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CCTV cameras play an important role in securing buildings and protecting people. They enable security staff to monitor vulnerable spaces and provide evidence in the event of a security breach. However, as there are many different types of surveillance cameras to choose from, it can be difficult to select the most suitable cameras that fit your security needs. 

To help business and property owners develop effective security installations, below is a comprehensive guide covering different types of CCTV cameras and their uses, including the pros, cons and specific features for different applications. 

Types of CCTV cameras by form factor

Dome cameras

A dome camera is a type of CCTV camera that incorporates a camera with a wide-angle lens inside a clear dome-shaped enclosure that protects the device from damage and harsh weather conditions. These security cameras can be mounted on walls or ceilings and in indoor or outdoor environments, and it has a discreet appearance that blends in with the surroundings. 

Dome cameras have many pros, but they also have some disadvantages. While the discreet appearance is ideal for subtle surveillance in locations like casinos, retail stores and malls, it also means these types of CCTV cameras are not suited as visible crime deterrents. Dome models also can’t be repositioned without being removed and reinstalled. However, the wide-angle lens can provide great coverage of large open spaces if they are carefully positioned.

Bullet cameras

Bullet cameras are the most recognizable type of security camera. They have a cylindrical shape and a clear, visible presence that effectively deters crime. These types of security cameras have good long-range capability for observing large open areas, meaning they’re often installed to cover outdoor areas like building perimeters and parking lots. Bullet cameras are also easier to install compared to dome cameras, and usually come with low-light or night vision settings. 

Although bullet cameras are suitable for outdoor use, these security cameras aren’t effective in situations where cameras need to be operated discreetly and may produce blindspots when installed in tight indoor locations like offices and storage rooms. In addition, these types of CCTV cameras can only be adjusted manually and may be vulnerable to vandalism without additional protection like tamper-proof external casings.

PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) cameras

PTZ cameras can be adjusted remotely to help security personnel monitor unfolding events in real time. Each camera’s field of view can be moved up, down, left, or right, as well as zoomed in or out to view live activities. This enables PTZ cameras to provide 360-degree coverage of large spaces without the need to install multiple cameras. These CCTV camera types can be controlled from on-site control rooms or via secure smart devices and cloud management systems.

While PTZ cameras are ideal for viewing real-time events, they don’t offer substantial wide-angle coverage, meaning they’re most effective when viewing angles are manually adjusted by CCTV operators. These types of CCTV cameras are best used to monitor spaces like retail stores, warehouses and commercial buildings in situations where hired operators are expected to observe live activities. 

Turret cameras

Turret cameras are among the most flexible CCTV camera types. They feature a three-axis ball and socket mount that allows each camera to be rotated in different directions to achieve optimal coverage of large indoor and outdoor spaces. These types of CCTV systems don’t look like traditional cameras, making them ideal for discreet property surveillance. 

Turret cameras can capture high-definition images at both short and long ranges and can be used to observe movements in high-traffic locations like lobbies, reception areas and retail floors. While some models feature durable casings designed to protect the camera from acts of vandalism, turret compared to dome cameras aren’t as hard-wearing.

Additionally, turret cameras feature multiple moving parts that allow the camera to move during operation, making them prone to failure and needing frequent maintenance.

Fisheye cameras

A fisheye camera incorporates an ultra-wide-angle lens, which allows it to monitor a wide area or capture panoramic images of a target location. These security camera types can be a cost-effective solution, covering large spaces like parking lots and warehouses that would otherwise require multiple cameras to achieve optimal coverage. Fisheye cameras are also commonly used in conjunction with other cameras to cover blind spots in large installations.

The main drawback to these types of CCTV cameras is that captured footage is displayed as a circular image, which can become distorted if de-warping software is not utilized. In addition, the camera’s field-of-view cannot be adjusted remotely, meaning the entire device will need to be removed and reinstalled to adjust viewing positions. However, this can be offset by the cameras’ low general maintenance requirements. 

