Subscriber Discussion

Recommendations For Low Cost 16 Channel System

Can anyone suggest a good 16 camera/DVR for indoor and outdoor use. 4 of the cameras will be located outside of the building and the other 12 will be inside. I don't need any PTZ capabilities or intense weather ratings as they will be covered from most elements. What is most important is to be able to see facial detail relatively well from about 10'-20' away and have enough storage space for up to 30 days. I'd like to keep the cost under $1000, but the closer to $500 I can get, the better. Thanks in advance for any feedback.

Hello Clint:

Buying 16 cameras and a DVR (30 days storage) for between $500 - $1000 is not going to gain you good quality gear and even with cheap junk may be impossible, as it does not consider the labor costs of installation.

Here is a Super Circuits 16 camera/1 TB DVR combo for $1300.

However this is not a recommendation, nor does it likely meet your needs. Why?

1. Seeing 'facial details' is more camera positioning and application design than a hardware spec. Sure PPF (pixel per foot) is important, but the right threshold needed for recognition varies depending on the target area field of view.

2. 1 TB is a big drive, but properly configuring the way it is used: motion recording, CODECs, Framerates, and night time lighting has a big impact on how much space is used over a given day.

3. Equipment like power supplies, cabling, backup power, and viewing monitors are all typically additions to 'box kits'.

4. Installation labor can double the actual cost of a system. Do you plan to install yourself, or does your budget need to include installation as well?

5. With low cost systems, product quality and technical support is especially a big concern. 'Caveat Emptor' is a poinant adage to remember here.

If I were in your shoes, I'd take these steps:

  • Do I really need 16 cameras, or can I get by with fewer? A detailed system design could save you hundreds here.
  • Is it possible to 'go IP' and use a DVR-less system like Axis Camera Companion with edge storage instead? Potentially this could eliminate my DVR and use existing LAN rather than using new analog coax cable.
  • Do I have to support and maintain this system for years? If so, how does this impact my budget?
  • Finally, if $1000 is my drop-dead not to exceed price, I'd start with good quality equipment and simply add one or two cameras at a time as money becomes available rather than drop $1k on an ugly baby.

Price is always a big factor, but there is often a hair-breadths gap between 'buying smart' and 'wasting money' on surveillance systems.


You seem to have put in to different issues here. A good low cost DVR is one. However you also state you want to see facial details from 10' to 20' away. This second issue has more to do withthe quality, selection, and installation of your cameras.

A great DVR with poor quality cameras mounted way to high, too far away, or even in terrible lighting conditions will not product any better faial images than the poor quality DVR will.

In general, I'll agree with what Brian said above. HOWEVER, you may want to check out Q-See's NVR's. We tested a 4-channel version and found it to be fairly simple to use and the build quality wasn't bad, nor was Q-See's tech support. Setup was easy and it auto-detects cameras connected to the built-in PoE ports. You can get a 16-channel version (though with only 4 PoE ports) for under $700 on Amazon. I was skeptical of them at first, but was pleasantly surprised.

Hikvision has also started making some lower cost NVRs, but we haven't tested them at all, and I've not heard much about them.

Similar experience with Q-See (Dahua cameras), with thier new 2MP QC line. Mom & Pop's dont want to spend for 'commercial grade' gear, and I hate losing to analog security vendors on price alone, so I've added this product solution to what I vend. Rather sell Axis for lots of reasons, but hate losing to an analog antique even more. The Q-See/Dahua cameras are actually pretty good - low profile mini-domes, in particular, except for that pigtail - and the DVR has an integrated PoE switch for up to 8 cameras (828 variant). But, the playback performance/features is not much better than an average analog system. Can use these cameras with Milestone, for instance, with custom Win box, but adds about double the cost of the MS licenses to the total solution.

Labor and installation cost is not a factor. I will be doing the install and this is for a friend's pawn shop. IP would be an option, I'd just have to factor in the cost of a new switch, but that does sound like it would save us a ton on the accessories that I didn't factor in. We could get away with as few as 12 cameras, but that is the minimum. FOV is going to be around 20'.

After consulting with my friend, $1000 is not the dead end price cap. They are more interested in the quality rather than skimping due to price.

I guess my biggest question is "what manufacturers would you recommend I look into for this project"? I'm just not familiar enough with everyone out there to know where to begin. We use Axis here on our campus so I know they're good quality, I just didn't know if there was something out there that was comparable at a lower cost.

You're in Dahua/Hikvision type territory (or their many OEMs - QSee, Swan, I can't name them all) for this price range.

Have you thought about 360 cameras, to cut down on the camera count? currently I'm getting about 4 to 5 thousand square foot of coverage with the brickcom 360p. I would also suggest a hight strip camera for facial shots in that enviorment. You could also save money by using one of the pawned PCs to set up as a NVR.

360's won't work because we need to focus on specific areas (jewelry counter, safe, online store, gun counter) and we need to be able to show face shots to police for various reasons. Thanks to everyone for the input though, I really appreciate it.

Shawn, what type of coverage are you getting at the edge of a 4,000 sqft area. Assuming best case scenario, that it is a circle, the distance is ~36 feet from the camera, or ~10ppf.

Even from our tests at just ~18 away from the camera, details are fairly poor, e.g.,

No facial details, but it out performs the Axis M3007 you have listed above. I am covering 25k square feet with 6 cameras. This is a retail setting with bright lights, ceiling hight is 14ft. the edge of the picture is much better at the edge with the immervision lens vs a fisheye. I've tried the camera in a DC envioment dropped to 16ft with poor results (not enough light).

We have a Brickcom panoramic test. It tested well, but it's still bound by having to cover such a large area.

