Cameras – Apple, Meet Lemon

Ok. Cameras. I get it. Here ya go.

This is a camera;

Also a camera;

This is a camera as well;

turret camera

These are just 3 of the ones we’ve installed. If you google “surveillance system” you’ll get millions of results that all look different and really, if compared apples to apples, do the exact same thing.

The hard part about apples to apples is knowing what an apple is, what an orange is, where the mangos are… etc etc. What you’re looking for are the lemons. You can compare an apple to a lemon, but the results would be skewed.

First rule of lemon cameras; They’re cheap.

Basically, you go to a big chain store. You go to the electronics section. You pick up a box that has 4 cameras and a DVR. You go to the teller and you check out. You pay between 4-6 hundred dollars for the system.

These systems are called DIY. Do It Yourself. We’ve installed these systems for people before. We don’t anymore. 2 systems down and we backed away. Again I say, Do it Yourself.

The kits are cheap for a reason. The wires are proprietary, the cameras are flimsy, the connections are fragile and the DVR/NVR hard drives are basically meant to die early and often.

Mind you, if you don’t need much of a camera system and are comfortable installing it yourself, don’t let us stop you. This could be exactly what you need. If something breaks, though, support can be hard to come by and parts… well… I’ve never tried to get them personally, but those that have relate stories of nightmarish support.

You have been warned. Unfortunately, we can’t help with these systems.

Actually, a lot of our customers who have had us install cameras for them call us having already tried one of these off-the-shelf products. Some speak highly, some don’t, but in the end they’ve all decided they want something higher end.

2nd rule; Just because two cameras look the same, doesn’t mean they are.

So, this is an apple;

dome camera with infra red

This is a lemon;

dome camera with infra red

Can you tell the difference? No. Neither can I. Not by looking at it. So how do we tell?

Specs. Always read the specs.

For outdoor cameras, the most important thing is the IP rating. IP66 or bust in this climate. If the one in your hand is less than that and supposed to go outside, put it down. It’ll be dead in our first bad weather. If the camera has been rated, the rating will be listed on the package. If the rating isn’t there, it’s not rated.

The second most important is the ability to see both in the dark, and in varying light scenarios. Dusk, dawn, snow glare, water reflections… all of these can cause issues for camera images. If the one you’re buying can’t handle them, you need to not buy them.

Cameras work best in perfect light, and pitch black conditions. Everything in between needs allowances to get a picture you can do anything with.

The third most important thing is;




I love cop shows too. I love all of their gadgets and cool little ideas and applications. Thing is, much of what they are using was either created for the show, or costs somewhere between a few thousand dollars and your soul.

(We have no use for your soul. Please don’t ask)

Most cameras can’t reliably pin point a license plate. The ones that can have the price tag to prove it. You can’t go budget with that technology. You can’t. The one in your hand may say it’s capable of a good enough image to display a license plate, but that doesn’t mean it can pick one up in motion or on a bad angle or even straight on.

Faces can be difficult to make out in any lighting. Facial recognition is bio-metrics, not surveillance. The range detection you set on the camera is going to determine how much recording you get. More cameras isn’t always more security. A bad DVR and a good camera still results in a bad picture.

And in the winter, you are going to record a lot of snow. A lot. Of Snow. Like. A lot a lot. To the point you’ll wonder if the cameras are working. They are. It’s just, there’s a lot of snow, and snow fills the pixels too.

**UPDATE**There is actually a more intelligent system available now that can tell the difference people, animals and cars, among other things. It’s ability to see heat signatures and detect mass and motion makes it one of the more intelligent systems on the market.

You may have heard of them. You may have also heard that you can only use these with offsite or cloud video storage. This is incorrect. Your best solution is an onsite NVR or picture quality and reliability. Plus, most of these are 4K and IP. **END UPDATE**

Cameras are the single most confusing thing you can buy as an end user. We know. It’s okay. Even if you don’t want to buy yet, visit the showroom and let us talk to you about it. Save yourself the headache.

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