Even though the end-user can’t typically tell the difference between the two types of cameras, there are differences in how much they cost, how they work, and how they are installed.
Is there any difference between analog and IP cameras? An Analog security camera does not have any onboard intelligence; it relies on a Digital Video Recorder to convert the analog video to a digital signal for recording and remote viewing. An IP camera processes data and transmits a digital signal to a Network Video Recorder for storage.
There are two types of security cameras available today. The first is called an analog camera or HD camera, and the second type is an IP camera.
1. What is an Analog (HD) camera, and how does it work?
Analog security cameras have a reputation for being outdated technology. However, they are still widely used today because of their simplicity, reliability, and lower price tag than their IP camera counterpart.
Simply put, an analog camera’s job is to capture video through a lens and transmit that raw video signal through a wire to a DVR for processing. You can not use an analog camera without a DVR.
The DVR then converts the analog signal into a digital signal and compresses it to reduce the storage space needed for recording. Compressing the digital signal also reduces the bandwidth required to stream the video feed to your smartphone for remote viewing.
The wired connection between an analog camera and the DVR is commonly an RG59 video cable and an additional pair of wires used to power the camera.
This combination of wires is called a Siamese cable because the two wires are attached for ease of installation.
We can also use Category 5e (Cat 5) and Category 6 (Cat 6) cables, the same cables used for IP cameras, using video baluns.
One of the downsides of analog cameras is that they cannot capture audio without using an external microphone and separate audio cable wired to the DVR.
Analog cameras cost less than IP cameras because they are simple in design. They lack the software and hardware needed to process and compress the analog video or audio signal into digital signals.
Because of their simple design, analog cameras are highly reliable; they can last for many years without any maintenance.
2. What is an IP camera, and how does it work?
IP stands for internet protocol, and unlike analog cameras, IP cameras are intelligent devices. They have the software and hardware built internally to convert and compress the analog video signal into digital signals.
The camera then sends the digital signal to an NVR (Network Video Recorder) for recording and remote viewing.
Because IP cameras are intelligent devices, we don’t necessarily need an NVR. The camera can record video onto an internal memory card and stream that video over the network to be viewed remotely from a computer or smartphone.
IP cameras are wired differently than analog cameras. Instead of being wired directly to the recorder, IP cameras get wired to the local area network (LAN) using either a Cat 5 or Cat 6 cable for both video and power.
This is called power over ethernet (POE), and cameras capable of being powered over ethernet are called POE cameras. POE devices are plugged into a POE ethernet switch, and in most installations, the POE switch is built into the NVR.
One of the benefits of IP cameras is that they can be plugged into a POE switch that is not located near the NVR. The NVR can detect the camera if the POE switch and NVR are on the same local area network.
Having audio over the same cable is another feature of IP cameras. Unlike analog cameras, every camera on the system can record audio.
What is a wireless IP camera?
Wireless IP cameras, also known as WiFi cameras, are typically found in residential installations. Some WiFi cameras are battery operated and completely wireless, and some require to be plugged into an electrical outlet for power.
Some examples of WiFi cameras are the Nest indoor and outdoor cameras, Blink, the Ring line of doorbell cameras, and Arlo WiFi cameras.
These WiFI cameras are the most popular type of cameras for do-it-yourself installations because they are easy to install and don’t usually require the help of a professional installer.
Some WiFi cameras can be connected to an NVR for recording, but most WiFi cameras are viewed through an app on your smartphone or tablet and recorded to the cloud for an additional fee.
The biggest limitation to installing WiFi cameras is having a strong WiFi connection throughout your home. A weak WiFi connection will cause the cameras to lose signal and disconnect from the network intermittently or not connect at all.
3. Are there different types of Analog Cameras?
Analog cameras come in four different formats.
- HD-TVI: High Definition Transport Video Interface
- HD-CVI: High Definition Composite Video Interface
- AHD: Analog High Definition
- CVBS: Composite Video Blanking and Sync ( the grandfather to all analog camera formats invented in 1942)
HD-TVI and HD-CVI cameras are the most popular formats for cameras used today, with AHD trailing as a distant third. CVBS cameras are low-resolution cameras, and higher resolution cameras are quickly phasing them out.
What is an all-in-one Analog camera?
With the invention of high-definition analog cameras in 2009, each one of the two large camera manufacturers (Hikvision and Dahua) created their own video formats for their cameras. These formats are HD-TVI and HD-CVI.
AHD was the third format created to compete with the prominent manufacturers, but this format, although still used today, never gained much popularity.
In the beginning, these three high-definition formats were not compatible, which eventually caused a problem with security installers. So to make things easier, the manufacturers decided to create the all-in-one camera.
