CCTV Buying Guide – Top 10 Mistakes 2015

Want to find the best home CCTV cameras to protect your property or small business?

Want a simple budget indoor IP cam? Looking to splash the cash on a high-end CCTV surveillance system for your home?

Check out our CCTV Buying Guide for the Top 10 Mistakes you can make when buying a CCTV kit.

What Are You Looking For? reviews the top consumer IP cameras, rate the features, and give you simple, no-nonsense information about the best CCTV kit for your home.


Home CCTV, IP cameras (or IP cams), home network cameras, netcams or home security cameras – whatever you call these systems, fact is they are getting more affordable.

Installation is getting easier too, and you could get your own DIY CCTV security system setup in a few hours.

Between the wireless, POE, resolutions, IR features and arguments over bullets versus domes, how do you find the best CCTV kit?

What – CCTV Cameras For My Home?

CCTV or Closed-Circuit Television is video surveillance of an area on a private system only you or people you trust can view. With the arrival of IP or internet-protocol cameras, you can install simple networked digital cameras and build your own CCTV system.

Home security with discrete CCTV cameras offers UK homeowners peace of mind at low cost. Some are so simple now, even my gran can plug ’em in and watch her cat on an app.

You could even reduce your home insurance premium too by installing a home CCTV kit!

Surveillance camera brands like Hikvision and Foscam are vying with Belkin, TRENDnet and D-Link to supply CCTV kit. Some are cheap and some are expensive, and I want to help you choose the right CCTV camera that works for your purposes.

The best CCTV camera for you depends on:

  • The camera features you want
  • The zone you want to protect
  • Your technical know-how, and
  • What you want your security camera to watch

You can DIY a fantastic home CCTV kit, but don’t get suckered into buying the wrong camera and systems for your needs.

Whatever home CCTV system you’re interested in, we’ve got reviews to help your research.

CCTV Buying Guide – Top 10 Mistakes

  1. Don’t break your budget
  2. Pick indoors or outdoors
  3. Know your target
  4. Decide on visible or discrete
  5. Do you need on night-vision?
  6. Pick a resolution you actually need
  7. Remember viewing
  8. Consider connectivity
  9. Ponder position
  10. Software matters

Set a budget (and stick to it)

Sure, IP Cameras are getting cheaper in 2015. But budget-creep can mean you end up spending  more than you need to. Try and set a budget, and stick to it.

If you only need a single indoor CCTV camera for a simple job, then you could shop around a pick up a budget IP cam like the Belkin Netcam F7D7601UK for less than £50.

Multiple cameras around a property will bump up the price. And if you really need high resolution images, you will pay a higher price per camera. A 3MP Hikvision DS-2CD2132-I will do better than 1080p but will set you back £150+ per cam.

Be realistic. You could get an all-in-one CCTV camera kit with a DVR for less than £200 but it’s not going to be the best quality.

Remember, if you’re building a custom CCTV setup, you’re may need:

  • Cameras for each area you want to protect
  • Wiring and network switches if you opt against wireless cameras
  • Installation costs (drilling, run cables etc)
  • Recording via NVR or DVR, plus hard drives
  • Third-party monitoring software
  • Cloud storage subscription costs

Don’t get lured into buying old tech or CCTV features you won’t use.

Set your budget early on and build around what you can afford. You might be surprised what you can do on a small budget if you’re prepared to learn about IP cams and simple networking.

Pick indoors or outdoors

Outdoor CCTV cameras are designed to withstand the elements. IP66 housing is rated as waterproof under normal conditions, and will keep dust from your IP cam too.

Cameras are also rated according to the temperature range they can tolerate. If it’s going to be in direct sunlight all day, the temps on that hardware can ramp up quickly.

Likewise if you’re in the rainy north of the UK (like me!) you’ll want it to survive the cold, wet winter.

Is it actually an indoor surveillance camera you want? These won’t be IP66 rated, but an indoor cam may be cheaper and better suit your purpose. A little D-Link DCS-933L won’t survive in the rain, but it is easy to setup, and you can monitor your home remotely with an app.

Know your target

The choice between an indoor or outdoor CCTV system will be dictated by your video target. What do you want to monitor with an IP cam?

Some popular uses for home CCTV systems include:

  • Securing areas outside an occupied property e.g., your home
  • Monitoring the exterior of a vacant property e.g., holiday rental, caravan
  • Watching a shed or bike lockup
  • Monitoring a front door area for deliveries or vandalism
  • Monitoring inside an elderly relative’s home between care visits
  • Watching a baby when they sleep upstairs in your home
  • Keeping an eye on a dog or cat at home when you’re at work

What do you want your CCTV system to do? You may be able to save on some features, or need to invest a bit more cash.

Decide on night-vision

Do you need night-vision features in your home CCTV camera kit?

If you want to use video security to protect a property or home, decent CCTV camera night-vision is really helpful. A TRENDnet TV-IP310PI has powerful enough IR LEDs to pick out a target in complete darkness up to 30m away.

