Get the best CCTV cameras

There are lots of different CCTV cameras on the market each one making amazing claims so it’s easy to see why people get confused. Correct camera choice is the single most important thing when creating a good quality CCTV system. It is also the thing most people get wrong fitting wide angle cameras then wondering why they can’t make out any detail .

Retailers don’t make things easy, they make claims in their advertising material which is simply not true.

In this buying guide we’re going to look at some of the key things to consider when choosing a CCTV camera and help you avoid those common mistakes.

We cover things like optical range, how far away from the camera can you identify someone or read a number plate? We also discuss Infra red, the ability of a camera to see in the dark. TVL or television lines is something many retailers use to distinguish between cameras, we explain why this isn’t a very good metric with which to judge cameras by. Finally we talk about optical versus digital zoom and explain why varifocal cameras offer a much greater chance of capturing high detail.

There is a lot of information here, if you’d rather pick up the phone and have a chat with someone we are always happy to chat 0800 3168269.

We can have a look at your site using Google Maps whilst talking through what you were hoping to achieve. This will allow us to put together a package for you together with a plan showing where cameras should be fitted.

Do you need 4K resolution?

In theory the higher the resolution the better your CCTV, more pixels means more detail. Well not necessaritly….

At the moment there are lots of systems on the market claiming ultra high resolution right up to 4K. The problem is in most cases the cameras are wide angle meaning pixels spread apart quickly as you move away from the lens. It’s like trying to heat your house with the doors and windows wide open, you will never win.

HD 1080P gives a great image when coupled with the right camera. To double the quality of HD 1080P you actually need to increase to 8 Megapixels as you are increasing on 2 axis, the horizontal and the vertical. You get the square root of the increase in pixels.

It’s the same old story, people who don’t really understand CCTV jumping on a bandwagon and using impact phrases to try and sell their products.

Throwing pixels at your CCTV system just fills up the Hard drive faster. 21 days rolling footage in HD1080P suddently becomes a mere 2.6 days rolling footage in 4K. Instead of fitting a 3TB hard drive you need to fit a 24TB one!

CCTV image quality all comes down to pixel density, how many pixels hit the target and it’s measured in pixels per metre – PPM

A HD 1080P camera set properly so that it films 8 metres across the screen at a distance of 12 metres would have an angle of view just over 35º and give a pixel density of 240 PPM

A 4K wide angle 90º angle of view camera would only give a pixel density of 160 PPM at the same 12 metre distance

HD 1080P Lens comparison

Our HD cameras come with either a fixed lens which has one angle of view or a vari-focal lens which can be adjusted during installation to balance area covered with detail captured. The more you zoom in the more detail you capture. We always recommend varifocal over fixed lens because it ensures you don’t waste pixels on unwanted areas.

The images below are intended to give you an idea of what each camera will be able to see. In the case of the varifocal cameras we have shown the widest and most zoomed in extreme for that particular lens. We are always happy to advise you when it comes to chooing the best camera for your intended use.

CCTV camera kits

Local stores like Maplins and on line retailers such as ebay and Tesco sell CCTV camera kits, everything you need for a CCTV system in one box. We are highly dismissive of these kits. Why is that?

The single biggest problem is that they generally use fixed lens wide angle cameras.

We cover these wide angle cameras in our Optical Range section.

Wide angle cameras don’t capture detail regardless of what it says on the box.

As a guide a standard resolution 90 degree angle of view camera can only identify someone up to around 1.5 metres from the camera. Even with HD 1080P this only increases to around 3 metres.

The promotional material will often claim these cameras can identify someone 20 – 30 metres away. They can’t.

It is unlikely that your installation will use all the same CCTV cameras. We take time to see what you’re hoping to achieve then make sure you get the right cameras for each individual location.

Sometimes a wide angle low detail capture over view camera might be the solution but more often you need to capture higher levels of detail and these cameras can’t do that as you move away from the lens regardless of resolution.

A camera designed to film people at you door won’t be suitable to cover an area 10 or 20 metres away.

