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Buyer's Guide

Confused about some of the options we have available? Don't know your DVRs from your dome cameras? We have put together this comprehensive guide to answer some of the most common questions customers have when first looking into CCTV.

The following FAQs should provide you with what you need to know to help choose the right CCTV equipment and how to use it. Simply find the relevant section below and click on the question to be directed to the answer.

 

Ordering Online:

 How long does delivery take?

We have several options for delivery, including next day if ordering before 4pm within the UK. Please note that all delivery options are based on working days, although we offer a Saturday and Sunday delivery option if required. For more information read our delivery information page.

 What if I want to return my item(s)?

Our team are here to make sure that you know you are making the best choice and our systems are made to our very highest standards. However if the equipment you receive is not to your satisfaction and not what you were expecting, then you can return your item(s) for a refund or exchange with our fuss-free returns policy. Please read our returns page to find out more about our returns policy.

 How can I pay for my order?

Credit card/Debit Card - We accept all Visa and Mastercard debit and credit cards

PayPal - If you prefer, you can also pay by PayPal at the checkout

We do not accept any other method of payment over the website, but if you want to pay by any other method please call us.

 Does my product come with a guarantee?

Yes, all of our equipment comes with a 3 year guarantee - please read our Guarantee policy for more information

 What if my equipment is damaged or faulty?

If something is wrong with an order you placed with us we will do everything we can to help. We will pay the return shipping cost if the return is a result of our error. If you received a damaged, defective, or incorrect item, we will arrange the return and replacement of the order.

 Do you deliver to my country?

Yes, we have competitive express delivery prices to every country in Europe, as well as the United States of America. For other countries, you may need to contact us for a shipping quote. We aim to process and dispatch orders placed within 2 working days. Find the cost of delivery to you on our delivery page.

 What if I pay for an item but it is out of stock?

In order to allocate your equipment to you, full payment will be taken. This is to ensure that the items you have ordered are pre-allocated to you. We often have high demand for some of our items and cannot hold them without payment.

 Help! I need some support with my product. What do I do?

We understand that sometimes CCTV and cameras can be complicated to setup and configure. That's why our helpdesk is there to help you get up-and-running. We have a range of help articles with tips and setup guides over on our help site.

CCTV Cameras:

 How does night vision work?

Security cameras with infrared LEDs installed can record at night. Infrared LEDs produce light that is invisible to the human eye, which is then reflected by subjects and picked up by the camera. Because of this, cameras using night vision produce images in black and white, not colour. Night vision cameras will always have a range over which they are designed to work, measured in metres. To work out what range you need, measure the distance from the camera to the furthest object you would want to be seen at night.

You can find out more about setting up night vision cameras on our blog

 What does “low light” (Lux) capability mean?

Cameras with low light capability can see in very poor light conditions, but don’t feature infrared LEDs for full night vision. This is possible because they feature advanced sensors that are very sensitive. Low light cameras are great in situations where you want a camera to capture footage through a window or when you want a more covert device. Low light sensitivity is measured in Lux: the smaller the number, the more sensitive the camera. 1 Lux is the equivalent of the light levels at twilight and 0.0001 is the equivalent of a moonless night sky. Like infrared night vision, low-light cameras switch to black and white when it becomes darker to improve their sensitivity.

 What does a camera\'s IP Rating mean?

IP stands for “Ingress Protection” and is an international standard that defines levels of sealing against dust, dirt and moisture in electronics. The higher each number, the better the enclosure. For outdoor CCTV cameras, the most common ratings are IP65, IP66 and IP67. The first digit rates how dust-tight the camera is and the second digit rates how water-resistant the casing is. We recommend that cameras used outside are at least IP65 rated.

You can read more information on IP ratings on our blog.

 How do CCTV cameras connect?

Standard wired CCTV cameras use coaxial cables with BNC connectors for video connections. BNC connectors are a standard feature on CCTV DVRs. IP cameras work slightly differently in that they use network cables to transmit data. This means you can use any good quality Ethernet cable (minimum Cat 5e) with the same connectors that are found on your router to connect the IP camera to a recorder or switch.

 How do lens sizes work?

Lens size, or focal length, is referred to in millimetres. This determines how wide a view or how “zoomed in” the camera’s image appears. The smaller the focal length, the more wide-angle the lens. For CCTV cameras, you’ll often see the lens rated as 2.8mm, for example, which in this case suggests that the lens is fairly wide-angle. It’s worth bearing in mind that the camera’s field of view is also dependent on the imaging chip, so the same lens can provide different results on different cameras.

 What does field of view mean?

Field of view describes the width that a camera or lens can see. This is a very important factor to consider when deciding on the most appropriate camera for your situation, but is often overlooked and can seem confusing at first.

For a good example of field of view, stand looking forwards with your arms outstretched at your sides. Now start to bring your arms in front of you and stop as soon as you can just see each arm in your peripheral vision. Look down at your arms – the angle made between each arm across your chest could be considered your eyesight’s field of view. The average is 90°, and this is typical of most of our security cameras as standard.