This type of camera can switch between any one of the four analog formats with a press of a button located on the camera.
This is convenient because we no longer need to make sure that we buy the correct format camera to match the DVR.
4. Are there different formats for IP cameras?
IP cameras use protocols specific to the manufacturer. This allows for a plug-and-play installation that doesn’t require any configuration. For example, when you plug a Hikvision IP camera into a Hikvision NVR, the NVR recognizes the Hikvision IP camera and automatically enrolls it.
However, when you plug a non-Hikvision IP camera into a Hikvision NVR, you must select ONVIF as the protocol in the NVR settings and manually configure the IP camera to work with the NVR.
IP cameras use the ONVIF protocol. ONVIF, an acronym standing for Open Network Video Interface Forum, is a standard protocol that allows IP cameras from different manufacturers to work together.
5. Video quality between analog and IP cameras
Security cameras come in many shapes and sizes, but they all have the same things in common: the resolution, frame rate, and compression.
Analog and IP camera resolution
Resolution is measured by the number of pixels that create the image. The more pixels, the higher the resolution, the sharper the video quality.
Even though both camera types have many differences, the video quality is identical, provided that the resolution is the same on both cameras.
As the end-user, you can not distinguish between an analog and an IP camera.
Analog cameras are available in resolutions up to eight megapixels (4K), while IP cameras are available up to 12 megapixels.
What is frame rate?
Frames per second (fps) is the number of frames a camera captures every second; fps is measured between 1-30 frames per second.
As a rule, the lower the camera resolution, the higher the possible frame rate. For example, a two-megapixel camera is typically capable of 30 frames per second, while an eight-megapixel camera can only produce 15-20 fps.
The higher the frame rate, the smoother the video looks. The lower the frame rate, the more choppy the video.
At the same time, the higher the frame rate, the more hard drive space you will need to record each camera.
One of the limitations of analog cameras is that they usually have a lower frame rate than IP cameras. For example, an eight-megapixel analog camera has eight fps max while an eight-megapixel IP camera has up to 20 fps.
Video files take up a lot of space. A 1080p (two megapixels) uncompressed video file can take up as much as Ten Gigabytes of storage depending on the number of frames per second it is using.
Both analog and IP cameras use the same compression formats, H264, H265, and H265+.
Compressing the signal greatly reduces the size of the video file. Without compression, we would not be able to record video for an extended period or stream the video to our smartphones.
6. What type of cable do I need for analog cameras?
The most common type of cable used is called a Siamese cable. You can also use Unshielded twisted pair Category 5 and Category 6 cables as well with the use of video baluns.
What is a Siamese cable?
It’s called a Siamese cable because two different types of wires are attached together. A siamese cable has one RG59 coaxial video cable and one pair of 18 gauge wires used for power.
We can purchase this type of cable in 500, and 1000 foot boxes, and the installer has to terminate each end of the wire with a BNC connector for the video connection and a separate connector for power.
You can also purchase pre-made cables in lengths up to 100 feet with the BNC connectors already crimped on, but with pre-made wires, it may be harder to run these wires in tight spaces where you have to pass the wire through a small hole.
Using Cat 5 or Cat 6 cable for analog cameras
The most labor-intensive and expensive part of installing security cameras is installing the cabling throughout the premises, so it makes sense only to do it once.
I prefer to install Cat 5 or Cat 6 wire for all of my new installations where we install analog HD cameras because these types of cables are also compatible with IP cameras.
Even though analog cameras are more than adequate for most residential and commercial installations, there might come a time when you want to replace them with IP cameras, so it makes sense to give yourself that option by using Cat 5 or Cat 6 cabling.
7. What type of cable do you need to use for IP cameras?
One of the most common questions asked when installing IP cameras is whether to use Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable. The quick answer is that Cat 5e is more than adequate for installing even the highest resolution cameras available today, but since Cat 6 only costs slightly more than Cat 5e, there is no reason not to run Cat 6 for new installations.
- Cat 5e cable has 24 gauge conductors.
- Cat 6 has 23 gauge conductors, which is a thicker wire.
- Cat 5e supports 1 Gigabyte speed ( 1,000 Megabytes) at 328 feet
- Cat 6 supports 10 Gigabytes speeds ( 10,000 Mb) at 110 feet.
We can also purchase Cat 5e and Cat 6 cables in boxes of 500 and 1000 feet or buy pre-made cables with the RJ45 connectors already crimped on.
8. How do you power analog and IP cameras?
Analog security cameras come in two flavors. Most cameras need 12 volts DC (direct current) to operate, while others use 24 volts AC (alternating current).
