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Do you have a home video surveillance setup? Recommendations needed.

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 18, 2014 8:52 AM PDT
Do you have a home video surveillance setup? Recommendations needed.

Recently there has been a surge of home burglaries in my neighborhood and in last two months I have gotten two packages stolen off of my porch and I'm starting to get a bit paranoid. Also it doesn't make me feel better when I continue to read more news about home invasions happening, not in my neighborhood, but not too far from my home. I've lived in my quiet and uneventful area for almost a decade and these type of things rarely ever happen and I'm getting concerned not only for my personal property but for the safety of my family.

I already have an existing alarm system installed that actively monitors break-ins and automatically calls the police, but now I'm thinking about installing video cameras around the proximity of my home not only just to deter the would-be burglars, but in the event that something bad goes wrong, I can at least have video to capture the perpetrators. I haven't started looking yet, except seeing those commercials online from alarm/cable companies, but I'm not sure if that's what I want. I essentially want a couple of cameras to monitor the two entrances to my house and one possibly in the inside of my house. I'd like a system to record video and also something that I can use to access the cameras on my smartphone in real time so I can check up on the house occasionally. Is there something out there that does all this? What's the cost of these systems? Is it better off doing it yourself or having it professionally done? Are any of you using one? Please tell me about it. Do you think this video surveillance is overkill and my paranoia is just getting to me? All I really want is to feel safe again and protect my family and property. All recommendations and experience shared are appreciated.

--Submitted by: Edward C.
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Got to catch them in the act with some type of sensors?

A Hardware Store that I frequent a great deal has a state of the art video system, yet one day they lost 2 -24 foot ladders for a loss of around $400. It was in the middle of the day with many customers around. This store is not a big box but is family owned, but has been around for 90 years and has a lot of regulars. It is in a small town. The Police Station is 1/2 mile down the road they are on. Pictures are crystal clear, good capture of the vehicle and license and got good profiles of the perp. 2 years later the guy has not been caught. There was only one. The license plate on the car was stolen. He did use a disguise of sorts and the frame shots are still posted around the store today. And he had to secure the ladders to his vehicle before he left.

It has not happened again and they are not revealing what they have done to head it off in the future.

My only thought is to add motion sensors, heat sensors and other sensors and that text or notify one of anomalies. And get someone on site who can make an arrest or scare them off, leaving whatever they were after.

Many years ago, I lived on some acreage in the country. I had a guy build a house across the way that had state of the art alarms. They went off almost every Sunday in the mornings but at different times for 5 or 6 Sundays. The Sheriff usually showed up 30 minutes to 1 hour after they went off. And he always turned down my private road and I had to direct him to the house, 1/4 mile away. I had met the guy and offered good neighbor help, but he did not take me up on it. I started to think someone was casing his house to see how long it took the Sheriff to come. Then they would plan out their heist. The house always had vans and other work trucks around. Long story short, he had a heat sensor that was being affected by the sun being out on cloudless days and at the right angle.

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a great idea

Police work on a triage type of response. A B&E might have a higher or lower reaction time based on what else is happening at that time.

I've often thought about having cameras but the better ones can be expensive, then the recording devices. We're digital today so off to the hard drive.
The decent cameras are not cheap but this all depends where video security is a priority in your life.

I feel sometimes the opposite can affect you. If you do have and maybe brandish a series of cameras, then the would-be bad guys would wonder why you have a camera. What are you protecting? Same goes for the police.

These days it's hard to protect yourself, even a baseball bat is considered a weapon. What bothers me the most are stories that I hear about the bad guy having more rights than the victim.
While talk is cheap I have been talking about getting one or two cameras for my shop and driveway

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WiFi Motion Sensors Vs Cameras
by avarachanvc / April 26, 2014 2:09 AM PDT

Depending on the extend of detail needed, a motion sensor could be a great tool. Proteus has some sensor variants with email/ text message alerts. Which is cool if you want to know someone was there or not.

