How to choose a security camera

Read this if you are new to security cameras or want to understand all the main technical parameters and options

Peter Ocasek avatar
Written by Peter Ocasek
Updated over a week ago

How to choose the best camera

  • We'll give you a list of useful questions you can ask yourself (or your dealer) before the purchase.

  • You can find tips for bestselling camera brand & models below this page.

Disclaimer: If you are not an advanced user or if you are choosing a camera for any other than a common and basic use cases (e.g. simple indoor and outdoor residential monitoring/recording) we highly recommend a consultation with your local dealer as there are lot of variables in each specific use case.

Main parameters you should understand

1. Acceptable frame rate

  • A frame rate (expressed as FPS or frames per second), is the number of frames (or images) your camera can take per second.

  • The current industry standard is 10 fps for clear, smooth video even with moving objects (you get rather less but sharp images).

  • When searching for a camera, don't choose the one with lower frame rate especially in locations with fast moving objects ➡ low frame rate can result in choppy or broken footage.

  • Be cautious when buying HD cameras (e.g. 4K, full HD or higher). Although you expect high frame rate resolutions, they often have this feature restricted. It's not always a disadvantage, just check what purpose or what applications you need it for.

2. HD resolution

  • Today HD resolution is standard for all current security cameras. For most use cases 1.3 Mpx or even 1 Mpx (1280x720) is enough. For larger areas 2 or 3 Mpx is a reasonable maximum.

3. Maximum coverage with precise installation

  • You can have your security camera set on one specific view (when you only need to focus on a certain section of a room, entrance, or parking lot), or instead, have the ability to look around (you can remotely swivel and zoom your camera to follow the action or cover a wider area). You can choose between a standard-format fixed camera or Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) surveillance camera.

  • For fixed cameras, be sure to pay attention to the focal length (mm) which directly affects the view angle. For monitoring, a wide area looks for a view angle around 85-110°, if you want to aim the camera at a specific place, select a model which has either a varifocal lens (manually adjustable) or a view angle of 65° or less, depending on your needs.

  • PTZs are designed to freely move their lenses back and forth horizontally ("pan"), vertically ("tilt"), and adjust lens focus (“zoom”). All of this can be done at your command, as needed, but there are also PTZ cameras that can be programmed to automatically pan, tilt and zoom whenever movement is detected. 

  • PTZ cameras are generally only suitable in cases that are continuously watched by someone (or Central Monitoring Station). Low-end PTZ cameras are restricted by their service life and image quality. Professional PTZ cameras are named SpeedDome (without a stop for rotation).

4. Excellent dynamic range for low-light situations

  • WDR (wide dynamic range) function is able to treat different areas in the image individually and use different exposure settings in the same view. This feature is great both during night and day. If you need your cameras pointing at the door for a strong contrast between light and dark, your camera with WDR comes in handy.

  • Be careful though, many cheap cameras offer only digital or software WDR. While this still helps, the such feature has very limited results as the camera alters only brightness and contrast while the exposure setting remains the same.

  • If possible, look for hardware or True WDR, a sensor-based technology that achieves proper exposure levels on the hardware level.

Most common types of cameras on the market and some of their key features

Bullet cameras
Bullet cameras, as the name suggests, look like a bullet or a barrel. They're can range from quite small ones (4-5 inches) to significantly larger ones.

Bullet-type cameras are the most common type you can buy nowadays, they combine the most common features into one, a sealed device which significantly reduces the costs.

Most bullet cameras are outdoor-ready with an IR LED light for improved night visibility. Versions with variable focal lenses are available too. In some installations, you might have a hard time adjusting them to avoid reflections when using IR light.

Bullet Cameras are easy to install. They usually come with a mounting handle and bracket, helping attach them to the wall. Once installed, they can be moved to cover any area you need them to.

Box cameras
A box camera was the original camera design, looking like a box with a lens on one end and cables/buttons on the other end. Box cameras are usually indoor only (can be used in outdoor conditions in combination with proper outdoor housings). Many high-end cameras use this design, a lens can be easily replaced with another one using a C or CS mount.

Dome cameras
Dome cameras have a rounded “dome” shape, they are usually mounted on the ceiling or hung from a wall-mounted bracket. The camera itself is placed inside a transparent dome, which can be tinted so people cannot tell where the camera is looking. Dome cameras are more complicated to mount but do not require much effort either. The only snag comes when you have to change the field of view because you will have to dismount the camera and mount it again. Be careful to keep the plastic cover clean, without fingerprints otherwise the picture won't be clear.

Pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras

  • These cameras offer more installation and monitoring options. They can swivel up and down and side to side, so you can cover a full 360-degree field of view with only one camera. The vast majority of PTZ cameras are remote-controllable, which makes them a great choice in many single-camera surveillance setups.

  • ❗️There is unfortunately no option to control PTZ functions through Angelcam currently, however you can still watch the stream from camera or record it's footage to cloud without any limitations.


Specific recommended camera models

For general monitoring (indoor and outdoor) of smaller areas with limited quality night vision, and no audio:

  • Dahua IPC-HFW4300S ($120) - PoE, Higher resolution, lower framerate

  • Hikvision DS-2CD2032-I ($120) - PoE, Higher resolution, lower framerate

  • IPCC B12N-W ($50) - Low price, decent picture, wifi

All these cameras are difficult to install, rather small, but not pleasing to the eye. They offer a good price/value for most customers and a lot of similar types with different lenses/resolutions.

Home indoor monitoring, primarily not for security purposes, good connectivity, flexible mounting, audio:

  • Foscam C1/Foscam C2 ($70) - wifi, double-sided tape mounting, flexible joints, audio

Average image quality, some firmware issues with more advanced features like PIR motion detection

Low light capabilities, WDR, identification:

  • Hikvision DS-2CD4A25FWD-IZ(H)

  • Axis Q1615

  • Sony SNC-EB630

Pricey ($500+), with top-of-the-line picture quality and features, and extremely good low light sensitivity, can be used for virtually any application where superb image quality is required. At this price, consulting your application with an expert is highly recommended.

Indoor entrance monitoring and identification, lower budget:

  • Vivotek IP8173H - decent, small housing

  • Hikvision DS-2CD2642FWD-I

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