Home Video Surveillance Setup - Part II (Camera Types)

Web cam selection - the type and model of camera you choose for your Mac surveillance security system is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of the entire project. Not to scare you off by that statement, it's just that I want you to fully understand how important this piece of equipment is - it's the eyes to your spy system!!

When considering your camera selection, you will need to factor in a number of variables to find the best camera to meet your needs. There is a wide spectrum of products within the webcam arena, each designed to meet a particular set of requirements. It's wise to think this process through and spend some time considering how you plan to use your cams. This will help guide you in your spy cam selection.

Things to think about are:
1) How far away from the computer will your camera(s) be located?
2) Will the camera be stationary or will you want to move it from location to location
3) Are you going to want to control it remotely, either over you local network or through the internet?
4) What level of clarity will you consider acceptable for viewing?
5) Does this camera need to work in a low light situation...

There is a lot more criteria to consider but those are the biggies. So let's look at each one a bit closer.

Distance: If your cam is going to be close to your computer than you may be able to get along with either a USB or Firewire type camera. There are limits to the length of cable for each sort of webcam. There are ways to extend the length, but these sorts of extensions have limits as well. If distance is going to be lengthy, you should look at either a network or wireless cam.

Locations: If the location is going to be stationary, you will most likely be able to use a cam with a connected cable. If on the other hand, you plan to move the camera around, you'll most likely want a wireless version so you don't have to string cables all over the place. If the location is fairly distant but the cam will remain in one place, a network cam is a good choice. But then again, if running a cable is going to be a hassle, then you should give a wireless cam the nod.

Control: If some of the things you want to do with your cam involves remote control such as panning, zooming in on a particular area, or queuing in on sound, make sure the cam you select has these capabilities.

Clarity: Consider visual clarity of the video image. If you plan to use this as a Nanny cam or to watch a cash register or something critical like that, the quality of the picture captured is going to be very important. However, if you only plan to keep an eye on the pool or use one to watch the weather (or something similiar), then quality may not be that important to you. Good cams have ground glass lenses and should have the ability to perform some sort of focus functions. Focal distance is another attribute you should check when selecting a cam. Video quality is also affected by the type of connection you use to hook this to your computer. USB can get overwhelmed by the shear volume of data flow and so your frame rates will be lower than say, a Firewire or an ethernet connection. So too with the size of your cam. If you're after a tiny cam that you plan to install in a hidden devise, the small lens will affect picute quality.

Light Sensitivity: Where you plan to use this cam is something else to review: If you need to keep an eye on subject material where there is little or no light, you should think seriously about a night vision type camera. Same is true for indoor or outdoor use - make sure the camera is rated for the environment you are going to place it in.

As you can see, there's more to selecting a camera than just picking one up off the shelf. Not that this is a hard task, it's just important to do a bit of planning so you get the right web cam during the first go-around. BTW, there's no reason why should feel that you need to buy a camera with every bell and whistle in the book. If you plan to have multiple cameras throughout your system, each one can be chosen for that particular requirement. You may have a night vision cam at the front door, a hidden cam in the babies room, a usb cam watching your office area, and a remote network cam keeping tabs over the back yard.

Next time will discuss specifics about each webcam. In the meantime, you can visit the
Apple Mac Surveillance Cams page to get some feel for the cameras I recommend in each category.

See you again soon.