IP Camera System vs Regular Analog CCTV System – Objective Comparison

Internet Protocol Cameras (IP Cameras) are becoming more and more popular due to lower prices. IP Cameras are also capable of much higher resolutions comparing to analog CCTV Cameras. A lot of experts say that regular security cameras would be soon replaced entirely by IP camera systems. In my opinion for at least next few years we will see analog and IP camera system coexist with each other. There are few advantages of IP cameras but there is also few disadvantages. Let’s start with advantages. As mentioned before, IP cameras are capable of capturing picture in much higher resolution then regular CCTV Camera. Current IP Cameras can capture 2 Megapixel (and more) picture with 30fps quality of video. IP Cameras use network to send the image to the Video Recorder, so in many cases we can save a lot of money just on the wiring. There is no need for separate cable for each camera. By using network hubs or switches, we can combine several cameras and send the picture via one cat5 or cat6 cable. This makes wiring easier and it doesn’t require so much cable. Network cable is also usually cheaper than Siamese Cable used with Analog CCTV Cameras. With IP Camera System we have a flexibility when it comes to Video Recorder. For this purpose we can use standard PC with the Video recording software installed. Software usually comes with the camera. So there is really no need for additional DVR. We can also locate our Video Recorder anywhere on the Network. We are not limited to the one spot where all cables are terminated like with Analog CCTV System. IP systems can be also pretty easily expended. There is virtually no limit on the number of cameras IP system can handle, but of course this means extra Video Recorders, Switches etc.
Recently I ran into a lot of articles where cost of IP system seems to be calculated below cost of Analog CCTV System. How is it possible while IP Cameras are way more expensive comparing to their analog counterparts? The major argument used in many articles is price of labor and wiring. Obviously most of people writing those articles never install the CCTV System in their live. Arguments of cheaper wiring and cheaper labor may be true only in a very few instances. Basically we would have to have all cameras located in one area and connected to one switch. And this never is a case. There is also a lot of labor involved in setting up IP cameras. You can’t just connect it and aim it. There are network procedures that need to be implemented into every camera settings. It may not be a manual labor, but it takes time and skills, so it does cost. In most of the instances we will have to use more than one PoE switch and those are pretty expensive too. Argument, that you can use existing network to install IP Cameras is far from truth either. Most of existing network do not offer enough bandwidth to support few megapixel IP cameras, so in almost every case there is a need for separate network just for surveillance. Also not every PC can be used to run NVR software. For larger installations, we will need very fast computer and they may be much more expensive than regular CCTV DVR for analog system. So let’s forget about saving money on IP camera system. It usually costs 2-3 times more than Analog CCTV System.
Another disadvantage of IP Cameras is limited bandwidth. Let’s face it, if we want to use megapixel cameras and send 30fps video over the network, this network will get clogged pretty soon. Interesting is that most of the installers will actually lower resolution on IP cameras to standard VGA resolution to resolve bandwidth problems. So actually quality is no different than with Analog CCTV Cameras. In large IP systems we will have problem with high speed video, since it is hard to achieve full motion video due to again limited bandwidth. Another thing is night vision and low light capability. IP cameras use CMOS sensor to capture picture. CMOS sensors are not as good as CCD sensors in low light situations. So IP Cameras on average need more light to generate picture. While IP Cameras are great for big open spaces, they are not very suitable for smaller spaces or areas with a lot of corners and blind zones. Of course we can put a lot of IP cameras to cover every corner on every angle, but than cost of the installation sky rockets. There is no really advantage of higher resolution in that situation since a single camera is used to cover small area.
So to be fair I provided advantages but also disadvantages of IP Camera System. I was trying to be objective, not like other websites, where only advantages are highlighted. I hope this article will be helpful in choosing between IP or Analog CCTV setup.

About admin

10 Years experience in surveillance, CCTV, access control.
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4 Responses to IP Camera System vs Regular Analog CCTV System – Objective Comparison

  1. admin says:

    There is no easy way to compare IP system to Analog. That’s why I can only provide average difference in total system cost. Some example: A lot of people say that with IP system you don’t need a costly DVR like with analog system, because IP system is software based. Yes, but if you have 16 2 megapixel IP Cameras and want to have full resolution with high fps, you need a really good computer which will cost at least $1000 with enough hard drive space. 16 port PoE network switch may cost more than $500. So the larger the system the more switches you need. Sometimes those may be just 4 port switches but you will need 4 of them in different locations. Even 4 port PoE with good amperage can cost way over $300. So unless you are planning on using just 1 or 2 IP cameras, you will end up paying much more than for analog system. Architecture of IP system is so much different that comparing it to analog piece by piece makes no sense. You can compare cameras only and IP cameras are on average 3-4 times more expensive. I can also guarantee that labor is much more expensive since it requires networking skills while just about anyone can setup analog system. So the myth promoted on many websites, that cost of IP system is actually lower than analog system, is very far from truth. The only thing chaeper is cable and that’s not necessarily a truth, because often you will be required to use fiber connection between switches.

  2. joey says:

    What are SDI cameras?

  3. admin says:

    Just want to mention few more things. I am not against IP cameras. I realize all advantages of higher resolution picture. I’ve read many articles explaining on how IP system in a long run will cost you less than analog, and that was a main reason for this post. In all those articles you read about advantages of IP cameras but they never mention disadvantages. They actually manage to twist it around so it seems like IP system is cheaper than analog, which I think is a big lie. ALso long term cost of IP system vs Analog CCTV System. Imagine that one of your cameras goes bad. That happens. If you have an analog CCTV System, all it takes is replacing this one camera costing you without a labor less than $150. Now imagine that you have an IP System and you need to replace IP camera. Not only you will have to pay more than $300 for a camera but it needs to be compatible with your system. Than you need to call a network person to set this camera to work on your system. This will cost you much more than you pay a handyman with a ladder. Also nobody mentions High Definition SDI Cameras which can produce up to 2MP quality picture without network environment.

  4. admin says:

    SDI Cameras send digital signal back to the DVR using standard coaxial cable. SDI Cameras have resolutions much higher than analog cameras and almost as high as IP cameras. The good thing is, that there is no bandwidth problem because each camera is connected directly to the DVR.

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