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here's an idea
by PorkyJJ-23175157731918972635025626332096 / April 26, 2014 3:08 AM PDT

I heard it said that most burglars want a quick and easy access. get in grab and get out ASAP.
Many years ago I though of use one of those motion sensors lights we all have in the driveway or side door of the house. A person walks up (including wild animals) and the light goes on for a period of time. I then though about setting that up with a buzzer hard wired inside the house.
Face it, when you're deep in sleep (snoring) not a lot of us will notice the light going on. But if we here a low tone buzzer/beeper it would wake us up and see what's happening. The big problem would be false alarms caused by wild animals or cats on the mousing prowl. I often thought, too, if we could use the same sensor to activate a video camera to capture the same event. Sorry, that's just the inventive side of me talking.

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Well that's built in to most new CCTV security systems
by keithsplace / April 26, 2014 4:02 PM PDT
In reply to: here's an idea

Most new Security CCTV DVR systems incorporate that in the recorder. Motion on the picture starts the recording of that camera, and you can set the area's you want to block for sensor, like the cat or dog door.

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Driveway Alert
by Lygia Pagan / April 27, 2014 6:58 AM PDT
In reply to: here's an idea

I agree. I have a driveway alert on my deck. When it detects movement the alarm goes off. It is pretty sturdy and withstands the elements.

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I'm just tacking this post on..
by JCitizen / April 27, 2014 9:58 AM PDT
In reply to: here's an idea

Just thought I'd add some food for thought for those shopping for a system and factors they might think about. Some of us are on a budget and may simply want a record of what is going on but no alarm - for those folks a common game trail or baby monitor camera may be just the ticket. The game cameras are camouflaged and can be discretely hidden to lessen discovery and removal by criminals. However, there are also wireless game trail cameras that offer off site recording wireless with a small server, usually using standard SD flash memory cards.

However if you are pursuing more preventative solutions, but again, are on a budget, just as we all are; you may want to look at these features, which to me, are important - YMMV

1. Cameras need to be as high of a resolution as possible and have both color and night capability - it also needs to be wireless(with privacy security built in) so your costs in wiring don't affect the plan.

2. DVR needs to have in the design the ability to search/playback easily, with over write when maximum storage is exceeded. Make sure the day/hour length covers your planned discovery time table. Of course it would be the wireless receiver for the cameras, so make sure they are either the same brand or match up using WPA2 g or n witless security. You also may want the capability to look at more that one camera simultaneously, and be able to switch to a dedicated view of each camera when needed. This is if you have a direct connection to the server with a monitor - some systems may allow you to do this over the internet, but then you are adding more expense because you need DSL or 3 / 4G internet service.

3. Motion alarm - must have sensitivity to be easily adjustable - some actually come with the camera, and you simply aim at setup area symbols in field of view(very easy to setup).

4. Here is where it get tricky to find the right setup, because no one wants to pay for an alarm service, or you wouldn't be DYI here would we? I've actually found some alarm getups that provide free email service for motion sensor alarm or other tripped events! I've not been in the market for a while so these may not be available, but it is worth looking for. I saw one device setup that would also email short video clips of any detections that were not just short trip events, but continued motion sensed.

5, Luckily our local wireless 3G provider will let you add your own device to your cellular wireless plan, so you can actually have the alarm contact you directly through 3G wireless service. It just requires the app be installed on your smart phone or PC. Look for features that take into account a power outage at the site you are watching, and also uses some kind of keep alive signal to assure the wireless alarm hasn't been knocked out by the crooks. If you are fortunate enough to have this available in your area, it can save you a great deal of money compared to paying for alarm surveillance by a professional installer.

I really can't recommend any brand or store to buy your system from, but CNET may have gadget reviews for many of the better known brands, and Amazon user reviews can help as well. The market changes so rapidly in this subject, it would be folly for me to recommend any one company or shop. However, I think you will find that if the system has all the features I've described here, it is usually one of the best available - and it quickly narrows your search too!