A smaller degree field of view sees a narrower area over a distance and can give the effect of zooming in – great for covering specific areas, like a door or parking space.

A larger degree field of view can see a wider area over a distance, but consider that a wide lens can seem “zoomed out” and details can be harder to see.

 What is a varifocal lens?

A varifocal lens allows you to vary the focal length of the camera. In other words, the lens is able to zoom in and out so that you can alter how much you want the camera to see. Traditionally, to change the zoom on the camera you would have to physically set the zoom on the camera when it is first set up, but there are also cameras available with motorised zoom so that you can adjust the camera remotely.

 What are \"megapixels\"?

A megapixel (MP) is a million pixels and expresses the number of pixels in a digital camera’s image sensor. We use this particularly in relation to the quality of IP cameras. The more megapixels the camera has, the higher the picture quality. 1MP and 2MP cameras roughly equate to the 720p and 1080p display standards respectively, with 4MP and 8MP resolutions now also available.

 Can CCTV cameras be battery powered?

Not reliably. Generally, CCTV cameras need to be powered via a mains power supply and require a steady 12-volt DC source. Most IP cameras can also be powered over ethernet cable (PoE) with the compatible equipment. This allows them to draw power directly from the network cable, preventing the need for a separate power supply./p>

 What is the difference between dome and bullet cameras?

Bullet and dome cameras are the most common types of CCTV camera design. In terms of functionality they work in the same way – it is only when it comes down to case shape that they differ. Bullet cameras are more suited to outdoor locations and have more flexibility in terms of where they are pointed after being mounted. Dome cameras are suited to both indoor and outdoor locations and are less intrusive. In the end it comes down to what would best suit the environment where they are installed along with personal preference.

 Do you have any cameras that zoom and move around?

Yes. Pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras are mounted on a motorised bracket, allowing the camera to look around and zoom in. Some cameras even allow you to do this from your smartphone. Most PTZ cameras feature up to 10 times optical zoom.

 Where is best to place the camera?

For outdoor cameras, there are several considerations you should make when placing your camera. First, the height from the ground. You shouldn’t have the camera so low that vandals can easily damage the camera, nor do you want it so high that subjects are too far away. Second, you want to ensure that subjects walk towards the lens, not across it. This will help to ensure that the camera can capture a detailed view of the subject’s face. If someone runs across the camera's field-of-view, this will likely cause the subject to be motion blurred. Finally, consider the position of the sun during the day. Ideally the sun should be behind the camera so that the camera isn’t facing into the sun and the subject is well illuminated.

 Do you have any cameras that recognise number plates?

Yes, Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras can read and record number plates on cars for data storage. These are specialist cameras generally for professional use, so carry a more expensive price-tag and require a compatible recorder.

 What are smart features?

Smart features use advanced analytics to allow some IP cameras to capture metadata in addition to video. This can vary from in-picture motion detection to face recognition.

Spy Gadgets:

 What’s the difference between a “spy gadget” and a “spy camera”?

There is no industry-wide definition for these terms, so it can get a bit confusing. To help keep things simple, here at SpyCameraCCTV we always refer to standalone devices with built-in recording as “spy gadgets”, and covert security cameras that need to be connected to external recorders as “spy cameras”.

Because they need to be connected to an external device, spy cameras are generally more suited to permanent installations, whereas spy gadgets are perfect when you need something portable, or that can be installed and removed quickly.

 What do they record to?

Most of our battery powered video recorders and spy gadgets will record to standard SD or MicroSD memory cards, just like a digital camera. Some models can work with higher capacity cards than others, so always check the tech specs before buying, just to be sure!

 How long do the batteries last?

This will vary quite a bit depending on the specific model of camera you are using, so always check the tech spec in the listing. Most battery powered recorders will work for between 2-8 hours of constant recording. If the device uses a triggering mode such as vibration detection, then this can be extended significantly, with some of our battery powered spy cameras able to stay on standby for weeks at a time.

 How much footage can my memory card hold?

Again, this can vary significantly between devices, but a good rule of thumb is that most cameras can record an hour of footage per 2GB when in 720p mode, so a 64GB card could hold 32 hours of video. 1080p clips will take up roughly twice the size, so you could expect to hold around 16 hours on a 64GB card.

Most devices will also have a continuous recording mode that will begin writing over the oldest footage once the card is full. If possible, using motion detection is a great way to make the most of your card, as it will only start recording when there is a subject in front of your lens.

 Where can I hide them?

For the battery powered recorders, basically anywhere you can fit them! Pinhole cameras only need a tiny gap for the lens to see through, so you can conceal the rest of the camera out of sight. Popular solutions our customers have used include between books on a shelf, inside desk drawers or on the parcel shelf of a car. You could even cut a tiny hole in the side of a tissue box and conceal the camera inside.

 Are they legal to use?

It can of course be a tricky balance when trying to record someone covertly, but privacy should always be a major consideration when setting up a surveillance system. If the cameras are used in a business, then you always need to make sure you’re compliant with the Data Protection Act. Practically speaking, this means always notifying people on the property that CCTV is in use, and not pointing cameras towards areas where they would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This does not mean that employees or customers need to be notified of the specific location of each camera. So as an example, if you suspected employees were stealing then you could still hide a camera in the stockroom. It’s important to remember that it is against the law to record audio with a CCTV system in a business.