The most common power supply that we use comes inside a wall-mounted metal cabinet and can power four, nine, or eighteen cameras. You also can use individual power transformers that plug into an electrical outlet, but this tends to get messy if you have more than one camera.
Digital Video Recorder (DVR)
Photo courtesy of LTS Security
9. What is a DVR?
As we said earlier, DVRs are used with analog cameras, and they are responsible for taking the raw analog feed from the camera and converting it into a digital signal.
All of the analog cameras get connected to the back of the DVR with BNC connectors. The DVR processes the analog signal from the cameras and serves as the interface between the cameras and the user.
DVRs have multiple video outputs. We can connect a video monitor to view live view or playback recorded video using either the HDMI or VGA video output.
An internet connection to the DVR allows remote viewing from any computer or smartphone.
Digital Video Recorders come in 4,8,16,32, and 64 channel models. Most DVRs sold today are called hybrid DVRs, and they are also compatible with IP cameras.
With Hybrid DVRs, you can have a combination of analog and IP cameras on the same system.
Network Video Recorder (NVR)
Photo courtesy of LTS Security
10. What is an NVR?
An NVR stands for Network Video Recorder, and it is only used with IP cameras. The main difference between NVRs and DVRs is that most of the processing for IP systems is performed within the camera itself.
It is called a Network recorder because it can be connected with IP cameras on the same computer network.
IP cameras can be connected to the NVR by either plugging them into the NVRs built-in POE switch using RJ45 connectors or by plugging them into a POE switch on the same network as the NVR.
Since you can connect IP cameras either to the NVR or the network, we can have up to 256 cameras on an IP system.
Like DVRs, we use the NVR as the interface between the user and multiple cameras by connecting a video monitor to view the camera’s live or recorded video.
An internet connection to the NVR also allows remote viewing from any computer or smartphone.
11. Smart features of Analog and IP cameras
IP camera intelligent features
One way audio allows a person to listen in and record audio and video through the camera. Even though this type of camera is useful in some applications, they are illegal in some states and require posted signs to be in place to notify people that they are being recorded.
We often use these cameras near front door entries where homeowners want to audio record who comes to their door.
Two-way audio is a feature in IP cameras that allows audio communications between two people. One great example is video doorbells such as Ring and Nest doorbells. With these doorbells, the homeowner can communicate with the person at the door from an app, whether they are home or not.
Built-in Micro SD card for local recording is a feature of an IP camera that allows for video and audio recording without using an NVR. This will enable you to record on a memory card built into the camera. The ability to record video directly within the camera is helpful for people that only want one or two cameras and don’t want to spend a lot on a surveillance system.
Facial recognition is one of the newest features in video surveillance and is commonly used in public areas by police departments and commercial applications such as department stores. For example, department stores and businesses can create a database for shoplifters banned from their stores and automatically detect if they enter their store.
License plate recognition (LPR) is a feature that is also available in analog formats but works a lot better with IP cameras. These cameras are designed to capture only license plate numbers and store them on a memory card built into the camera. LPR cameras can be used in parking lots or gated communities where documentation of visitors is required.
People counting is mainly used in retail stores near the main entrance to count how many people enter the store daily. It is also used to measure traffic patterns inside the store to see where most people walk through. This helps the business to position certain products within the store.
Thermal temperature recognition was created during Covid-19 to measure the body temperature of people entering public spaces. This type of camera allows many people’s entry into the building without creating a traffic jam.
12. What are the distance restrictions of analog and IP cameras
13. Cost of analog and IP cameras
When we talk about the cost of analog and IP systems, we have to factor in the equipment, wiring, and labor involved with installing the entire system.
Even though analog cameras cost about 30% less than IP cameras, the cost of labor can be significantly higher in some applications. The limitation of having to home run every camera back to the DVR can substantially increase the labor costs involved. This usually applies to large commercial installations.
As for the average home installation, we usually home run all the wires back to the DVR or NVR anyway, so there will be some savings with analog cameras.
Benefits of an analog security camera
- They can be used with existing coaxial cabling
- Easy to use, does not require networking knowledge
- Analog cameras have better night vision capabilities
- Lower cost when compared to IP systems
The downside of an analog security camera
- Analog cameras can not be used without the use of a Digital Video Recorder
- They are not wireless
- They need an additional power supply
- They can’t be connected to the Local Area Network
- They cant have audio using a single cable
Both analog and IP cameras have their place in the surveillance world. We tend to see more analog installations in buildings and houses where coaxial cabling already exists or where people prefer their simplicity and lower cost. IP cameras are packed with more features and will be the preferred camera for new installations going forward.