What Cameras Should I Buy?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. In this tutorial, we’ll give you some pointers to help you make the right decision, along with some specific product recommendations based on a lot of experience. If you’re a Streamie user, contact us using the in-app support ticket system or email us and we’ll answer any questions you have.
Wired vs Wireless
There’s no doubt about it: a wireless system is far easier to get started with assuming you have an adequate, reliable and secure wifi network, and electrical power where you need it. The downsides are several though: your wifi network can easily become over-burdened, poor signal strength can make video unreliable when you need it the most, and you have to either have power (AC outlets) available, or have an electrician add an outlet.
The upfront effort necessary to get a wired camera system in place should not be under-estimated. If you have some DIY skills though, you can tackle this yourself. Otherwise, a professional installer is the way to go. The upsides to a wired network include: significantly greater reliability, extensibility beyond just a few cameras, doesn’t degrade when the kids are streaming 4k Netflix, superior camera options, and you don’t need an electrician to get power to your cameras.
Choosing a Camera
If the cameras we recommend aren’t exactly what you’re looking for, then use these guidelines when researching cameras to make sure you get something good.
1. ONVIF. This is a protocol supported by some cameras, but not all. This will greatly simplify the initial Streamie setup process. ONVIF is also an essential feature if you want support for motion detection.
2. Smart Motion Detection. Some cameras have what we refer to as “dumb motion detection” — where the shadow of a tree blowing in the wind is as likely to generation a motion event as a car or person. If you are inundated by too many false positives, you’ll eventually “tune out” the alerts and your camera system will no longer serve its purpose well. So look for smart motion detection that can identify motion related to people or vehicles.
3. PoE (Power Over Ethernet). For wired cameras, this is a great feature that carries data and power over the same low-voltage ethernet cable that you plug right into your PoE-enabled network switch, removing the need for an AC outlet to be located near each camera.
4. CMOS Sensor Size. An acceptable sensor might be 1/2.3in, while a great one is 1/1.8in. The bigger the sensor, the better the image quality. This is less noticeable during ideal viewing conditions (bright, sunny day) and critical during the night or other low-light conditions.
5. Pan-Tilt-Zoom. Being able to pan, tilt or zoom a camera can make one camera serve the function of two (or more), depending on your particular use case. This is not essential for every camera, but something you should consider.
6. Focal Range. Do you want a wide angle of your back yard, or a tight angle on a small or far-away area? Choosing the right focal range is crucial when selecting a camera. For a wide shot, look for 2.8mm. For tighter angles, look for 3.6mm or 6mm. If a camera can zoom, it should specify a focal range, such as 2.7mm - 12mm.
7. Infrared. Great cameras have impressive low-light sensitivity, but sometimes that’s not enough. To that end, some cameras have IR support for invisibly illuminating an area. If you need a clear image even in the darkest conditions, look for IR support.
8. Outdoor / IP67. This refers to a camera’s ability to operate in an environment containing dust and/or moisture. If your camera is going to be placed outside, look for “IP67” in the specifications.
Give me Some Camera Options
EmpireTech IPC T5442T-ZE (Amazon): This camera is a fixed-focus (choose from 2.8mm, 3.6mm, 6mm) wired PoE camera with excellent ONVIF and Smart Motion Detection support. It features a 1/1.8in CMOS sensor for great low-light visibility and IR for illumination in total darkness. You cannot go wrong with this camera.
Loryta IPC-T5442TM-AS (Amazon): This camera is a fixed-focus (choose from 2.8mm, 3.6mm, 6mm) wired PoE camera with excellent ONVIF support, but limited motion detection capabilities. It is distinct from most cameras in that it is actually two cameras in one, allowing for an incredibly wide angle of view without fisheye distortion. It uses 1/1.8in CMOS sensors for great low-light visibility and IR for illumination in total darkness. If you need to view a wide area, this is a good option.
Loryta SD22204UE-GN (Amazon): This is an outdoor-rated, pan-tilt-zoom (4x), PoE camera with good low-light sensitivity. It provides basic motion detection (no people / vehicle detection). This is a great choice if you need an outdoor camera than you can pan, tilt & zoom.
Loryta SD49425XB-HNR (Amazon): This is an outdoor-rated, pan-tilt-zoom (25x), PoE camera with good low-light sensitivity. It provides basic motion detection (no people / vehicle detection). What makes this camera stand out is its excellent 25x zoom. This is a large camera and you should carefully consider its placement before make a purchase.
IPC-C26E (Amazon): This is an indoor camera that supports both wifi and PoE. It has decent low-light sensitivity and a good field-of-view. Differentiating itself from most cameras, it has supports PIR motion detection: an IR sensor not unlike those that open the automatic doors at the grocery store.
What Else do I Need?
PoE Switch. If you’ve decided to use PoE cameras, then you will need a PoE switch. This switch provides data + power to the cameras, and also connects to your home network. Switches come in various sizes. Choose one that has enough ports (plus a little room for growth) for your camera needs. A good option to get started with up to seven cameras is the Netgear GS108LP (BH Photo & Video).
UPS Battery Backup. If you use wired, PoE cameras, then you can place your PoE switch and other equipment on a UPS battery backup to keep your system running even during an interruption in your power. Check out the APC Battery Back-UPS Pro BX1500M (BH Photo & Video).
Apple TV 4K. Use an inexpensive Apple TV as the core of your home video system. It is capable of streaming up to twenty-five cameras, monitoring for motion events and doing 24/7 recording. Combined with Streamie, an alway-on device like this will also let you live stream your cameras from your other devices while you’re away from home. Apple TV 2021 (BH Photo & Video).
NAS (Network Attached Storage). A NAS is a purpose-built computer that is accessible on your network for use in storing data. Streamie can record 24/7 to a NAS, Mac, PC or other local file server. The more storage space you have, the more recording history you can retain. If you don’t already have a file server, consider the Synology DiskStation DS220+ (BH Photo & Video).
Ethernet Cable. You can get a spool of cable, or specific lengths of terminated cable. It can be shielded or unshielded. There are enough variables at play here that a specific product recommendation is inadvisable. Here are some options to consider.
It’s impossible to know exactly what options are right for your needs. If this guide did not answer all of your questions, let us know and we can help!