If the camera is just being used in your own home, then the Data Protection Act will not apply. However, we always recommend contacting local law enforcement before setting up a covert surveillance system in order to get the most accurate advice for your specific installation. After all, there is nothing worse than catching someone red handed on video only to find out that the evidence is not admissible!

 Do they record sound?

Most of our battery powered spy gadgets will have a microphone to record sound from nearby subjects. Remember though, there are far more restrictions on covert surveillance if sound is being recorded. Always check beforehand to make sure your system is compliant with local regulations.

 Do they need to be plugged in?

This will vary between devices, however our battery powered recorders all feature built-in recording, so are standalone devices. The only time you will need to connect them to anything is when the battery is charging, or when you have them connected to a computer to transfer files. Some spy gadgets will still need to be connected to a power supply in order to work. All of these will of course include the power supply in the box.

 Do they show any visible signs that they are recording?

Most of the devices will have a small LED light that will flash to indicate when the device is set to motion detection mode. They will not however flash or beep when the camera is recording, so you won’t have to worry about your subjects spotting the light. One exception is our “SPYZ” range. There is an option in the software that will let you choose whether or not you want the LED on the side to flash when it is recording. You can read more about setting up these cameras on our help blog.

Wireless CCTV:

 What is wireless CCTV and how does it work?

Wireless is the ability to transmit information across a distance without the need to run wires between the two points. Wireless CCTV uses cameras with built-in wireless transmitters- or cameras connected to separate transmitters- to send video to a receiver that can be located in a separate building. The receiver can then be plugged directly into a CCTV recorder or TV. This means you do not have to physically run AV cables from the camera’s location to the DVR.

 If they are “wireless”, does that mean they don’t need to be plugged in?

This is a common question- wireless refers to the ability to transmit information and does not mean “cord-free”, so wireless cameras will still require being connected to mains power. A good analogy would be a wireless internet router, which transmits WiFi around your house, but still needs to be plugged in in order to work. They tend to not use batteries, as the power needed for transmitting means you would find yourself changing batteries far too often to be able to get a constant video feed.

If you are unable to run mains power to your camera, then you may want to look at one of our battery powered cameras, which records to an SD card. We have a range of these available for different uses here.

 Are there different types of wireless?

When looking at wireless CCTV, there are 3 different kinds of wireless systems; analogue, digital wireless, and WiFi.

Analogue wireless: This is where the transmitter and receiver are tuned to the same frequency, or “channel”. All you have to do to get them working is plug them in and set them to the correct channel- usually done with a switch on the side. They do not have to be paired together, so a receiver can pick up a signal from any device on the same frequency, and one camera can be picked up by multiple receivers.

This simplicity means analogue wireless kits are really cheap and quick to set up, however it also means the signal is more susceptible to interference from other devices in the area. This can cause black and white lines on the picture along with loss of range.

Digital wireless: Digital wireless allows two devices to pair together, creating a secure link. In order for a transmitter and receiver to work together, they must first be manually paired by pressing buttons on each unit in succession. This means a third device couldn’t be turned on and used to view what was being sent by the camera.

As digital wireless devices transmit across a range of frequencies, it allows for a stronger signal then analogue, and is less susceptible to interference from other devices. It can also transmit over much greater ranges.

WiFi: This allows for multiple devices to connect together using the same type of network that you would use for wireless internet at home. The difference with WiFi over analogue or digital wireless is that it needs to be able to connect to a network via a router rather than pairing directly to another device. Once connected and configured, you can then log in and view these devices from anywhere using a PC or mobile device.

If you have a weak WiFi signal where you want to install the camera, then you may need to look at increasing the signal with either a home plug or WiFi extender. One good way to test the signal is with a phone or tablet connected to WiFi - take it to where you want the camera to go and try streaming an HD video. If this works, and you can run power to the device then you are good to go.

Our WiFi devices will need to be plugged into your router for an initial setup, but once you connect to the camera you will be able to search for WiFi networks and access it remotely.

 How many wireless cameras or transmitters can I have in one area?

With almost every wireless system you can use a maximum of 4 cameras or transmitters in one location. This is because they all need to work on a unique frequency in order to not interfere with each other, and there is a very limited range of frequencies on which they are allowed to work, set by OFCOM.

 Over what distance can they work?

This can vary depending on the specific system, however as a general rule most analogue kits will have a maximum range of 50m, and 100m for the digital wireless kits. When purchasing wireless cameras, you need to look at the range you want them to transmit, and if there are any obstacles such as walls, windows, or trees in the way. It is always best to set the kits up with a clear line of sight where possible. Should you have some trees or walls in the way of the signal, you may need to look at boosting the signal strength of your cameras.

Our WiFi devices should generally be able to work anywhere that you can pick up your WiFi signal.

 Can the signal travel through obstacles?

