The Big Camera Debate: Analogue v IP CCTV Cameras

24th April 2015

When investing in a CCTV solution you are presented with an almost overwhelming number of choices. However, the real consideration will be whether to invest in an Analogue or IP CCTV camera.

In this blog we explore the attributes and limitations of both types of camera to allow you to question your current CCTV solutions, or to help in the consideration of a new installation.

gbsg the big camera debate

Analogue Camera Overview

An Analogue surveillance camera is fitted with a CCD (charge-coupled device) sensor that digitizes the light that falls on its surface capturing the image for processing. Before transmission of the video, the image has to be converted back to an analogue signal so that it can be viewed on video monitor or recorder. Analogue cameras must be NTSC/PAL (named after National Television System Committee /Phase Alternating Line) compliant and are limited to a maximum resolution that is equivalent of 0.3 megapixels.

Analogue CCTV systems transmit video over coax or UTP (unshielded twisted pair) cabling to a digital video recorder (DVR). At this point the video is digitized and stored. Most modern DVRs have network capabilities giving the user the option to access the feed remotely from a local area network and with the proper configuration, from across a wide area network or over the internet. The benefit of a local area network set-up is that there are no videotapes to change; instead the video is stored on hard drives or a networked drive typically on a FIFO (first-on, first-off) basis so that there is always a rolling video archive over a user defined number of days.

gbsg the big camera debate

IP Camera Overview

“IP” stands for Internet Protocol which is the low-level programming language used to transmit data between computers in your home and the Internet. This means that an IP camera is like a little computer that you connect to, to access your video and as such you do not require a direct connection to a PC to operate meaning they can be placed anywhere within a network and accessed remotely at any time.

Consequently they do not require a DVR; instead they operate with a NVR (network video recorder), which in most cases is just software that runs on a computer or server as it doesn't need to convert analogue video to digital. The video footage can then be stored on new or existing network RAID (redundant array of independent disks) drives as directed by the NVR software.

In contrast to an Analogue camera, an IP camera excels in capturing high definition, megapixel images as captured data is digitized directly from the sensor. And, because of their increased computing power they can perform more advanced functions such as detecting motion to trigger recording or tampering and act on it by emailing, uploading or recording images or video to an internal storage card external storage device.

gbsg the big camera debate

The Advanced Capability of IP Cameras

IP cameras are more advanced than the traditional ‘plug-in and play’ capability of Analogue cameras and as such, do have certain advantages which we have summarised into the four main sections below:

Enhanced Security

  • IP video streams can be encrypted making them difficult to intercept. In contrast, analogue signals can be intercepted and/or viewed by anyone with access to the cabling infrastructure.
  • In addition, IP cameras can detect motion or tampering and act on it by emailing, uploading or recording images or video to an embedded SD (Secure Digital) or external storage device.

Enhanced Flexibility

  • One of the clear advantages of IP cameras is the flexibility to integrate with a wireless network. Wireless IP is “virtually” unlimited in terms of expansion. To add a camera, all you would need to do is plug it into any network connection.
  • In contrast, Analogue cameras use radio frequencies to transmit video wirelessly and are limited to about a dozen cameras before it reaches capacity in the unlicensed spectrum; after this you would have to look at purchasing a radio license.

Enhanced Resolution

  • IP cameras excel in capturing high definition, megapixel images. A 3 megapixel IP camera is more than 9x the resolution of an Analogue counterpart. As a result, a single multi-megapixel camera can often take the place of 2 or 3 analogue cameras, allowing reduction of overall project cost and long-term maintenance savings, although the cost per camera is higher.
  • Due to enhanced resolution, intruders are easier to identify. Plus, IP provides the ability to digitally zoom in on recorded video
  • makes identification much more likely. So although cost per IP camera is higher for many it is worth the investment as the costs associated with not being able to identify a suspect in a criminal activity, etc. is significantly higher (e.g. repeat theft/acts of vandalism).

Enhanced Scalability

  • Analogue cameras are hard-wired and difficult to scale – CCTV DVRs have a fixed number of camera inputs, and on most DVRs, there’s no way to scale beyond this limit, which means you would have to install additional CCTV systems. In contrast, IP surveillance allows you to easily scale any installation as your needs and budget grows.

Why analogue and IP both matter

As with the emergence of any new technology there is always a process of adoption and adaptation. At GBSG we will still recommend Analogue cameras if we feel that they are adequate enough to fulfil a clients’ security needs.

For an impartial look at IP cameras v Analogue cameras we have produced the table below to compare the attributes and limitations of both:

  IP Analogue
Compatibility Each time you add an IP camera, you have to make sure that the NVR supports that particular model. However many IP camera producers now support a large variety of communication protocols. Analogue video has been a universal standard for several decades. Virtually any analogue CCTV camera can be plugged into any DVR, regardless of brand.
Cost Whilst the actual purchase cost for an IP camera is more expensive, in many scenarios it is more cost effective in the long-term. A single IP camera can do the job of several analogue and it is easier to expand in the future. Analogue cameras and peripheral equipment are significantly lower in price to their IP counterparts but in the long-term can be more expensive due to limits on the number of fixed camera per DVR.
Quality IP cameras excel in capturing high definition, with the ability to zoom in. However some IP cameras can introduce latency, which becomes an issue when an operator needs to track something live. At GBSG we do not specify these makes and models of IP cameras. Analogue CCD cameras perform well across a variety of lighting conditions and manage motion well. Analogue cameras transmit the video image to the DVR uncompressed where it can be viewed live with no latency pre-compression.
Maintenance An IP camera is a network appliance and requires specialist maintenance – this is something that can be covered by an annual support/maintenance contract, which may add to the overall system cost. Analogue cameras are unmanaged devices as they are pretty simple in comparison. However, at GBSG we would still recommend an annual maintenance contract and weekly system checks (see our blog on CCTV checks for further info )
DVR vs NVR NVR software is typically licensed on a per camera basis and must be installed on a networked computer. The storage requirements for megapixel cameras are significant, and may require additional network storage. DVR costs are fairly simple to understand. A DVR is a single unit, and has a single cost. However have a fixed number of inputs that cannot be expanded upon.