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The equipment list for CCTV can seem straightforward:
  • Camera
  • Recorder
  • Monitor
  • Cables
  • Power
However choosing the correct equipment is anything but straightforward, especially as most sellers service the security business and know very little about wildlife. At present I am working with several manufacturers in order to make available CCTV kits for wildlife monitoring.
This section is designed to give a guide to the type of equipment to look for.
In addition CCTV is changing rapidly. Many newspaper images, or videos shown in crime shows on TV, show CCTV images as grey, blurred and jerky. The reality is, with HD CCTV, the videos produced can be colourful, sharply focused and run at 25 frames per second for a smooth image.The sample videos on this site show what can be achieved. Resolution is increasing and is even approaching that of video-cameras costing 10 times the price.

Mains power available

If you have mains power near where you wish to setup your camera, you have a great deal of choice.

Cameras

HD analogue cameras

CCTV cameras have improved dramatically over the last year or two, with competition between AHD and the newer HD-TVI. My money is on HD-TVI as it used by a large number of manufacturers and gives better contrast at night, but competition can change things. The image quality of HD-TVI is especially good at night. The Tawny Owl video in the Video section shows the quality that can be obtained at night - make sure you are watching in HD.

For the best results choose a camera with the following:
  • HD TVI or AHD camera
  • Noise reduction( a noisy image can trigger recording when not wanted)
  • Smart IR (this prevents overexposure of nearby objects)
  • Variable focus lens

IP cameras

IP(Internet Protocol) cameras have been around longer than HD analogue and have both advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages
  • High quality images
  • Images can be viewed remotely using a smartphone, tablet or PC
  • High quality, interference -free wireless technology is available

Disadvantages
  • Higher cost
  • An internet link is required to carry the image to a PC
  • Not suitable for slow internet links
  • Greater complexity in setup

If you want to stream high quality images from the internet, this is the best method, although it is possible to stream using analogue cameras with a suitable recorder. Ip cameras are used for high profile videos such as at osprey nests.

Recorder

Recorders generally have 4 video inputs and some also have audio inputs, although CCTV cameras do not generally have built in audio and a separate microphone is required. They often have comprehensive menus, and although things have improved, the manuals are not always straightforward. Part of the reason for this is that the vast majority of CCTV recorders are made in the far east where English is not the main language.
  • The recorder should be multi-purpose, preferably able to process video from HD TVI and AHD cameras. They can usually also show standard analogue videos and IP videos.
  • Real time recording
  • Motion detection recording with pre-record and time scheduling (at the same time)
  • Masking (to mask moving branches etc which could trigger recording when not wanted)

Monitor

It is important to match the monitor to the output from the recorder. For flexibility the monitor should have inputs for HDMI and VGA signals. Using a VGA output from the recorder to a monitor will not affect the recording quality.

Cables

Always use professional cables. RG59 lowloss coaxial cables are best for HD CCTV. HD TVI and AHD allows the use of long (300m plus) cables without signal loss.

Equipment