The signal from your wireless kit can transmit through most obstacles. However, each obstacle the signal tries to go through will reduce the signal strength and range, sometimes significantly so. For instance, a single pane window will reduce the signal between 25% to 50%, and steel roller shutters would reduce the signal by up to 90%. This is why it is always important to try and find a clear line of sight between the devices.

You can check our help site for more information on getting the best results from your wireless cameras.

 Can I extend the range?

Yes, we have a range of aerials for our digital wireless camera packs that can greatly increase the signal strength. The other advantage of these aerials is the fact they come with an extension lead. This allows you to position the antenna to find the best signal strength without having to move the camera. One popular way to set them up is to install the camera inside of a building, with the cable running through the wall to the aerial on an exterior wall.

 Can I make my existing cameras wireless?

If you have analogue cameras, then we have transmitter and receiver packs that you can plug them into, allowing them to be transmitted over wireless. For IP cameras we have WiFi bridges which expand your network, allowing you to have a camera in a remote location.

CCTV Systems:

 What is wireless CCTV and how does it work?

Wireless is the ability to transmit information across a distance without the need to run wires between the two points. Wireless CCTV uses cameras with wireless transmitters to send video to a receiver that can be located in a separate building. The receiver can then be plugged directly into a CCTV recorder or TV. This means you do not have to physically run AV cables from the camera’s location to the recorder. The wireless transmitters can either be built into the camera, or an external device to which the camera connects.

 What are the different CCTV technologies and what do they mean?

There are several different CCTV technologies on the market currently. It can all be a bit confusing! Essentially, there are 3 main types of CCTV: co-axial, network IP, and wireless. Co-axial based systems use traditional standard CCTV cables and can send high definition images using systems such as TVI. These kits use RG59 coaxial cable and simple twist-fit BNC connectors to connect the camera to the recorder.

Network or IP systems use network cable (for example Cat 6) to connect the camera to the recorder. They currently offer the highest image quality available on the market, with some IP systems able to run up to 4K Ultra HD resolution. These kits also offer a lot of different setup options, so if you're looking for something a bit “outside the box” talk to us about IP systems!

Wireless systems generally offer slightly lower image quality, but are a great solution for situations where cabling isn’t possible, such as over long distances or in a rented property.

 How many cameras do I need?

Excellent question. The answer is a bit tricky, as it will vary depending on what you want to cover. Generally, for a 3-bedroom house you would need up to 4 cameras. For a larger home, you may want to look at 8 cameras. The advice here is to really think about what you want to cover and where you can physically mount cameras. It is often helpful to sketch out a quick plan of your property and then use that to figure out the areas that need to be monitored, as well as where the cables will need to be installed. Remember, it’s always better to have slightly overlapping coverage than to have gaps!

 What does resolution mean and how does it change my image?

Simply put, the resolution is the size of the image that the camera records, so the higher the resolution, the better the quality. Bear in mind that higher resolution cameras will record bigger files, so can quickly fill up your hard drive. Our cameras range from standard definition VGA (640x480) all the way up to Ultra HD 4k (4096x2160). For those interested you can learn more about CCTV resolution on our blog.

 Where should I put my recorder?

The two main locations people place their recorders tends to be either under the TV in a living room or bedroom, or up in the attic. The attic is a great location because it makes wiring cameras much easier if they are installed high up on the walls of your house. It’s also quite a lot more secure because it takes the recorder out of plain sight if you do get a burglary. One of the second questions we get asked is how to get a recorder online if it’s up in the attic - Powerline adaptors are the ideal solution, letting you run a network connection through your home's plug sockets.

 What length cables do I need for each camera?

For home users we recommend at least 10m of cable to each camera, however this will obviously vary depending on the location of your system. All our packages have a menu to help you select the right length of cable. Each camera needs its own individual cable. Many systems will also have the option of adding an uncut cable reel, letting you cut the cable down to any length you need- especially useful for installers!

 So now I know the differences what system should I buy?

It all depends on your specific needs. We have a wide range of complete systems ready-to-install on our website, so you should be able to find something to suit your needs.

 Can I customise or get a bespoke system from SpyCameraCCTV?

Yes of course, our team of sales consultants can help you decide on the perfect package for you – or you can just tell them what you want! The typical questions they will ask include:

  • How many cameras do you need?
  • Is the camera indoor or outdoor?
  • Do you need to be able to see at night?
  • If so, how far should it see in the dark?
  • How many metres of cable will you need per camera?
  • If wireless (and we always recommend not to go wireless where possible), how many metres and how many obstacles (such as walls, doors, windows, bushes etc.) does the
  • wireless signal need to pass through?
  • How many days of footage would you like to keep?
  • Would you like to be able to connect to your cameras via the internet?

 Can I install it myself?

All our systems are designed with DIY installations in mind. Nearly all our kits are plug-and-play, or connect over wireless with a simple pairing process. The hardest part of setting up a CCTV system is physically mounting the cameras and running the cable. If you don’t feel confident doing this yourself then a local electrician would be a good contact. Alternatively, we do have some friendly installers around the country that we could put you in touch with.

CCTV Recorders:

 Can I use my computer as a recorder?