Another problem you will often face with these kits is a lack of support both pre-sale, during installation and also on-going. Our knowledgeable staff are not only there to help you plan an effective system we are also there to help once you’ve purchased your equipment from us.

The claims made by many people selling CCTV are simply laughable. We show you the  discrepancy between what the advertising blurb says and what you actually get using a Swann camera typical of the type sold by Maplins, Costco, Screwfix, electrical wholesalers and any number of on-line retailers.

It claims an effective range of 25 metres our MD often said he would happily stand stark naked 25 metres away from one. We took him at his word. The result – it’s not pretty !



Traditional day / night cameras

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Traditional day night bullet cameras are designed to be mounted either inside or outside and incorporate built in Infra red (I/R) illumination. As light levels fall the Infra-red lights switch on automatically and the camera changes from colour to black and white. Black and white cameras require less light to work and respond to Infra-red lighting.

A traditional looking CCTV camera with a good visual deterrent. Easy to fit and adjust with versatile mounts.

The camera body is able to incorporate longer lenses which makes this style of camera the natural choice for longer distance work. They can still be used for shorter distance applications and we have a small fixed lens traditional camera

Traditional Vandal Dome cameras

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Vandal dome cameras are designed for use in hostile environments the camera electronics are housed behind a clear dome providing protection and also making it harder to see exactly where the camera is pointing.

Fitting and adjusting these cameras can be a little tricky and the built in infra red light tends not to be as efficient due to potential internal reflection from the clear dome.

Open faced Vandal Dome cameras

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Open face vandal dome cameras offer much of the protection afforded by traditional vandal dome cameras but are easier to install and the infra red illumination is more effective because there is no way for it to reflect back into the camera lens.

Our cameras are all metal in construction and have a number of features which make fitting easier. We sell a large open face dome camera which has a varifocal lens and a small version featuring a fixed focal length lens.

Extremely versatile these can be used inside or outdoors and are suitable for short to mid range applications. Like the traditional vandal dome camera the longest lens option is 12mm (2.8-12mm).

Internal dome cameras

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Internal dome cameras have plastic housings and do not feature infra red illumination.

Their lighter weight makes them ideal for suspended ceilings. Stylish in design they blend into most interiors and are only suitable for internal use. For industrial applications consider using open faced vandal dome cameras or even traditional day / night cameras where longer distances are involved.

Speed dome or PTZ cameras

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Speed dome or PTZ (pan tilt zoom) cameras have electronic motors allowing remote control of movement in all directions.

You can also zoom in and out remotely. It is tempting to see PTZ cameras as the ideal solution because they can easily be re-positioned but unless you have a full time operator they can be an expensive folly.

When pointing in one direction they are not filming in another and when moving they tend not to give good images due to blurring. In most instances we would suggest fitting more fixed cameras for the same price.

Some PTZ cameras have the ability to automatically track targets as they move about. The problem comes when you have more than one target and the technology does rely on the camera being pointed in the right direction to start with.

We would suggest keeping things simple and fitting more fixed cameras for the same price.

Bullet Cameras

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Mini Bullet cameras are shaped, how did you guess, like a bullet these don’t come with infra-red illumination and tend to be used for slightly more discreet purposes due to their less intrusive appearance.

The camera size limits the maximum lens that can be used making them unsuitable for longer distance applications. Some bullet cameras are suitable for external use, others are only designed for internal fitment.

We sell a fixed lens and a varifocal version of our bullet cameras.

Covert Cameras

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As the name suggests, covert cameras are small cameras that are easy to tuck away somewhere out of sight or cameras that are disguised as another object such as our PIR detector camera.

These all have fixed focal length lenses, mostly wide angle. Ultimate performance will never be as good as standard cameras due to the restricted size of the lens which limits light entry. Only being available with a fixed lens also means detail capture can not be maximised.


Learn more about the three main components of a CCTV system.


HD 1080p

Our new HD range is here, and it’s fantastic. More detail than ever before.



General fitting advice and things to consider during installation.