Analog vs Digital: What type of camera system should you have?
Let me note first that this is a time sensitive article written in June of 2017. As early as 2018, this article may not be relevant. Security cameras are rapidly advancing in technology.
Not going into brands & models, let’s just stick to the basics. First what is analog and what is digital? They both use a bunch of tiny image sensors to make one cohesive image electronically. The difference is what they do with that image after, mostly in the transmission of the images.
Analog Camera Systems
Analog security cameras take that image and essentially “broadcast” the image out. They rely on something else to receive the image, like a DVR. The DVR (Digital Video Recorder) can then record the video. In the past, video from an analog camera could be received by a TV, but new developments are changing that. It’s called HD-TVI* technology and has dramatically improved the image quality an analog camera can “broadcast”.
Analog Camera Pros:
–Lower Cost. Right now, analog camera systems are less expensive than digital. I find that they are usually around 10-15% less expensive than digital camera systems.
–5MPX Resolution. There are analog security cameras that can go up to 5MPX resolution. They will be released in the 3rd Quarter of 2017. That’s incredibly good resolution. This was a huge jump from the 1MPX cap just a few years ago. I have been told by a Hikvision manufacturing rep that 8MPX cameras are being developed.
–Video analytics. You can now use video analytics for things like people counting, motion alerts, and easy video retrieval.
–Transmission Distance. Can transmit video over 1500 feet of wire, enough said!
Analog Camera Cons:
–Less “smart”. Although analog cameras are getting more video analytic capabilities, they are typically less capable than digital cameras to analyze an image. Also, analog requires the use of a DVR to record images. The analog camera cannot record the images itself.
–Security Risk. Remember, analog cameras “broadcast” their image for anything that can receive it. There are ways for somebody to also receive that image besides your DVR. The risk is very low, but can happen.
–May or may not be future-oriented. A few years ago, we thought analog was dead. I stopped selling it when digital cameras finally came down in price. Then analog cameras made the jump to HD-TVI with 5MPX resolution, while remaining very inexpensive. The question is, how long will analog continue to get better? In my opinion it will continue to develop. In 4 years, will you want 20MPX digital cameras and be stuck adapting an analog infrastructure? Don’t laugh at 4 years, that’s a common cycle for upgrading many technology systems out there. Especially for security-conscious businesses.
Digital Security Cameras
Digital cameras, also commonly referred to as IP cameras, do not “broadcast” the image for anybody. You must hold the correct credentials to receive the IP camera’s video. Essentially the DVR was moved into the camera (you can even record in the camera itself using an SD card). Many people use an NVR (Network Video Recorder) that sits on the same network as the digital camera(s). It has the credentials to record the video of multiple cameras. This makes the system simple to manage. Digital cameras have been continuously improving in quality and price for years.
Digital Camera Pros:
–Very high image resolution. I will say that the 2,3,4 & 5MPX digital cameras out there right now are in affordability range for many end-users. 8MPX cameras are moving into the main stream. Within a very short time, 12MPX will likely be next. There are digital cameras that are 20+MPX. Of course, they are very expensive as I write this article.
–Future-oriented. Unless something dramatic happens and we get a 3rd type of security camera, digital will be around for a very long time.
–Higher security. If your installer follows best practices (like changing the default password), you have little to worry about with somebody looking in at your video footage.
–Slightly better analytics. Security camera manufacturers typically put better analytics in their digital cameras. One analytic to keep an eye on is object recognition, which allows the camera to identify objects (ex. Trash cans, cats, humans and so on).
Digital Camera Cons:
–More expensive. Yes, the price comes down on digital cameras all the time. The problem is they keep coming out with the next best camera. I know, it’s terrible. Just like the iPhone, they drop last year model’s price as the bring out the new iPhone that has more bells & whistles you want.
–Transmission distance. Most cameras are limited to 330 feet on network cable. This problem can be avoided by using different methods (IP over Coax) but is more expensive.
–Compatibility. You are often stuck with proprietary issues using digital camera equipment. The camera manufacturers do try to integrate some other camera brands in, but they have to focus their R&D to making the next best camera.
Which camera system is right for you?
The vanilla answer is what works best for your situation. If you are a very security-conscious business, I do recommend using digital security cameras if it fits the budget. They are more secure, have higher video resolution peaks and may have analytics that can help you. If you’re a small business or homeowner, go ahead and use analog cameras. I think analog is going to be around for a long time, but I could be completely wrong. Nobody knows whether it will or not. The biggest caveat is the development of wireless digital cameras, which could eliminate having to run wires that analog must depend on. Right now, I do not recommend them because the technology is not there yet. Too much data to transfer, too susceptible to interference, lost connections, a drain on your WiFi and there still has to be a wire for power!
There are also hybrid systems out there that can handle both analog & digital. I have put many of them in, especially for those that had analog and are trying to migrate to digital. A professional camera installer should be able to help you design the right system for your unique situation. Call FoxCrest Security, we can help you get the video solution you need. Contact Us or call (240) 422-8369
*Security experts will be quick to point out that HD-TVI is not the only new technology for analog, there is also HD-SDI. HD-TVI is by far winning the battle, much like how Blu-Ray beat HD DVD.