It is possible to use a computer as a recorder, but it is not always the most convenient way to capture your camera’s footage, as you need to leave the computer on the whole time it is running. For cheaper one-camera kits, we have USB capture devices that can connect to your computer, but for more than one camera we recommend having a fully fledged digital video recorder, or "DVR", instead of using a computer.

 How many cameras can be connected to a single recorder?

The number of cameras that you can connect to a single recorder depends entirely on the amount of channels the recorder has. We stock a wide range of different recorders, ranging from versions that only have 1 channel to models that have 24 channels. We can even provide recorders with up to 64 channels as special orders. So, when buying a recorder, you should keep in mind the number of cameras that you want to connect to it. Bear in mind that it is often worth buying a recorder with slightly more channels than you need, as this will allow you to easily expand add more cameras at a later date should you wish to expand your coverage.

 How long can a recorder record for?

This depends on many factors, including:

  • The capacity of the hard drive
  • How many cameras you want to record
  • Video quality of the recorded footage
  • Recording frame rate
  • Whether or not motion detection modes are used

If you are just recording one camera at 720p, for example, this will allow you to record many more hours than four 1080p cameras on a hard drive of the same capacity. As a (very) approximate example, a system with 4 2MP cameras recording for 24 hours a day at 12fps will store around 12 days of footage on a 2TB hard drive.

To work out exactly how much storage is required for your system you can use our free online CCTV hard drive storage space calculator.

 Can they record sound?

Most recorders can record at least one channel of audio, so you will be able to have at least one camera recording sound even if multiple cameras are connected to the recorder. Of course, to record sound the camera will need an in-built microphone, or you will need to add a separate CCTV microphone./p>

 Can I have the cameras record by motion detection?

All of our recorders are capable of recording by motion detection. This means they will only start recording from a camera when they sense movement, so you won’t have to waste lots of storage on footage that is useless to you. Our recorders will even allow you to set motion detection on a per-camera basis and can be set on a schedule to operate at certain times of the day. To prevent unwanted footage triggered by objects such as trees in the wind and clouds moving in the sky, you can block out zones of the image so that these do not trigger recording.

 Can I have the cameras record on a schedule?

All our recorders allow you to set a 24 hour, 7 day schedule for recording so you won’t have to waste lots of storage on footage that is useless to you. They will also allow you to set a separate schedule for each of the cameras individually, so you don’t need to have them all on or all off. A good example of this is if you had an office security setup, you could set the cameras just to record outside of office hours when nobody is around.

 Do the videos have a time and date stamp?

Yes, our recorders will record footage with the date and time in the frame, so if anything does happen then you will be able to see exactly when it occurred. Police require a time and date for CCTV evidence so that they have proof of when it happened. Because of this, it is always important to make sure the recorder is showing the correct date and time when initially setting it up.

 How can I watch the recordings?

Connect the recorder to a monitor or TV in order to watch all the recordings on the hard drive, or monitor live footage from the connected cameras. You can also quickly find a specific point in time in archived footage using the recorder’s search function.

 How do I connect it to a TV or monitor?

You can connect your recorder to a standard TV or monitor with either an HDMI or VGA cable.

 How can I transfer the footage onto a computer?

To view the footage on a computer you can either plug in a USB memory stick to the recorder and backup the footage onto it, or connect your recorder to your router and view the footage through the network via a PC. If you are using a USB memory stick you can copy the files to your computer to view them.

 Can I access the recorder from a computer, mobile phone or tablet?

We have a range of home and professional recorders that can connect to a network so that you can view recorded and live footage on your computer, phone or mobile device from virtually anywhere in the world. This requires a bit of technical know-how when you first configure the recorder on your network for remote access, however we do offer a remote setup service if you would prefer us to get it all up and running for you.

 How can I upgrade the recorder\'s storage?

We provide a range of hard drive capacities so that you can add more storage before purchasing your recorder. Just check the drop-down menu at the top of each product page. Despite this, you can upgrade the storage of your recorder in the future by replacing the hard drive in it with one that has more storage space. When you replace the hard drive, all you need to do is format it using the recorder and it will be ready to use. Some of our recorders have space for two hard drives, so you will be able to connect two hard drives at once, and when the first hard drive reaches capacity it will start recording onto the second one.

 Can I connect the recorder to an existing alarm system?

Some of our recorders have alarm in/out connections, allowing them to be integrated into a larger security system. This means the recorder can trigger the alarm when it detects motion or vice versa. If the alarm is sounded this can trigger recording on the DVR. Check whether the specific recorder has alarm inputs and outputs in the tech specs if you require this feature.

Spy Cameras:

 What do they record to?

Our pinhole cameras and camouflaged cameras are designed to be plugged into an external CCTV recorder. Whilst most do not have built-in recording, it does mean they can be easily integrated into an existing security system. Some of the IP spy cameras will have a memory card slot that can store footage, however this will still need to be configured by connecting the camera to a PC.

 Do they have batteries?