I'm sure I've forgotten to address other factors here, so maybe someone can correct me in this discussion.

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DVR recordng not a good option
by rrmram / May 12, 2014 8:06 AM PDT

I know two people whose homes have been robbed in the past few years. One had door/window and motion sensors in addition to a TV camera that automatically came to life and recorded the action. The other house simply had an automatic camera. The problem was that in addition to the TV's, computers, jewelry and other valuables stolen, the DVR's were taken too. The crooks took home movies with them of their activities.

My system streams the cameras outputs to the internet storage, along with sensor activity, and I am sent an immediate msg to my cell phone.

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Wireless camera system recommendation
by cheryllynn84 / September 10, 2015 8:02 AM PDT

I know of a quality product that is easy to install that I know you would be really happy with. I use this myself and love that I have no long-term contract or reoccurring expenses. My husband is gone during the week and I feel much more secure knowing my 9 year old son and I are protected.

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what kind of cam?
by elmosam / November 1, 2015 12:41 AM PDT

I have a vessel which is been threatened with vandalism...there is no wifi where i moore my vessel and i need some sort of guidance as to what cam i can use with this type of scenario?

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Complete Home or Small Business Surveillance System
by ilonawatsonn / May 3, 2015 5:28 PM PDT

"Do you have a home video surveillance setup? Recommendations needed."

It may be difficult to be everywhere at once, but with the help of D-Link's new Video Camera Recorder and Wi-Fi Cameras, you are able to see all the parts of your home that are important to you any time. These are easy to install and simple to use and enable you to keep an eye at home or at garden....

The flexibility and ease of use makes a Dlink DIY surveillance system perfect for a large home and small business applications. At house, you can easily arrange your cameras to assist as a low-cost and highly customizable security system.

Apply outdoor camera at all the entrances to your house and interior cameras mainly on sensitive spots to make sure that you have an unhindered view and let would-be robbers know they won't go unobserved.

Fortunately, D-Link's impressive arrays of Wi-Fi Cameras are both powerful and user-friendly, and they're all designed to connect directly to your Dlink Video Camera Recorder. Here are few examples which show some extraordinary features of Dlink Cameras:

DCS-933L (The Day & Night Wi-Fi Camera) is a compact size camera that records all types of sharp, vivid video both in daytime and at night-time. Perfect for indoor use, the DCS-933L's built-in W-Fi extender spontaneously supports your network while enabling flexible placement. i have found relevant information on various sites like, wikipedia, but I personally feel that cnet provides best information to exchange through forums.

DCS-2132L (The HD Wi-Fi Camera) is also created for a wide range of light levels and provides stunning 720p HD-quality video it does not matter whether its day or night. Improved PIR motion detection abilities comprise of automatic email update when movement is detected.

DCS-2330L (The HD Outdoor Wi-Fi Camera) provides also impressive 720p HD video, but comes boarded with a weatherproof case cover and features a robust antenna for outdoor use.<span id="INSERTION_MARKER">

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Do you have a home video surveillance setup? Recommendations

I picked up wireless motion detectors at Harbor Freight, when on sale, they're very inexpensive. Work well. And I took an older desktop pc, it has 4 gb ram, win 7, 3ghz processor or faster, and I put a $5 on sale usb camera on it and pointed the camera out the front window. It gets the entrance way, driveway, street, and even the neighbors house across the street. To record it I use the free version of Debut Video Capture Software from NCH Software. Works extremely well for recording 1 hour stretches of Video repeatedly and automatically. Very nice. I just delete the videos every so often so there's always room on the hard drive, and for about 12 bucks worth of electricity monthly, I've got a video recording setup, with optional audio recording as well. But watch out for the wiretapping laws. Don't want to violate those.... The camera doesn't work in the dark, I recommend you get one that does.... Good Luck Happy

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video surveillance versus "wiretapping laws"
by L. DeRoos / April 26, 2014 8:10 PM PDT

"But watch out for the wiretapping laws. Don't want to violate those.... ". Can you please explain what you mean by this as I cannot make the connection between your setup and this statement.