I have bought home CCTV cameras only to find their low-light performance was atrocious. Cheaper D-Link cameras have nice features, but the night vision performance is mediocre. Don’t make it easier for burglars at night.720p-cctv-ir-night-sample

CCTV camera manufacturers rate their cameras according to effective night-vision range. I would take all these numbers with a pinch of salt. A cheap CCTV camera will see next to nothing in low light.

Quality IR imaging and good camera sensors in a CCTV system will let you record decent security footage even at night. Try and put yourself in an intruder’s shoes. Where will they approach your home? How far do you need your CCTV camera to see at night?

IR illumination is no substitute for proper external lights on your target area. A good range on a night-vision IP cam though might be enough to trigger motion alerts at a surprising distance.

Pick a resolution you actually need

Resolution matters for home CCTV. Higher resolution IP cameras can capture more details per frame, giving you a better picture.

When you are buying a home security camera kit, ask yourself: how detailed do you need the surveillance video to be? You may not need the very best CCTV camera sensors for your use.

For simple motion detection in a garden or front porch, lower resolution IP cameras at a cheaper price will get the job done.

However if you are looking to protect high value items in high crime areas don’t scrimp on camera resolution. You will thank those pixels if you can provide high quality perp images to the Police. Blurry images will not let you identify a criminal or read a number plate.

Remember viewing

hikvision-demo-720p-imageSo you bought a great IP cam for the house. How are you actually going to watch the video?

You can view a real-time video stream from a networked camera using all sorts of software and natty apps.

But do you want to see what happened outside your home last Thursday at 3.37am? If you do, you need to store your video footage somewhere.

Will you use a DVR, NVR or SD storage? What about subscribing to a CCTV cloud storage provider? How big will your hard drives need to be? How long will you need to store high resolution home CCTV footage for?

More storage costs money. And remember that all your juicy high quality footage from multiple HD security cameras will generate oodles of data.

Consider connectivity

When buying the best IP camera for your home CCTV system, think about connectivity.

How are you going to get that great high resolution capture footage to your computer or mobile phone for review?

motorola-focus-73Wireless CCTV cameras are easy to install, and easy to setup. For indoor surveillance, a power supply is all you need.

Wired home CCTV kits need a bit more though. If you are a confident DIYer, drilling holes and running cables for hard-wired outdoor CCTV cameras can be a straightforward task. Think about where your camera network will go, where your network switches or router lives, and how this connects to your NVR or NAS.

IP cameras connected via Cat5 cables to your network are a robust security solution and will reliably deliver high video data throughput.

Indoor wireless netcams are easy to move around the house to monitor different areas. I found this feature useful when using wireless video baby monitors to keep our children safe when travelling.

Wireless CCTV cameras do risk interference though, and wireless networks can’t carry the same amount security video as wire IP cameras. Wireless is convenient though, and adding new CCTV cameras to the network is much easier

Ponder position

Will your new home CCTV camera be able to see what you want?

It is not easy to identify burglars from the top of their head. CCTV cameras mounted too high are useless for catching faces.

Cameras are limited by their Field of View (FOV). A better FOV lets a CCTV camera capture video from a wider angle and gives you better area coverage. If you want to monitor your whole back garden or all your driveway with a single CCTV camera, consider a wide FOV.

Many webcam and netcam manufacturers offer digital zoom and image panning options. These are almost useless – they do not let a cheap camera see any better.

Motorised Pan, Tilt and Zoom (PTZ) cameras let you actually move and rotate your CCTV camera remotely. They can be set to sweep areas and continuously monitor wide targets areas.

Some people feel dome cameras are better if you want to resist tampering. There are lots to choose from, so pick your camera position and buy to suit.

Software matters

The best home CCTV camera system is only as good as the software you use to record and view your video.

Top camera manufacturers aimed at the domestic market offer simple Plug-and-Play features together with some fantastic, easy to use online camera controls. Do you want to turn on your new high resolution wireless CCTV camera and start viewing footage in minutes?

Then consider a webcam from Belkin or TrendNet, who bundle great CCTV viewing software with their cameras.

Prepared to build your own viewing software and backup for your new home CCTV system? Then choose a higher-end IP camera with the flexibility to feed any video surveillance software you choose.hikvision-ip-camera-viewer-app-sample

There are apps too! When choosing a CCTV cameras for your home security, check for a compatible app for your Apple or Android phone. Apps give you the convenience to monitor and control your wireless or wired CCTV system from a mobile or tablet.

I use the apps for my home CCTV system, especially when I am travelling. Notifications and motion detection alerts get sent straight to me, wherever I am in the world.

It really gives you peace of mind when away from home.

Advantages of home CCTV

So a DIY home CCTV system can require a bit of work to install. Why bother?

I think regular home owners should consider IP cameras like the ones I review here because:

  • IP cams give you peace of mind when away from home
  • Conspicuous security cameras deter burglars
  • Good footage can help the police catch a criminal
  • Indoor cams have all sorts of uses for kids, pets and relatives
  • Some insurers give you better premiums with a CCTV system
  • Fun footage when weird stuff happens!