Find the right camera for your security needs

  • Wide range of cameras to observe activities, day and night

  • Dome, PTZ and more form factors available

  • Discreet indoor to weatherproof outdoor cameras

  • All-in-one video security and access control solution

Types of CCTV cameras by connectivity

Wired CCTV cameras

Wired CCTV systems are permanent installations that use physical cables to connect CCTV cameras to monitoring devices and wider security systems. The footage is sent via Ethernet or coaxial cables to a central monitoring room, where video recording and storage solutions process incoming data to be reviewed, analyzed and organized by security professionals.

Analog installations use coaxial cables, while Internet Protocol (IP) cameras use Ethernet cables to transmit data over a secure internet connection. Power-over-Ethernet camera systems are particularly popular, as both power and data can be communicated via a single Ethernet cable, reducing the amount of cabling infrastructure required to operate CCTV installations.

These types of CCTV systems are common in high-security environments, as wired solutions are resistant to interference, receive a constant mains power supply and are able to produce a consistent video signal. However, they’re expensive to develop and not particularly flexible, requiring cables to be removed and reinstalled when monitoring positions need to be altered.

Wireless CCTV cameras

Wireless (Wi-Fi) CCTV cameras transmit data to monitoring solutions via a secure Wi-Fi connection, enabling property owners to install these types of security cameras almost anywhere. Cameras usually have individual power cables that must be connected to a physical power supply, although some models with batteries allow for more flexibility.

Wireless cameras are best suited for smaller installations or in situations where installing cabling infrastructure is deemed too costly or impractical. While the flexibility of wireless CCTV systems can be a major advantage, wireless communications are susceptible to interference and will require cybersecurity protection to prevent data from being intercepted.

IP or network CCTV cameras

IP or network CCTV cameras communicate data over a secure Internet connection. Live footage is processed in the camera and sent to video storage systems to be organized and viewed. There are many different types, including wired and wireless solutions, although all IP surveillance camera models share the ability to process data internally and transmit footage to monitoring solutions over the Internet.

The main benefit of IP cameras is their ability to view live footage from any location, enabling teams to observe key areas from secure smart devices 24/7. However, as IP cameras transmit footage over the Internet, they can be susceptible to cyberattacks, meaning that data must be encrypted to prevent hackers from accessing real-time footage.

Types of CCTV cameras by environment

Indoor CCTV cameras

Indoor cameras usually feature small and discreet casings, as they don’t require protection from the elements. These cameras typically offer wide-angle coverage to observe indoor environments like shop floors, offices and access points. 

Dome and turret cameras are suitable for environments where a subtle appearance is important and security does not need to be obvious, like hotel lobbies or high-end retail outlets. Low-light or night vision features should also be prioritized if 24-hour surveillance is required. 

Typical environments for indoor CCTV cameras:

  • Retail floors

  • Building entrances

  • Office hallways

  • Museums

  • Hotel lobbies

Outdoor CCTV cameras

Outdoor CCTV cameras monitor building perimeters and outdoor spaces such as parking lots, access roads and public spaces. While the majority of CCTV camera types can be used outdoors, effective solutions will have weather-resistant casings to protect against the elements, dust, vandalism and physical interference, with an IP66 and above waterproof rating.

Outdoor cameras may also be used as a visual crime deterrent and must be capable of capturing high-quality footage at long distances, meaning bullet types of CCTV cameras are usually among the most popular outdoor solutions. In addition, night vision and low-light settings are essential features for outdoor installations to ensure properties remain secure 24/7.

Typical environments for outdoor CCTV cameras:

  • Commercial building perimeters 

  • Parking lots

  • Access roads

  • Industrial sites

  • Transportation hubs

Types of CCTV cameras by special features

Day/​night cameras

Day/​night cameras are designed to capture images in various light conditions, from bright sunlight to low light and near total darkness. They feature extra-sensitive imaging chips that allow the lens to adjust to prevailing light conditions. Some models include adjustable filters that automatically switch in response to light fluctuations, ensuring that images are always clear.

