project. We provide complete network installations, maintenance, database conversions, software installations, and upgrades. Our engineering team has both Cisco and Microsoft certifications.

Contact Vision for a FREE Security Consultation