How to Buy Outdoor Surveillance Cameras

by Joe Murray

    Outdoor surveillance cameras have several purposes. You can use them to monitor your home for possible intruders or to observe activities in playgrounds, backyard swimming pools and front doors. When purchasing an outdoor surveillance system for whatever purpose, there are a few common features to look for.

    Image Resolution

    A basic all-weather surveillance camera comes with few adjustments. The camera records in low-resolution, black-and-white imagery with a factory preset focus to a designated distance, which you can adjust at installation. Higher-end cameras have additional features that include high resolution, color, auto focus, infrared capacity for night vision and pan, tilt and zoom capability for wide-field surveillance.

    Continuous or Intermittent (Sensor-Tripped) Recording

    Your outdoor surveillance camera can be in the "always on" mode for continuous recording, or you can set your surveillance camera to begin recording when movement in its vision field is detected in two ways. One method uses a sensor built into the body of the camera to initiate recording. Another employs an external sensor array that triggers the camera as well as other security devices such as klieg lights, alarms and automatic notification of operator and authorities.

    Recording on the Device or at a Base Station

    Some surveillance cameras have built-in recording systems that record video to a solid-state device for a preprogrammed period of time when triggered or continue recording for as long as motion is detected by a built-in sensor. Such devices are often used in wildlife preserves to detect poachers and other aberrant presences. Outdoor household surveillance cameras generally record to a remote base station’s internal hard drive located within the home. Many systems can be set to record on an endless 24-hour, 48-hour or week-long loop; you can monitor them on your in-house TV systems.

    Wireless or Wired Connectivity

    Outdoor surveillance cameras operate on a wireless network or with a wired connection. Wireless connectivity requires an integrated Wi-Fi system running through an in-home computer modem, wireless router and server. These systems do not require extensive wiring running throughout the home and outdoors and can monitor surveillance from anywhere in the world where there is Internet connectivity. Their disadvantage lies in the Internet service provider breaking down and eliminating access through Wi-Fi to the camera image. Power requirements for wireless systems can often be both battery-operated and have provisions for 12- to 24-volt DC wired connectivity. Wired systems are powered by the house current. For underground wiring, you need to pull cable through PVC pipes to prevent damage from weather or animals.

    Sound Recording

    An added convenience feature in some outdoor surveillance cameras is two-way sound recording. This feature is especially useful when cameras are placed at entranceways or front gates. You can supplement this feature by adding an accessory intercom device to the camera.

    About the Author

    Joe Murray San Francisco, CA, US Joe Murray began writing professionally in 1980. As a technical writer, he authored numerous white papers, journals and articles for publications and websites for Hewlett Packard and Intel. Since retiring, Murray has written several home-exchange travel articles for and CHECtravel, among other outlets. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Santa Clara University. Murray has made more than 50 vacation home exchanges worldwide.

    Photo Credits

    • Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images