Our covert spy cameras do not have batteries, as they are designed to work with an external power supply. This makes them ideally suited to long term or semi-permanent installations. All of the cameras will include the required mains power supply as standard. If you need a standalone battery powered device, then we also have a wide range of spy gadgets available.

 Where can I hide them?

We have two types of spy cameras, disguised and pinhole. Disguised cameras are housed inside cases designed to look like normal household or office objects such as smoke detectors and PIR sensors. They can be installed in plain sight, where these types of objects would normally be placed.

Pinhole cameras on the other hand, are designed to be as small as possible, and record with lenses that can see through really tiny gaps. This means you can install the camera out of sight somewhere like a desk drawer or shelf, with only the smallest hole through which the camera can see. With both of these cameras, bear in mind that they will have to be connected to a recorder and power, so make sure there is room to run cables from where you want to install them.

 Are they legal to use?

It can of course be a tricky balance when trying to record someone covertly, but privacy should always be a major consideration when setting up a surveillance system. If the cameras are used in a business, then you always need to make sure you’re compliant with the Data Protection Act. Practically speaking, this means always notifying people on the property that CCTV is in use, and not pointing cameras towards areas where they would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This does not mean that employees or customers need to be notified of the specific location of each camera. So as an example, if you suspected employees were stealing then you could still hide a camera in the stockroom. It’s important to remember that it is against the law to record audio with a CCTV system in a business.

If the camera is just being used in your own home, then the Data Protection Act will not apply. However, we always recommend contacting local law enforcement before setting up a covert surveillance system in order to get the most accurate advice for your specific installation. After all, there is nothing worse than catching someone red handed on video only to find out that the evidence is not admissible!

 Do they record sound?

This will vary depending on the specific camera, so check the tech specs. Some will have a small built-in microphone to record audio from nearby sources. Remember though, there are far more restrictions on covert surveillance if sound is being recorded. Always check beforehand to make sure your system is compliant with local regulations.

 Do they need to be plugged in?

All of our spy cameras will need to have a permanent connection to an external recorder and mains power. Because of this, these types of cameras are most suited to permanent installations.

 Do they have any visible signs that they are recording?

Our spy cameras do not have any LEDs or lights that flash, so there should be no tell-tale signs to indicate that they are recording.

Cables:

 How easy is it to use uncut cable?

With the right tools and a little patience, cutting and terminating your own CCTV cable isn’t all that difficult and can often present advantages over pre-terminated cable. Running a cable without the connector ends already fitted will allow for smaller holes to be drilled (where necessary), will keep the connectors clean and in good condition for a better connection, and of course, will allow for the correct length of cable to be used for each run.

 How do I fit connectors onto uncut cables?

We have a step-by-step video guide available to follow on our Help site here. We recommend having the following tools handy:

  • A sharp Stanley or craft knife
  • A craft mat or solid work surface
  • Pliers, ideally needle-nosed
  • A small screwdriver set, both flat-blade and posidrive/phillips

 Is it safe to run cables outside/underground?

Absolutely, all our cables are designed to be suitable for outdoor use. When running cable underground it always pays to invest in some basic trunking to keep ground water and burrowing creatures out and IP junction boxes for all connections and terminations.

 What is the maximum distance I can run cable?

There is no single answer for this, as different technologies have their own limits. The best rule is “the shorter the better”. The longer a cable runs, the more resistance there is in the cable and the more its video and audio signal will degrade. However, with a good quality system and high quality cable it should be possible to at least run lengths up to 100m.

 Can I chain cables together?

You can, and we offer a range of cable connectors to do this here. Where possible, we recommend using as few cables and/or connectors for each run as possible, because every joint presents a potential for signal loss and the introduction of noise. Where a connector or join is needed, we recommend wrapping that connection in electrical tape or heat-shrink wrap to prevent water ingress or wear on the joint.

Networking Accessories:

 I need some help with my IP system or remotely accessing my CCTV

We have plenty of help available for all skill levels on our Help site. Please visit here for more information.

 Do I need a network switch?

All of our network video recorders (NVRs) have an in-built switch, so there isn’t a need for a separate switch as part of an IP system or setup. That said, for larger systems or systems spread over a larger area, switches can help to alleviate long and messy cable runs.

 What is Powerline/Homeplug?

Powerline (aka Homeplug) is a technology that allows wired computer networks to take advantage of a building’s electrical wiring circuit. This can be particularly useful to help your computer network to reach areas that WiFi might struggle with, or to reduce the overall amount of cabling required.

Imagine you had a shed in your garden that you wanted to turn into a home office with internet access. You already have electricity connected but your WiFi wasn’t reaching. You could run a cable out there but a Powerline system would be much easier. Simply run a short connection out from your home router via a Powerline adapter into a nearby wall electrical socket and do the same in the shed into your computer, switch, CCTV recorder, etc. and the system will utilise the electrical system to “complete” the circuit. Since the whole electrical system is now active, for each additional connection you need to your home network you can simply add another Powerline adapter where needed.

Please note that good electrical wiring is advised for best results and a network can only function within a single circuit breaker.

Data Storage:

 What should I look for in choosing a memory card?