These types of security cameras are best suited for outdoor environments that require 24/7 security, although they can also be effective for indoor use in areas that aren’t always well-lit. While day/​night cameras are incredibly effective at capturing footage in low-light conditions, they still require some light to work effectively, making them ineffective in complete darkness.

Infrared or night vision cameras

Infrared (IR) or night vision cameras are specially designed CCTV cameras that can detect infrared radiation to produce usable footage in complete darkness. IR sensors pick up infrared radiation reflected from objects in the camera’s view. This data is then processed internally to produce viewable footage, regardless of external light conditions.

These types of CCTV cameras are best used to monitor building perimeters, access points and storage spaces overnight. However, as IR systems are typically much more expensive to develop than comparable day/​night camera systems, they’re reserved for use in high-security installations like medical facilities, energy plants and industrial sites. 

Thermal imaging cameras

Thermal imaging cameras use infrared rays to detect intruders during the day or at night. These cameras can detect motion at long distances of up to 300 meters, even in complete darkness, making them useful for observing large outdoor areas round-the-clock. 

Thermal cameras are similar to IR cameras in that they contain special sensors designed to detect IR radiation. However, these types of security cameras pick up heat variations, rather than differing levels of reflected light radiation. Data is then processed and represented in a color image. This enables thermal cameras to detect movement beyond visual obstructions, although this comes at the cost of lowered image quality compared to IR or night vision cameras.

Varifocal cameras

Varifocal cameras are used in types of CCTV systems where the cameras need to focus on different areas at different times. These cameras utilize high-quality zoom lenses that retain sharp focus at variable focal depths, returning a much higher quality image than is possible when using the digital zoom functions in other types of security cameras. 

Varifocal cameras are typically installed indoors and used to monitor locations where assets of high value require protection, such as storage rooms and display cabinets in high-end retail stores. These CCTV cameras can help eliminate blind spots by allowing operators to adjust viewing positions. 

ANPR and LPR cameras

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and License Plate Reader (LPR) cameras are specialized types of CCTV systems used to monitor and analyze passing vehicles. Cameras are equipped with LPR software that can capture license plate data as a car passes by the cameras, with Optical Character Recognition used to produce legible text.

LPR cameras can be installed to cover vehicle access points, private roads and parking lots around commercial properties. The devices can produce time-stamped footage of vehicle movement to help teams identify suspicious activities. These CCTV types can also be used to automate vehicle access control systems by granting or denying entry based on license plate information.

How to choose the right types of CCTV cameras for your business

A wide range of CCTV camera types has unique benefits and limitations that help determine ideal use cases. In terms of surveillance systems, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, meaning all options must be carefully considered.

To identify the best cameras to suit specific security requirements, property owners and security teams will need to account for several determining factors, including: 

  • Location — Will cameras be indoors or outdoors? Do they require tamper-proof casings? Do they need to be physically accessible to allow routine maintenance?

  • Coverage — How large is the target area? Will zoom functions be necessary? Does one camera need to cover a large area? Are remote controls required?

  • Environment — Will the camera be exposed to harsh weather? Will contaminants like dust be a problem? Will glare or visual obstructions impact the camera’s operability?

  • Deterrence — Should cameras act as a visible crime deterrent? Does the business have issues with vandalism or loitering? Is subtle or discreet surveillance required?

  • Connectivity — Is remote viewing necessary? Is a stable video feed imperative? Is the business a target for cybercrimes? Will installations need to be moved or scaled?

  • Operating hours — Is 24/7 surveillance required? Are cameras operated on a permanent basis? Are automated security systems required?

  • Budget — How large is the business’ security budget? How much will maintenance cost? How many cameras are required to monitor key locations?

Key takeaways

Customized video security solutions are an integral part of any effective business security system. Operators and security teams must commit considerable time and resources to selecting a system that best fits their business needs. Choosing the right types of CCTV cameras can help businesses protect valuable assets while adhering to the allotted budget and installation timeframe. By considering the points covered in this guide, business owners can develop a comprehensive solution built to suit their organization’s specific needs. 

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