When it comes to home and business security, one of the biggest aspects of a system comes down to the cameras. Cameras in security systems come with many options, from framerates and resolutions, to viewing angles, to where they’re placed. With a wide variety of options available for cameras, it can be a bit overwhelming, but this guide will help walk you through the pros and cons of each major type of security camera available for purchase.

Box Cameras for Security Systems

Box cameras have a very distinct look to them, large and perhaps a little bulky, but there is reason for this. Box cameras have internal components and replaceable lenses. This function over form technique used with box cameras allows them have some of the best optical performance compared to other security cameras, and allow for longer lives, since the housing provides ample protection and the replaceable components make for easier for repairs.

Box cameras aren’t for everyone, however. The high cost to the box camera can turn some folks away, despite the price coming with some of the finest optical performance in security cameras. The bulky housing required for them can also turn some away. In low light conditions, box cameras do not work so well, requiring separate illumination. The look of the camera can also furrow some brows, as the big, bulky design can be a little unattractive, but most important, not very discrete. Box cameras are best used as a deterrent, and aren’t meant to be discrete. They’re best used as a symbol of security presence, not a hidden camera to catch people in the act. One look at a box camera and most criminals turn away.

Dome Cameras for Security Systems

Dome security cameras, as the name implies, are shaped like domes. The dome camera benefits from being an all-in-one camera, being the camera, lens, and ceiling mount in one package. Although not invisible, dome cameras provide a level of discretion when compared to other cameras. They come in a good few sizes too, allowing for more choices when it comes fitting the requirements for discretion. Additionally, due to being ceiling mounted, they’re much harder to vandalize – and importantly, much harder for birds to build nests on! Additionally, dome cameras can show a massively wide angle in one frame, making it almost a panoramic view on video.

Dome cameras aren’t perfect for every need, however. Dome cameras are poorly suited for outdoor surveillance, as the wide angle makes it difficult to see subjects at a distance. Additionally, these cameras are more difficult to reposition due to their angles, being static and forcing you to move the entire camera rather than merely moving it to face a different angle. Dome cameras are best suited for indoor monitoring, as individual dome cameras can capture a widespread lobby or hallway, but lack when it comes to monitoring outside.

Bullet Cameras for Security Systems

Bullet cameras are another commonly seen security camera style, typically seen monitoring warehouses and parking lots. Parking lots are especially important to monitor, as the FBI has noted parking lots and garages as the third most common location for violent crimes. These cameras also provide a level of deterrence not seen by all styles of camera. By not hiding the fact that they are indeed cameras monitoring a location, many would-be criminals won’t bother trying anything. Additionally, bullet cameras benefit from having long angles, able to pan left and right. These benefit areas with lots of movement, able to reposition and capture footage of any person of interest. Bullet cameras are perfect for capturing footage of people who may be further away from the camera, and being more affordable than the box cameras.

Bullet cameras can easily experience vandalism however. They can be broken with thrown objects, repositioned or covered up to prevent sight on crimes, and can even be used as a perch for birds which could damage the camera. And their deterrence can interfere with aesthetics, causing an area protected by them to feel less open and friendly to passersby.

PTZ Security Cameras

A PTZ camera is a much more advanced model of security camera. PTZ stands for Pan-Tilt-Zoom, features these styles of cameras possess. A variety of mechanical parts in these cameras allow for the camera to pan left and right, tilt up and down, and zoom in and out. Certain PTZ cameras even automatically following movement with motion sensors. These cameras tend to be controlled with remote controls by nearby operators, manually panning, tilting, and zooming the camera to see what they perceive as important. By being remote controllable, users can change the view without physically moving the camera. The optical zoom many of these cameras provide help catch information  other cameras may miss at a distance, like faces and license plates.

PTZ Cameras have some drawbacks, however. More moving parts inside the camera means these cameras are more prone to hardware failures. PTZ cameras are also prone to blind spots, pointing in the wrong direction when set to auto. Because of this, it’s often recommended to use PTZ cameras either in conjunction with other security cameras to cover these areas, and to have a guard manning the camera controller. PTZ cameras also have a higher cost associated with them, making the cost for entry a bit higher with these. PTZ Cameras are recommended more for businesses with active security guards than as deterrents or evidence gathering.

Thermal Cameras for Security Systems

Thermal cameras are a specialty type of camera, perhaps not intended to be the only type of camera you have in a security system, but as a supplemental camera to assist where other cameras may fall flat. Thermal cameras use heat sensing technology to distinguish people and objects. Warm-blooded creatures will appear bright due to their heat signature, while objects will appear relatively cold. These cameras are perfect for areas that are especially dark and absent of light. Any amount of light or lack thereof, and a thermal camera will see. They can see through fog, smoke, dust, leaves, and other thin materials. At all hours of day, thermal cameras can help differentiate harmless animals wandering through the scene to actual threats who may want to intrude upon the home or business.

Thermal cameras aren’t perfect, however. They don’t work like they do in the movies – they cannot detect heat signatures through solid objects, so intelligent criminals may be able to hide themselves behind solid objects on the property to avoid being caught by the system. In warmer seasons, false positives can be flagged a lot. When rocks are in directly sunlight, for instance, they can really warm up, causing the thermal camera to pick them up. The same goes for metallic and glass items. And due to thermal cameras only showing heat signatures, it’s nearly impossible to make out faces of intruders, making them harder to use as evidence.

Every camera has its own strengths and weaknesses, and at the end of the day, a multitude of different types of cameras can help a single security system work well. Box, dome, and bullet cameras are perfect for both home and in businesses, while PTZ cameras are better for businesses with security working round the clock. Thermal cameras additionally provide security through thick fog and pitch black nights, making it a worthy assistant to the other cameras on display. A camera is an important part of any security system, due to offering both deterrence and evidence in the event of a crime, and knowing which cameras work best in given situations is key to setting up a home security system right.