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Choosing a Video Security Camera System

When a video security camera system uses more than a single camera, you’ll need a way to display multiple images. You’ll also likely need to record your video, since you can’t be watching all the cameras all the time. This is most easily handled using a DVR security system.

4-Channel Video Security Camera System

The 4-channel camera system shown here is typical of many packages being offered, and is a good choice for a DIY home alarm system.

The cameras are high-resolution color units, and are hardwired using the included 60-foot cables.

The DVR (digital video recorder) has a capacity of 500GB, and has built-in motion detection. Recording can be set to happen continuously, on a preset schedule, or only when motion is detected. The recording settings are individually selectable by camera.

Do you just need to view activity in a single area of your home? Read about a Wireless Security Camera Kit with one camera.

Or, if you need to see more areas of your home, here's a DVR Security Camera System with 8 Channels.

For general tips on what to look for, check out Choosing DVR Camera Systems. 

Also check out Honeywell CCTV Systems.

Security Cameras

The color cameras each have 12 infrared LED’s for night vision capability. This will give a 15-foot viewing range at night, according to the manufacturer. This would be expected, since even the best “night-vision” cameras with 30 or more infrared LED’s allow only about 40 feet of viewing distance.

As with all home security camera setups, additional lighting is always recommended for nighttime use.

If you don’t want the area to be lit up all night, a separate motion light may be the answer. The motion-activated light, combined with the DVR’s motion detection function, would give you the “best of both worlds”.

Video would only record when movement is present, while at the same time the added lighting would give much better images than LED illumination alone.

Home Security Camera Setups

Since these are hardwired cameras, you’ll need to route cables from the DVR to each viewing location. This can be done through an attic, basement, or crawlspace.

For narrow spots, an inexpensive steel fish tape can be used. Fish tapes are typically used by electricians for snaking wires through conduit, and come in various lengths. Two people can also make the job much easier, with one person pulling the cable as the other feeds it through the opening.

Cables are included to run each camera up to 60 feet. For camera runs longer than 60 feet, additional cables are available.

Digital Video Recorder

One of the features I like most about this DVR security camera system is the ability to choose how each camera gets recorded. This system allows you to set each camera to record either continuously, or only when motion is detected. 

Motion activated security cameras may not sound like anything new, and they’re not. But, the technology keeps improving, and is still one of the best ways to improve memory usage.

You can select motion detection recording for areas with little or no activity, and continuous recording in busy areas. This reduces the amount of “dead” video you have to review to find footage of a particular event, and also saves valuable recording time on the hard drive.

This video security camera system allows you to search images by time and date, or by event. Events are created when the motion detection function is activated, and make it easier when searching through footage.

Viewing Security Camera Footage

This video security camera system allows you to view images using any computer monitor with a VGA input, which works well for initial setup.

For permanent viewing options, live video and recorded images can be accessed on a PC or laptop over your local network or via the web. You’ll need a router and a broadband connection for Internet viewing.

The system supports the Windows operating system, with Internet Explorer as the browser.

For mobile access to your video, you can use your iPhone, Android, or Blackberry Smartphone.

Customer support
is available online or by phone, if you have any problems setting up network access to the system.

This video security camera system allows you to view individual cameras full screen, as well as all four at once in quad view. Video recording and live viewing are done independently. Regardless of the live viewing mode, all cameras are recorded according to your initial setup. 

Storing and Exporting Video

Recorded video can be sent to a USB external hard drive, or to a USB flash drive for small clips.

Backing up to an external drive is always a good idea, if you can afford to devote the (relatively small) added cost and memory capacity. Even though this video security camera system advertises an estimated 2 years worth of video recording time on its 500GB internal memory, you’ll want to make sure you can get good quality video.

Video quality and resolution are selectable on this unit. As always, there is a trade-off between higher resolution and increased recording time. The higher the video resolution, the shorter the available recording time.

Depending on your situation, the video you might actually need to use should be of the highest quality the equipment can offer. If you’re just using your video security camera system to watch the kids in the playroom or in the back yard, you may not need the highest definition video.

In that case, set your DVR to record at a lower resolution to gain added storage time. If you need more detailed images, set the DVR for a higher quality recording level.

Tip: A good rule of thumb is that tighter shots require a bit less video quality, while wider-angle images could benefit from a higher resolution setting.

Remember that the closer the camera is to the subject being viewed, the more detailed the image will be. Wider angles will “dilute” the picture’s details.

This means you should, if possible:

  • Try to place any camera as close as possible to the desired viewing area, for the best “field of view”

  • Keep all cameras at similar distances from their fields of view, since the majority of video systems don’t allow you to choose video quality on a per-camera basis

  • Choose varifocal cameras, if possible. They allow you to "zoom in" to get the best image. (Learn more about Varifocal Camera Advantages.)

Understand that reading fine details (such as license plate numbers or faces) at any distance over about 15 feet is not easy for any camera system.

There is a reason that border crossings and airports, for examples, have cameras positioned closely behind cars as they pass through entry points. No basic camera with a wide-angle lens can "read" a license plate unless it's placed nearby.

See this security camera system at

If you've never had a video surveillance system, you may be wondering what a system for your home might cost.

If you already have an older time-lapse video recorder, you may be wanting to upgrade to a DVR. If so, you may be able to use your existing cameras with the new recorder.

In either situation, getting a few estimates is a good idea. Just describe what you're looking for using the quick form below, and receive free quotes from video security companies in your area.

Your free quotes will be sent to you via email, and there is absolutely no obligation to buy!

To get started, here's your first question:

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