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Harbor Freight detectors
by Maxxit / April 29, 2014 7:18 AM PDT

If you mean those driveway detectors that sound a motion alarm you should mention
that they are separate and do not have anything to do with your computer recording.
Put the sensor by your entrance and the receiver in your bedroom and I have no doubt
they will wake you out of a deep sleep.

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Video System

I currently am using Dropcam, easy to use with all the bells and whistles. They store the video on the cloud so its easy to search and protect. During a current trip we were able to see who was at our house or in it with the alerts that were sent to my phone. To see their web site go to

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Home Video

I had some robberies happen so I got a video surveillance system from Sam's Club. They have many to choose from. The system I got was Defender which has 8 cameras, DVR for recording and it can go up to 16 cameras. I installed it myself and the cameras are color in the day and black and white at night, has a viewing range of 100 feet and is continuous recording. I also got a flat screen tv that I have it connected to so I can watch. The system can also be connected to your iphone so you can view it where ever you have a internet connection. I am well satisfied with my unit. You can view and get information from their web site at

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smaller setup
by sharee100 / April 25, 2014 11:55 AM PDT
In reply to: Home Video

I have just 2 cameras, front door and backyard. My system is wired. Wired systems have a better picture. And the more led lights, the better the night picture. I hooked up my old vcr machine and hooked the cameras up as accessory inputs 1 & 2 to my flat screen tv in my bedroom. I bought some 9-hr tapes and just run them at night or when I am not home. They are reusable. Additional benefit is that I can see who is at the front door if I am working in my bedroom. I purchased my cameras and wiring at Gotcha Spy & Security Products, a local store where they explained everything and all the systems and sizes available. Because I purchased from a Specialty store where a staff member explained everything to me before I purchased, I did pay more than if I had purchased at a Discount Store. But it was worth every penny. Did I mention that I installed the system myself? I am a grandma in my mid 60's. was definitely easy to install.

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Walmart special
by jerrystroudx / April 26, 2014 3:10 AM PDT
In reply to: Home Video

I picked up a wireless UNIDEN video/DVR system at Walmart for $190. The two cameras work great for the front of the house and back of the house. It took all of 20 minutes to set them up (they need the 120 VDC power, which I already had for outdoor light fixtures near by).

Lorex also sells a simular system but a little bit more. I put a 2G memory card in it and it will record up to about 3 days then recyle over old video. With a 16G memory, you will catch action for over 1 week or more.

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quick answers, tired so forgive any spelling mistakes

Yeah your paranoia is probably getting to you Happy

But there is nothing wrong with having a cctv system, just dont let it rule your life.

Firstly, with regard to home invasions etc - you do realise that the vast majority of cctv systems would be pointless as they store the footage locally.. So the invaders would just have to take your computer/dvr etc away and the footage is gone.

Remote monitoring is ok, but a bit gimmicky - you will spend most of your time looking at nothing, and most likely not be looking when a real event does happen.

Its possible to do it yourself - but lots to learn, a pro could save you money in the long run.

To do it properly (enough cams, enough resolution, high quality recording, off site recording if needed, correct lenses for proper FOV (fied of view), ability to cope with bright sunlight to pitch black nights... etc ) WILL cost money. Lots of money.

Probably easier and cheaper to buy a dog, unless you can invest lots of time and money, or lots of money (and hire the expertise).

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I have retro fitted many houses and to be honest, make sure you go with a reputable company. There are apps like Swann which allow for mobile view but they will cost (unless you have unlimited data plan). A decent system runs about 400, but honestly, again if you dont know and arent ready to learn, find someone reputable.


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Yes, I do.