Nelly's Security ( has very decent cameras at a great price.

The cheapest manufacturer in that price range that doesn't suck is Lorex.

Assuming a mounting height of not lower than 9 and not higher than 12 feet from the ground, a 650TVL camera with a ~4mm lens recording at D1 resolution will allow you to view a face good enough for identification purposes at a distance of roughly 16 to 18 feet away, depending on lighting and weather conditions, although it may not look very pretty.

15FPS is fine for subjects on foot, but the higher the frame rate, the nicer the picture will look (higher frame rates mean smoother images- remember, this is all interlaced video).

"We don't suck!" should be Lorex's next tag line...

Perhaps I phrased that inelegantly.

Pretty much every other product in that price range sucks- bad picture, bad build quality, bad QC, bad tech support, bad documentation.

While Lorex isn't amazing in any of these catagories, they're perfectly adaquate in all of them. Not sucking at that price range is an amazing accomplishment, and my hat is off to them.

Although I'm not that familiar with Qsee after a tramautic experience with a particularly sucky product almost a decade ago. So, you know... grain of salt.

Have you tried Flir? I just bought an 8-channel one for $350 (wholesale via Tri-Ed) with 1 TB HDD. Great quality! Has most basic features, including remote access via mobile phones and mac compatibility.

I was aware of Flir acquiring Digimerge (from Canada, I think), but didn't know about Lorex. Anyhow, the DVR software sure looks different than Digimerge's (the most popular DVR brand sold here in Canada). I suspect Flir will change things.

The more I use my Flir DVR, the more I realize how unreliable it is. Tech support keeps telling me to reset the machine (factory default) instead of coming up with viable solutions. Lots of color artifacts using my hidden pinhole cameras. Not sure which is responsible, the cameras or the DVR.


Where are you located? We are working with a number of Pawn and Check Cashing stores offering a Security as a Service model. Let me know if you are interested and we can discuss this.

John, can you describe what your service consists of and roughly what it costs? Otherwise, this is simply a solicitation, which we do not allow.


I didn't intend for my comment to be a solicitation. We would discuss with the shop what they were trying to achieve with regards to their physical security, propose a solution that would meet their needs and using our cloud services determine a reasonable charge. What one shop believes is a requirement may be achieved in a number of ways and a professional can help you to understand the subtle differences and capabilities of different equipment.

John, either explain what your offering is here, including a rough overview of pricing or I will delete this. I do not allow generic solicitations.

There's hundreds of IPVM members who could make the same claim: "We would discuss with the shop what they were trying to achieve with regards to their physical security, propose a solution that would meet their needs and using our cloud services determine a reasonable charge" and I can't let them use IPVM for solicitation because it would get out of control.

Again, let me know if you can share details of your offering, including price and how it will meet his cost requirement. If you are not willing, let me know and I will delete this .

We would be able to set up your shop for continuous monitoring and facial capture starting at around $1000, then a monthly fee of around $300. If you are local to the DC Metro area there would be no travel costs. If you have additional stores the costs for the monthly services can decrease as additional stores are brought online.

This would cover approx. 12 cameras, we have yet to work with a shop that needed more than that as well as storage for 30 days. We are able to work with law enforcement on forensic evidence.

Please let me know how I can help.

John, thanks for sharing specifics.

The challenge here, which is not unique to your offering, is the high recurring costs of such services. Clint is looking for a solution that is $1000 all in, one time, for products but you are offering one that is $3600 per year!

Thanks John for taking the words right out of my mouth. Not interested in monthly charges. Just want to help friends aquire a good system without breaking the bank. Im even doing the entire install for free just to help. It seems from the thread that Lorex and Qsee are going to be a good starting point. Ive personally installed a Swan system and wasnt impressed. Ill take the knowledge that ive aquired over the past few months from the IPVM camera course and put it to good use. I just needed a starting point.

Does anyone know if these lower cost systems (Vivotek, Dahua) are built with commercial grade versus consumer grade electronics inside? Years ago I repped in the component industry & the equipment built using consumer grade electronics never had more than a one year warranty because basically, they were expected to fail in month 13 or so. Commercial or Mil spec components were used in the higher end products that are meant to operate 24/7 over long periods of time (5 yrs +). This explained the higher cost of commercial grade equipment. Does that still hold true today? If so, spending $1000.00 on a single system today might turn into a $1000.00 a year investment if you have to keep replacing it. At that point, John G's solution might end up being best cost alternative although I think $300.00 a month might be a little steep. There are other cloud providers in the $10.00 to $12.00 range per camera per month using Milestone backends so that would be more like $200.00 a month. I think Brian Rhodes had the best suggestion: "Is it possible to 'go IP' and use a DVR-less system like Axis Camera Companion with edge storage instead? Potentially this could eliminate my DVR and use existing LAN rather than using new analog coax cable." (although this is still well over the $1000.00 target) Good luck Clint. It'll be interesting to hear back from you on what you ultimately do, why you went that way and how much it ended up costing.

"Does anyone know if these lower cost systems (Vivotek, Dahua) are built with commercial grade versus consumer grade electronics inside?"

Meghan, good question. If that is the case, then those (premium) manufacturers are missing out on an opportunity to market such differences as I cannot recall hearing such a case made. Certainly, higher end manufacturers tend to offer more features on their cameras (whether its more inputs / outputs, types of analytics, etc.) but I have not heard them make the case that their components were much more reliable / robust than their lower cost competitors.

Good point. I don't know if that's because there isn't an advantage with the types of components they all use or if thier marketing departments have been asleep at the wheel. Maybe some of the equipment vendor members will comment and let us know?!?!?