The most important factor to consider when choosing a memory card for one of our devices is the card’s Class. This refers to how quickly the card can read and write information to memory. Often a minimum class is required from a card to make sure it can keep up with the device. Since video can involve quite a lot of information updating quickly, our devices require a minimum Class 10 memory card to operate properly. A compliant card will have “Class 10” (or numeral 10 written inside of a C) written on the label.

 What is the difference between the hard drives you supply?

We only supply professional, surveillance grade hard drives with our recorders. Surveillance grade drives are designed and built with 24/7 operation, high data workload in mind and boast super-low failure rates when compared with a typical consumer-grade hard drive. Since CCTV is a 24/7 security measure that needs to be reliable, it pays to have the right hard drive for the job.

 What size hard drive do I need?

This depends on many factors, including:

  • How many cameras you want to record
  • Video quality of the recorded footage
  • Recording frame rate
  • Whether or not motion detection modes are used

As a (very) approximate example, a system with 4 2MP cameras recording for 24 hours a day at 12fps will store around 12 days of footage on a 2TB hard drive. For a more in depth example you can try using our CCTV hard drive storage space calculator.

 What size memory card do I need?

A good rule of thumb is that most cameras can record an hour of footage per 2GB when in 720p mode, so a 64GB card could hold 32 hours of video. 1080p clips will take up roughly twice the size, so you could expect to hold around 16 hours on a 64GB card.

Most devices will also have a continuous recording mode, that will begin writing over the oldest footage once the card is full. If possible, using motion detection is a great way to make the most of your card, as it will only start recording when there is a subject in front of your lens.

Power Supplies:

 Why do you generally only offer individual power supplies?

You will find we mostly supply each device with its own power supply. This is to make sure you have everything you need to get your CCTV up and running out of the box, and that we’ll always provide the most appropriate power supply for each device. We also particularly recommend that each camera in a system has its own supply for redundancy purposes. If a supply should fail, it means only the one camera will be affected and the rest of the system will continue functioning.

 Can I buy a higher voltage replacement power supply?

No. Connecting a power supply of a higher voltage-rating than the device specifies risks damaging the circuitry and could be dangerous.

 Can I buy a higher amp-rated replacement power supply?

Yes. The amp rating of a device determines the minimum current a device needs to operate. As long as its power supply meets the minimum of the device(s) connected, they will function correctly. An over-amp-rated power supply will not damage the devices connected, and often will help prevent supply failure.

Camera Accessories:

 What is a UTC controller and what does it do?

Some CCTV cameras have their own built-in settings. A UTC controller will enable you to access and configure these settings once the camera is fully mounted in its intended location. Since the menus are only visible on a screen or recorder, the UTC is intended to be connected in-line between the camera’s BNC cable and the recorder. This will allow you to control the camera directly whilst next to the recorder and screen.

 What is “field of view” and how can I work it out?

Field of view describes the “width” that a camera or lens can see. This is a very important factor to consider when deciding on the most appropriate camera for your situation but is often overlooked and can seem confusing at first.

For a good example of field of view, stand looking forwards with your arms outstretched at your sides. Now start to bring your arms in front of you and stop as soon as you can just see each arm in your peripheral vision. Look down at your arms – the angle made between each arm across your chest could be considered your eyesight’s field of view. Mine is roughly 90°, and this is typical of most of our security cameras as standard.

A smaller degree field of view sees a narrower area over a distance and can give the effect of zooming in – great for covering specific areas, like a door or parking space.

A larger degree field of view can see a wider area over a distance but consider that a wide lens can seem “zoomed out” and details can be harder to see.

 Will a joystick work with any camera?

No, only a camera labelled as “pan and tilt” (PT), or “pan, tilt, zoom” (PTZ) can be controlled by a joystick. These are special cameras fitted with internal motors to enable movement control. Depending on the camera’s technology, you will sometimes need an additional cable run to carry the control signal.

You don’t always need a joystick though! All our recorders have built-in functions to control these cameras with the included remote or mouse, but often a joystick gives a better control experience. Most recorders will also allow control from a smartphone once remote internet access has been set up too!

Wireless Equipment:

 How many wireless cameras or transmitters can I have in one area?

With almost every wireless system you can use a maximum of 4 cameras or transmitters in one location. This is because they all need to work on a unique frequency in order to not interfere with each other, and there is a very limited range of frequencies on which they are allowed to work, set by OFCOM.

 What is the maximum range I can transmit?

This can vary depending on the specific system, however as a general rule most analogue kits will have a maximum range of 50m, and 100m for the digital wireless kits. When purchasing wireless cameras, you need to look at the range you want them to transmit, and if there are any obstacles such as walls, windows, trees, or other obstacles in the way. It is always best to set the kits up with a clear line of sight where possible. Should you have some trees or walls in the way of the signal you may need to look at boosting the signal strength of your cameras.

 Your transmitters won’t send far enough – what other options do I have?

We have a range of aerials for our digital wireless camera packs that can greatly increase the signal strength. The other advantage of these antennae is the fact they come with an extension lead. This allows you to position the antenna to find the best signal strength without having to move the camera. One popular way to set them up is to install the camera inside of a building, with the cable running through the wall to the aerial on an exterior wall.