I have had a home video surveillance system for about two years now. I am using software from running on a Dell 2850 I got from surplus and I have three of those inexpensive WANSCAM PTZ (chinese) cameras hooked up to it via encrypted wireless network connection. The best part about it is that it is all cheap and good. The BlueIris software costs $50.00 for the professional edition and I think it is well worth it. It is fully featured and the professional version has no limit on the number of cameras in use. The cameras are $35-$55 each (from eBay) and can be placed anywhere there is a power outlet. At one time I was using to handle the dynamic IP address from my DSL provider so I could watch the house while I am at work. I don't have that right now since the novelty wore off and I just send alerts from home to my mail here at work. The equipment is not plug and play. The program needs to be set up, the cameras need to be configured, you will probably need to log in to your wireless router and configure the wireless for encryption and so on; however, the system is about as cheap and good as you can get. It takes a little study to set it up yourself but that is what geeks do best. I know the BlueIris web site has an FAQ with helpful hints, etc. I am not affiliated in any way whatsoever with BlueIris but prior to going with them I did sample several programs and this one was the best for me.

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Yes the camera's will help

I had my alarm company install a camera facing the driveway/front door, one internal camera, and a third on back patio door area. Within a year it made videos of two persons of interest standing at my back door looking in my windows. They are motion activated and take a one minute clip and send it to both the internet and my home computer. When a delivery firm swore the had delivered an expensive package I informed them that if they had the camera would have shown the delivery and the person bringing up the package, it did not, as they did not, and the firm had to pay some serious money to replace the lost item that they would have otherwise taken the position that I had received it so I should handle the issue. is known for its camera service as one provider if you want a professional install. You can do it yourself if there is a quality security store in your area.

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Home surveillance

A minimum 2 megabyte ISP digital with internet backup and at home backup with battery backup (concealed backup)
The internet is easily disrupted and electrical systems fail, so a standard 12 hour security system batter makes certain recording continues.
Next 700 Infra red cameras with infra red illuminators on every approach and corner are critical, also with high resolution dvr (concealed) with option to internet connection (on leaving the house, not connected to the internet when home because of probability of hacking for remote viewing by strangers)
Next the availability of turning on audio recording to record any speech you may have with the intruders, and not until you are recording yourself to avoid any complaint.
Next routine security tied into the monitoring system, windows doors openings, etc, also with internet and battery back ups.
Monitoring units with audio not recorded to surveil approaches-- refined as necessary.
Check your prices and check your equipment. Must be certain that exterior equipment is waterproof and that if not motorized that all cross features are duplicated through camera positions (no dead zones)
Makes like safer and more comfortable and also easier for visitors.

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X10 Systems

I don't have such a system set up but you can google X10 systems and find out what is available!

I had an ADT system set up in my home but I cancelled the service because of the poor service that I was receiving!

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I have a 4 camera Q-See and it works Great

Last year I purchased an 8 channel, 4 Camera Q-See DVR system with a 1TB hard drive. I bought it on sale at Amazon for about $300.

The cameras were easy to install, if you know how to run wires. My cameras mostly sit under the eves of my home, just under the roof line. The wires are from 60 to 100' each, and run from the camera to my office, where I keep the Q-See DVR and my other computer equipment.

The DVR also has a CAT5 port which plugs directly into my router. By forwarding to the Q-See video server, I can easily monitor what is happening at my home with my Android phone, my Nexus7, my laptop and my ipad using the q-see app.

The Video quality is great. The camera's are 600TVL and have 100' night vision. The DVR will record all activity on all 4 cameras for about 3-4 weeks, then it will overwrite.

The system does have an alarm function. If there is movement, a red flag will post on the playback screen.

Now the good stuff. Last week, some guy came into my driveway at 1:43 in the morning and tried my car doors. My doors were locked, so he moved on. The police reports said several cars were broken into in my neighborhood that same night. The video is good quality and is time date stamped. You can see my Driveway Camera recording on this youtube link. This was taken with the Night Vision.