CCTV Signs:

 Do I need to display a CCTV sign by law?

This depends on whether your CCTV is for a residential or business premises. Please note the below is UK-specific and you may need to check local regulations if you are outside of the UK.

Private residence: In the UK, and private resident has the right to purchase and operate CCTV on their own property where necessary. For example, the purpose of security. This is as long as reasonable steps are taken to prevent the disturbance and/or intrusion of the privacy of those around you. Since your premises is your own private land, you are not legally required to signpost that CCTV is operational as long as it complies with the above.

You can read the full government advice on private CCTV regulations here

Business premises: If you operate CCTV at a business premises, you must fit signage to let people know they may be recorded. This includes the customers, staff and visitors.

The only exception is if you suspect a staff member of breaking the law and undercover filming is required to capture evidence. This is only legal as part of an investigation and should stop once the matter is resolved.

You can read the full government advice on business CCTV regulations here

Infrared Illuminators:

 Will an infrared illuminator allow any camera to see in the dark?

No, only cameras that have an infrared sensor will be able to take advantage of an infrared illuminator. Typically, these are cameras that already have some form of infrared illumination of their own, to which an illuminator will be able to help extend or boost their capabilities.

 More illuminators = better night vision, right?

Sort of. It’s best to keep in mind that infrared illuminators are intended to extend the capabilities of a camera. Too much, or using an over-powered illuminator for your intended purpose can result in a white-out or blow-out effect at night where you will just see an over-bright, white screen.

It’s best to match the distance you’re looking to see at night with the right illuminator range, e.g. to see 30m at night, an up to 50m illuminator would be appropriate.

 Will illuminators “glow” at night?

Yes, most infrared devices - cameras and illuminators - will show red when the infrared LEDs are active. This is typical and looks like a dim glow as opposed to a shine. Whilst “invisible” infrared-also known as “940nm”- does exist, typically the infrared performance is inferior both in range and clarity compared to standard, or “850nm”, infrared.

USB Capture:

 What are the minimum specs required for my computer?

As long as your computer was made after the year 2000 and has an available USB connection you will be fine to use any of our USB capture devices. Please note they will only operate on a full computer, not a tablet PC or TV with a USB connection.

 Can I connect more than one USB adaptor into my computer?

Yes, when using a Windows PC you can connect multiple cameras to one computer. Bear in mind though, that the USB connectors only have one input, so you will need a separate connector plugged in to your PC for each camera you use. This will use up more of your PC’s processing power, so we recommend using one at a time if possible.

 Can I record from my cameras using motion detection?

The software that ships with our Windows USB connector will let you record footage from the camera using motion detection. Please note however that this will not work when the computer is in standby. Our USB capture device for Apple Macs do not have motion detection recording, however can be used to manually record clips.

Connectors & Adaptors:

 Can I convert my camera to connect to HDMI?

If your camera or recorder doesn’t already offer HDMI or VGA, then you will need to purchase an HDMI converter online or from a local electronics store. These typically take a composite (RCA) input.

 Why doesn’t my TV have a certain connector?

As modern TV technology develops, and more and more advanced display technologies are introduced, often more advanced connection types are required. In an effort to combat rising costs, TV manufacturers need to make decisions on which, and how many connections to offer on their TVs. Not every TV will have enough or the right connection for each device. Here are some you may be looking for:

Composite (aka RCA or Phono): The legacy round yellow plug, often accompanied by a red and white plug too. The yellow plug carries all video signal and the white/red carries the left/right channel audio.

If you do have these plugs but they’re accompanied by a green, blue and orange plug – this isn’t the same connection. This is a high definition component connection. It’s worth checking your TV’s manual though as some TVs can identify a component connection plugged into these plugs and adapt accordingly. Many though will display a low-quality black and white image and you’ll need to look for an alternative.

Since composite is a now an older, standard definition interface, many modern TVs won’t carry this connection type by itself. If you have a SCART connection however, perhaps consider purchasing an RCA to SCART adaptor to utilise that connection. Many new TVs will ship with a breakout cable with these connections, so if you can’t see them on the back of your TV then it’s worth checking the box to see if this is included.

BNC: These twist-fit connectors are ubiquitous in the CCTV world but quite rare to find outside of professional circles, so TVs won’t have a BNC connection option. Don’t worry however, one of our BNC to RCA adaptors will enable you to connect to a composite (not component, see above) connections.

USB (on your TV): If you’re looking for a USB plug on your TV to connect one of our USB capture devices, unfortunately this won’t work. Our USB capture devices are designed to operate on PCs and Macs only.

VGA (on your TV): Many TVs will feature a VGA connection, but remember that this connection type is video only, not audio. If you need to connect VGA but you don’t have one available, pop to your local electronics store for a VGA to HDMI adaptor to connect through an HDMI connection instead.

HDMI: HDMI connections are great and the quality is often perfect. The only issue is you don’t always have enough available. If you’re in this boat, a quick trip to the local electronics store can net you an HDMI switcher to add more connections to your TV.

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