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That's great quality video
by rumsonhomes / April 25, 2014 2:37 PM PDT

I need a system that has that kind of quality at night. Thanks for posting

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I use wireless ip cameras for my own home surveillance. I bought 2 foscam outdoor wireless ip cameras for $100 each, they come with everything you need. mount them outdoors, install the software and you can view the live video feed from anywhere in your wifi network. if you want, you can set them to motion recording so if that guy who wants your ups packages comes to your door, it starts recording and saves to your computer or dvr. to make it even better, set up port forwarding (very easy to do if you have a decent router and a good internet connection) and now you can view and record the live feed from anywhere you can get an internet connection (work, school, out of town, your phone). they have free apps where you can view up to 4 of your cameras on one screen. I even got an indoor camera for the upstairs playroom so I can keep an eye on the kids when we're downstairs. it gives me peace of mind, when I go out of town all I have to do is open my app, check my cameras for anything suspicious and get on with my trip, takes 2 seconds to verify everythings ok. if something wasn't, I would call the cops or someone who lives close by. in my city, police will not respond to burglar alarms, even if the alarm company calls them. its called verified alarm or something like that. so the video setup works for me. hope this helps

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DIY CCTV setup

I purchased a USB analog to digital adapter off eBay as well as a cheap analog camera from Harbor Freight to setup my CCTV system. I repair computers so I basically had a junk Core i3 laptop with a broken screen and bad keyboard and touchpad that works fine with an external monitor and wireless mouse and keyboard. The USB adapter works quite well but I understand you need to be careful to purchase one that works with 64 bit versions of Windows, especially Windows 8/8.1. There are many of these for sale but make sure it says in the description. The camera is decent for the price. It is nothing special but pretty much like 480 line TV. I am considering adding more cameras in the future and moving one of these to a secondary location but have two of these online right now. They are solid and durable even being made in China. They have been online like 2 years without issues and seem to be a good product for the price. Sure, they aren't top of the line but they got me up and running in a pinch.

I downloaded a freeware/shareware type program called iSpy that accepts all kinds of camera inputs. It has all kinds of neat features including motion detection, license plate recognition, and such. I only really use it to record sound and video on motion detection but looking through the menus is pretty impressive for a free program. Also, the pay version allows you to store video in the cloud and has a few other features unlocked.

So, between a basically free laptop, free programs, and cheap cameras/USB adapters, I got started at about $60 per camera input. I plan to add a more expensive higher resolution camera, likely digital, sometime in the future and use my existing two in less important locations.

This all got started when I ran someone off my property. They had driven through a neighbors property and around my gate with no trespassing signs. I don't know if it was a thief or a poacher as it was like the last day of deer season but my neighbor tried to stop him. This is an old woman and he ran over her with his truck. The Sheriff's Dept. has been unable to find him although others have seen the truck driving around. It was a very distinctive older model truck. Either way, I usually monitor the camera when I am home and know it is always recording. If he returns, I will hold him at gunpoint and call the law.

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In reply to: Do you have a home video surveillance setup? Re
by janaewalker / August 8, 2016 9:24 PM PDT
In reply to: DIY CCTV setup

First of all I congratulate you for making a right decision because protection of you home and valuables is really important. Before selecting a security camera you should know which one will suit your needs. There are a plenty of cameras available in the market. You can buy the right one according to your choice. Some of the common types are Infrared camera, Hidden camera, Pan tilt zoom camera, Dome camera etc. I think Infrared camera will suit you the best because there are designed for business as well as home. They can produce good quality videos even in lower light conditions by switching from color to black and white for giving clear images and try choosing a weather proofed one. According to me Infrared cameras will be the most suited one for you. Even if pan tilt zoom cameras give the most clear vision. They are mainly used for capturing images of number plates etc. I’ve been having security systems in my home and of since 5 years and didn’t have any complaints regarding it and I had installed infrared cameras in my home and Pan tilt zoom camera in my office. Installing it yourself is not a right choice. Try consulting a reputed agency. I had consulted Canadian Security professionals.They provide quality service and the security is also reliable and one more thing to keep in mind is selecting the right type that is wired or wireless. If you need high quality vision go for wired cameras.

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